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  • March 21, 2013
  • Dirck Edge
  • Chris Rubino and Evan Edge
  • 73 Comments

MD Ride Review: 2013 Yamaha FJR1300A

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.

73 Comments

  1. Randy T. says:

    My ’06 is a garage queen, never ridden. It’s handling is abysmal, especially if the front tire gets even a little bit low. I went from a ’99 R1100RT to this – big mistake. Anyone considering one of these things should ride one first, then think about buying. If I could do it over again, this is one bike I would pass on…

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  2. fjrrider says:

    I have an 06 FJR and never experienced any noticeable vibration as some complains here. It’s nice to know 2013 has lots of improvements. Definitely no need for 6 gear. I don’t see the author mentions about the sleeve-less piston/cylinder, another change in the ’13. It also gains a few horse power. Among this sport touring class, I still think FJR offers the best value for its bike. For the time being I love my ’06 and won’t go for gen III anytime soon.

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  3. AFW says:

    I have always toured on my sport bikes, they can be modified for more comfort if required.
    The Concours and and FJR are nicely made bikes but are grossly overweight, the Concours
    hides it better but it’s still a cow. Sport bikes are the best all round bikes, better fuel
    economy, lighter weight, smaller size, better handling, faster, off road-on road, touring, speeding, cruising, it does it all. I’m not biased, just stating facts.

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    • Chris says:

      can you give an example of your sportbike tourer? I have always felt that a nice, light sportbike could be turned into a tourer, but not sure what would need to be modified, or what bikes would work best.

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  4. Gg says:

    No FJR sea-diving video this time?

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  5. itchface says:

    In my view, the best feature one can have on a big sport-tourer is electronic suspension control that lets you instantly adjust to road conditions, aggression level, or load at the touch of a button. Yamaha’s manually adjusted 2-position preload is way too primitive for a bike in this price range.

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    • Todd says:

      This is one I’m actually OK with Yamaha skipping. Particularly given that “this price range” is actually a broad range. New FJRs can be had for substantially less than bikes with electronic suspension. In the case of the K1600GT – maybe as much as $10K USD less. $10K buys a lot of Ohlins.

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    • ApriliaRST says:

      In MY view, the one thing manufacturers should include on motorcycles is an electronic compass. Why is it that this feature has yet to find it’s way onto bikes? Please don’t suggest there’s no need for one in the age of GPS… because I’d disagree.

      How about it, manufacturers… ? Please include an electronic compass.

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  6. Alon Walker says:

    For the wish it had six speeds,there is a gear indicator so you don’t have to shift up. And truthfully there is a vibration at 75the but is gone at 78. You only notice it when slowing because of the radar detector …

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  7. michael pisula says:

    Yes, the FJR is a fine bike, more sport that touring oriented for those of us without a long reach to the handle bars. Only flaw I have found, and corrected, was the lack of space for “real” daily business use, of the saddle backs. A set of Hepco Becker panniers designed for the European XJR work perfectly! The FJR as I’ve amended her, is now ready and willing to accept the daily challenges!

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  8. Todd says:

    I’ve an ’06 FJR that I’ve owned since new. I love it. Best LD bike I’ve owned. I’m tempted by the ’13 but thankfully I hate the US color ;-)

    As for a 6th gear, I “missed it” when I first got the bike but not now. In fact, I often forget about 5th until I get to 80 mph indicated.

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    • ApriliaRST says:

      I agree regarding the 2013 color offered. It looks way better in person than in ads (which make it look sort of olive drab), but a blue like the one used on Gen-Is would be nice. The Gen-II blue, like mine, is a bit too dark.

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  9. Mugwump says:

    First the ’04 will have to wear out.

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  10. joe b says:

    would someone compare this bike to the Honda VFR1200?

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    • MGNorge says:

      You mean would anyone cross-shop them? Possibly? In my mind the big VFR comes across as more of a sports bike that can be made to do sport touring duty while the FJR is more of that from the get go. In the Honda lineup it more closely compares to the ST1300 I think for most shoppers.

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      • joe b says:

        or cross-compare them. I currently have a VFR800, and a CB1000R, but really think i need, laughs, well want, something like my old GSF1250, but with more modern componentry. Sportier, yes.
        dont get me wrong, i certainly dont have to have someone else say whether anything would be the right bike for me, but i do read a lot about this large displacement group of bikes that are similar to what is tested above for reference.
        not needing a tit for tat, but gut feeling grouping like above is always welcomed. thx

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  11. Alon Walker says:

    And bags should be able to hold the biggest helmets on the market…

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  12. Alon Walker says:

    Only thing they missed on this model (other than color) is tire pressure sensors…

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  13. Alon Walker says:

    Plus runs the quarter mile as fast as a Z06…

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  14. Alon Walker says:

    Best all around bike I’ve ever had.Almost 60mpg in town commuting, 45 mpg at 80-95, and runs on regular which the Kawasaki doesn’t. Think about that in the middle of nowhere…

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  15. Mike Simmons says:

    If I wuz younger and didn’t like my NT700 so much, I’d look into this bike!

