Motoring: Yamaha FJR1300 smooth as low level flight

Swoop and glide, left and right, in a rhythm so hypnotic it narrows the focus.

The 2013 FJR1300

The 2013 FJR1300

There are days when time seems to stretch as far as the sun-dappled road unrolling ahead of you.

The ride is so smooth, it feels more like low level flight, as you swoop and glide, left and right, in a rhythm so hypnotic it narrows the focus, distilling away distractions until the moment realized becomes the rider’s only universe.

Sorry for getting all Zen-like about being “one with the bike”, but I think we search for those riding highs, nurture them and cherish them when they happen. And on the longer runs, separated further from daily ritual, there’s always a better chance of those moments happening more often.

This is where sport touring comes in, easing the road-strafing adrenaline rush with a little long distance utility and comfort, blending the diverse demands of sport and touring, somehow maintaining the integrity of both disciplines while compromising just enough to produce a bike like the 2013 Yamaha FJR1300.

The FJR1300 has been around for a decade, first debuting in Canada as a 2003 model. This redesigned third generation version, introduced last fall, adds adjustments, improvements and a whole lot of new technologies.

It’s a long list, worthy of a revisit and while we can’t possibly do justice to all of the changes, let’s see if we can cover some of the main points.

At first glance of the spec sheet, much might seem much the same – unchanged dimensions and a lot of similar components. Same tires. Same brake sizes. Same rake and trail. And a same-size 1298 cc inline-four engine.

But hidden below are a number of changes—new intake/exhaust systems, new components, improved fuel delivery and other tweaks that have enhanced power immediacy and bumped engine torque up slightly to 102 lb/ft (up from 99 lb/ft).

The big story here is the addition of the Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle (YCCT) drive-by-wire system.

Not only does it improve engine response and efficiency, it also allows for a set of new companion technologies—cruise control, traction control and a D-Mode throttle mapping system that allows riders to select from the unbridled acceleration of “Sport” mode or the smoother delivery of a “Touring” setting.

On the freeway, engine revs will hover in the neighbourhood of 3,000—4,000 rpm, depending on your personal definition of “legal highway speed”. Yamaha felt that the reworked five-speed transmission had a tall enough overdrive to keep the revs well south of the 9,000 rpm redline, but I’m still stabbing for a non-existent sixth gear for those long highway runs.

On my first tank of gas, mainly long hauls with some solo rides along country roads, I earned a relatively thrifty 5.3L/100km.

The second tank, including a two-up trip and urban chores, averaged out to 5.7L/100km. So, even at worst, riders should manage more than 400 km of range on the 25-litre tank.

The FJR1300 offers comfort with versatility—two seat height settings (20 mm range) and three handlebar adjustments (5.5 mm forward or 5.5 mm back). Venting on the middle cowl can be adjusted 20 mm to allow for more or less wind on the rider’s legs.

A new button-operated electric windscreen offers better protection and a quicker 130 mm adjustment range. And unlike its predecessor, the new windshield holds its last set position when the key is turned off instead of resetting to the down position.

This was just a minor sticking point with owners but, like many of the thoughtful little adjustments, it proves that Yamaha is listening to its customers.

There are other body-shaping changes, LED lighting, and aerodynamic adjustments that have updated the FJR’s styling, streamlining and weather protection.

The seating position is upright enough for comfort, well padded and with a new view in front of the rider.

A multifunction, triple-gauge instrument panel features an analog electric tach on the left, a new digital speedo in centre and square LCD digital info display on the right.

The speedo includes a fuel gauge, D-Mode indicator, clock, and ECO indicator (insert your comment here). The DOT matrix display on the right includes the odo, dual tripmeters, outside air temp, coolant temp, fuel consumption (instant or average), estimated range (with remaining fuel), time trip and low fuel tripmeter. There’s also a grip-heater status display and the always-handy gear position indicator, along with the usual cluster of idiot lights.

Yamaha also has a convenient single coded key system that operates the ignition and opens all storage areas including a small compartment (1 litre) with 12V power on the inside left fascia, the seat release with u-lock storage underneath, the colour-matched hardshell saddle bags (30 litres each) and the locks of optional top boxes (39-litre or 50-litre).

I could go on and on about state-of-the-art technologies and tweaks that have upped performance and shaved weight (2 kg), taking this bike to the next level of sport touring, but those factors are easily explored online.

So suffice to say that the sum total of the 2013 Yamaha FJR1300’s high-tech components and improvements is more comfort, performance and value.

In it’s segment, Yamaha’s FJR1300 ($17,499, 289 kg) is lighter and/or more affordable than most of its competition—Honda ST1300 ($18,999, 331 kg), Kawasaki Concours 14 ($18,999, 304 kg), BMW R1200RT ($20,750, 263 kg).

But numbers don’t tell the whole story.

And with a unique and up-to-date blend of performance, technologies and touring comforts, the 2013 FJR1300 is a competent competitor in it class, a sport tourer redefined, and a bike that should be on every rider’s test ride list.

Yamaha FJR1300 2013

Engine: 1298 cc liquid cooled, DOHC, 16 valve, in-line four-cylinder (142 hp, 102 lb/ft)

Transmission: 5-speed, shaft drive final

Fuel Economy: As tested 5.5L/100km (comb)

Suspension: Front fully adjustable 48mm fork; Rear adjustable link Monocross

Brakes: Front dual 320 mm discs with ABS; Rear 282 mm disc with ABS

Tires: Front 120/70ZR17; Rear 180/55ZR17

Wheelbase: 1,545 mm (60.8”)

Seat Height: 805 mm (31.7”) to 825mm (32.5”)

Fuel Capacity: 25 litres

Curb Weight: 289 kg (637 lb)

Colour: Yellowish Metallic Gray

Price: $17,499


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