2016 Yamaha FJR1300ES and FJR1300A Test Ride and Review

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The 2016 Yamaha FJR1300ES and FJR1300A: What's New?

2016 Yamaha FJR1300ES and FJR1300A
The 2016 Yamaha FJR1300, framed by the Arizona desert. Brian J. Nelson

The horizon beckons. Curvy roads and amazing sights await. Your garage houses two bikes: a no-compromises, track-ready sport bike on one side, and a full boat touring bike on the other. Neither bike seems like the right choice for this trip. Yamaha thinks they’ve found the perfect balance in the 2016 FJR1300: a do-it-all sport bike with touring capability.

The FJR1300 fits into an increasingly popular class: Sport touring. Sport touring bikes borrow features from multiple classes, attempting to compile a bike that is versatile and comfortable, fast and stylish. Riders are freed from the sport bike crouch, with a more relaxed, upright riding position. Powerful engines with tall gearing for highway use motivate the bikes, retaining performance but smoothed out a bit for ease of use. Essential touring features, like hard saddle bags, are usually standard equipment, but the extras like stereos, communication and navigation systems are left to the aftermarket. As a result, a sport touring bike can be a good choice for a wide swath of riders, from sport bike riders looking for a little more comfort and utility to cruiser riders who want a little more performance and heavyweight touring bike riders who still want to ride long distances, but want a nimbler ride for the fun roads. Even commuters often select a sport touring motorcycle for their daily rides. The 2016 Yamaha FJR1300 has received a redesign that attempts to address the needs of each of these groups with refinements and upgrades to a bike that has been in production since 2003.

Two models of FJR1300 are available for 2016. The FJR1300ES (price: $17,990) incorporates Yamaha’s electronically adjustable suspension system and LED cornering lights, while the FJR1300A ($16,390) has a manually-adjustable suspension and does not offer the cornering light feature. The ES model’s suspension adjustment features are accessible through a nested menu screen operated by controls on the left handlebar. Suspension adjustments can only be accessed at a stop for safety reasons. The A model has a tool-free lever to change rear suspension from Hard to Soft – one of the easiest manual adjustments available, and absolutely clear in intent and operation. Bravo. The differences in setup on both the electronic and manual suspension units perform as advertised, within a narrow range. The suspension is always a little firm, just like you want it to be on a performance-oriented bike.

Yamaha’s designers spent some energy on the FJR’s appearance for this year, redesigning the LED-twin-headlight assembly and converting to all-LED taillights. Available only in Cobalt Blue, the FJR looks like a grown-up’s motorcycle, but still has some sharp angles and interesting shapes to match the sporting character of its performance.

Related: 2011 Yamaha FJR1300A Review

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Power, Features, Amenities... and a Sixth Gear

2016 Yamaha FJR1300
The FJR's standard 60 liter (combined) saddlebags. Brian J. Nelson

The FJR1300 is loaded with a liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 1,298 cc inline four-cylinder engine with four valves per cylinder and tuned to produce 101.8 lb-ft of peak torque at 7,000 rpm, up slightly from 2015 specs. (Yamaha doesn’t quote horsepower figures.) The engine is smooth and powerful, and the torque delivery is broad. This isn’t a bike that requires a lot of sawing through the gears to ride smoothly. It pulls in all of the lower gears, simplifying power delivery on technical roads. Shaft drive performs beautifully, with no driveline lash or jacking. Standard Traction Control (Yamaha’s D-Mode), anti-lock braking, throttle-by-wire and cruise control enhance the touring package. Unified Braking, Yamaha’s linked braking setup, engages two front brake pistons when the rear brake is activated under certain circumstances, a feature that performs transparently to improve braking performance.

The FJR received a significant upgrade in the gearbox for 2016 with the addition of a sixth gear. In the spirit of refinement, the six-speed gearset fits into the same space as the outgoing five-speed thanks to a new dog setup and a change to helical gears. The gears have been spaced more evenly than before, and sixth gear is a 0.86 overdrive, which has the effect of lowering revs at highway cruising speeds for a smoother ride. Clutch pull has been reduced by 20%, and the clutch is now an “Assist and Slipper” wet clutch with three small springs, as opposed to the single spring of the five-speed. The combination of refinements has resulted in a super smooth-shifting bike that is easy to operate at takeoff with delightfully smooth upshifts and downshifts.

