Gear ratios make Yamaha FJR a flexible friend

The suspension of the FJR feels luxurious, but screen protection and menu access are frustrating
The suspension of the FJR feels luxurious, but screen protection and menu access are frustrating
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GET chatting with an FJR owner and you will soon enter the sixth gear debate. Owners have been discussing it for years and while many would clearly prefer a six-speed gearbox, Yamaha has stuck to five cogs. But that doesn’t mean the bike has stood entirely still.

Engine revisions have boosted power by a modest 3bhp, but along with the bike’s other changes it’s enough to have made a positive difference to this, the FJR 1300 A. Let’s start with the engine. Below 5,000rpm the bike feels like it needs a poke with a sharp stick, especially in the more relaxed “T” riding mode which feels so sedate I wonder how many riders will actually use it.

The S mode is noticeably swifter to respond and above 5,000rpm it’s responsive and eager, with predictable and instantaneous throttle response. Snicking up to the top of the gearbox on the open road I’m surprised to find I don’t really miss a sixth gear. I’m trundling along at considerably faster than I should be, and the rev needle’s hovering at 4,500rpm with the same amount still to go until the redline.

Yamaha defends its decision by pointing out that the FJR pulls with roughly the same revs in 5th gear as a rival BMW bike does in 6th, and the gear ratios have been chosen for real flexibility. I roll towards a roundabout in top. The revs have dropped to just 1,000rpm and still I can glide effortlessly around at 20mph without a splutter from the 1298cc four-cylinder engine.

Snaking through hillsides, switching between third and fourth gears for the endless tight turns, the FJR is rewardingly quick as long as you keep the revs high enough. The shaft drive is particularly smooth and unobtrusive and although I quite enjoy being “involved” in a ride, I wonder if some customers would prefer a tad more low-down punch to suit that laid-back gearing.

Moving to the suspension, it’s a fine line between finding plushness and making a bike too soft. The FJR does bounce if you ride “like you think you can win this one”, but that’s to be expected and the pay-off is cushioning suspension that feels quite luxurious over imperfect roads at normal pace. It’s a comfortable ride, there’s no mistake.

The FJR doesn’t flick with the same sporty litheness as Triumph’s Trophy 1200 – a key rival. It tends to roll into corners – and it needs pressure applied to its bars to do so. The 825 mm setting of the seat height makes the bike feel heavier to turn and the handling is instantly more fluid with the saddle at the lower 805 mm height.

There is minimal turbulence and noise from the new windscreen even for tall riders. It is frustrating not to have instant access to adjust it though. The one menu switch gives you the three options to choose from: adjusting the windscreen, heated grips or accessing the general information. Any choice you make is displayed on the screen and if you want to choose another option, you need to return to the menu and scroll through it again.

It’s also a shame that Yamaha don’t recommend using the standard panniers and the optional extra 50-litre top box together as it would presumably exceed the load capacity. Surely that’s a major design flaw? It’s no problem if you like riding solo, but your pillion will have to travel light. The passenger space is comfortable but it’s not as roomy as other bikes in the sector.

The 2013 FJR is an improvement on the current model and it’s cheaper. The finish is spot-on and the build quality is reassuring. The engine’s revisions give it a sportier ride and it’s far more stylish than before. It’s like the latest smartphone; it’s the same, only better.

VITAL STATS

MODEL: Yamaha FJR 1300 A

PRICE: £13,499 on the road

ENGINE: 1,298cc, liquid cooled, in-line 4-cylinder

POWER: 144bhp @ 8,000rpm

TORQUE: 101.8lb.ft @ 7,000rpm

TRANSMISSION: 5-speed, shaft drive

KERB WEIGHT: 289kg