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Same But Different : 2016 Yamaha FJR1300

Yamaha engineers slide new tech into a longtime favourite – 2016 Yamaha FJR1300.

Take an existing odd-shaped box, build something completely new but make sure the “new” fits perfectly into the same box. This is not exactly the message Yamaha gave its engineers who were asked to build a new transmission for the FJR1300, but it’s close. FJR riders are a dedicated and enthusiastic lot who they love their bikes but a six-speed transmission is the standard these days and the FJR needed one. The FJR1300 has received many updates and improvements since its debut back in 2001, however the bike itself looks remarkably the same.  FJR enthusiasts like their bike to look like an FJR but there is no harm in sliding in a few unseen improvements into the sport-touring chassis—though there are benefits.  

Regarding the transmission, the easy solution might be to simply insert another gear on the end of the existing range. But that comes back to the odd shaped box request. It isn’t possible to simply put another gear in the transmission, as all the ratios need to work together. 

The new sixth gear ratio is 0.846 (as opposed to the old fifth at 0.929) so the FJR now has longer legs and a taller gear for high speed cruising but the new one to five gear ratios are completely different from the old gearing. The new gears are helical cut (not parallel to the axis of rotation) meaning the teeth are slightly at an angle. The result of the change is that the gears now mesh together gradually making the transition between those newly revised cogs both smoother and quieter. 

Also sneaking in under the visual radar as they were updating the transmission anyhow, the FJR1300 gets a new slipper clutch for 2016 smoothing out the ride under aggressive shifting and making shifts a little easier by reducing the clutch lever effort.

And then there are all the changes that come with turning the lights on. All the lights on the FJR are now LED and included is an LED array of cornering lights. If you have the tendency to out ride your headlight on winding roads the three LEDs per side will light sequentially depending on how far over the bike is leaned. Less lean, wider corner hence the headlight should provide adequate light so only one cornering light will illuminate. More lean, tighter corner, less effective headlight beam. On the furthest lean all three cornering lights will come on. Yamaha’s added tech to the cornering light system is that the lights illuminate progressively as opposed to snapping on full. Apparently the latter can be a distraction to riders. To put the process in simple terms “#%^8#*!, a moose!” to “Oh look, a stately moose foraging in the night.”

Among the other tweaks the bike gets is one for those heading south of the border. You will no longer be able to claim confusion as the speedometer will now toggle back and forth between mph and kmh.

The 2016 FJR comes, as it did last year, in two guises: ES and regular. ES is the electronically adjustable suspension model (front and rear) that will set you back an additional $1,400 over the standard model’s price of $18,099. Before you scoff at the idea feeling sure you like to set your suspension and leave it, there is a slight fly in your ointment. The ES comes with an inverted fork rather than the more conventional one. That alone is an improvement whether you like to change your settings or ride as is.

It has been a long time since I have ridden a FJR1300—some time back in the early 2000s. Even then it was effortlessly powerful and smooth. Which it still is and should be with 102 foot-pounds torque at hand. 

Following the trail of XSR900s on a brief ride at the XSR900’s media introduction event in Ontario was no problem. The FJR has all the goodies of other Yamaha products—ride-by-wire, variable power modes, traction control, and ABS—but it is a quieter, plusher and extremely smooth option. At 291 kilograms wet it doesn’t feel heavy and it’s quick with light steering: all that and a windshield (better in the rain). I’ll have to leave the qualifying of the benefits of the tall sixth gear until another time, as the bike was very happy and responsive in fourth and fifth on the winding roads. As was I, as there is no doubt about the “sport” emphasis in the bike’s sport-touring nomenclature. If given the option to ride back from Muskoka to Victoria, the FJR1300 would have been the ticket.

So FJR faithful, there is a new transmission in the FJR1300. You can’t see it from the outside but it is there. And just so you are aware, now that you have that taller sixth gear it may make the cruise control, which is active up to 180 kmh, more useful. Where (or even if) you should set your cruise control at 180 kmh is debatable but the fuel economy at that speed should be slightly improved. What other improvements can Yamaha engineers hide in that odd shaped but irrefutably evolving box? Making it better while looking the same seems to work.

By John Molony Canadian Biker Issue #323


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