2002 Yamaha FJR1300
Torrance, California, May 3, 2002 -- When I was a kid I used to play make-believe with my friends. I'd be Audey Murphey or maybe Roy Rodgers while they'd be the outlaw Jessie James or Billy the Kid. They were good times, though I can't recall a time in recent memory when I've played make-believe again, until last Wednesday night.
The MO Test Squadron was humming along Highway 14 headed south, having just completed a number of runs out at the drag strip in Palmdale for our Open Twins story. I had along Yamaha's newest Super Sport Tourer, as they refer to it, and got this eerie feeling about me as the sun was setting. It was surreal, the silver FJR humming along beneath me, rolling at a steady 80 miles an hour, window adjusted to its fully upright position and I tucked warmly inside some Kushitani leathers watching the sun set over the mountains in the distance. But something felt amiss. Something just felt wrong and was throwing off the circadian rhythms of this world.I was headed home, and I knew it, and I was only coming back from Palmdale. That was depressing me. As good as the bike felt, Palmdale was an insult to its intentions. It needed to be coming back from somewhere else, someplace a lot farther than a little desert town just 80 miles away. It needed to be coming home from a trip back to Arkansas to visit my grandparents. And so it was. I played make-believe and convinced myself of exactly that, if only for a few moments. But they were precious moments when everything fell into place, and the FJR made perfect sense.
From the start, Yamaha's engineers had it in their heads to build something that was the perfect blend of "super sport performance with long-distance luxury." What they gave us, it seems, is nearly a damn fine big-bore sportbike in the manner of the old YZF1000, but wrapped in the bodywork of a damn fine light touring rig, if you consider 620 pounds light.
Though it looks like any modern (good-looking) sport-tourer, Yamaha's new FJR1300 is quite impressive when you emphasize the sport part of the equation.
From a distance, the FJR looks serious, especially with its color-matched standard hard bags and the electronically adjustable windscreen in the up position. Closer inspection reveals some seriously thoughtful attention to detail like an oil filter that's right there on the lower left side of the engine, available for easy parking-lot oil changes (of which I've done many) without the removal of any bodywork whatsoever. The drain plug's easy to get to, of course, as is the nifty little two-position preload adjuster located just under your left thigh once you stop looking at stuff and get on board the thing.Chasing Johnny up our usual test route out to the desert, I tucked in right behind him and the Mille-R, trying my best to keep him just a few feet ahead of me. It'd be extra sweet to show him a wheel, I thought, as I hustled the FJR around corners, pushing as hard as I dared. The brakes were excellent, as they should be, pulled directly from Yamaha's own YZF-R1. He wasn't going to gain time on me with the brakes, that was for sure. The fuel-injection was feeling seamless too, as was the rush of power to the rear wheel, unimpeded by an excellent shaft-drive system. I'd have no excuses to pull, I thought, re-focusing my attention on the Mille-Rs tail section, now canted at more of an angle than I'd seen it all day.
Shoved down into a corner, the FJR protested with a bit of a bob-and-weave of the back end as the pegs found their way down into the pavement, momentarily dragging the standard center-stand. I remembered, mid-corner, what Yamaha's PR Manager had said to me as I picked up the bike: "Most people like it with the pre-load set to Hard." D'oh! That's just what I needed to close the gap, I thought, since I knew I had the lever in the Soft position for the freeway part of the traffic-heavy flog that made up the majority of our journey to this point. I was losing time mid-corner, but I wasn't giving up, and the FJR wasn't either.