2003 Yamaha FJR1300 Notes

BACKGROUND: I come from the sport side of the motorcycling family (supersport/dualsport) and my usual ride lately has been a '95 R1100GS and occasionally my honey's '89 Hawk GT. I sold my '00 Yamaha R1 to finance the FJR1300. My current stable also includes 3 dirtbikes. Size-wise, I'm HWP at 5'7.5" and 162# dressed. I've owned over 60 motorcycles, and been riding since 1961. I desert raced in California in the 70's, did NATC trials in the late 80's, was a MSF instructor from '85 to '96, and still do the occasional track day.

On 7/20/02 I wrote:

I picked my FJR (#000219) at Noon on Friday, July 19th, 2002. 2.5 miles on the odometer. I'd asked the dealership owner to insure the mechanic who set it up do the following the first time he fired it up: don't let it idle during the 1st minute's warmup, but get the revs up to 2k and vary them gently around that RPM until he took it out for the initial required test drive.

Rode out to the semi-deserted 2-lane road to do the MotoMan style break-in. Had the bike back in the garage after 25 miles to do the first oil/filter change. Previously, I used to change oil the first time at 150 miles and had noticed how the oil looked like metalic paint. I was shocked at how much metal was suspended in the oil after just 25 miles!

Changing the oil is easier on the FJR than any of the other motorcycles I've owned -- the sight-window, the drain, the oil filter, and the filler cap are all clustered together on the left side of the engine in plain sight. Nothing to remove, no need to reach under the engine for anything. Very well thought out, Yamaha!

After the oil change I let the bike cool down for an hour, then went out for another hour's ride on a favorite twisty road in the countryside. Then, at 90 miles, I had to park it in the garage for the weekend (a previous committment required I be out of town and bike-less).

My first (visual) impression is that the FJR is smaller than I'd imagined, which is a Good Thing. My second (physical) impression is that it is a heavy pig. Noticably heavier than the R1100GS, a well known porker. I can't quite flat-foot it, but on my GS I can just tippy-toe both feet, so that shouldn't be much of an issue. But it is -- the FJR is much harder to move around in the garage when seated than the GS, which I attribute to the GS's lighter weight and wider handlebars. (I can't believe I just used the word "lighter" in reference to the GS!)

The FJR is also much harder to put on the centerstand than the GS. It seems to be more top-heavy, and once the centerstand is down and it's time to rock the bike back on it, the FJR takes some serious downward pressure on the centerstand tang to get it up. The GS is far easier in comparison, and of course the sub-400# Hawk GT is trivial in comparison.

Riding position: I was concerned about the "pull back" on the bars before I saw an FJR in person (one of the reviewers made such a complaint). But they are fine, IMHO, though not as wide or dirtbike-like as the GS's. But when underway there is more weight on my wrists than I'd like. Part of that is due to the wind protection, even with the windshield in the lowest position.

Neither the GS nor the Hawk GT could be said to have much wind protection. The unfortunate difference is that the FJR shields me from the wind enough that my mesh hot-weather jacket doesn't get as much ventelation as it does on the GS or the Hawk GT. I'm thinking I might even want a lower than stock windshield!

I suppose I will get used to the riding position, which I'd characterize as halfway between the R1 I just sold and the R1100GS which I still have. I fully expect to 'bond' with my FJR on my vacation in two weeks when I'm going on a long multi-day ride that will probably cover from lower British Columbia to southern California, and east as far as Montana.

During the initial break-in the run from 3k RPM to redline in 3rd reminds me of the rush you get on an R1 under hard acceleration. It seems to pull harder/faster as you approach DoD nominal, and like someone else said, you've got to be carefull not to over-rev and run past redline -- it gets there so damn quick.

I am disappointed with the amount of vibration at 4k RPM, particularly in the left handgrip. After coming off two twins, I wasn't expecting any vibration at all, but what my FJR is doing right now is vibrating far more than my 2000 R1 ever did, as far as I can remember. I do expect it to smooth out in the next 1,000 miles, but it is quite annoying right now as that is 70mph in 5th gear, and the owner's manual says "avoid sustained operation above 4,000 RPM" for the first 600 miles.

I can't comment too much on the handling as I didn't push it (3/4" chicken stripe still on the BT020 tires), but it is more firm that I'd thought it would be, even for my relatively light weight. My rear shock is set on SOFT (I haven't tried the HARD setting yet) and seems fine, in comparison to my R1 which had $1000 worth of suspension mods and was dialed in perfectly for me riding at track-day speeds. The damping, however, is way too light, and I plan to experiment with stiffing it up on my next ride tomorrow night after we get back to Spokane. On a rough road, it "wallows" a bit, unlike my R1100GS which is fitted with Ohlins on both ends.

It tracks well in the corners, and holds its line very well, with just a gentle push on either handlebar to change course. Feels very solid and confidence inspiring. I really like the tires too.

It was quite windy on my brief ride, and I discovered that the FJR is remarkably unaffected by crosswinds. Less so than almost any other bike I think I've owned. Pretty good for a sport-tourer with windshield and saddlebags.

The "heat" problem, ah, yes -- it's there, for sure. Temps were around 80 degrees, which on my GS or Hawk GT with the mesh jacket is a perfect temp. On the FJR, with less wind to flow through the mesh, it was definitely warmer. Not hot, not uncomfortable, but warmer.

The heat coming off the left side and onto my leg (wearing jeans) was barely noticable when I started off, with the temp guage showing 2 bars, but got very warm when the guage got up to 3 bars. Riding agressively == heat on the leg, riding at a more relaxed pace == barely noticable heat. That's at 80 degrees, wearing jeans. I usually ride in leathers or an Aerostich, and of course often at much higher temps. I'm sure the leathers/Aerostich will prevent any discomfort, even at higher temps, but I'll have to experiment to know for sure. Could be that really agressive riding in 100+ temps is contra-indicated on this particular bike.

Another observation: the guages are great, the LCD display is easy to read, even for my 57 yr/old eyes (I use 1.5 reading glasses at home), but the idiot lights and turn signal indicators are easily washed out by bright sunlight. That was kind of a surprise, given how good the guages are.

I'm sure I'll have more impressions next week, after I've put more miles on the bike. I certainly hope I bond with my FJR. At this point, I'd have to say I'm not in love/lust with it like I thought I would be. But then my past experience with other important things (like women, music, etc.) is that the things I end up loving the most are usually the things I'm slightly positive of neutral of when I first experience them. And I'm definitely more than slightly positive on the FJR -- I was just expecting to be so totally blown away that after leaving the dealership I just kept riding and riding and called my honey from the Canadian Rockies somewhere about 500 miles from home saying I wouldn't be back for a few days.

Maybe that comes later... :-)