Yamaha's FJ1300 is the epitome of the modern sports tourer. They've been building litre-plus sports tourers for a long time now and the FJ1300 has a direct lineage which goes back two decades. Along the way it has grown from the original FJ1100 thru a 1200 version, and has now had a complete redesign.
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I rode this bike's great grand-daddy, the original FJ1100 around Europe in 1984, thanks to Yamaha's then race director, Paul Butler, who loaned me the original prototype complete with sand-cast cases and the engine number 000001.
It was the first complete machine of that model, and had found its way to Yamaha's headquarters in Amsterdam, for autobahn testing. It had been put together by the team that designed it with a view to being flogged mercilessly on roads with no effective speed limit. The FJ1100 carried me across through Germany to Cologne, down the Rhine Valley, through France to Marseille, then down the Riviera into Italy and the MotoGuzzi and Laverda factories, round the alps, on to a BMW launch in Munich, and countless other adventures. In one stretch of eight hours and fifteen minutes, it passed 1550 km beneath the rear wheel so my companion and I could catch the start of the Bol Dor 24 hour race. The FJ1100 had a low comfortable riding position, big powerful brakes and sat effortlessly on 250kmh. How much better could the new version be, even given 18 years of development?
Well, quite a lot, as I soon found out. Competition improves the breed, and relentless competition between the big four Japanese marques and a dozen European manufacturers has ensured motorcycle evolution has continued at warp speed and way past where my imagination left off. The FJ1300 is now water-cooled, 200cc bigger, has fuel injection and the best brakes I've ever used - a combination of power and feel which also sees action on the 2002 R1 hyperbike. It has a smooth, awesome mid-range surge which continues to ballistic speeds. I had found the original FJ fairing to be almost perfect for my height and shape. It offered sufficient protection to maintain 250kmh as the bike scythed across Europe, yet never got in the way during hour after hour of mountain passes. But the FJ1300 fairing goes one better - it has a screen which can be adjusted to suit low, medium or exocet speeds. It is comfortable at any speed and has enough bulk and grunt to allow you to forget you have a pillion aboard, and there's a lever you can flick which puts the rear suspension in pillionmode.
For a planned journey, you'd get things poised allowing for pillion and luggage using the completely adjustable suspension at each end, but if you suddenly find a 120 kg pillion aboard, this will help immediately. The FJ is entirely predictable and a fabulous bike around town thanks to its mid-range urge enabling it to beam itself to any spot on the road almost instantaneously. Entirely civil and docile if ridden that way, and wickedly potent if you feel inclined. The broad rear tyre looks purposeful and has to be, given all that urge it needs to transmit. If there's a downside it's that in the past two decades, law enforcement has also gone high tech and will probably contribute to the cost of ownership of any FJ1300.
In summary, the FJ is a motorycle which is comfortable in traffic, fun on a fast windy road, or it can take you to Darwin and back in absolute comfort. A bike for all reasons!
Mike HanlonView gallery - 40 images