Silver Bullet

Story by Glenn Roberts// Photos by Jeff Stephenson
May 1 2013

While the updates aren’t groundbreaking, the new FJR incorporates some pretty significant changes that bring it up to speed in the modern era of sport-touring motorcycles.

The leaves had changed to fall’s palette of yellow, orange and red, and frost prevailed in the mornings. It was a few days before Hallowe’en, and snow could have fallen at any time, slamming the door on what was left of riding season. But I had one of only two new FJRs in the country to ride, and it was going to take more than a bit of snow to keep me grounded. I was fortunate that most of my days with the FJR1300 were pleasant and sunny, which made up for the freezing morning temperatures.

On the positive side, the cold fall temperatures did allow me to test the wind protection capabilities and the heated grips of the redesigned 2013 Yamaha FJR1300, and I have to say they passed with flying colours.

Yamaha first introduced Canada to the sport-touring FJR in 2003, and it has been a mainstay in the category ever since, garnering itself a dedicated following and an excellent reputation for smoothness, reliability and comfort. The second generation, released in 2006, included the auto-clutch model (the auto-clutch only lasted for two seasons in Canada), but this third-generation model has some pretty significant upgrades throughout, particularly in the electronics and engine component and management departments.

Like all the FJRs before it, the four cylinders that make up the 1298 cc engine offer silky-smooth acceleration and get up to speed rapidly, cutting through the crisp, fall air like a hot knife through butter. A light prod on the shifter easily clicks the 5-speed transmission into the next gear with a light, smooth snick. It seems commonplace these days to have a 6-speed transmission, but I don’t believe the FJR needs one, at least not in North America with our limited speed limits. In fifth gear at 100 km/h, the engine is ticking over at only 3100 rpm, which is suitable for a four-cylinder at speed, and considering the red line is 9000, it still leaves a lot of rpm and speed available for those who wish to jeopardize their licences.

This new model has upped the technology considerably over the previous model, introducing fly-by-wire that Yamaha calls YCC-T (Yamaha Chip Controlled Throttle), a technology pioneered on the R1 and R6. Throttle control still feels like a traditional, cable-operated throttle and offers good feedback because, oddly enough, cables are still involved – up to the point where they terminate at the throttle-position sensor. This is where the analog cable is converted to a digital signal and sent to the ECU, which then controls the throttle bodies electrically.

In addition to YCC-T, Yamaha has introduced some internal engine modifications, mostly for longevity of the mechanical bits, but also direct ignition, revised fuel injectors, an improved air box and a more efficient exhaust system that reduces the number of catalytic converters from four to two, all of which improves engine performance. The cats are installed ahead of the mufflers, making it possible to install aftermarket slip-on mufflers.

The fly-by-wire and ECU involvement allows a host of other conveniences to be introduced to the new FJR, like electronic cruise control, traction control and D-mode. D-mode is an engine management system that offers Sport and Touring modes. Operated via a button on the right-hand switchgear, both modes provide full delivery of the 145 horsepower, but Sport mode is much more responsive and aggressive. Touring mode is lazy by comparison, taking longer to get up to speed, so it’s much better suited to congested areas or easy cruising in wide-open spaces. Switching between the two modes can be done on the fly, but the throttle has to be deliberately closed for the change to take effect.

Traction control has two settings – on or off – but unlike D-mode, the bike has to be stopped for the switchover to take effect. With a claimed 145 ponies at my fingertips (that equates, Yamaha claims, to approximately 125 hp at the rear wheel), I could turn traction control on and set D-mode to Touring, ensuring that I wouldn’t get myself into too much trouble in the corners, even with cold pavement and tires.

New for Yamaha motorcycles is the level of troubleshooting available on the FJR. If a rider experiences a performance discrepancy, no matter how minute, Yamaha technicians can log into the ECU to see the problem and where it originated.

