2013 Sport-Touring Shootout 1.0 - Video
Yamaha FJR1300 vs. Honda ST1300 vs. Kawasaki Concours 14
Corner-carver, Kaming Ko, owner of a Desmo, Panigale, RSV4 and various other exotic two-wheel weaponry, came to this shootout with a Kawi Concours bias. The trackday veteran tore up Highway 33 on the C-14 while Duke and I held pace on the FJR and ST. After calling me grandpa and making fun of the FJR’s cruise control, we swapped bikes and hit the freeway en route to the next set of twisties on the east side of Bakersfield.
Over the course of the next few days — including all the scenarios in the sport-touring manuscript (twisties, night riding, long freeway stretches, cold and hot temperatures, etc.) — the Chinaman (His term. –Ed) came to the same conclusion as Duke and I: The FJR is incontrovertibly the best sport-tourer in this group.
“The FJR handles well in the twisties,” says Kaming. “Its engine lends to hard acceleration when exiting sweepers, making it feel more like a sportbike than a sport-tourer.”
And what was that about calling me grandpa? “Once I got the windscreen to my liking, the cruise control set and the heated grips on, I was in total comfort,” says old man Ko.
The FJR’s engine delivers a deep, powerful exhaust note that, according to Duke, “makes the Honda’s seem like a giant appliance in comparison.” It pounds out plentiful grunt from just above idle, which together with a strong and easy-to-modulate clutch, makes pulling away from stops a cinch. And once underway, the burly engine is ready to significant thrust no matter the rpm.
“Kudos to Yamaha engineers for providing two useful ride modes,” says Duke. “Sport is my preferred setting, providing sharp throttle response. But the Tour’s softer response is preferable for two-up riding or traveling through snarled traffic. Neither is a throwaway mode, like so many other similar arrangements.”
The last time we had an FJR in a comparison test, our 2009 Sport-Touring Shootout, we complained about its ground-clearance issues when ridden aggressively. But the 2013 edition, with updated spring and damping rates in the suspension, has improved the amount of available lean angle before pegs begin to touch and feels nicely buttoned down.
The upgraded-for-2013 FJR (detailed in Troy’s initial review) includes the best technological package (RbW, Cruise Control, TC (switchable), ABS, Ride Modes (2), heated grips, an adjustable windscreen, seat and handlebars in a sweet handling chassis weighing substantially less than the other two bikes with a price tag under $16k. There’s seriously not much competition here and the ScoreCard reflects that fact.
Of the 13 categories in which the bikes are scored, the FJR lost only four and placed second when it did lose. The Honda came out on top three times (Handling, Fit & Finish, Ergonomics/Comfort) while the Kawi won only the Transmission/Clutch category.
The FJR’s styling updates give a sharper, contemporary appearance that we think is easily the best in its class. Its twin mufflers are smaller in size and judged to be more fashionable than the C-14’s giant canister.
Complaints about the FJR are few and minor. Testers reported some vibration felt through the FJR’s handlebars. The revamp to the 2013 FJR included some engine updates but not an entirely new powerplant. When Yamaha decides to build a new engine, we bet it’ll include a sixth gear.
And, picking a small nit, Duke didn’t appreciate the engine’s gear whine at certain gears and speeds. “It’s screeching at 60 mph in third gear,” he says. Otherwise the Yamaha is hard to fault.
So the FJR is the indisputable sport-touring champ among these three. However, the debut of Triumph’s Trophy SE brings a new challenger to the class. We’re anxious to find out if the Yamaha can enjoy a repeat performance.
2013 Yamaha FJR1300 Review
2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring Review
2013 Triumph Trophy SE Review
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