Australians were demanding much more from makers, the market was buoyantly singing and Yamaha decided to build the bike that every serious sports tourer really wanted. Enter, the Yamaha FJR1300.
The Yamaha FJR1300 arrived on Australian shores in 2001, at a time when riders were simply crying out for it. With sports touring identified as the fastest growing global market segment of the time, the bike was always going to suit the demands of the local market, with its diversity of long-distance travel options and long-legged ability.
In short, it had plenty to offer. And it still does. You can buy a new one today if you like. For used buying purposes, let’s look at the first decade of the new millennium and get you cerebrally aboard the brutally efficient mile-eating monster.
Rather than having to muscle the magnitude of a dedicated tourer to arrive at any degree of ‘big kilometre-day comfort’, the big Yam offered second-to-none touring capabilities from the outset, courtesy of its delightfully tractable and powerful 1298cc, liquid-cooled engine and classy aluminium chassis.
It was nimble, delightfully-appointed and faaaaast. Very fast.
There was an aluminum perimeter frame housing that torque-factory of an engine, quality shaft drive, R1 brakes, a beautifully finished set of clothes and top-end, add-on luggage.
All this came at a price, of course, and the big beastie caused many a potential purchaser to draw breath and think again when confronted by the hefty $21,099 pricetag, but the real-world competition in the bike’s category wasn’t anywhere near bargain-buying either. Things like BMW’s R1150 RT would set you back a whopping $23,225, Honda’s ST1300 (2002) was $22,990 even things like the lesser-appointed Aprilia RST1000 Futura was priced at $19,990.
In simple terms, The Uber-sports tourer category was alive and well and the FJR slotted in pretty close to the head of the pack. As Yamaha so often does, it hit the ground running with a very, very refined package from the outset.
But the heart of the appeal of the FJR was the engine, subsequently becoming widely considered as one of the finest production motorcycle engines ever to slide off a Japanese line.
It’s a smooth, dual counter-balanced, fuel-injected brutal lump making 108kW at 8500 rpm, 134Nm of torque at 6000 rpm and boasting a top speed of 249kmh.
In a break from the Yamaha norm at the time, the FJR powerplant utilised four valves per cylinder, rather than the five-valve set-up that first turned up in showrooms way back in 1985 with the FZ750.
The bike was soon noticed, and it was all about that donk. In fact, in 2003 the FJR1300 picked up one of the motorcycle industry’s top gongs by taking Motorcyclist Magazine’s Motorcycle of the Year. They don’t just give that away and it helped deliver the bike with the sort of marketability that saw it become what many consider the finest sports tourer on the global market. It really is that good.
The bike came in for a major update in 2006.
Anti-lock brakes became standard as well as a ‘Unified Braking System’, (a fancy acronymic blurb for linked brakes). Put as simply as possible, the front brake lever actuates six of eight pistons in the monoblock, differential-bore Nissin calipers, while the brake pedal actuates the rearward two of four pistons in the right front caliper, as well as the rear brake.
To maintain even pad wear, the brake-pedal-activated front pistons are smaller and push smaller pads than the other three pairs.
Panniers became standard along with a small luggage rack as well.
The swingarm gained 35 mm of length to improve suspension action, traction and stability, and there was a redesigned, bolt-on subframe. The panniers were brought in 50mm, lessening at least some of the terror associated with lane-splitting on a beast of this ilk.
One big complaint from owners of the pre-2006 bike was the fact that hot air was channeled right around the rider’s knees. This was addressed on the ’06 model with dual fans fitted to push hot air in a wider flow, and via adjustable vents. This did the trick and the ’06 is a much more comfortable animal for it.
2006 also heralded the release of the FJR1300AS, which ran alongside the 1300 A.
Billed by many as an ‘automatic’, that’s not actually accurate. The whole thing worked like this…
It’s the same as the manual setup but the clutch is controlled electronically using sensors inputs. The remote shifter is a stand alone system that operates in conjunction with the auto-clutch via a tricky ECU. It’s possible to shift in two manners: The usual manner with the shift lever or via a push/pull toggle on the left handlebar, both actuating an electric shifter. Different is the shift pattern that places neutral down below first gear. It takes a bit of getting used to, and to be honest, answers a question no-one was asking. Try it, you may find it suits you. But, well, it’s a bit of a gimmick in our book.
The AS auto version also got heated grips, and adjustable handlebar, windscreen and seat heights as part of the package.
For 2008 some minor changes were introduced, including an update to reported altitude-related ECU issues (not really an issue here in Oz), and throttle ‘feel’, notably to improve low speed on/off throttle transitions.
It might be fast and nimble, but it does weigh 264kg dry (2006 model), and there ain’t a factory on Earth that has managed to make weight a handling advantage. Yamaha didn’t interrupt that tradition with the FJR.
Things like the Triumph Sprint ST and Honda VFR800 will shake you off in the twisty going (and you’ll get good ones for a heap less than you’ll part with for an FJR), but not by much, and in long sweepy stuff you’ll blast past them.
And, you’ll arrive less fatigued, and certainly as well sports-rewarded.
The FJR1300’s 48mm forks and quality rear shock allow the sort of adjustability that makes for sporty operation, you get those lovely bags and well, nothing else really matters once you consider the way all that lovely power is made. A magnificent powerhouse of an engine.
Superlatives are totally apt when it comes to describing that mill. Test ride one, you’ll be quickly convinced.
Yamaha FJR1300 used bike pricing:
2001-2005 – $4000-$6500,
2006-2010 – $5500-$7500.
Snag’s career in motoring journalism spans 29 years with stints at major bike mags Australian Road Rider, Motorcycle Trader and AMCN along with contributions to just about every other outlet worth a hill of beans. He was editor of Unique Cars magazine and hosts his legendary podcast ‘Snag Says’ when he gets off his date.