    Mike

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  16. Bill says:

    I find 5 gears to be sufficient on the FJR. The bike makes so much low end torque that I typically shift first to third, third to fifth. The bike is fine at 40 MPH in town in fifth.
    On the highway 4000 RPM in top gear at 80 MPH, 5000 RPM at 100 MPH. This bike is just happy as can be with a 5 speed transmission. I average about 45 MPG cruising 70-80 on the highway.
    Bill

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  17. paul says:

    Man, I really like this bike! Much nicer engine sounds than the ST1300 with its incessant gear whine.

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  18. John F says:

    I have a 2006 FJR1300 and I can tell you right now that this bike definitely needs a sixth gear. At cruising speed in fifth gear, the bike has an annoying buzz that come through both the handlebars and foot pegs. Yamaha has been aware of this complain for years but has been unable to find a place for a sixth gear on what is essentially a “part bins bike” made up of pieces from other earlier models. If memory serves me correctly the engine on the FJR originally came off a sports bike with a decidedly different, non touring function. This might have made finding the required space for the sixth gear impossible without a major (costly) redesign. Yamaha may have not wanted to invest this much money in a bike in the slower selling sports touring category.

    My dream would have been for Yamaha to build a sports touring bike out of the components of the new, recently introduced (but non selling)V-Max. The V-4 motor on the V-Max would have made the new bike inherently smoother. In addition the V-Max already has the required drive shaft. This would have probably resulted a a bike that was easily capable of taking on the new 1600cc BMW touring bike but at a lower price.

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    • x-planer says:

      Sorry John F, most of what you stated regarding the FJR just simply isn’t true. “Parts bins bike?” WTF, that’s a ridiculous statement. Just where do you see ANY FJR parts on any other Yamaha? And the ONLY bike the FJR motor has ever been in is the FJR. This bike does not need a 6th gear. I too had an ’06 and it was a smooth runner. I make sure all handlebars, triple clamps and steering bearings are tightened to spec though. I sold the ’06 and got my 2013 model and am very pleased with it.
      Adding the V Max motor to the FJR would make it even heavier and would not be a wise move, imho.

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  19. BOSCOE says:

    Have a 1200 cc V-Rod with only 5 gears. Perfectly acceptable at any highway speed

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  20. ducatidon says:

    Just turned 1000mi. on my 2013 FJR. Had a 2007 model. This one is much nicer all around. I’m not likely to pound this type of bike through the twisties so I can’t address any “vague” feeling there. The suspension performs admirably over broken pavement allowing me to keep up the pace nicely. My dealer discounted the purchase price ($13,800) to where nothing in this class can touch the new FJR for value (IMHO).

  21. Walt R1200RT says:

    I love my BMW R1200RT, second one and had a R1150RT prior, will ride it this year and may trade next year. Will look serious at the Triumph 1200 Trophy and consider the FJR and new liquid cooled BMW. Beemers are a little more money and they sure know how to charge for service. My RT gets 50/60 mpg (Canadian gallon) depending how I ride it.
    Nice the FJR now has cruise and heated grips, heated seat? I would not buy another bike without all these goodess, I ride in the cool weather and my old wrist needs a rest now and then.

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  22. baxterblue says:

    Six gears is a marketing ploy. I would rather have 5 wide gears than 6 narrow gears.

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  23. Vrooom says:

    I really like this bike, it’s high on my list for next bike purchase, but that 5 speed transmission worries me. It’s not like it doesn’t have enough power for a well spaced 5 speed, it’s that all my other bikes are six speeds, and I will forever be trying to shift that bike up a gear when I get on the freeway, and missing neutral on the way back down. I’ve had other 5 speeds previously and always got rid of them for that reason, if it was your only bike it wouldn’t be a problem, but my mbs isn’t going away. The Concours 14 will probably win out for this reason only.

    • Dan W. says:

      I’ve owned a lot of 6-speed bikes and I also have owned a 2003 FJR 1300 for 5 years, when you ‘miss’ the sixth gear is usually when you really ought to be SLOWING DOWN ! More than once I felt “If I could hook another ger I could drop some RPMs” only to realize I was traveling WELL in excess of the posted limit and rolling off the throttle was a Good Idea ! I had the same realization driving a buddy’s Porsche 930 Turbo that was a 4-speed – with that much power you really don’t WANT a close-ratio gear box, you just want it to hold together !

      As for missing neutral ? please. The shifter stops at 1st and you go back a half-step up, like any other bike. Takes no more thought or effort in my experience. But I hear the Concours is nice too, so buy what makes you happy.

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    • TmaxGixxerBlur says:

      i ended up buying the new ZX-14r. what a POWERFUL bike! i was hypnotized by it so i bought it. not realizing that i’m getting old and my back just isn’t what it use to be, but instead of selling it, i went ahead and modified it so i can be more relaxed. i went ahead and bought a Spiegler handlebar and installed it. now i’m up and comfortable like i was riding a sport tourer. i went ahead and ordered a zero gravity sport tourer windshield. got a bracket for my givi top case. i’ll be adding some solid saddlebags soon. with all that, my new zx-14r transformed into one of the most powerful tourer around! in the future, i will keep adding to it. heated grips, stereo, and many more stuff, but right now, it’s just beautiful!

