Yamaha’s big FJR1300 tourer has been around for a few years now and is up against some serious opposition, like the ST1300 Pan-European, a range of BMWs, Kawasaki’s new 1400GTR, Guzzi’s Norge and so on.
You could argue that understated all-rounders like the CBF1000 Honda, or Yamaha’s own Fazer 1000, can do much the same job – when fitted with hard luggage and heated grips – as the FJR1300, for substantially less cash.
Updated in 2006, with optional luggage now standard, plus heated grips, an electrically adjustable screen and that superb motor powering it to around 150mph, the FJR1300 is still very much hot ticket in the touring class. Alastair Walker spent a week clocking up the miles on the latest FJR1300 to see if this machine is one of the best buys.
It’s a sign of getting older I guess, but I quite like touring bikes. I must confess that as I get more creaky, and the roads get more clogged up with traffic, owning a sportbike seems to make less sense, even though something like a Ducati 748 SP for 3500 notes still looks like a seductive bargain to me. Fact is, touring bikes may be a tad dull by comparison but they do wonderful things like take you – and a friend – to the other side of Europe in two or three days, and you don’t need a Reiki massage in Budapest to get over it afterwards. Nice.
Tourers also tend to be built to a higher standard than some sportbikes and often depreciate in value slower, which is also well handy. So I guess I’m coming around to the notion that if you can have a touring bike that’s rocketship fast, comfortable, does 45mpg on the commute to work and lasts five years without frying its electrics, or furring all its alloy, then surely that’s proof that life on two wheels can be very sweet indeed?
Having ridden some 400 miles on Yamaha’s 2007 FJR1300 I can only agree. The FJR1300 is very close to the perfect touring motorcycle, with a blend of quality engineering, decently quick performance, outstanding brakes and respectable handling. Two people – two big people – can fit on the saddle with ease, there’s just loads of room. It seems a basic point, but you’d be surprised how many touring bikes don’t have enough room for two beefy pie-eaters and their weekend luggage.
You sit up straight on the FJR, and once on the move the wide handlebars, electric screen and heated grips can make even the most miserable British summer’s day seem more bearable. The screen is especially good, being tall enough to stop the wind pressure putting any strain on your shoulders and the electric adjustment is easy to use on the move. I loved the way it folded itself back into the low position once the ignition was turned off too.
The Yamaha engages first gear with a fair old `clunk’ but otherwise the gearbox is extremely smooth and the clutch is one of the nice variety where the biting point is easy to gauge. (I tested the conventional FJR1300, not the semi-auto version) The transmission is finished off with a very unobtrusive shaft drive that simply gets on with the job. The whole transmission feels slightly slicker, better made, than on say the Guzzi Norge, which has a more old fashioned feel in its operation. I’d say the Yamaha also feels a tad smoother than the BMW R1200 twins too – it’s an advantage to ride the FJR in town compared to many other big touring bikes.
The Yamaha has a real balance to it, the overall handling is predictable, nimble and inspires confidence. The FJR1300 is a heavy bike at some 264kgs dry, but it is easy to paddle around on driveways, easier than many other bikes I have manhandled in the last few years. The seat is also nice and low – even a 31 inch inside leg shortarse like me can get both feet on the deck. All that stuff matters because big tourers – once fully kitted up and with a pillion on board – can be a handful sometimes, and that’s when people tip the bike over and do expensive damage.
Speed is relative
Once you get out of town, the Yamaha really begins to show its class. The engine is beautifully responsive, with tons of lowdown grunt, from as little as 4000rpm. There’s just five gears, but you don’t need a sixth, as the FJR has such an even spread of power, all the way to around 8000rpm. Even riding two-up, you simply rocket past cars in 5th gear within a couple of seconds. The bike is so easy to ride that you end up touring at a fair old speed, but you never feel in any danger. The four piston caliper front brakes, complete with ABS, are just amazing, and the feedback at the brake lever is ace – you can brake very late into corners and then countersteer the FJR deep into roundabouts, tight bends etc and feel totally relaxed. It isn’t quite a sports-tourer, but it is very, very close. Everything you need to enjoy this motorcycle is where it should be; torquey power, demon brakes, slick handling. I loved it.
What that means in the real world is that you can make excellent progress through the general chaos and disorder on UK roads. Sure, you could pop a wheelie, or drag your knee occasionally on a Ninja, but on a 100 mile trip around some pleasant roads you might be just one or two minutes slower on a the FJR1300, than doing the same trip on a sportbike. This is a motorcycle which can slice accurately through traffic, without any real drama or scary weaves at speed – I was very impressed with the way you can maintain a really fast average pace on the FJR. In some respects, it feels more stable, more secure when ridden hard, than say a Pan-European, or a BMW K1200S. The performance of the FJR simply demolishes the Guzzi Norge, in terms of handling, ground clearance, braking and overall engine grunt.
