It\'s billed as a manual tranny with a computer controlled clutch - once activated it\'ll act like a big overgrown scooter and when you put it in gear it automatically engages drive at 1300rpm (just off of idle). To Yamaha\'s credit, the system works pretty well in the higher gears but loses the plot at lower RPM. Riding this bike in slow traffic reminded me exactly of how much I use (slip) my clutch. In low first gear situations the bike can\'t make its mind up whether you\'re looking for neutral or first. This was particularly noticeable in the many U-turns for photo opportunities and that resulting snatch might see a tip over, I also felt very silly paddling my feet every time I turned the bike around. To reduce potential complexity, the gear shift has also been reworked to use a simple 5-up configuration with neutral at the bottom, after first - a bit like my very first Yamaha 50cc FS1-E, no biggy.
Up to speed, the shifting was flawless - It\'s by no means a quick shifter more like a medium to slow shifter. I could go into detail and tell you how it works, I should really tell you that the basis system consists of two actuators attached to the clutch and shift mechanisms controlled by a nifty and very sophisticated computer. Instead imagine there\'s a Yamaha blue-suited pixie who changes gear for you at your every command. He\'s a clever little guy too, perfect shifts every time. I (he) never lost the plot all the time I rode the thing, no such thing as a lazy toe here. By the way, if you want, you can override the system any time you like by just using your foot (still no clutch lever needed, or supplied). It\'s a true manual transmission, with you making the decision when to shift. The only time that it\'ll override you, is if you do a "silly" change, from say 5th to 1st - it\'ll wait patiently until the RPM is correct and then proceed. There really isn\'t anything as innovated as this on the market.
The power plant is a Stellar 4-cylinder unit with a 1298cc capacity, four valves per cylinder and a double overhead cam. It also features EFI, 42mm throttle bodies and throttle position sensors. The gearbox has been adjusted to offer a less "busy feeling" and is 2.7% taller than the 05\' ratio it replaces. That ratio sees a drop in RPM at a cruising speed of 70MPH of 500RPM.. Shaft drive further confirms this as a no nonsense unit. To comply with the EPA, EU-3 regulations it now has four 3-way catalytic convertors converting instead of last year\'s 2-way. It also has a heated O2 sensor for a more accurate reading on cold starts.
Earlier FJR\'s have previously been guilty of poor engine heat management with many a rider getting toasted thighs and butt. Yamaha has addressed this important issue by adding a more efficient curved radiator and adding a few thoughtfully placed internal vents to further aid heat disbursement.
The lower fairing sides are also adjustable with Deuz fastened panels that can be moved to deflect hot air away from you. It never really got hot enough for me to notice - but hopefully the problem\'s solved.
Well, it was comfortable
Up into the twisty bits I quickly remembered the 2005 Yamaha R6 intro in sunny CA when Yamaha\'s press "guide," Brad Banister, led a very spirited ride up into the San Gabriel mountains on an FJR, obviously he had to eventually pull over and let us go forth and play, but it did surprise me of its visual composure under pressure. Like then, I misbehaved plenty, on and off the FJR, though but I never felt uncomfortable. Basically I ride stupidly, so you don\'t have to, but in reality you can hustle the FJR at ridiculous speeds without losing too much composure.
Running into corners in crazy banzai braking moves, illustrated in a very immature (hey, I fit the FJR demographic) way, how good the brake system is too. It\'s a linked system, Yamaha calls it "unified", to take away the stinky stigma that linked brakes conjure up.Basically it\'s an ABS controlled system that utilizes one piston of the front\'s four-piston mono-block Nissan calipers, should you honk on the rear pedal. It wasn\'t intrusive and the ABS (as standard) always let you know exactly how silly you were being - another proverbial get out of jail free card carrying device.
Hustling around a 600lb bike aside, sport tourers need a calming set of suspenders. The FJR features a 35mm longer rear swingarm than last years for improved ride and traction. The front forks are updated too, with additional bushings for less binding and a smoother action, and they\'re three way adjustable too. The rear is also adjustable for rebound and preload, The latter via a handy adjustable knob positioned close to your butt for on the fly adjustments.
The bike is plush as it stands but offers a firmer stance if you load up on luggage and/or passenger(s). Those reconfigured side bags give you a full 18 gallons of space and encourage some big loads, they are also tucked inboard a little tighter (20mm) than of yore.
Instrumentation is very much up to the minute, the Honda ST1300 always provided a more comprehensive work area, now the Yamaha picks up the pace by adding an air temperature gauge, average MPG and real time MPG reader (if you coast downhill you see a pretty decent 99.9mpg - neato), twin trip meters, fuel gauge, coolant temp and a handy gear shift indicator.
A minor poo was the color of the clock faces - your peripheral vision is a little busy deciphering those numbers on the grey faced tachometer and speedometer, a white set would help out tremendously. Whilst in moan mode, how about a bigger downshift button? I can\'t tell you how many times I hit the horn trying to push button downshift.
The style has been sharpened with a reconfigured headlight set-up that\'s fully adjustable to match the load that you\'re carrying. The mirrors are very BMW-esque (car, not bike) with twin stalks. Visibility was quite good with me being able to see both under and over my Ben Spies like riding posture (elbows-R-us).
More niceties - The left-hand fairing accessory box is a full one liter in size and can be opened anytime the key is in the on position (apparently last years could not) and now houses a DC power outlet for on the go cell phone charging, for G.P.S. or other electrical touring goodies.
The front screen is fully electric but has a terrible default habit of going back to the stock lowered position each time you turn off the bike. I found a happy medium with regards to height and managed to dial out some significant wind noise - great for long distant travels with minimal fatigue.
Price-wise, the two versions come in at $13,499 for the standard FJR-A (blue only) and $15,299 for the computer controlled clutch version FJR-AE (silver only).
The FJR-AE comes also with fully variable heated grips, a $300 option on standard FJR-A. Both bikes are special order from your local Yamaha dealer, a $500 deposit gets you on the list. That exclusivity pays off too with excellent resale values.
I\'ve often heard Yamaha FJR owners boasting about how good their big Yam\' was, swearing on its speed and agility. On riding the bike I\'m pleasantly surprised on the legitimacy of those claims because it offers an almost perfect blend of fun and practicality.
Personally, I\'d dump the shifting trickery and add the excellent cruise control seen on Yamaha\'s own Star Tour Deluxe. Now that package would be even closer to perfection.