The biggest sport-tourer in Yamaha ’s lineup just got better. In 2016, the FJR1300A and its stablemate the FJR1300ES saw some evolutionary changes that brought just enough tweaks to make it a smoother, more comfortable ride. Probably the biggest change last year was in the transmission, giving it a smoother ride, as well as a sixth gear, and the addition of a slipper clutch to reduce hand fatigue at the clutch lever.
A stylish revamp of the lights gets a thumbs up with LEDs all around. The headlight throws a sharp beam that pierces the darkness for good visibility, both to see and be seen. LED taillights tuck unobtrusively under the tail, and for the ES, you get cornering lights. The cornering lights, mounted above the headlights, come on when the bike detects lean. The harder the lean, the more LEDs come on to illuminate what is in the turn. This feature is very useful in urban and suburban settings, but only marginally useful on the open road. Still, it’s a nice feature and there when you need it.
…even after hundreds of miles in the saddle, if your butt doesn’t hurt and your shoulders don’t hurt, you know the ergonomics are good.
I can’t talk about a touring bike without mentioning the upright riding position. It may seem a bit strange to have the bars pulled that far back on what otherwise looks like a sportbike ; but believe me, even after hundreds of miles in the saddle, if your butt doesn’t hurt and your shoulders don’t hurt, you know the ergonomics are good.
The big difference between the FJR1300A — which wasn’t carried forward for 2017 — and the FJR1300ES was the electronic suspension. The ES comes with suspension setup on the handlebars with push-button adjustments, which is a good thing, but with 84 different presets for suspension options, it can be a little overwhelming to have that many choices.
The bikes weigh in at 640+ pounds each and that weight is an advantage on the highway. It feels solid like a tourer and you don’t feel like you’re getting sucked into the slipsteam of passing vehicles, but on the curves, you’ll feel that weight.
The redesigned instrument clusters gives you plenty of information, but the speedometer is a digital display and the tach is a dial. My preference would be to have it the other way around since it’s easier for my old-lady eyes to take in a dial at-a-glance; but that’s me and I’m sure younger eyes are happy with the digital readout.
Since the FJR1300 is billed as a “super-sport tour bike,” it makes sense that it comes built on a frame that borrows heavily from Yamaha’s straight-up street/sport bikes. The aluminum frame features beefy structural members that come tuned for what the factory figures is the right balance of strength, flexibility and weight, and it sets the tone for the rest of the project with a definite sportbike bent.
Since the FJR1300 is billed as a “super-sport tour bike,” it makes sense that it comes built on a frame that borrows heavily from Yamaha’s straight-up street/sport bikes.
A lengthened aluminum swingarm provides better rear suspension geometry and pushes the wheelbase out to 60.8 inches. Rake is still in the “fairly sporty” range at 26-degrees, but the 4.9-inch trail is definitely enough to make the FJR more stable for low-fatigue, long-distance cruising /commuting/touring.
The “A” and the”ES”models diverge a little when we look at the suspension. By anyone’s standards, the 48 mm forks on the “A” are top-shelf items with 5.3-inches of travel and fully adjustable ride parameters, and the rear monoshock comes with 4.9 inches of travel as well as adjustable rebound damping and spring preload. As nice as that is, especially considering some tour bike manufacturers still run strictly with fixed-value components except maybe for preload, the “ES” version is even nicer. Electronic suspension control gives the rider the ability to tune the suspension through push-button manipulation of the four preload settings and total of ten damping settings.
Dual 320 mm front discs and a 282 mm rear disc work with the Unified Brake System calipers that deliver balanced braking effort by allowing the rear brake master cylinder to pressurize two of the eight front-caliper pistons at the same time as the rear. The front brake lever actuates the other six front pistons, but none in the rear. (’Cause how else could you do burnouts?) ABS protection comes as standard equipment. Cast-alloy rims round out the rolling chassis with a fat, 120/70-17 hoop up front and fatter 180/55-17 one in back.
The factory powers the FJR family with a 1,298 cc engine that puts out around 141 horsepower and 99 pound-feet of torque depending on whose dynamometer you use. Liquid-cooled, the water jacket helps to attenuate some of the mechanical noises from within, and naturally it makes for less heat wash over rider and passenger alike.
Designers set out to shoehorn those cubes into a very small space indeed, so they went with a slanted, in-line four with a “tri-axis” transmission that boasts a stacked-shaft arrangement that takes up less room fore-and-aft than a conventional arrangement.
While the 2015 version of these bikes came with a five-speed transmixxer, the 2016 sported a six-speed gearbox with a new, Assist-and-Slipper clutch that reduces clutch-lever effort while increasing clutch-pack clamp load and limiting backtorque. With the helically-cut gears in the new transmission, shifting is smooth with no driveline-lash clunking. The sixth gear is a tall overdrive gear so sustained cruising on the interstate is only at about 3,500-to-4,000 rpm, which is right where you want it for long miles in the saddle.
The ride-by-wire, Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T) manages induction along with the fuel-injected throttle bodies, and here we get into some electro-wizardry. First, the D-Mode provides two different power-delivery profiles; one for smooth cruising and a second for sportier throttle responses, a system that allows the rider some flexibility but is far from the tailored power curves possible with some of the top competitors. Second, the traction control system closes the secondary throttle plate in the YCC-T system, reduces fuel delivery from the injectors and retards timing to restore contact-patch integrity when wheel slip is detected. All good stuff for peace of mind when on the road.
