2013 Yamaha FJR1300A: FIRST RIDE

Kit Palmer | December 4, 2012

Late September, Yamaha got us all fired up to go sport touring again when it revealed its significantly upgraded FJR1300A sport tourer. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait too long to get our hands on Yamaha’s latest FJR and what is one of Yamaha’s most popular models in its street lineup. Rarely do you hear a negative word from anyone’s mouths when the FJR becomes the subject of choice among a group of pavement-pounding enthusiasts. Recently, Yamaha hosted a two-day ride for the media in Northern California’s wine country to show off its new FJR1300A and we’ll tell you right now that we came away even more impressed with the FJR than we already were.2013 Yamaha FJR1300A

Pretty much the meat and potatoes of the new FJR1300A is mostly unchanged. The cast-aluminum twin-spar diamond-type frame retains the same geometry as before and its DOHC 16-valve 1298cc in-line four-cylinder motor is very similar to the previous mill. However, Yamaha claims that the new FJR boasts three more horsepower and three more foot pounds of torque than before, thanks to a new, longer exhaust system that is also lighter (because it now houses two catalyzers instead of four) and a new sleeveless cylinder design and piston rings. The five-speed transmission also has some new machining to improve shifting.

The FJR does get a new 48mm cartridge single-side function fork, where one leg handles damping and the other houses the spring. Compression and rebound damping can still be adjusted externally without tools, both via the right leg only. The single rear shock features adjustable rebound damping and only two preload choices – hard or soft. Both the fork and shock have new settings and are tuned for a firmer ride.

Many of the changes to the FJR were to improve your sport-touring experience, and what better way to do that than to increase your riding comfort? Yamaha made many changes in order to do that, such as redesigning the fairing. Not only is it now a cleaner one-piece unit over the previous three-piece design and has more modern and aggressive styling, the new fairing has been molded to give the rider improved weather protection. And there is also a new tool-less leg-panel adjustment that can be repositioned to redirect hot air away from the rider.2013 Yamaha FJR1300A

Longer-lasting LED turn signals are also integrated into the fairing. You’ll also find new headlight LED position lamps that bump up the cool factor a notch or two.

The windscreen is now taller and wider, though still not overly large overall, and has a new shape to improve airflow, reduce buffeting and decrease vacuum in the cockpit area The screen also raises and lowers via a much faster-operating electric motor. Unlike some bikes in its class, the FJR’s windscreen maintains its position when the key is turned off.

But it’s the addition of Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle (YCC-T) fly-by-wire system that really sets the new FJR apart from the previous FJR. YCC-T, which made its debut in 2006 on the Yamaha R6, has many advantages. Mainly, it allows the use of cruise control and Drive-Mode, and enhances the FJR’s new traction-control system, which is standard equipment and can be turned on or off, it’s up to you.

Cruise control is new to the FJR and is very welcomed, as is Drive-Mode, aka D-Mode, which gives you the option of changing between two throttle mapping settings – “Sport” (S-mode) and “Touring” (T-mode). Although no power is lost in either setting, touring mode offers smoother less-aggressive initial throttle response over the harder-hitting sport mode.

YCC-T also aids the FJR’s traction-control system by, in addition to cutting ignition, helping manipulate fuel control when loss of rear-wheel traction is detected.2013 Yamaha FJR1300A.

The 2013 FJR gets an all-new dash and meter design with new multi-function handlebar switches to control it all. Positioned on the left of the dash is an analog tachometer and in the center there’s a digital speedometer readout, along with fuel, D-Mode and clock displays. To the right, tons more information is offered digitally, such as average fuel consumption, estimated traveling range, fuel trip, ambient and coolant temperature, and plenty more.

The FJR rolls on Bridgestone BT-023 tires that are specifically designed for the Yamaha. They’re built to handle the extra weight of the FJR compared to the standard BT-023 Bridgestone tires and should wear much better.

As mentioned, our first riding impression of the new FJR1300A was a good one and left us wanting more – a lot more. Many things quickly stood out for us but probably none more so than the FJR’s just plain good handling. Unfortunately, most of our riding took place on damp roads made that way by on-again, off-again rain showers, but every so often we came across a dry section of pavement that allowed us to open things up a bit and the FJR1300A always happily delivered.

The additional power and torque is noticeable but not dramatic, though the shaft-driven FJR still feels very powerful and snappy through out its broad and robust powerband. The wide-ratio five-speed transmission is well matched to the motor, and we never missed not having a sixth, “over-drive,” gear, which is offered on some other bikes in its class, like the Kawasaki Concours 1400.