ABS is standard. With a pair of four-piston calipers up front and a dual-piston caliper out back, the brakes are quite powerful, requiring only a reasonable, two-finger squeeze on the front brake lever to quickly slow the 289 kg (637 lb.) bike down from any velocity with good feedback. I could feel right away that the rear brake is linked, at least partially, with the front. As I stepped on the rear brake pedal, I could feel the front squat slightly. When the adjustable, five-position front brake lever is pulled, it activates all four pistons in the left caliper, but only two in the right caliper. The remaining two front pistons are activated when the rear brake is applied, providing optimal stopping power when both brakes are used.

Power and braking forces are transferred to the tarmac via Bridgestone Battlax BT-023 sport-touring tires designed specifically for the new FJR. But don’t let that scare you. If you are in dire need of rubber and there isn’t a dealership close by, the 120/70ZR-17 front and 180/55ZR-17 rear are common sizes, and standard tires will suffice. Checking the rear tire’s air pressures is easier, thanks to a revised centre stand that Yamaha claims is 30% easier to use. I can’t attest to the accuracy of the claim, but I will say it is quite easy to lift the bike up onto.

Apart from some tweaking in the rear suspension, little has changed there – adjustment is still limited to a two-position lever that toggles from “soft” to “hard” for one- or two-up riding. The front suspension has received considerable revision. Both 48 mm, conventional, telescopic, cartridge-style fork legs are adjustable, but both legs are very different in operation. In the left fork leg resides a double spring with a revised spring rate, and preload is adjustable with a wrench. In the right leg is the compression and rebound damping, and adjustment for that leg is performed with an easy-to-access thumbscrew on the top of the fork tube.
While the revised front suspension is a step up, it’s conceivable Yamaha could introduce more advanced technology in the future. Unfortunately, electrically adjustable suspension is not in the cards for the North American FJR, at least for this year, but Europe has it on the 2013 AS (auto-clutch) model, so it does exist. We can hope that it will filter over to this side of the pond in the future; however, the auto-clutch model will not be available here for 2013.

All the chassis changes have done nothing to detract from the FJR’s handling – it retains its sportbike heritage and rails around corners in the blink of an eye. A slight push on the handgrip leans it into a corner, and changing direction in the twisties is easy and seamless.

While I wasn’t looking for rough roads, I did venture on a few during my time with the bike, and it always remained composed. The seat is wide and comfortably firm, allowing room to move around during those long days in the saddle. Unfortunately, it was not heated for those frosty mornings. Removing the seat exposes an easy-to-use, two-position height adjustment that will move the rider 20 mm higher or lower.

With the seat in the lowest position at 805 mm (31.7 in.), I could comfortably fit my feet flat on the ground with my 32-inch inseam. As I mentioned, the seat is wide, and it splays the legs a bit while you reach for a solid footing.

The view from the saddle is completely different than the second-generation FJR. Yamaha has given the new bike a modern, three-part instrument cluster, and with it, a wide array of electronic readouts to keep you informed.

On the left is a readable analog electronic tach that shows up to 11,000 rpm, even though the engine redlines at only 9000.

In the centre of the three-gauge cluster is an LCD screen showing the speedo, fuel gauge, clock, D-mode and the ECO indicator, along with the requisite warning lights lining the bottom. I know the purpose of the ECO light, but I don’t really understand its function on this bike. It comes on when the throttle is kept steady or decelerating, regardless of engine rpm. It will light even with the engine revving at a steady 7000 rpm, for instance, which I can’t see being very economical.
The right-hand LCD is the most informative, with user-definable menu items such as odometer and trip meters, ambient and coolant temperatures, average and instant fuel consumption, estimated distance until empty, and trip time. You can program these items in order of importance. For instance, if you don’t care about trip time but want to know how far you can go with the amount of fuel you have left, and you also want to monitor instant fuel economy and coolant temperature, you can tell the computer what to display on the main screen and in what order, so your most important information appears with no need for scrolling. Clicking onto the next screen shows the next set of information. Also on the right-hand screen is a gear indicator, level of heat at the grips and electric windshield adjustment.

