FJR long term test (2): The owners’ gathering
Going for a ride-out and then chewing the cud with fellow riders is always a pretty good way to spend a day.
While a football fan will (season permitting) relish the idea of a few pints in the boozer before wandering down to the game itself, riders like you and I tend to do it the other way round (game itself first, boozer later).
The net result is the same: a feeling of a Saturday well spent.
There's always plenty of cud to be chewed after a ride out, too. Lots of shared "moments"; the 400-yard wheelie that, oddly, no one else spotted, or the huge slide that nearly had you off but that you managed to heroically wrestle under control (which, more often than not, was actually a slight twitch caused by a particularly spirited cat's eye).
And while riders, in general, have plenty to say to each other, I figured riders of the same bike would have even more.
And so it proved when, on a bit of a whim, I posted on motorcyclenews.com's Yamaha FJR owners board to see if anyone fancied a ride out.
Pretty swiftly there was a long thread of replies, which stirred up more e-mails and a group of us arranged to meet in the MCN car park at Peterborough… under a sky that looked as if it would quite like to fall on us.
I'd had a very close eye on the weather forecast all week and it never did make good reading. But FJR owners are made of sterner stuff than to be put off by a little rain.
A quick straw poll of those who did attend revealed VFR800s, Triumph Sprints, Thunderaces, Diversions, FJ1200s and Varaderos among their previous machines. And if the FJR hadn't come along they'd have bought BMWs and Super Blackbirds…or kept their FJs…. So they like bikes that are made to be ridden whatever the weather, then.
We gathered, made polite conversation and then fired up to head out into the gloom. The ride may have been on good, winding roads. But they were wet. Any attempt at using much of the 145bhp available resulted in a sliding rear tyre; at least it did for me as we exited one right hander. My MEZ4s (standard equipment in the UK) are close to the end of their useful life now, having covered less than 3500 miles.
By the time you read this I'll have changed them for some Michelin Pilot Sport… well, it is meant to be summer.
Most of my fellow FJR owners were hoping for rather better mileage from their Metzelers' than mine, and reported excellent handling with little white-line wobble (that only comes when they square off).
After the bonding experience of a sodden ride, they had plenty more to say when we gathered, just slightly damp thanks to the FJR's impressive weather protection, around the bike-friendly tables of Hartford Marina, near Huntingdon.
Pretty much universally, riders wanted a firmer rear shock. The hard setting (of the two available on the pre-load) isn't proving hard enough for two-up-with-panniers travel. Everyone complains the bike is too easy to ground out under these circumstances. Some are even considering changing the rear shock.
One-up, the complaints about suspension are fewer and further between. My only concern came on a very hot day (remember them) on a bumpy, twisty back road when I was riding in the company of a FireBlade. After a fairly substantial razz it felt as if the back tyre had gone flat (it hadn't). That could be because those tyres of mine are on their way out, or because the shock was getting too hot and losing some damping. I hadn’t felt it before and I haven't felt it since.
Many feel the adjustable screen is just a little too short at its highest setting, resulting in buffeting unless you lean forward just a little. Some pillions complained the airflow wasn't ideal for the person on the back. How much this annoys you (or whether it even effects you) depends greatly on your size, height and riding style).
Those with not-so-many-miles on the clock sometimes complained of vibration. Those with more miles on board reassured them the engine, and gearbox would smooth out.
But hang on, I'm making this sound like they were all moans. Far from it. People like us love motorcycles (to such an extent that many of our number had more than one, ranging from a 996SPS to a BSA Royal Star) and we love our FJRs.
We love their power, comfort, handling, shaft drive, good looks and balanced poise.
And we love to talk about them. It was all we could do to rouse ourselves from our barroom chat to make our way outside for a group picture; such is the instant camaraderie of owners of the same machine.
I'll be staying in touch with all of them through motorcyclenews.com's FJR1300 board. And I'm sure we'll all be getting together again before too long, for another ride out… and a natter.
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.
Full report, specs and more pictures in MCN, August 1, 2001