MSRP on the 2016 FJE1300A was $16,390, $500 more than 2015. Last year, the FJR1300ES was 17,990, an increase of $1,100 over the 2015 price and just a couple of dollars under the 2017 price. For 2015, the FJRs came in Liquid Graphite. In 2016, at least we have a nicer color with Cobalt Blue, and for 2017, Yamaha offers the “ES” in basic black. Yamaha gives you a one-year limited Factory warranty on the FJR1300.
Sport-tour bikes are really kind of niche. Manufacturers make a dozen or more models between their sportbikes, naked bikes and similar models, but offer only one or two sport tourers. With that in mind I started looking in the European and Asian markets and the Kawasaki Concours 14 seemed a natural fit for the FJR1300A.
Looks-wise, they are very similar with a sporty stance and rider triangle that allows for a more vertical riding position, but I’m really not feeling the “ribbed for nobody’s pleasure” look of the Kawasaki so the Yamaha wins the beauty segment of our little contest.
Structurally, the two bikes are like chalk and cheese. The FJR runs on a modern frame, true, but it is an actual frame; Kawasaki went instead with an aluminum monocoque assembly that uses the body panels as stressed, load-bearing members, precluding the need for a frame at all. That’s cool and all, but I’m kind of old fashioned and prefer my bikes to have an endo-skeleton rather than an exo-skeleton. Point Yamaha.
Suspension is close enough for government work and both bikes come with ABS. I’m on the fence about the combined brakes stuff ’cause I’m not sure it’s not better to leave the brakes separate. At least it’s mechanical in nature and not electronic because I am positive I don’t trust brake-by-wire.
Powerplants are like two sides of the same coin. Both run inline, four-cylinder mills with liquid cooling, but Kawasaki manages to pack in a few more cubes with a total of 1,352 cc versus 1,298 cc in the Yamaha. This manifests itself in the power numbers with comparable torque, but up to 157 horsepower at speed with the ram-air effect kicked in. Still a bit heavy bike, but the extra power should put a little extra zip in your doo-dah.
Kawasaki squeaks in a tiny victory at checkout with a $15,499 sticker on the Concours 14 versus the $16,390 tag on the FJR1300A. Not a big difference this far above 10 grand, but there it is anyway. In the end, I gotta say I prefer the FJR though looks alone are the biggest reason for that.
My husband and fellow motorcycle writer, TJ Hinton, says, “Ya know, you can take a sportbike, slap a windshield and some bags on it and call it a tour bike all day, and it still won’t be what I call a tour bike. Not enough protection, storage or comfort features for real tour work. Oh sure, the suspension is tits, but I’m not seeing the heated seat/grips with a six-speaker sound system or any of the other frou-frou folks like to see on the long-haul bikes. For that reason, I dub this ride a Super Commuter, because that’s the job I think it would shine in.”
“The FJR1300 has been a favorite for a long time, and while the 2016 wasn’t a redesign, it was a revamp of an already popular bike. Fans will like the sixth gear and slipper clutch as that takes some strain off the left hand and eliminates that awkward clunk of the drivetrain. That sixth gear let’s you cruise on the highway at a more respectable rpm; and let’s face it, if it’s a touring bike, it should cruise with seemingly no effort. I might agree with my husband that it could be a commuter, but with fuel economy under 40 mpg, I hesitate to give it that label.”
|Engine Type:||1298cc liquid-cooled DOHC inline 4-cylinder; 16 valves|
|Bore x Stroke:||79.0mm x 66.2mm|
|Fuel Delivery:||Yamaha Fuel Injection with YCC-T|
|Ignition:||TCI: Transistor Controlled Ignition|
|Transmission:||2015: 5-speed; multiplate wet clutch, 2016: 6-speed; multiplate assist-and-slipper wet clutch|
|Suspension / Front:|
|FRJ1300A:||48mm fork, fully adjustable; 5.3-in travel|
|FJR1300ES:||43mm inverted forks with electronically adjustable rebound and compression damping; 5.3-in travel|
|Suspension / Rear:|
|FJR1300A:||Single shock, adjustable spring preload and rebound damping; 4.9-in travel|
|FJR1300ES:||Single shock with electronically adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping; 4.9-in travel|
|Brakes / Front:||Dual 320mm discs; Unified Brake System and ABS|
|Brakes / Rear:||282mm disc; Unified Brake System and ABS|
|Tires / Front:||120/70ZR17|
|Tires / Rear:||180/55ZR17|
|L x W x H:||87.8 in x 29.5 in x 52.2 – 57.3 in|
|Seat Height:||31.7 or 32.5 in|
|Rake (Caster Angle):||26.0°|
|Trail:||2015: 4.3 in, 2016: 4.9 in|
|Maximum Ground Clearance:|
|Fuel Capacity:||6.6 gal|
|Fuel Economy:||36 mpg|
|FJR1300A:||2015: 637 lbs (CA model 639 lbs), 2016: 635 lbs (CA model 637 lbs)|
|FJR1300ES:||2015: 644 lbs (CA model 646 lbs), 2016/2017: 642 lbs (CA model 644 lbs)|
|Warranty:||1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty)|
|FJR1300A:||2015: $15,890, 2016: $16,390|
|FJR1300ES:||2015: $16,890, 2016: $17,990, 2017: $17,999|