Boy that was good! It had only taken a couple of hundred yards of ever-so-slightly damp roads, glistening in the brilliance of a blue winter’s day, to make me realise what
I’d been missing.
It must have been two months or more since my last ride. Each time I’d gone into the garage to the freezer, the FJR looked at me, all shiny and clean. " Please let me out, " it seemed to say.
Every now and again I got it all excited by turning the engine over and running it until the exhausts no longer blew clouds of condensation. I’d pulled on the levers, prodded the rear brake, turned switches on and off… just generally let it know these things would all be needed again soon.
And despite the length of time between each of these winter warm-ups, it always started first time.
The worrying rattle (as covered in detail in my last long term report and eventually traced to a pair of dodgy camshaft caps) was now a distant memory, the result of tender care and attention at Carnell in Peterborough, and a no-quibble warranty claim. Now the engine ran sweet and smooth, like it should.
The fact the FJR had been in the workshop at the end of last year, coupled with a holiday into December and then the kind of weather which would keep Ray Mears indoors, meant we had become strangers for the past eight weeks or more.
But as soon as I rode off on that fine Saturday afternoon I felt right back at home. I pressed the button to raise the screen and felt cosseted and warm. The tyres, though, were still brand new and no winter surface is ever ideal for scrubbing in, so I started gently and smoothly. No heavy-handed throttle, no harsh braking. But perhaps that’s a good discipline for anyone taking their first ride of the year, particularly after a long break. Ride as if you’re on brand new tyres.
The other guideline I use is don’t get caught speeding first time out. And the way this works into my brain is that I won’t break a limit on my first ride. It keeps my speeds sensible, which is vital when you’ve been used to trundling around in a car all winter. Your reaction times need a chance to speed up again, too.
So with my little list of sensible settings logged, I set off for a bimble around town. With my first squeeze of the front brake I noticed the Yamaha pulled to my left. Something was likely to be sticking and/or binding as the one act of braking seemed to rectify it.
On I went, marvelling at how stable and balanced the 1300 was, remembering how nimble it felt as I picked my way through traffic.
I soon found myself out in the country, building speed, turning into a few gentle corners, beginning to lean it just a little bit more. Through another village… remind myself that I need to be looking everywhere, all around me. Into the country again and the bends became longer and… well, they were asking for it… As I wound it on a little more, the confidence came back
There was a car ahead. The sun was low, the road glistening, perhaps a little muddy even. I decided to go for it and had a little reminder that there was a potential 145bhp to be put through this brand new rear tyre (I’ve gone back to the standard MEZ4).
As I called on the fuel injection just a little too suddenly, I felt a momentary loss of traction and had to back off a little to get things back under control.
And that was exactly the little reminder I needed. It’s a rule I always stick to on my first ride of the year. As soon as I start to feel " confident " (or is that indestructible?) I decide to head for home.
And so FJR and I arrived back in the warmth of my garage in one piece. And I couldn’t stop smiling.
But, like all good things, my relationship with the FJR has had to come to an end. With hungry eyes on another bike for 2002, I had to put the bike up for sale.
And as I was writing out the ad to put in MCN BikeMart, I knew there was much I would miss about it. Its sweet handling, its powerful engine, its long-distance comfort, its quality finish… the fact that it looks so damned good.
The loss would prove harder still if I ended up having to trade it in. That’s why I went for a private sale. And in an effort to make it swift and painless, I put it on at £6999 with the panniers thrown in.
I sold it to the first bloke who saw it (he called on the day it appeared in the paper). There then followed a succession of calls for the next two weeks, all keen buyers who I had to disappoint. I guess the lesson I learned is that I probably pitched it a little less than I could have got for it. FJR owners take note.