Review: Yamaha FJR1300AS

FJR. What do these three letters stand for? Fast Joy Ride? Furiously Jumping Rhino? For Jackass Racers? Nope. The correct (and official) answer is Fast Journey & Ride.

Since many years the Yamaha FJR1300 has a permanent spot in the sports tourer segment. Yamaha introduced this model in 2001. Today it exists in three versions: the FJR1300A (the basic version), the FJR1300AE (with electronically adjustable suspension) and the FJR1300AS (everything from the AE plus a semi-automatic transmission). I had a date with the latter.

The AS, the most complete FJR model, costs £17,099. In return for that pile of pounds you receive a bulky package: generous fairing, electrically adjustable windscreen, two mappings, ABS, switchable traction control, height-adjustable seat, sidecases, electronically adjustable suspension, semi-automatic transmission, cruise control, heated grips, LED lights with front cornering lights, 12v socket, shaft drive. In other words, everything you need and more.

The FJR is perfect for long journeys. The sitting position on the wide seat is comfortable yet slightly bowed towards the handlebars. Yamaha sells the FJR1300 as a sports tourer and not as a pure touring machine, so that forward bend seems legit.

With the windscreen down, only your head’s in the wind. If you raise the screen, there’s minor turbulence around the helmet, depending notably on the traffic in front of you: behind a truck, your head will shudder more than when you’re flying down an empty highway. Also a minor (but subtle) vacuum effect occurs with the screen completely up.

The only difference between the AS and the AE version – and the only reason why you would cough up an extra £500 for the AS – is the absence of the clutch lever and the presence of the electronic clutchless gear shift system.

There are two options to switch gears. Either you use your left foot and the gear shift pedal works as a quickshifter. Or you use your thumb and/or index finger to operate the shift buttons on the handlebars, a mechanism that resembles the paddle shifters which some sports cars are equipped with. Switching gears with just your fingers is so convenient that your left foot quickly becomes unemployed, having an unexpected positive influence on the comfort level of the bike.

You can also set the transmission to shift down automatically. Put into practice however, this function seems only useful if you slow down to a complete (or almost complete) stop. In other cases the six-speed transmission simply shifts down too slow. If you ride in sixth gear and enter a roundabout for example, you shouldn’t be surprised when the semi-automatic transmission holds its 6th gear even if you’re only doing 18 mph on the roundabout. Fortunately the inline-four handles low rpms very well and you won’t suffer any bumpy behaviour. Still the transmission should shift down earlier. Maybe Yamaha should take a look at Honda’s DCT which has settings so that their automatic transmission can react more attentively to slowing down.

Shifting up when gently accelerating occurs very peaceful. But at full throttle you’ll notice that the mechanical action of the paddles takes a bit longer than that of the gear shift pedal. The FJR needs a little too much time to get to the next gear. Read: the bike rocks quite heavily. With the quickshifter it rocks less hard. So your left foot isn’t completely jobless after all.

The semi-automatic transmission weighs 4 kg, raising the total weight of the FJR1300AS to a hefty 296 kg (with full tank). Pushing this beefy bike out of your garage isn’t an easy routine. May I suggest a reverse gear for the next FJR generation?

The weight magically disappears as soon as you start riding. Soon I noticed similarities with the Yamaha Super Ténéré: despite a fair amount of weight, it’s striking how well-balanced the bike is. You can attack curves confidently and even a bit more sporty than with the Super Ténéré. And the directional stability – which was already outstanding on the Super Ténéré – is even better on the FJR. Probably due to its lower center of gravity and the higher weight. Though as a sports tourer club member, the FJR should enter corners a bit more spontaneously.

The electronically adjustable suspension is identical to the one on the Super Ténéré, but due to the shorter travel the FJR feels more stable in the corners. You can choose from three settings (Soft, Standard and Hard), each being adjustable from -3 to +3. In addition you can set the bike’s loading (solo, duo, with or without luggage). I already was very positive about this suspension on the Super Ténéré (check the review for a more lengthy opinion about it), and on the FJR that positivity remains unaffected.

The 1298 cc four-cylinder in-line engine delivers 146 hp at 8000 rpm and 138 Nm at 7000 rpm. Although the FJR is a gentle low-revver, it’s misleadingly fast. You often won’t notice how fast you’re accelerating. In high revs it speeds up amazingly swift, but the amount of fairing and the efficient windscreen reduce the sensation of acceleration.

The FJR has two mappings: Touring and Sport. You probably won’t use the Touring mapping much, it simply lacks vitality. Almost all settings can be controlled via buttons on the left half of the handlebars. In fact there’s such of pile of buttons that Yamaha should think about simplifying it for the next FJR generation.

Conclusion

Although the Yamaha FJR1300AS has the sports tourer label, it actually only deserves the prefix “sports” when it’s in high revs. Then it takes off misleadingly quick. Too bad it misses some punch in the low range and its steering behavior is a bit lazy.

The AS has good touring qualities, thanks to the extensive equipment and good ergonomics. The suspension and semi-automatic transmission rise the price, but fortunately do the same with the comfort level.

The steadfastness of the FJR is also an advantage. Because of its stability nothing seems to be able to influence your riding lines. So if you need a solid partner for long trips, preferably at a lively pace, this might be the one for you.

Photography: Foto PK

Pros

+ Stability and balance
+ The electronically adjustable suspension remains a great feature
+ Ease of use of the gear shift buttons (which you get used to very quickly)

Cons

– Sporty enough to be called sports tourer?
– Semi-automatic transmission shifts down too slowly, causes too much movement when shifting up at full throttle
– Very heavy to maneuver

Tech specs

Engine

Engine type: 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC, forward-inclined parallel 4-cylinder
Displacement: 1,298cc
Bore x stroke: 79.0 mm x 66.2 mm
Compression ratio: 10.8 : 1
Maximum power: 107.5kW (146.2PS) @ 8,000 rpm
Maximum torque: 138.0Nm (14.1kg-m) @ 7,000 rpm
Lubrication system: Wet sump
Clutch type: Wet, multiple-disc coil spring
Ignition system: TCI
Starter system: Electric
Transmission system: Constant Mesh, 6-speed
Final transmission: Shaft
Fuel consumption: 6.2l/100km
CO2 emission: 140g/km
Fuel system: Fuel Injection

Chassis

Frame: Aluminium, Diamond Shaped
Front travel: 135 mm
Caster angle: 26º
Trail: 109mm
Front suspension system: Upside-down telescopic fork, Ø48 mm tube, adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension system: Swingarm, (Link type suspension)
Rear travel:125 mm
Front brake: Hydraulic dual disc, Ø320 mm
Rear brake: Hydraulic single disc, Ø282 mm
Front tyre: 120/70 ZR17M/C (58W)
Rear tyre: 180/55 ZR17M/C (73W)

Dimensions

Overall length: 2,230 mm
Overall width: 750 mm
Overall height: 1,325/1,455 mm
Seat height: 805/825 mm
Wheel base: 1,545 mm
Minimum ground clearance: 125 mm
Wet weight (including full oil and fuel tank): 296 kg
Fuel tank capacity: 25 litres
Oil tank capacity: 4.9 litres

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