Over the past decade, sport-touring has been on a bit of a roll. And the one bike, more than any other, responsible for getting that ball rolling was the FJR1300. When it burst on the scene here in 2002, the FJR proved wonderfully capable of both carving up the backroads and cruising the open roads, doing it with one of the stoutest engines on two wheels and a full complement of features geared for moto-touring, all for a manageable price through a large dealer network. Not coincidentally, sport-touring soon metamorphosed from a remote niche to a mainstream category. In the process, the FJR won Cycle World’s Best Sport-Touring Bike award in 2002 and 2004.
Since then, the spotlight has gradually shifted to other sport-tourers that continued to push the frontiers of technology and performance while the Yamaha remained largely status quo. But the FJR is mounting a comeback. For 2013, Yamaha has gifted the 1300 with a makeover that, while well short of a full redesign, is extensive enough to breathe new life into the old girl.
A perfect example is the engine, even though it is fundamentally unchanged. According to our new Dynojet 250i dynamometer, the dohc, 1298cc inline-Four pumps out virtually the same peak horsepower (124.9 at 8200 rpm) and torque (89.3 foot-pounds at 6700) as before. But small dimensional changes to the throttle bodies and the exhaust system’s internals are designed to improve rideability. Plus, the new bike has a two-position “Drive-mode” that allows the rider to select either Touring (softer throttle response and more-gradual power delivery) or Sport (completely unrestricted power) on the fly. The ’13 model also includes a standard traction-control system that can be switched off with one push of a button.
Much like the engine, the aluminum frame also is unchanged but has revised suspension hung at both ends. The spring and damping rates were upped for better chassis control, particularly with a passenger and the saddlebags (the same hard detachables as on previous FJRs) fully loaded. The fork is adjustable for rebound and compression, but all damping takes place only via new internals in the right fork leg; both legs do, however, have spring preload adjusters. The ABS and linked braking that have been standard on FJRs since 2006 are retained.
Visually, the FJR has more-aggressive styling with a new fairing that features “cat’s eye” headlights partially surrounded by a ring of white LED running lights, with tall, thin turnsignals, also LEDs, integrated into the leading edge of the bodywork. The fairing has new side vents that can be easily adjusted to divert engine heat either toward or away from the rider. The adjustable windscreen also was redesigned and works with an under-shield air-vent system to reduce buffeting. We found that with the shield fully raised, anyone under 5-feet-10 sits in a fairly calm, quiet zone; taller riders feel only minor buffeting.
In the cockpit, an all-new instrument cluster has a digital speedometer, an analog tach and an LCD screen that can be tailored to display the rider’s choice of the usual trip/mileage data or other information such as the adjustment range for the standard heated handgrips. The seat is essentially the same two-piece combo as before, including the two-position-adjustable rider’s section. The seat is almost all-day comfortable, usually causing a little squirming after six or seven hours on the road. The ’13 FJR also retains the three-position-adjustable handlebars used on previous models.
None of these 2013 upgrades could be considered sweeping changes, but their overall effect is very favorable. Even though the engine slams out the same gobs of diesel-semi torque as always, for example, its throttle response is sharper than ever, likely the result of those small throttle-body and exhaust-system modifications, along with refined EFI mapping.
Whatever the reason, twisting the right grip with Drive-mode in Sport is answered with a primal growl from the drivetrain and an instantaneous forward thrust that could put a huge grin on the face of the most avid Yamaha hater. Even in top gear, the acceleration often is stronger than what some bikes can manage in any gear. This means you can execute fast passes without shifting the five-speeder out of top gear and complete ultra-smooth blasts through the twisties in just one or two gears without ever nearing the 9000-rpm redline. Touring mode takes the snappiness out of the throttle response but still delivers strong, steady acceleration.
So, too, is the handling improved, thanks to the suspension revisions. The stiffer spring rates allow a few more degrees of cornering clearance than on previous FJRs, yet the ride qualities are better, front and rear. The result is a nice balance between stability during fast cornering and comfort when droning along the superslab. If slammed through a corner really aggressively on any kind of uneven pavement, the FJR will move around just a bit, but never to an unsettling degree. The BT-023F tires that Bridgestone designed just for the FJR provide excellent stick in corners, allowing the rider to develop a comforting sense of confidence.
At 673 pounds with its 6.6-gallon gas tank topped up, the FJR is almost 20 lb. lighter than its closest competitor, Kawasaki’s award-winning Concours 14, and it has a lower center of gravity. Those two factors join forces to help the FJR feel lighter and easier to flick into a corner, especially with the rider’s seat in its 1-inch-lower position. When you then consider the nature of the Yamaha’s tractor-pull engine (despite its 54cc displacement disadvantage, it makes just 8 fewer peak hp than the Concours 14 but exactly the same peak torque, and it actually generates more torque below 4000 rpm), you end up with a bike that is easier to ride, fast or otherwise. And at $15,890, it’s $309 less expensive.
So, yeah, the FJR in recent years gradually dropped behind the lead pack, but detail improvements for 2013 have helped it get back in the hunt. It now has an electronics package comparable to that on some other sport-tourers, including cruise control, and suspension upgrades seem to alleviate one of the biggest gripes voiced by some FJR owners: insufficient cornering clearance. And then there’s that motor…
Until we can conduct a complete test of the new FJR1300 or include it in a comparison, we won’t know exactly how it stacks up against the other sport-touring rigs. It will be a whole lot of fun finding out.
|Bore & stroke:|79.0 x 66.2mm|
|Fuel capacity:|6.6 gal.|
|Seat height:|30.8/31.8 in.|
|Curb weight:|673 lb.|
|1/4-mile:|10.98 sec. @ 122.29 mph|
|0-60 mph:|2.8 sec.|
|40-60 mph:|4.2 sec.|
|60-80 mph:|4.1 sec.|
|Top speed:|147 mph|