After Gabe rode the new FJR at the press introduction, we wanted to get the bike for a longer term evaluation.
As covered in our earlier articles, the 2013 FJR receives a number of revisions to a platform that is essentially in its 13th model year. After putting a number of miles on the bike, however, the only thing that really betrays the age of this platform is the five-speed transmission. Virtually all the competition has gone to six-speeds.
The first thing that strikes you about the FJR is its powerful and smooth engine. This is not a bike in need of a heart transplant, and further refinement of the fuel injection has resulted in very smooth throttle transitions. This revised model adds two selectable engine maps, including Sport and Tour.
The “Sport” mode offers a surprisingly different feel from the “Tour” mode. Although both offer full power, while in Sport mode, the rider has a much more crisp and immediate engine response. The bike just feels like it accelerates much more quickly and it is more lively. Even with the new traction control system, the Tour mode offers a reassuring softening of the power delivery for use in foul weather or when the rider just wants to cruise along in a slightly less aggressive manner. We did not test whether the Tour mode offers superior fuel economy.
All of the new electronic conveniences operate smoothly, and perform as expected. Most of the features are controlled from the left hand grip area via a toggle switch.
The redesigned windscreen seems to be a huge improvement both in total wind protection and turbulence reduction. The screen raises and lowers quickly and over a broad range that should allow most riders the ability to dial in a position that works best for them. Frankly, the quality of the wind protection on a bike in this category is extremely important, and the new FJR scores highly here. If you find you like leaving the windscreen in the same position at all times, you will be pleased that it stays where you put it, even when you remove the key.
Utilizing ride-by-wire throttle, an effective cruise control is a natural complement to the new FJR. Again, it is easy to access and just plain works. Those of you who travel long distances by motorcycle will certainly appreciate the reduced effort this feature provides. Indeed, past FJRs have had strong throttle return springs that could actually be quite tiring on long freeway rides.
The new suspension settings worked well, particularly out back where prior models have been too soft. The same two-position preload adjustment is easily accessed at the side of the bike. This makes it simple to dial in more preload when adding in a passenger, luggage, or both. The fork, on the other hand, was fine on the highway, but did not provide great confidence through the twisties. Pushing the pace through corners yielded a somewhat vague feeling in the front end, but the fully adjustable fork could permit riders of different weights to dial this out.
The new instrument cluster is very legible, even while riding in bright sunlight. It is easy, for instance, to use the left hand grip toggle to find the heated grip control in the far right instrument window, and dial in the amount of heat required to keep your mitts comfortable on a cold ride. Indeed, the manner in which Yamaha has integrated all of the electronic functions is commendable. Plenty of bikes offer a similar level of electronic control (selectable ignition maps, heated grips, electronic windshield and other features), but make it more difficult, and less intuitive, for the rider to operate.
The transmission shifts smoothly and positively, but we did find ourselves looking for a sixth gear more than once. Nevertheless, five gears is really all the big FJR needs. This motor is plenty powerful, and the spread of power is huge. Fifth gear is tall enough to make high speed touring comfortable with very low vibration levels. I think it was just our normal expectation to find a sixth gear, and the lack of one feels a little bit odd in this day and age.
What this category of motorcycle is all about is high speed, long distance travel in comfort and style, with sporty handling thrown in for good measure. Although the basic package has been around a long time, Yamaha’s continual refinement of the FJR has resulted in a very competitive machine. The adjustable seat, adjustable handlebar position, adjustable windscreen and redesigned bodywork all work together to provide an inviting mount for touring. If you can’t find a comfortable position on this bike, you are likely far taller, or shorter, than the average human being.
Styling is subjective, as always, but we felt the new bodywork is a big improvement, and keeps the FJR looking fresh and competitive. The saddlebags still integrate well, and offer useful storage, if not the largest capacity. Once again, the saddlebags can be removed and used as luggage with integrated handle. Yamaha also provides a removable duffle, with handle, if you want to travel a little bit lighter.
Despite our spirited test riding, we averaged 39 mpg. Not too bad given the performance level offered by the big FJR.
U.S. MSRP is $15,890. For additional details and specifications, visit Yamaha’s web site.