February 2003 -- As I walked around my new, bone stock FJR, my mind tried to sort through 7 months of pre-FJR fantasizing. Like most of you, I had already purchased some accessories that I absolutely wanted (radiator shield, Datel voltmeter, Rifle Touring Windshield, etc.). Now that I actually had the bike, there were new decisions to make . . . fabricate or buy a fuel cell, and where and how to mount existing CB, radar, cell phone, etc. What first? Make or buy? For me, the top priority was the "auxiliary fuel cell."
Coming from a touring Harley with a huge top case and extra large saddlebags, the stock FJR cut my "luggage capacity" by over 50%. I needed to make luggage space. The next consideration was to keep the bike in its "optimum performance range" by keeping all new weight between the front and rear wheel . . . or in the rider/passenger area. I did not want to add weight above or behind the rear wheel.
Finally, I was really concerned about parking lot stability. I'm a short guy - 5'-6". My inseam is 28". On the '03 FJR, I'm on my tiptoes to balance the bike around a parking lot. For me there is no pushing backwards while on the FJR. Slow speed stability is aided by low center of gravity. Lowering the FJR or messing with the suspension of the bike was not something I wanted to do. Typically, lowering the suspension makes a mess of 10 other things (like handling, steering, braking, stability, tire wear, fuel efficiency, etc.). I wanted to keep the bike suspension stock, but needed to add the fuel cell and additional storage. I wanted to pursue the low "center of gravity" concept.
With a "form follows function" guideline, I set the design parameters as follows:
Cardboard Mock-up 1 - I made a box the size of one of the existing fuel cells. I was stumped by the high center of gravity and lack of luggage. Being a short guy, the existing designs, while functional and utilitarian, did not appeal to me. Who needs all that weight that high on the FJR?
Cardboard Mock-up 2 -- My second cardboard model tried to follow the contoured area behind the seat. With this model I checked the saddlebag clearance and contemplated where to put the fuel filler, vent and how to mount to the bike frame. I cut a hole out of the top to place a plastic bag inside and measured the exact volume with water.
Foamcore Mock-up 3 - This mock-up was fastened to the FJR and I rode with it for 2 weekends. I placed light loads on it and experimented on how to use its surface area functionally. Unhappy with the boxy look of Mock-up 2, I added side panels that match the lines of the FJR, the locking feet, and the hooded area behind the seat area.
Simple, Bullet Proof Mounting -- Four locking feet hook into the slots on the frame of the FJR. A single bolt holds the fuel cell in place. Installation or removal is a 5-minute procedure.
The Final Product - Light weight aluminum, 4.8 gallons, aircraft quality fabrication, simple but extremely secure mounting, and the most flexible luggage platform available.
Notice I'm on my tip-toes to balance the bike. This is the main reason I personally needed a fuel cell with a CG as low as possible. Notice, the top of the fuel cell is about belt height. I use a Marsee Zipp Motorcycle Duffel, RM-ZIPP, dimensions: 18" long x 11" wide and 12" tall. Side Zipp bags: 14" wide x 3" deep x 8.5 tall. This bag has 3 zip-off containers, a briefcase, toiletry bag, and miscellaneous/tool bag. It's mounted with 6 quick releases. The prototype fuel cell now has 40,000+ miles, which includes the '03 Iron Butt Rally (11,200 miles in 11 days), "IBA 48 Plus" Mexico, USA, Canada (9,000 miles in 8 days), numerous Nevada/Gerlach putt's and excursions through North America.
Copyright © 2004, by Dean Tanji and H. Marc Lewis.
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