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Long term test: Life with an FJR

Published: 03 June 2001

I had said farewell to my ZX-12R in mid-December. It was mid-May before I finally got my hands on the FJR. I hadn't even ridden a push bike in the intervening time. You will therefore understand my trepidation at hopping on this quite hefty beast and setting off into the morning sun.

But there really was no cause for alarm. I immediately felt at home, almost as one. The weight melted away the moment I opened the throttle and I didn't notice it again until my first attempt to put it on its centrestand that night.

Allied with the no-low-speed-jerkiness fuel-injection, my fears for the task at hand were much eased.

I had been left with the challenge of running-in the bike from scratch, putting at least 1000 miles on it and zipping it through its first service, all in a matter of days.

Why? Well let's just say my FJR is the one you'll be seeing in a tyre test in MCN before too long. And a bike needs to be best-prepared for that kind of thing.

Glancing at diaries and noting family commitments, it seemed the ideal solution was to go by bike to Cumbria and The Lakes for the second May Bank Holiday.

But on at least part of the trip I would be putting the final touches to running-in, so I couldn't just take the M6 (anyway, I have far too much sympathy for my tyres).

But the A6… well that's quite a different proposition.

Before plotting my final route I had two concerns. One was luggage. I still haven't been able to get hold of Yamaha's hard panniers for the bike (though I'm assured they are coming in any day now and there are many owners reporting they have got theirs on motorcyclenews.com's dedicated chat board for the bike). So out came my trusty Oxford Sports soft panniers. Judicious use of duct-tape protected against any scrapes the rubbing of luggage may cause.

Security was my other worry. In my rush to pile the miles on, there hadn't been a window to add an alarm (one is now on it's way, a Meta device supplied through Yamaha dealers).

I guessed there would be room on a bike like this for a U-lock. After all, even the Blade I once owned found space for that.

Surprisingly, no amount of jiggery pokery under the saddle would squeeze in my Oxford lock. I ended up resorting to a very hefty Boss disc lock, also from Oxford Products. Since it's passed all those Sold Secure five minute attack tests, I figured it was as safe a bet as my U-lock anyway. And, importantly, there is room for it under the FJR's two-part seat. Yes, I know, a Yamaha U-lock will fit under the seat… but I don't have one of those.

Now, I would need to adjust the rear pre-load to take account of the extra weight of a passenger and luggage. C-spanner time? No actually, it's just a flick of a switch on the left of the bike moving pre-load from "soft" to "hard". I can't tell you how much I like that!

And the prospect of being able to ride 700-800 miles in a weekend without checking a chain for lube or tension still brings a smile to my face. There may be a weight penalty in having shaft drive but frankly it is one I'm very willing to pay. Apart from anything else, I've never been able to keep my bike's rear wheel so clean!

Ok, so we're finally all set. Luggage on, wife in comfy pillion seat and a plan to get to Cumbria by as much of the A6 as possible.

And that took me from home in Cambridgeshire (via the A14 for a start) up past Leicester and Derby and onwards to Matlock Bath. I stopped there briefly for just long enough for a can of Coke, an interview from someone doing a survey for…well Motorcycle News as it happens, and to take a few snaps.

Then we trundled on, further north through some great scenery but at an often frustrating pace.

It seems the whole of that interesting bit of road from Derby to Buxton is either limited to 50mph or infested with double white lines. And on the Saturday of a Bank Holiday weekend it was also filled to bursting point with caravans and other slow-moving vehicles.

The temperature was rising, too. And as we dribbled through towns the electrically adjustable screen really came into its own. Hit slow moving traffic and you press a button to lower it and suddenly you have that traditional cooling wind-blast (or breeze-blast at the speeds we were sometimes trickling at). Get out on to the open road and you can zip the screen back up and save your neck from a battering. In fact, hit the right speed and an envelope of air seems to wrap itself around you and actually provide a cushion for your back.

And as I edged closer and closer to unleashing all of the revs, the protection from the windblast became more and more welcome.

Soon we were in Buxton and here I had the opportunity to do something I haven't before: ride the Cat and Fiddle.

Taking the right turn at that last roundabout and rising up the hill my first impressions of this famous bit of road was that it must be trading on past reputations. It was just another example of a road which seemed to have had to make do without a single penny of the tax I pay on petrol.

The surface was about as smooth as John Prescott in a strop. Nice tight, Alpine-esque turns all right, but what was left of the asphalt inspired thoughts of crazy paving rather than crazy lean angles.

But it seems that once you get past the Cat and Fiddle pub itself (I'm riding east-to-west) the road suddenly improves.

You can see for miles and what you see is a road that's kinkier than thigh-high rubber boots.

Spirits suitably enlivened I figured we'd have to give up on the back-road concept to make up for the time stolen from us by Maurice Metro and his kin on the road up to Matlock. Instead we zipped across to join the M6 south of Manchester and bypassed the city.

Now, post the FJR's first service the M6 held little of the pre-run-in constant-speed fears it once had.

Sadly, the further north we went, the greyer the skies became until by our first petrol stop (over 190 miles into the trip thanks to a fuel tank built for distance) we could see a low grey fug in the distance. That, on this occasion, was Cumbria.

By the time we arrived we had been in the saddle for five and a half hours. On most other bikes I have owned I think we'd have both been crying. On the FJR length of time on board hardly seems an issue. I've been in far less comfortable cars.

Next day my wife visited with friends while I took a quick pillion and luggage-less razz around the Lakes.

Now taking it through the gears to the redline the FJR revealed itself to be another creature altogether. This one snarled and howled and gnashed. This one begged to be thrown into turns, this one wanted you to talk dirty.

And its poise is so perfect that you never give a moment's thought to how heavy it actually is (at least, I didn't until I had to turn it round on shingle at the lakeside in Bowness). Torque reaction from the shaft drive? Not so as you'd notice.

First stop was a distinctly quiet Devil's Bridge (it's a regular riders haunt close to Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria).

Then I allowed myself a rev-hungry lap of the Kendal area before stop-starting into Bowness with the rest of the Sunday afternoon traffic.

I followed a ZZ-R owner into a neat little parking spot right on the water's edge. It was a bike park by virtue of the fact that bikes parked there. Frankly, only bikes could.

And after a quick cup of coffee with a Cumbrian farmer and fellow rider, I set off back along the Furness peninsula. Next day we'd be heading home in a much more sensible three-and-a-half hours.

So far I have nothing but admiration for this bike. All-day comfort with performance that genuinely does set the pulse racing is a hard combination to deliver. But the FJR really is a bit of a master of all trades. Of course there are compromises, but you'd be hard-pushed to find them irksome.

The only slight stumble I've had was easily sorted. The bike is so new that when it went for its first service at Carnell, Yamaha hadn't yet been able to deliver new parts microfiches… so there were no FJR-specific oil filters available. To their credit Yamaha reacted swiftly and had the part to Carnell the following day.

After a steady diet of high performance sports bikes and sports tourers, I can tell you that life with an FJR delivers all of the highs with rather less of the lows. I have a feeling quite a few sports bike riders are going to start looking towards my FJR with envious eyes. And if any of them think I want to play swopsies, well… they can swivel.

Got an FJR? Tell me about your experiences and chat with other owners by posting in the Talk Bikes section of motorcyclenews.com. Over 200 bikes have dedicated bulletin boards on our website and the FJR1300 is just one of them.

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