Now in its 13th model year, Yamaha’s FJR1300A is the longest-lived sport-tourer on the market. That’s because it’s a good motorcycle—fast, smooth, comfortable, good-handling and reliable. Many long-distance records have fallen beneath its radial-shod wheels, including the mind-boggling 86-hour, 5645-mile Prudhoe Bay to Key West blast of John Ryan in 2009. A capable bike for sure, but in an era when a two-year-old smartphone is ready for “Antiques Roadshow,” it was time for another mid-cycle update.
Yamaha summoned me from the drab horrors of my everyday life to ride the re-worked 2013 FJR in Northern California’s wine country, and how could I refuse? The promise of 300-plus miles on great roads on an improved version of one of the best sport-tourers made was enough to keep me motivated through the short tech presentation.
Yamaha wanted us to know that market conditions have changed a little since the last update. ST buyers are slightly more affluent, slightly older—but also more frugal, demanding more versatility from their rides. So Yamaha wanted to improve comfort and convenience features, increase touring capability, make the bike feel lighter and more sporty and “offer the latest technology.”
The bike looks much the same as last years, but has a huge number of detail improvements. The motor gets new cylinders, ignition, rings, throttle bodies, as well as new traction control, exhaust and ECU settings. Styling is freshened up with new headlights, cowlings, side fairings, switchgear and instruments, and comfort and convenience is enhanced with a reworked lower-effort centerstand, cruise control, heated grips, new seat cover and windscreen. Handling is also improved with changes to suspension spring rates and damping as well as new OEM tires.
Three hundred miles is a pre-breakfast ride for many FJR owners, but it’s a lot for a two-day press event, as journalists need time for photography, Tweeting and lavish meals. But it was necessary to really get a feel for the myriad changes on the bike.
What I remember about the last FJR I rode (a 2009 automatic-clutch equipped bike, available only in Europe now) was a good-handling, comfortable bike with some turbulence from the windscreen and a slightly rough motor. Dirck recalls a stiff throttle return spring as well as the turbulence from his last ride.
After two days on a variety of roads—from divided superhighway to tight, bumpy two-laners—I can say the changes are noticeable and well done. The motor is better; it’s smoother and more responsive, with the choice of two mapping settings, Tour or Sport. Both settings offer full power, but Tour gets you there a little slower. Throttle response is great, with no abrupt surprises and a light return spring—even without the very good cruise control Dirck’s delicate wrist should remain cramp free.
Yamaha claims an increase of three horsepower and three ft.-lbs. of torque, but what I noticed was the smooth and abundant nature of the power delivery, which keeps the five-speed gearbox relevant. Second, third or fourth gear work fine on any kind of road, thanks to the massive amounts of torque and smoothed-out powerplant. Passing in fourth is fun, a taste of being a comic-book superhero. Fifth works well as a passing gear, too, but at a .929 ratio, is also a true overdrive, helping keep indicated fuel consumption in the mid to high 40s at steady throttle at 70 mph.* That should give the rider a 200-plus mile range from the 6.6-gallon tank (I was only able to get a little more than five gallons into the 2009 I tested—I didn’t have an opportunity to fuel the 2013 myself).
I don’t know if the suspension changes improve the bike, as we didn’t have a 2012 to compare, but the bike is still a great performer. It handles better and feels lighter than any 637-pound (Yamaha’s wet-weight claim, seven pounds less than the 2012) bike should, and kudos to Yamaha for making suspension adjustment easy—a lever adjusts rear spring rate from firm to soft, and front compression and rebound adjustments are all handled in the right 48mm fork leg. Aided by the specially developed Bridgestone BT-023F tires, the FJR turned easily and felt planted and secure, even on cold, slippery downhill turns. Nobody felt like testing the traction control, but it’s there, along with “unified” ABS brakes—useless until you need them, and then they’re worth everything you own.
Long-distance comfort is impressive. The two-position-adjustable seat, clad in a new seat cover with Nubuck-esque “high quality” side trim, is wide and supportive, though the foam started to feel unpleasantly hard after a few hours. The seating position is close to perfect, and the bars adjust fore and aft so you can get it perfect-er. The windscreen seems much improved—airflow is smoothed out, with less buffeting (Yamaha offers a taller, wider screen if it’s still too noisy for you) and it raises and lowers twice as fast as the old one. Plus, the screen stays in place when you remove the key, eliminating one tiny irritation.
Some improvements I (and many others, doubtless) would like to see haven’t materialized. While the new rider information display is data-packed and easy to use, there is no sound system or Bluetooth connectivity, something farkle-addled hypertourers like, along with portable-generator levels of alternator output (the FJR puts out 490 watts at 5000 rpm, leaving 325 watts of excess capacity, according to the Powerlet people, sufficient for most solo touring needs), and luggage capacity is reminiscent of the closets in Victorian houses—didn’t those people own more than three changes of clothes? At least Yamaha offers a man-sized 50-liter top case, complete with backrest to beef up your trousseau.
So while the lack of a total redesign after 12 model years may be a disappointment for some, Yamaha delivers on the original promise of the FJR—a light, sporty-feeling tourer you can ride like a sportbike. At an MSRP of $15,890, it’s just $300 more than last year and is cheaper and lighter (by a lot!) than Kawasaki’s Concours14, Honda’s ST1300 or BMW K1600GT. Good enough for another 13 years? Maybe not, but for sporty-touring it’s good enough for me and it’s probably good enough for you too.
*Yamaha claims 36 mpg based on EPA emissions info. Average reported fuel economy on Fuelly.com for FJR models is around 40.