FJR1300 long term test: The value of a good warranty

Published: 28 October 2001

It's never much fun when something goes wrong with your bike. But these things do happen, even with bikes under a year old. After all, that's what warranties are for.

The important thing when things do go wrong is that those warranties work. That is, you get the kind of back-up you hope for and expect.

I'm pleased to report that the after-sales back-up on my official import FJR 1300 has proved its weight in gold in the last couple of weeks.

I'm also going to say something that may ring hollow for those who have complained about Carnell's service in the past… they've been bloody good with my bike.

Senior technician Michael Ingram did a thorough job of the 6000-mile service, found some nasty symptoms, worked in liaison with Yamaha to find the cause and swiftly brought about a happy resolution. You would expect me to speak as I find, and I found Carnell's branch at Eye, Cambs, top class.

I had advised them I'd need the bike back for a funeral I was due to attend. When it became clear that wouldn't be possible I got a call offering me a courtesy bike. You can bitch all you like about Carnell's customer service, but my experience of it has been good.

Anyway, back to the fault with the bike.

All FJRs are a bit tappety at tick over. It's something owners often mention and it really is nothing to worry about… unless that tappety noise continues (and grows louder) as the revs rise.

The trouble is that is hard to spot for yourself if you've got your plugs in and lid on before you ride off (and you've just been warming up at tickover). So, there's a test for you. Rev the motor once its warm and if the tappety noise goes away, all is well.

There are two possible causes of a continuing rattling as the revs rise. 1. The balancer shaft might be out of adjustment. This is a simple fix but best carried out by your dealer. 2. You'll need a new head and cams, Sir.

Sadly, my bike came in under category 2.

Our Carnell's technician found the head was scored and a couple of the cam caps damaged. The cause? Bad tolerances from the word go. In other words this was a production line fault.

Now before you start thinking the FJR1300 has a flawed engine I should make clear that mine is the only example I can find of this happening. I've been busily checking on the motorcyclenews.com dedicated FJR1300 bulletin board (you'll find it in the Talk Bikes section) where there are almost 800 postings. And Yamaha has checked with its own UK service departments and found nothing similar either.

Indeed, Yamaha's Dan Harris said: "Our engines are some of the best and most reliable on the market, and the FJR1300 ranks as one of the strongest.

"I have checked with our service division and I can confirm that we have had no generic problems at all with the FJR1300, so it's clear your problem is a one-off. Of course, as with every motor manufacturer, from time to time individual problems develop, and as a company we try our best to minimise the inconvenience that is caused to our customers."

Our Carnell technician has worked on four FJRs and found nothing like it either. But he did say he had seen similar problems in other machines; early CBR600FS's and some ZX-6Rs, too.

The point is, these things do happen, but as long as they are well dealt with you can't really complain. And I'm certainly happy with how mine has been dealt with.

While at Carnell for the 6000-miler, I also had the tyres changed back to the original Metzeler MEZ4 (and there is a specific version of it for the FJR) to see if I could find better handling from the beast (working on the theory that the Metzeler's may have tough enough side walls to deal with the weight of the FJR).

It had been getting quite unsettled on corners. I was putting it down to the (after 3000 miles) badly squared off Michelin Pilot Sports I was running on it.

But the Carnell technician discovered a rather simpler cause. Tyres both front and rear were running at 20 psi. Surely they couldn't both have a slow puncture? I have the uneasy feeling that someone may have tampered with them.

And there's a lesson there. When I did my RoSPA advanced training I was taught to do a series of basic checks before riding off each day. Tyres was one. And it was one I had clearly been failing to do.

I know it can sound a bit anal, suggesting you check your tyres, oil, water, lights and perform a rolling brake test as you start off… but there are consequences if you don't, as my distinctly ill-handling FJR had proven.

Of course, the fact is, the FJR handles like a beauty when all other things are equal. Yes, I know it could do with a slightly firmer rear shock, but it certainly does well enough.

I guess that's one of the reasons it has been named the MCN Sports tourer Machine of the Year this year.

Since my last report I've got hold of some Yamaha panniers. They genuinely took a mechanical incompetent like me five minutes to fit (the bars are already there and waiting on the bike) they work brilliantly and they've got room enough even for my wife's weekend kit. I'd just suggest if you are loading them up and putting the good lady on the back, you should adjust your front headlight. By the time I got up to Cumbria on the Friday before that last Bank Holiday (you know the one when you had to filter for over 100 miles on the M6) I was getting lots of less-than-friendly mainbeam flashes from car drivers coming the other way. Still, at least the trees looked nice in the glow of my headlights.

FITTING A GOOD ALARM

Ever since I owned a FireBlade in 1996, I've got into the habit of having an alarm fitted to my bikes.

It's more than a habit these days, more a fact of life and often a condition of insurance.

And while bikes have come on in leaps and bounds even since then, so have alarms.

In the past alarms have been exceptionally good at leaving you unable to start your bike in the middle of no where, and at draining batteries so fast you feel you ought to leave the engine running every time you park for more than 60 seconds.

Meta's latest, the M357T, is a good example of how much things have improved. It sets itself. It checks your battery each time to make sure it can cope. It warns you if your battery is low. It automatically drops to being just an immobiliser if the battery is struggling, and it's noisier than Helen on Big Brother.

Professionally fitted (mine was done at Carnell at Peterborough) for £299, it's Thatcham approved and ready to beat off the most expert thief.

Of course, whether or not anyone pays attention when a bloke in a stripy jumper with a bag marked "swag" sets it off in the street, is another question. But you can't blame alarm manufacturers for that.

The figures:

Bought new in May 2001 from Carnell for £8995 (rrp £9899) with two year's warranty, a year's RAC cover and 18 months subscription to the Yamaha magazine Spirit.

Insurance group: 14

Servicing:

6000 miles £155.18 (see last l-t term report)

12,000 miles £248.41

18,000 miles £164.16

24,000 miles £316.64

Value Now:Private: £6750 Trade £6250

Mileage to date: 6200

Average mpg: 38

Basic running costs

Depreciation: £2245

Insurance: £396

Servicing: £155.18

Fuel: £530

Tyres: One pair Michelin Pilot Sport (£241.96), One pair Metzeler MEZ4 (£241.96), including fitting and balancing: £483.92

Total: £3810.10

Cost per mile: 61.5p

Accessories:

Panniers: £395 (fitting time: five minutes)

Meta M357T alarm: £299 (including fitting)

Verdict

Build quality: 95% Still looking good

Reliability: 65% A one-off, but it happened to me

Easy to work on? 87% Complex like most these days

Long term appeal: 96% Wouldn't want to be without it

Overall: 93% Try one and get hooked