2013 Yamaha FJR1300A Review
Yamaha's beloved sport-tourer finally gets an update
I last remember riding Yamaha’s FJR1300 approximately four years ago, and I was impressed by its power, comfort, and touring abilities. But I remember thinking: “You mean this bike hasn’t had an overhaul since it was first introduced in the States five years ago (2003)?”
Four years on and it’s even more surprising Yamaha has kept the venerable FJR relatively unchanged all this time. Now, with mounting pressure from the Kawasaki Concours 14, Triumph Trophy, BMW K1600 and others, the Tuning Fork company realized it couldn’t keep its hands in its pockets any longer. Meet the 2013 Yamaha FJR1300A.
The good news, clearly, is an updated FJR. However, those hoping for a major overhaul will be disappointed. Yamaha has focused on improving the rider experience, making it more comfortable and refined in response to owner surveys which note a considerable increase in FJR owners taking full-day or long-distance trips the past three years.
More Than Skin Deep
First in Yamaha’s list of changes is the switch to Yamaha’s Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T), or throttle-by-wire in layman's terms. The switch allows more precise throttle response and a lighter throttle effort for the rider.
More importantly, YCC-T facilitates the implementation of three features becoming more prevalent in the sport-touring category: traction control, drive modes (or D-Modes in Yamaha vernacular) and cruise control. The two position (on or off) traction control utilizes wheel-speed, throttle and gear-position sensors. Should intervention be needed, the system responds by cutting ignition, fuel and closing the throttle valves, or some combination of the three.
The two-position (Sport or Touring) Drive mode doesn’t change peak power, but Touring mode softens the power delivery, especially during the first quarter turn. Sport, then, keeps power delivery sharp at all times. Cruise control works much as it does in cars. It can only be activated in the upper three gears (third, fourth and fifth), with all the adjustments done via large buttons on the left switchgear.
Engine internals are largely the same as before, with a few notable changes. The engine now sees sleeveless cylinders and low-friction piston rings. EFI mapping has been tweaked, and the exhaust now sees a reduction to two catalyzers from four, located just underneath the engine, helping weight centralization. These minor changes account for a 3-hp bump according to Yamaha.
There are still only five gears in the cog box, but Yamaha has employed a new machining method for the gears along with a new shift shaft. Together, they provide for a smoother shifting experience. Shaft drive transfers power to the rear wheel in a virtually maintenance-free manner.
Not much has changed with the chassis either. The frame remains the same, though a new 48mm fully adjustable conventional fork now features compression and rebound damping controlled from the right fork leg. Dual-rate springs are slightly stiffer than before, and the rear shock is also marginally stiffer to maintain balance with the front end.
At first glance you might think these photos are of the old FJR, and if you were to look at the rear of the bike you’d be right, as the area behind the seat hasn’t changed. However, the ’13 model has received subtle but significant changes throughout.
The fairing has received a facelift to better replicate the forward “lunging” appearance of the YZF-R6. A bolt-less upper fairing looks cleaner and more streamlined. Windshield shape has been revised and utilizes only two rails compared to four before. The new windscreen motor is now twice as fast as its predecessor.
There’s a new, sleeker headlight cowling with LED position lights, and new integrated LED turn signals.
Almost 400 Miles Later
Yamaha invited journalists to Northern California to experience the FJR on the beautiful roads flowing through the state’s wine country. The nearly 400-mile route included country roads, twisty switchbacks, city congestion and the occasional freeway slabbing.
Being so similar to its predecessor, ergonomics of the new FJR feel exactly as I remember. Seating position is upright, with the pegs at a comfortable position just underneath the rider, not too far forward or back. The bars remain three-way adjustable and the seat two. At its high setting, 32.5 inches, my 5-foot, 8-inch frame and 30-inch inseam struggled to reach the ground.
However, with the removal of a few spacers and the seat in its low, 31.7-inch setting, the riding position is noticeably different. Now I could touch my feet down comfortably, providing confidence at a stop.
