2008 Yamaha FJR1300A

Road Test Review

When Yamaha introduced the FJR13000 to the United States for 2003, for sport-touring riders it was a second coming of sorts. Gobs of smooth multicylinder power had the potential to rocket this comfortable, fully equipped mile eater past the competition, with 26,000-mile valve service intervals to boot. It wasn’t perfect, but all of the first FJR’s glitches were easily fixed save one: the heat. Under warm-to-hot conditions the original bike could cook your legs and other tender parts, and despite the best efforts of owners with lots of time, tools and aluminum foil, there just wasn’t much you could do about it. Fortunately for 2006 Yamaha re-engineered the bike’s airflow and venting, relegating the problem in hotter temps to a bit of warm wind swirling around your calves.

Whether fixing the heat problem in the 2006 and later models resulted in their stiff, abrupt throttle or we just didn’t notice it before I can’t say. Either way it was the main reason the Honda ST1300 edged out the 2007 Yamaha FJR1300A in our comparison test of four ready-for-sport-touring machines in the December 2007 issue. Happily, Yamaha has fixed the throttle feel for 2008, so now the bike is both reasonably cool and easy to ride. The standard ABS is improved for 2008, too. With 125 horsepower at the rear wheel, world-class comfort and handling, the FJR is all-of-a-piece now, and our long-term test bike has stacked up 4,500 miles in very short order. And it runs on regular unleaded!

Along the way we made a few additional improvements. Although it shares an electric windscreen with the ST1300, BMW R1200RT and K1200GT, the FJR’s has a shorter range of adjustment that goes neither low nor high enough for a quiet ride. Yamaha offers a 4-inch taller ‘screen as an accessory that I can look over in the highest position, but I tried it and found that it is still noisy. The solution was a 4-inch taller ‘screen with a reverse flip from Cee Bailey’s (www.ceebaileys.com), which–when raised to just below my line of sight–“flips” the windblast at highway speed over my helmet and shuts off the noise like a switch. If I owned the bike I would cut the stock ‘screen down 5 or 6 inches for summer and around-town use, and use the Cee Bailey’s for touring and in cooler weather. Swapping them only takes about five minutes.

Moving the seat down and the adjustable handlebars back all the way also enhanced my comfort, even if the total adjustment range for either is less than an inch. The bike’s owner’s manual says to take it to your dealer to make the bar adjustment, but that’s silly–it’s easy if you know the trick. Just be sure to loosen both handlebars, then lift them enough to clear the locating pins and they will slide into one of the other two positions easily. Loosen just one bar and it won’t move at all, which doesn’t seem intuitive and led to a lot of swearing until I called a buddy at Yamaha.

Thanks to some hyperactive lawyers getting involved in writing the installation instructions, there’s a lot of controversy floating around about using the FJR1300’s accessory top trunk in combination with the saddlebags. I’m not stupid enough to contradict them in print, but I can tell you this: My wife Genie and I loaded up the bike with ourselves and the top trunk and saddlebags filled for a five-day trip, made sure the tires were properly inflated and put the rear shock on the “high” setting, and we never experienced a problem. The ride included some roads where the speed limit should rightfully have three digits, too, as well as hills, dips, bumps and bends galore.

The detachable, watertight accessory top trunk is a nicely made piece–though it won’t hold more than one full-face helmet due to its narrower width, you can still stack a lot inside thanks to the taller height. Don’t install the optional backrest pad on the trunk until your copilot has tried it without it–it takes up some space fore and aft, and you may not need it if you already wear back armor. The bike comes with a spare lock cylinder (at least ours did) keyed the same as the ignition and bags that you install in the trunk when you buy it.

Other than those things, the only thing I would still change on this wonderful motorcycle is the color. Yamaha went with Raven (black) on the FJR1300A (standard shift, not electric) for 2008, and though it’s gorgeous, just riding it around the block seems to get it dirty, never mind 4,500 miles….