    • Todd says:

      As many have stated, the lack of a 6th gear is not an issue for the vast majority of FJR owners. The bike does have a very narrow RPM range were it is somewhat less smooth than normal around 4K RPM. This does land is some folks sweet spot for riding and can be annoying. However, this is easily addressed in a number of ways – A PowerCommander with a proper fuel map, tweaking the injector compensation values, and/or some bar end weights do the trick for most. I’ve never been bothered by it at all and after I had the bike for a few months I found myself often riding in 4th without realizing it because the bike is so smooth.

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  24. kirk66 says:

    I have witnessed, on more than a few occassions, my cousin two up wheelie FJRs like they are MXers. Amazing how well they hoist a wheel in the air.

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  25. allworld says:

    I have been looking at sport/touring bikes for awhile, I currently ride an 06 Sprint ST which is decidedly more sport then tour. I feel the bikes in this class are just too big and heavy, not only this bike, all the bikes in this class. I look forward to a comparison of all the players, BMW, Triumph, Moto Guzzi, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Honda ultimately I know that someday I will be riding a modern Sport-Touring bike. I think BMW maybe onto something with their new R800GT, smaller, lighter more of a all around bike.

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    • ROXX says:

      I have an ST1300 and you would think it was too heavy until you try riding one through a twisty road.
      The handling will leave you very surprised, and I come from sport bikes, and specifically a road racing background.

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      • allworld says:

        I have read the reviews, and that is something that is often said. I was looking at the Triumph Trophy and it tips the scales at 700 lbs wet, but people who ride it say it feels much lighter. I don’t know, everybody can’t be wrong.

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    • Bones says:

      Point of detail, the 800GT is an F (parallel twin), not an R (boxer twin). I sat on an F800GT at the NYC bike show and liked it overall. Practically every moto reviewer mentions vibration in their road tests of F-powered BMWs. I haven’t ridden one so I wouldn’t rule it out, but I’d be evaluating that on a test ride, for sure. It would be great if Triumph made a sport tourer with the 800cc triple, perhaps a Tiger 800GT…less weight and complexity than the big sport tourers would be an advantage in my book.

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  26. RAD says:

    It looks a lot nicer than the Honda Fit , bigger as well .
    This just might have my name on it.

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  27. James says:

    “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.”

    Good luck with that high speed portion of the equation. Where I live, high speed is a no no. About 110 mph is all that ever works, and that just once or twice every few years. 85 is more like it.

    That thing goes much too fast. You’re all going to kill yourselves.

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  28. Harry says:

    If I buy a motorcycle like this all my friends will want to try it. How do you say NO and keep friends?

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  29. Gabe says:

    That’s a nice static shot, Chris!

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  30. Gronde says:

    Nice bike, but it cost as much as my wife’s HONDA FIT! I would personally buy an older FJR and save a ton of money.

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  31. todd says:

    “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.”

    Ah, I see. I need a button to go slow. That’s what I’ve been doing wrong.

    -todd

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  32. Rennie says:

    All these mega sports tours seem too much for me. Tomorrow I’ll take the ’02 Tiger from Sacramento to Carmel and be really happy it’s not the KLR650 I did the trip on last time althought those were fine trips despite the lightweeight and vibrations.. Traction control, abs? Keeping the rich folks happy I guess.

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  33. ApriliaRST says:

    I looked at the FJR at the Daytona motorcycle show and was favorably impressed by all the changes Yamaha made compared to my 2006, particularly the lack of exposed fasteners on the body work. I’d rather they would have changed the luggage rack to something easier to strap stuff to since I don’t like top cases. But there are times cruise control would be nice.

    I may just buy one, once I decide whether to keep my ’06 as well since it’s barely broken in with 65k miles. Keep in mind that at least some of the FJR’s competition with six-speed transmissions actually turn higher revs in top gear at any given speed. At 70 mph, for example, the FJR is turning only 3500 rpm… to what rpm would you want the engine speed reduced? You forget about the sixth gear once the engine breaks in and smooths out.

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    • MGNorge says:

      So much of the “need” for a specific number of gears comes from the engine’s powerband and how wide it is or isn’t. I know on my Norge that I sometimes forget there’s another cog to go when cruising down the highway. That’s a bike that truly doesn’t need an extra gear. What I’m talking about is the spread of gears covering between 1st and top gear. An example of the need for extra gears, or the lack of them, are the electric bikes, some of which have none!
      I can’t help but think that adding gears, in cars and bikes, is in many cases a sales tactic. Once one adds them their competitors feel compelled to do the same. That the FJR uses “only” five may just indicate that it doesn’t really need another?

      • mickey says:

        Guys on the ST forum are begging for a 6 th speed but honestly on my ST I find myself cruising for miles before I discover I have that 5 th gear. Not sure what I’d do with a 6 th except roll down the road for miles before I discovered I had 2 more gears to go.

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