The moment OBA 66 went to press, we (Mrs Editor and I) were on the road for a week’s R&R, our departure happening to coincide with the first day of winter. Our steed was the latest incarnation of Yamaha’s flagship sports/tourer, the FJR1300AE, the last two letters denoting the addition of electronically controlled front and rear suspension. The FJR has been around in much the same form since 2001, but subtle refinements over the years have kept it at the cutting edge of its class, and this latest version is no less impressive.
By the time we hit the road both panniers and top box were full, as was the accessory DriRider tank bag, and with the rider and pillion the FJR was toting quite a few kilos over its claimed 290 kg wet weight. But this bike just does not feel heavy. The seat height (805mm on the lowest of two settings) adds to the feeling of a very low centre of gravity. You can plant both feet firmly on the ground and the whole plots feels like it could stand up by itself. Fully loaded, the electronic controls came into play, and once the suspension load was adjusted the FJR assumed a perfectly balanced attitude. There are two engine modes, for touring or sport, and I selected the former and left it there for the duration. The entire process of ride mode and suspension setting is achieved very simply via the handlebar switches and is clearly visible on the instrument panel.
Our route from Sydney took us down the M31 highway as far as the turnoff to Wagga, and the FJR simply surged along, turbine smooth. The temperature was bracing to say the least, but with the screen in the fully upright position (it is electronically adjustable up and down), not much of that frigid air reaches the occupants. Even the forward-mounted mirrors seem to be position in a way that deflects the airstream over the rider’s hands. I had attached by trusty TomTom Rider GPS, which was just as well because the FJR speedo is wildly optimistic – at a GPS checked 110km/h it is showing 120. At the legal 110 limit, that big engine is ticking over at just 3,600 rpm.
We hadn’t made too many plans beyond heading into the Riverina, but by the time Wagga Wagga was reached, and with the crisp, fine weather holding, there was no thought of doing anything other than keeping on truckin’. Not even the sublime manners of the FJR could make the vastness of the Hay Plain anything but boring, but at least when the odd vehicle was encountered it was simply a case of opening the throttle (without the need to downshift) and squirt past with ease, then hit the cruise control again. The all-new 6 speed gearbox itself is impeccable in operation, as is the clutch, which has a slipper function to smooth out down changes on the overrun.
Linking up with some friends at Balranald, we motored into Adelaide on Day Two, none the worse for wear, and unwound for a couple of days with trips to the Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale, and finally the Barossa. We’d left ourselves two days to get back to Sydney, which we did via Mildura and Hay, but on the final leg the weather finally caved in and it was a grey, wet and cold run for the last half day. Still, the aerodynamics of the FJR came through with flying colours, and apart from the inevitable damp feet, there was nothing to complain about. The fairing simply flings the water off in all but torrential downpours, which thankfully happened to us only in the last hour.
This was just the latest in a series of encounters with the FJR1300. Our previous ride, three years ago on the non-electronic suspension model, took us around New Zealand’s South Island, and prior to that, I had a few days on one in Tasmania. In fact, I like to believe that the FJ1100, an altogether brilliant and bullet-proof motorcycle that I owned for 10 years, is of the same DNA, and that makes the 2017 FJR1300 a bike with a 32 year pedigree. There are few other motorcycles out there that can make a similar claim, and fewer still that can offer such a superbly refined and brilliantly executed package.
Story: Jim Scaysbrook • Photos: Sue Scaysbrook and Yamaha.
Off-the-shelf – 2017 Yamaha FJR1300AE
Engine: Liquid-cooled, transverse four cylinder, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder.
Bore x stroke: 79.0 x 66.2mm.
Transmission: 6-speed, multiplate assist-and-slipper clutch.
Final drive: Shaft.
Front: 43mm Kayaba fork, electronically adjustable damping, 135mm travel.
Rear: Single shock, electronically adjustable damping, 125mm travel.
Front: 2 x 320mm.
Rear: 1 x 282mm with ABS.
Seat height: 805mm/825mm.
Wet weight: 291kg.
Fuel capacity: 25 litre.
Colour: Tech Graphite.