They say great long-distance motorcycles are made not born. That may be, but the stock Yamaha FJR1300AE I borrowed for last summer’s 10-day/10,000-mile 10-n-10 Rally, had an awful lot of the qualities I was looking for in an endurance rally bike right out of the box.
Topping that list is its bulletproof reliability, hassle-free shaft drive, and ample acceleration. The fact that its 1298cc inline-Four consistently returned 40-plus mpg also turned out to be a welcome bonus in places where the next gas station may be 150 miles down the road. The AE model’s lack of a clutch lever did take some getting used to, especially in slow-speed maneuvers, but it wasn’t long before I came to really appreciate the smooth, fast shifts the computer-controlled clutch served up with a twitch of my left toe.
All that said, I did tweak a few things to get the FJR1300 ready to do ten 1000-mile days in a row. Put them all together and you have a list of products that can make any bike more comfortable and capable, no matter how far you’re riding:
The 15-liter In-Charge tankbag from RKA Luggage (www.rka-luggage.com) is without question the slickest way to mount 12-volt farkles like GPS units and radar detectors I’ve ever seen. It’s plenty practical too: At the end of the day, you simply unplug one power cord and take the bag and all your valuable electronic goodies with you. I also added an RKA 36-liter rackbag to give my cameras and rally paperwork a place to call home.
The folks at Clearwater Lights (www.clearwaterlights.com) installed a pair of their super-bright Krista LED driving lights beneath the FJR’s mirrors and Glenda LED daytime running lights on the front fork legs, a combination that helped me to both see and be seen. Adding a Kisan Pathblazer headlight modulator (www.kisantech.com) and a set of Hyper-Lites (www.hyperlites.com) LED running/brake lights out back also gave me some extra peace-of-mind.
While the FJR’s stock windshield was fine for short rides, replacing it with a wider and taller unit from Rifle (www.rifle.com) dramatically reduced buffeting and created a large pocket of still air that completely transformed the riding experience.
Besides giving me a way to call in the cavalry in those way-off-the-beaten-path places with no cell phone coverage where bikes inevitably seem to break down, the palm-sized Spot Satellite GPS Messenger (www.findmespot.com) allowed me to send a quick thumbs-up via email to friends and family several times a day. Setting up an account on Spotwalla.com (www.spotwalla.com) upped the fun factor by allowing my peeps (and www.cycleworld.com readers) to follow my progress in real-time on a customized Google map.
Having learned the hard way on a previous rally that exhaustion, loose gravel and gravity are a recipe for a dropped bike, bolting on a set of Motovation’s (www.motovationusa.com) ridiculously over-engineered frame sliders was a top priority. While I thankfully didn’t put them to the ultimate test, just knowing they were there gave me one less thing to stress over.
Any protective gear you’re going to wear 18 hours a day for 10 days in a row needs to be both supremely comfortable and exceptionally functional. My Shoei Multitec flip-front helmet (www.shoei.com), Knox Handroid gloves (www.knoxarmorusa.com), Alpinestars Supertech Touring Gore-Tex Boots (www.alpinestars.com), and Aerostich Darien jacket and A.D.1 pants (www.aerostich.com) all excelled on both counts.
Springing for a custom-fitted seat from Rick Mayer Cycle (www.rickmayercycle.com) topped with an Alaska Leather sheepskin “buttpad” (www.alaskaleatheronline.com) made those last few hundred miles each day a lot more bearable. My decision to wear nothing but the high-tech tops and bottoms from LD Comfort (www.ldcomfort.com) underneath my other gear also played a big part in helping me to rack up more than 18,000 “monkey-butt” free miles.
Moving the FJR’s bars up and back via a Helibars Tour Performance replacement triple clamp (www.helibars.com) made the shoulder pain I got from the stock bike’s forward-leaning riding position disappear overnight. Adding the elegantly simple Crampbuster (www.crampbuster.com), which allowed me to hold the throttle open with just the weight of my hand, and the bar-end-mounted Throttlemeister throttle lock (www.throttlemeister.com) also helped me avoid the serious case of claw-hand that can come from twisting the right grip from dawn till dusk.
Any GPS nav system could have showed me the way, but the Garmin Zumo 665 (www.garmin.com) did a whole lot more with built-in XM satellite radio, live weather radar displays, and Bluetooth cell phone connectivity, all of which made those miles in the middle of the night or the middle of nowhere a lot more bearable.
Riding all day in Africa-hot weather makes staying hydrated critical. Filling the 100-ounce Camelbak Unbottle (www.camelbak.com) with ice and water and strapping it to the pillion allowed me to drink several times an hour instead of several times a day.