2013 Yamaha FJR1300

Road Test Review

When we broke the news that an updated Yamaha FJR1300 was on the way for 2013 in the December 2012 issue, the reader reaction was the usual mix of praise and grousing (mostly that the bike hasn’t been changed enough). What surprised us, though, is that almost everyone who wrote qualified their opinions with the hundreds of thousands of miles they had put on a series of FJR1300s since its introduction for 2003. That kind of mileage and loyalty suggest that the bike has been a satisfying performer at its main job, and that changes to its basic platform are unnecessary.

To that end, the 2013 FJR1300’s stout twin-spar aluminum chassis is the same, and its powerful liquid-cooled, 1,298cc in-line four has only been refined for lower frictional losses, smoother shifting and slightly more power. New piston rings, coated sleeveless cylinders, throttle bodies, ignition and a less restrictive exhaust contribute to a claimed 3 horsepower and 3 lb-ft of torque increase, which was borne out on the Jett Tuning dyno when our 2013 FJR made 129.7 horsepower at 8,000 rpm and 91.2 lb-ft at 7,100 at the rear wheel. Most importantly, more than 75 lb-ft are on tap from 3,500 rpm to redline at 9,000. Two Drive modes are available now—Sport, for quicker throttle response, and Touring, for a more leisurely feel. Both output 100 percent of the bike’s power—only the delivery is different. In Sport, the engine definitely feels peppier ridden back-to-back with a 2012 model…if an engine that already pulls like a bullet train can be described as peppier.

Some of that brighter throttle response is attributable to the bike’s new throttle-by-wire system which, unlike some other TBW systems, works smoothly from just off idle and throughout the powerband. It also enabled the addition of electronic cruise control, which sets, holds and changes speeds quite precisely in gears 3-5, and traction control (that can be switched off), alongside the existing anti-lock brakes. A new machining method for the transmission gears gives the 5-speed gearbox a slicker feel. Combined with the useful electronic enhancements, overall the drivetrain feels like it spent a refreshing week at a health spa.

Virtually all-new bodywork includes a new electric windscreen that raises and lowers twice as fast and remains in position when you shut off the ignition. Its new shape also reduces noise in the low position and turbulence in both high and low but, for highway speeds, the 4.5-inch taller, 3-inch wider accessory screen should cut down on noise. Slick panels in the lowers can be expanded by 20mm to help direct air around the rider; combined with the airflow fixes from 2008, I found the amount of felt engine heat to be tolerable on a warm day and quite welcome on a cold one. A slightly narrower height-adjustable seat with nice new covers helps you get your feet down more easily at stops and, like the rest of the bike’s ergonomics, is very comfortable for long rides.

Some of the nicest updates are to the suspension and tires. The bike wears Bridgestone’s latest BT-023 radials with a special “F” designation for the FJR; they and the replacement version we’ve tested here and in Japan have proven an excellent choice for it. The 2013 model steers more quickly and transitions more smoothly, putting its handling speed nicely between the (by comparison) darty BMW K 1600 GT and somewhat sluggish Kawasaki Concours 14. Two-up and fully loaded, an aggressive rider may sometimes wish for more cornering clearance, but solo you really have to work to touch anything down. Up front, a new, fully adjustable fork design with damping adjustments in just the right leg shaves five pounds off the bike’s wet weight, and the rear shock with its two-position preload and adjustable rebound damping has a stiffer spring and new damping settings. Overall, the combo is more compliant and comfortable yet retains all of the control of the former setup.

Modernized instrumentation and switchgear really enhance the 2013 FJR1300 riding experience, with a customizable trip computer display and electronic control for the heated grips. Load capacity is up to a generous 448 pounds, and a magnetic tankbag can be fitted to the large 6.6-gallon metal tank. We wish Yamaha had also upgraded the bike’s 30-liter saddlebags, which come standard with liners but remain a little small. Fortunately there’s a luggage rack and new 50-liter accessory trunk this year that holds two helmets.

Ample power, comfort, capacity and improved handling along with lots of handy new features make the 2013 Yamaha FJR1300 even more ready for the big leagues, and big miles. Can’t wait for the shootout….