In addition, lever pull from the hydraulic clutch is acceptably firm but, in our opinion, could be lighter.

Even though the FJR shed approximately five pounds, says Yamaha, it’s still a pretty heavy bike at right around 660 pounds. Luckily, the FJR hides its weight well and is remarkably agile, which is nothing new to previous FJR owners. We applaud the FJR’s firmer ride, too.

Traction control and the FJR’s returning unified braking system with ABS certainly gave us a piece of mind while touring the twisty and, unfortunately, damp roads of Northern California. Overall, the FJR’s braking package is just plain outstanding – both front and rear brakes are very strong and predictable, and the FJR’s ABS system is one of the smoothest less obtrusive we’ve ever experienced. Although the FJR’s braking system is linked, it really doesn’t feel that way at all.

As far as traction control, we’re pretty certain it never had to spring into action during our ride, but it was nice to know it was there, for sure. Just to make sure it was working, dumping the clutch and grabbing a handful of throttle on a patch of lose gravel reassured us that it was indeed on guard and ready to react at a moments notice.2013 Yamaha FJR1300A

When the roads are slick, knowing the FJR has traction control and has smooth-working integrated brakes with ABS, reduces the stress level significantly.

D-Mode also reduced our stress level on the wet pavement. Touring mode provides super-smooth engine response when you first twist open the throttle, pretty much eliminating the worry of the back end accidentally slipping out on you while exiting the turns. Even on the dry, the smooth transition from idle to initial throttle was a pleasant feeling. However, there are times when you want that harder hit and Sport mode will certainly provide that. The difference between the two modes is quite noticeable. Changing modes while on the fly is simple – just bump the switch while decelerating and you’re done.

Overall throttle is seamless from the Yamaha’s updated EFI system, which utilize 42mm throttle bodies and four-hole Denso injectors. Deceleration is just as smooth, too.

The FJR’s new cruise control offers relief for your right arm on those long and straight hauls, and provides smooth operation without any surging whatsoever. There’s an on-off button on the left handlebar, as well as cancel and speed control switches, all are easy accessible. You can also disengage the system by pulling in the clutch or front-brake lever, tapping the rear-brake pedal or closing the throttle all the way.2013 Yamaha FJR1300A

Yamaha will be offering plenty of accessories for the FJR, including new products such as a 50-litre trunk capable of holding two full-face helmets, color-matched hand wind protectors, removable case liners and tank bag.

Much of our riding took place in sub-50-degree weather, so we certainly came to appreciate the FJR’s powerful and very adjustable heated grips, and effective windscreen. It does a great job deflecting windblast off your body, and very little buffeting is felt. Plus, there is almost zero vacuum pressure pushing you forward, thus reducing rider fatigue. We also like the quicker raise/lower windscreen adjustment speed.

Although we never felt the need to adjust the lower leg panels (we liked the idea of any kind of warm air being directed on to our legs on this ride), we played with them anyway and found the adjustment method to be clunky and not very user friendly. A large plastic piece on both sides of the fairing must be removed then carefully repositioned (that’s the tricky part) in different slots to make it happen.2013 Yamaha FJR1300A

Even though our longest day in the saddle was only about 170 miles, the FJR left us feeling that we could probably continue on for another 170 without much complaining. The FJR is still very comfortable, with its bolt upright seating position and plush, but still somewhat firm, thick saddle, which has two height adjustments with a range of 20mm, giving you a seat-height choice of either 31.7 inches or 32.5 inches. Handlebars are also three-way adjustable.

Saddlebags, though unchanged, are a little on the small side but can still carry most of your basic needs for an overnight trip or two. When you’re stopped, you will at times appreciate the FJR’s new centerstand which Yamaha claims is 30-percent easier to use. We’re not sure about percentages, but it is fairly easy to operate.

As far as fuel range, that we can’t tell yet, but Yamaha claims that the FJR will average about 36 mpg, which is actually slightly less than the previous model. With its very generous 6.6-gallon tank, however, that’s still about 237 miles between fill ups.

Despite all of the changes and upgrades, the MSRP of the new 2013 Yamaha FJR1300A increased only $300 to $15,890. Still, that’s a lot of money for a motorcycle, but at least you do get a lot of motorcycle and more goodies for that money. And you get a one-year limited factory warranty.

Hopefully you like the color gray because, for now, that’s the only color it is being offered in the U.S.

So far, we’re quite happy with the new FJR1300A. From what we can tell, it’s a better FJR in every way.

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