Living with a 2003 Yamaha FJR1300

...a long term test of the FJR1300 from Giles

July 2003

No sooner had I taken delivery, Yamaha asked for it back to be tested by another publication. Upon its return five weeks later, I promptly rode it over a large lump of rubble lying in the road at fairly high speed, leaving me with a very large dent in the rear rim. Around £450 for repairs and two weeks later and we're ready to enjoy the summer together.

First impressions of the bike are good. You can't fail to be impressed with the engine. It's incredibly smooth, has mountains of torque and a very satisfying surge of power at the top-end. A set of beautiful Remus titanium cans have further improved its performance, smoothing out the midrange even more and boosting the already-ample performance by around 6 (claimed) bhp at the top end, as well as sounding lovely and taking a few kilos off the standard bike's weight (£628, 0870 2402118). The five-speed gearbox is pretty impressive as well. Being shaft driven, I was expecting nasty clunks and missed gears from the Yamaha, but actually the 'box is very positive, and clutchless gear changes are not a problem.

Despite what I'd heard and read to the contrary, comfort seems pretty good. The seat could do with being a little softer maybe, but there's plenty of room on the bike, and as long as it's left in the highest position, the adjustable screen does a reasonable job of protecting you from the elements.

The ABS brakes also work well, although they do take a little getting used to. When the ABS kicks in it feels as if the wheel is locking and it takes a while to get your head round not releasing the lever, but instead just letting the ABS do its thing.

I'm really looking forward to putting the FJR through its paces this year. I've yet to give it a thorough test in terms of comfort and handling. So with all of this in mind, I think some longer days in the saddle are called for, away from the motorways. I can feel some appointments in South Wales coming up...

October 2003

The unmistakable bulge of Bertie astride his GSX-R1000 filled my mirrors, and the red mist descended.  It was inevitable that he would get past at some point, but the question was, how long could I keep him at bay? Donington Park isn't the usual playground for FJR owners, and I think Bertie was more than a little surprised to be held up for so long, but the truth of the matter is that the FJR is a bit of a wolf in sheep's clothing. It's a very easy bike to ride quickly, both on the road and the track.

The FJR has received a bit of criticism in the past for its riding position and seat. The seat I haven't had a problem with, or at least no more so than any other bike, but for some reason I did find that on longer journeys my back would ache a little. This has now been sorted with the addition of a very neat set of bar-raisers (£104.50, Woodies Importarium, (01443) 742421). The more upright riding position is much more comfortable and improves the view you get of the road ahead, but makes you more susceptible to wind blast. Pyramid came to the rescue with a three-inch taller, tinted flip-up screen (£65.32, 01427 612536). The increased weather protection this offers is most welcome, although for shorter riders I'd suggest you go for the clear version, or you'll see bugger all with it in the highest position!

Unsurprisingly, whilst there are plenty of touring add-ons around, there's not exactly an abundance of performance enhancing goodies available for the FJR. The Remus cans have made a significant improvement to the engines performance (see dyno chart), and a Power Commander will be fitted soon, but in terms of chassis mods, there's not really much you can do other than fiddle with the suspension. One simple but very worthwhile improvement I'd suggest is fitting a set of Bridgestone 010's.  They seem to suit the FJR really well and the grip and confidence they offer in both wet and dry conditions is astonishing. I'm now on my second set, with the first lasting 4100 miles. If you are planning a track day, it may be worth removing the hero blobs, as the pegs go down quite easily which is a little off-putting. Other than that, just get on with riding it.

The only other additions I've made to the bike have been fitting a Givi top box (01327 706220, £238.87, plus fitting kit of £76.32. The Yamaha panniers I had fitted previously were fine (although they obviously made filtering more difficult). Unfortunately they were borrowed to be used on another FJR for a road test, and due to being badly fitted, one of them fell off. Now they won't fit on my bike any more and one of them doesn't look very pretty!  I've also been using a Morpheous Radar Plus (£795, (0870) 2401702) for the last few months, and its GPS camera locating ability has saved my license on several occasions.

My only criticism of the bike so far is the finish quality of the paintwork. The tank seems to scratch fairly easily, and the heel plates of the footrests have lost most of their paint.  There is also a large black mark on the side of the seat unit where my leathers have polished away the paint through to the black plastic behind. A scuff on the right hand panel bears testament to what happens when a thwarted tank-bag thief attempts to knock your bike over with his car. Judging by the bang it made, his car probably came off worse than the bike. Whilst the paint may not be particularly durable, the bodywork certainly is!

I have to admit, when Bertie first told me I'd have the FJR for the year, I thought I'd been handed the short straw. It pains me to say it, but Bertie, you were right. This really is a bloody good bike and I'm dreading the day when it has to go back.