Thumb the starter and a new dash layout greets you with an attractive and simple layout. A digital speedometer also features a fuel gauge, clock and power mode indicator functions, while an analog tach rests to the left and a digital info screen sits to the right, with its information easy to toggle through with the left switchgear. The twistgrip feels easier to turn than what I remember on the previous FJR thanks to YCC-T, too.
Once rolling, a few things stood out to me. Despite the relatively few improvements, the new FJR feels more refined than the model it replaces. Power output may not match the Concours 14 or K1600, but I wasn’t yearning for more. Fuel delivery from the 1298cc engine feels perfect, too. Make no mistake, the FJR has plenty of grunt to whip the head back under acceleration.
Shifting through the five widely spaced gears is silky smooth, and the gear-position indicator has large, bold-faced numbers. Despite lacking a sixth cog, even at highway speeds I never found myself searching for it.
Switching between the two drive modes, I expected Touring mode to make the bike feel neutered compared to Sport mode. I was pleasantly surprised to find this is not the case. Twisting the throttle clearly results in a softer initial delivery of power, but full power is still available.
Over some of the bumpier sections of road I actually preferred it, as the unintentional twisting of my wrist from the jarring wouldn’t send the bike lunging forward, as it occasionally would in Sport. Engine vibration, no matter the speed or drive mode, was noticeable, but I wouldn’t call it any worse than its four-cylinder competition.
Traction control is impressive, too, as whacking the throttle open on wet pavement from a stop produced hardly noticeable intervention. In fact, if it wasn’t for the flashing light on the dash, I wouldn’t have known.
As far as ride quality, the FJR’s dual-rate springs provide a comfortable experience in its initial stroke (say, during normal cruising), but when the roads start to get tight and the pace is upped a bit, the suspension and chassis can feel taxed. The FJR’s 639 pounds can be tough to hustle in tight switchbacks, despite the bars providing decent leverage.
Instead, the FJR favors long, flowing corners, where the chassis can settle in a corner and carry its arc all the way through. In this situation, the experience is divine. To this end, the FJR’s reshaped windscreen works wonderfully in diverting the air where you want.
In its fully erect position, I could feel the wind flowing over my helmet and wrapping around my arms, leaving my chest free of any air flow. In its low position, air is directed to the upper chest and above the shoulders with little helmet buffeting. Changing the position is as easy as flipping a toggle.
ABS brakes are linked rear to front. The front lever activates six of the eight front pistons, while the rear brake activates the remaining two front pistons as well as the single rear piston. Best stopping performance is done with both levers, as using only the front is adequate at best. Feel from the levers also leaves something to be desired, but the ABS activation is superb; it doesn’t cut in too early and is hardly noticeable when it does.
Of course, a touring bike is worthless without storage capacity, and here the FJR delivers. The 8-gallon (each) saddlebags have enough space to carry whatever you need for a weekend getaway, and the included liners make it easy to transport items once at the destination. A small storage compartment in the upper left fairing is convenient for storing wallets or phones, and is equipped with a 12v port to keep devices charged.
But my favorite feature of the new FJR is the cruise control. For those freeway slabs or long stretches of open road, setting the speed, sitting back and giving the hands a break from the buzzy engine is wonderful. Much like in cars, the system is activated via “Resume” and “Set” buttons, located on the left switchgear.
Tapping either brake, pulling the clutch, rolling the throttle forward past its natural stop position or simply pressing the cruise control button again deactivates the system. CC works seamlessly, with speed increasing or decreasing smoothly depending on which button is pressed.
Meeting The Challenge
In its own right, the new FJR1300 is a fantastic sport-touring rig. The engine updates combined with the long-distance comfort are sure to please, no matter which side of the S-T category you stand on. Standard heated grips, traction control, ABS and cruise control make the FJR an ideal machine to tackle all situations encountered during a long ride. At $15,890, it’s only $300 more than its predecessor and among the least expensive in the category.
However, there’s a part of me that feels as though these updates only keep the FJR afloat in the class instead of swimming away. As it stands, it faces stiff competition from both Europe and its home country. Of course, this means pitting the FJR against its counterparts to see where it stacks up. Something we’re already working on. Stay tuned for the results.
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