All of this is controlled by a single toggle switch at your left forefinger and a rocker switch operated by your left thumb – or forefinger, depending on your dexterity. You can even program the degree of heat to the heated grip’s three levels, and all three levels did get used. It’s all very cool and intuitive once you’ve played with it a time or two.

The handlebars themselves are adjustable to three positions fore or aft over an 11 mm range to make the bike as comfortable as possible for various-sized riders and arm lengths. The handlebar on my demo was set to the middle position, and the sit-up-straight seating position was comfortable for my 5-foot 10-inch frame. The electric windshield has a total travel of 130 mm, and at its highest position I felt a little wind hitting my helmet, but I experienced no buffeting to speak of, nor did I feel any negative pressure pushing me forward from behind, a trait sometimes experienced with windscreens that don’t have appropriate venting built in.

The lower fairing affords good leg protection from the wind, but also has two-position air deflectors that help divert wind away from the legs. With a simple half twist of a single Dzus fastener, a side panel can be repositioned about 20 mm out to better deflect the air hitting the outer edge of the leg. While the Yamaha staff showed me how it worked, it remained at its outermost position while I had the bike.

Storage is generous, with a pair of 30-litre clamshell panniers that will hold a full-face helmet and are rated to hold a pretty substantial 10 kilograms each. The panniers are easily removed, like when you’re out for quick afternoon ride, or to take into your hotel room after a long day on the road. A single ignition immobilizer key operates all locks on the bike, including an optional top box. There is a little storage room under the seat, but the FJR has a convenient glove box with a 12-volt plug on the left side of the fairing that automatically locks when the ignition is turned off.

Fit and finish of all components is perfect. New headlights feature LED halo lights, although the LEDs can’t really be seen when the bike is running because the proper headlight system is on, and new LED turn signals are now built into the leading edge of the fairing. One thing I found quite awkward were the knobs on the inner fairing for adjusting the headlight height. They are tucked into their respective corners on each side of the fairing and are hard to reach and operate, especially with gloved hands. But these are a bit of a luxury anyway, and once you adjust them, you may never need to interact with them again. After all, most bikes don’t have a headlight adjustment option, and they get by just fine.

Even if you are more of a sportbike person but are thinking of travelling to far-off places, this bike will appease your inner squid and get you on the path to covering some serious distance. I found the FJR to be very comfortable, and it would be quite easy to pound a ton of kilometres on during a long day in the saddle. The bike sits on the sport side of sport touring, with plenty of machine to keep the experienced touring rider entertained. Yamaha sums it up on the website: “The FJR1300 offers a significant level of power and performance. It is not intended for novice or inexperienced riders.” Enough said.

The basics
List Price $17,499
Warranty 1 year, unlimited mileage
Company URL
the drivetrain  
Engine Type Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 16-valve, inline four-cylinder
Displacement 1298 cc
Power (claimed) 145 hp (108 kW)
Torque (claimed) 102 ft-lb (138 N-m) at 7000 rpm
Bore and Stroke 79 × 66.2 mm
Compression Ratio 10.8:1
Fuel Delivery EFI Mikuni 42 mm throttle body
Transmission 5-speed
the essentials  
Final Drive Type Shaft
Front Suspension Fully adjustable 48 mm telescopic fork
Rear Suspension Adjustable-link Monocross
Wheel Travel Front: 135 mm (5.4″), Rear: 125 mm (4.8″)
Brakes Front: Dual 320 mm discs with 4-piston calipers. Rear: 282 mm disc with opposed 2-piston caliper. Linked ABS
Wheelbase 1545 mm (60.8 in.)
Rake and Trail 26 degrees/109 mm
Tires Front: 120/70ZR-17, Rear: 180/55ZR-17
Weight (wet) 289 kg (637 lb.)
Seat Height 805 mm (31.7 in.) or 825 mm (32.5 in.)
Fuel Capacity 25 litres
Fuel Economy (observed) 5.58 L/100 km
Fuel Range (estimated) 448 km

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