So, here we have a bike which can tour sedately, or really crack on when you want to. Lovely, but there are just a couple of niggly details. First off, the panniers looked and felt a bit cheap to me. The catches didn’t quite fit flush to the pannier base, and there was a worrying gap between lid and pannier case – didn’t ride the bike in torrential rain so I don’t know if these boxes leak like the Guzzi Norge ones do, but they looked like they might take on water when fully loaded. On a £10,500 bike, the panniers looked cheap and tacky to be blunt.
Also, the FJR has a suspension preload adjustment lever set beneath the swingarm, which flicks from hard to soft settings. Fine in theory, but frankly I couldn’t tell any difference, so I thought that was a bit of a gimmick. If Yamaha fitted a proper, five way adjustable lever, or dial, for setting rear shock preload, that would be better.
On the upside, the overall build quality of the FJR is superb. In general, I would say that the paint and finish on the main alloy and cycle parts looks better than many BMWs, and even some Hondas. The CBF1000 for example is a lovely bike, but some parts don’t look that durable on it and by comparison the FJR1300 has a look of solidity, precision and care in its engineering details. It looks like Yamaha took some time developing the bike and overseeing the manufacture of various sub-contractors parts. Good news. You look at used examples of the FJR1300 and see that they appear generally in top class nick – they don’t hold their value as well as some BMW or Honda models though.
Show me the money and let’s go honey
Interestingly the current top selling tourer in the UK is the new Deauville 700, which just goes to show how little high performance, or sheer grunty, big engine torque, seems to matter in this niche market. The Deauville is a great mid-sized tourer, I loved riding the 650 version to Eastern Europe a few years ago, but it isn’t a two-up tourer in my book. It’s engine hasn’t got the oomph to really slingshot two people past lorries comfortably and its luggage capacity is limited, although the 700 has that bit more room than the 650 did. But the Deauville costs a fraction of the £10,500 retail price of the Yamaha FJR1300 and that really does count for something in these days of rapidly depreciating motorcycles. As good as the FJR1300 is, you have to weigh up the benefit of that powerful engine, svelte handling chassis and superb brakes, against the lavish touring trip which you can afford by buying a cheaper Deauville 700.
It’s a tough call and for me, the answer would be simple; buy a used BMW R1200ST or FJR1300, rather than a new Deauville 700. You see, I have a real aversion to spending 10K on any motorcycle, because in the end, they are all just toys, not practical everyday transport. If anyone would like to disprove this by shopping at Sainsbury’s a week before Christmas for a family of four on their FJR1300, please let me know and I’ll be happy to take some amusing pics of your expedition.
If you have pots of money and can afford new, plus all the touring kit and have the time to escape the UK for four or five weeks a year, then you won’t be disappointed with the FJR1300. It does what it says on the tin, it tours, with minimal effort and a great dollop of raw power slapping a ginormous grin on your face. I haven’t ridden the new Kawasaki 1400GTR, but I would guess – having ridden the ZZR1400 – that it is one of the few super-tourers that can outdrag the Yamaha in a top gear roll-on. These are the type of bikes that make you feel glad to be alive, yearn to dodge the commuter crawl and fly arrow straight across half a continent before lunch. The Yamaha feels capable, adroit, understated and powerful. Any motorcycle that does all that for you is a good `un in my book.
Nice one Yamaha.
Get Yamaha motorcycle insurance for the yamaha fjr1300 2007.
Test bike supplied by Yamaha UK
Engine Four cylinder, 1298cc, four stroke
Bore and Stroke 79mm X 66.2mm
Peak Power 143 bhp @ 8000rpm
Peak torque 134Nm @ 7000rpm
Fuelling Fuel injection
Gears 5 speed
Frame; Aluminium diamond type
Front suspension; 48mm diameter telescopic forks
Rear suspension; Monoshock, adjustable for preload
Braking; Twin 320mm front discs, single 282mm rear disc, ABS as standard
Wheels/Tyres; 120/70 ZR17 in front, 180/55 ZR17 rear
Dry weight 264kgs
Seat height 800mm
Fuel Capacity 25 litres
ABS brakes, electric screen heated handlebar grips, fuel gauge, clock, trip meter, rear carrier rack, adjustable saddle.
August 2007; £10,499 (£10,995 for FJR1300A automatic version)