The electrically-adjustable windshield has five inches of travel, and does a good job of smoothing airflow for the rider. The windshield retains its position when the ignition is turned off and back on, so you can find your favorite position and know that it will be in place for the next ride.

A one-liter storage compartment is tucked into the top left side of the fairing. It can only be opened when the ignition is on, and hides a convenient 12-volt outlet for GPS or cellphone charging – a very nice feature. Heated grips are standard, as are manually adjustable side wind deflectors. Seat height is adjustable by 20mm up and down without tools, and there are three positions of adjustment for the handlebars (with tools).

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The Downsides... and The Competition

2016 Yamaha FJR1300
Author Jason Fogelson tackles Arizona's twisties on the FJR. Brian J. Nelson

A few details let the FJR down a bit, unfortunately.

The flat seat is too hard, causing discomfort after about 60 miles. For a bike that is a candidate for long rides, that’s a crime. The aftermarket will have to come to the rescue here.

For some reason, Yamaha has not equipped the FJR with self-cancelling turn signals – a flaw that is not easily remedied by the aftermarket. Some riders don’t mind this, but riders from other brands will have to adjust.

Then there are the saddlebags. Hard bags are standard, and have good capacity at 60 liters combined. They are clamshell style, opening with a keyed latch. An extra-large full-face helmet won’t fit. Even when using Yamaha’s fitted accessory saddle bag liners, it’s a struggle to close the bags. The bags do remove from the bike quite easily without tools, which is a nice feature. The bike gets a single old-technology key for ignition and bag locking, putting it at a slight disadvantage with competitors that offer electric locking and key-free operation. A top box from Yamaha’s accessories catalog would make everyday use easier, allowing owners to leave the saddlebags in the garage between touring rides.

The gold standard in sport touring is the BMW R1200RT, which comes in at least $1,000 higher than the FJR when comparably equipped. The Kawasaki Concours 14 ABS starts at about $1,000 lower, but doesn’t offer traction control or electronically-adjustable suspension options. Don’t overlook the Ducati Multistrada or Triumph Trophy SE for additional inspiration.

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Bottom Line, Specifications, Who Should By the 2016 Yamaha FJR?

2016 Yamaha FJR1300
Jason Fogelson aboard the Yamaha FJR1300. Brian J. Nelson

Bottom Line

Overall, the FJR1300 is a fast, fun and smooth sport touring bike that can be even better with a few easy tweaks and personalization. With a big 6.6-gallon gas tank (86-octane or higher) delivering an estimated range of 237 miles between fill-ups, it begs to be pointed toward the horizon and ridden – briskly.

Specifications

  • Price: $17,990 (FJR1300ES); $16,390 (FJR1300A)
  • Engine: 1,298-cc inline four-cylinder engine with four valves per cylinder
  • Final Drive: Shaft
  • Fuel economy (estimated): 36 mpg
  • Gearbox: 6-speed manual
  • Suspension (front/rear): FJR1300ES - 43mm inverted forks with electronically adjustable rebound and compression damping; 5.3-in travel/Single shock with electronically adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping; 4.9-in travel FJR1300A - 48mm fork, fully adjustable; 5.3-in travel/Single shock, adjustable spring preload and rebound damping; 4.9-in travel
  • Brakes (front/rear): Dual 320mm discs; Unified Brake System and ABS / 282mm disc; Unified Brake System and ABS
  • Tires (front/rear): 120/70ZR17 / 180/55ZR17
  • Fuel capacity: 4.9 gallons
  • Seat height: 31.7 or 32.5 inches (dual position seat)
  • Curb weight: 642 pounds (FJR1300ES)/635 pounds (FJR1300A)
  • Warranty: 1 year (limited)

Who Should Buy the Yamaha FJR1300?

Sport riders looking for a little more comfort and utility; Touring riders looking for a little more sport.

Related: 2011 Yamaha FJR1300A Review