2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Test | Love at First Twist

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Test | Love at First Twist
2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Review
2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Test | Love at First Twist
2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Review

Yamaha’s new FJ-09 is a natural evolution of the company’s highly rated sibling and its best-seller last year, the FZ-09. Given the riding public’s penchant for adventure-style and do-it-all motorcycles, this is a logical next step. The FJ-09 does, indeed, do it all, and time spent with it has been a sweet surprise.

Never once did I think that the inline-3 engine was lacking when asked to perform. When riding middleweight bikes, I often miss the open-class power of the bigger brethren — but not in this case.

At a claimed 462 pounds wet, and with 65 ft/lbs of torque from the 847cc DOHC motor, there is more than adequate power to, when required, appease my inner juvenile delinquent. The FJ stands on its own merit, and is no compromise just to offer a smaller bike or save money.

The engine revs smoothly at all speeds, yet has the feeling of always being on the pipe and ready to churn out whatever thrust is requested. There is a tightness that connects throttle inputs into direct reactions from the power plant and it instills a sense of controlled edginess without the negative consequences of an imperfect fueling map.

The FJ-09 has a smooth but granular character that translates into being part of the machine. I have found this trait unique to the FJ, having not sampled it in any other bike, including many other triples.

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Test | Love at First Twist gaugesThe Crossplane Concept motor has a distinctive vibration that is a sensation throughout the machine, and not annoying at all. Emanating from the engine, it permeates the bike and rider. The growl and syncopation is an essential portion of the experience. It is as if you are part of a tuning fork vibrating at a perfect harmonic resonance — so appropriate.

Those who rode or read about the FZ-09 know of the complaints about the abrupt nature of fuel map A. In 2015,the FJ has ironed out that problem and offers new ECU settings designed for sport touring.

There are three choices in the ride-by-wire throttle with three rider-selectable engine maps: A, Standard, or B. I found A to be the sharpest without being too sensitive and had a more raw sound and feel. Standard mode took a bit off the edge, and B would probably better be thought of as rain mode, wherein all the hard grunt has been tailored out. My only complaint now is that no matter the fuel map you select, each start of the engine puts you back in Standard.

I found myself riding in Standard mode simply because I didn’t remember to make the switch and that, really, is no disappointment. This system includes traction control (off/on) which, on a recent canyon ride, I tried to get to intrude but was not sure I ever felt its effects.

Compared to the fine handling FZ, the FJ also achieves high marks for ride quality and ability. It is a smooth runner on the highway at any speed you choose, including handcuff-inducing rates.

Supple over bumps and imperfections, the FJ-09 is tight enough to enjoy high-speed sweepers, even when loaded, without any wobbles or other effects of steering geometry changes under compression.

The chassis is die-cast aluminum, feels reasonably stiff, and does its part to contribute to the nice handling characteristics. The FJ has the same frame and swingarm as the FZ, with a slightly longer sub-frame. The 24-degree rake and 56.7-inch wheelbase help keep the ride stable, yet sporty.

In the curves, it rails like some other adventure bikes are capable of doing which, of course, is so important in this category. Transitions are easy and not a lot of input is necessary from the nicely positioned, handguard-equipped, wide handlebars.

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 Test | adventure motorcycleThe FJ goes where you point it and leans to the full extent of foot peg clearance, which is generous. I touched the peg feelers a few times under extreme lean, and it’s easy to scuff away the chicken strips of the Dunlop Sportmax D222 Roadsmart II tires.

This combination of fine handling, and the nature of the motor, allows for hard drives off the apex of turns. Even if you are a gear too high, there is a more than respectable amount of torque available for the charge into the next turn.

The KYB suspension retains its poise even in the most demanding situations of hard on the brakes, lots of lean, then hard on the gas, even over less-than-perfect surfaces. The FJ-09 really does feel like a sport bike.

In typical fashion, the brakes are nothing to brag about, but do the job more than adequately. Radially mounted four-piston Advics calipers are used in the front with 298mm rotors; a Nissin caliper and 245mm rotor are found in the rear. Performance of the system was very good, initial bite is soft, as is modulation, and repeated hard use during can- yon riding left the brakes unfazed. ABS is standard.

The cabin is first-rate. Seating is newly designed, quite firm, and bolt-upright for my six-foot frame. There is plenty of legroom, even with a 32-inch seat height, which is low for the quasi-adventure category.

Measuring 32 inches end to end, the handlebars have a generous width that gives the rider a nice feeling of spaciousness; there is plenty of leverage for cranking into turns without being too wide or causing excessive input.

The windshield is three-position adjustable without tools, and the handlebar clamps can be reversed to allow nearly a half-inch farther reach. The seat height can be raised just over a half-inch from standard.

The dual-screen dashboard has the features one might desire, wrapped in an armored-looking rectangle that is easily read under most lighting conditions. The trip computer is full-featured with a clock, ambient-air thermometer, fuel gauge, and gear position display, along with the usually seen mileage functions. Menu and mode selection are intuitive, too.

2015 Yamaha FJ-09 ReviewThe six-speed transmission is smooth shifting and gearing is unchanged from the FZ-09; the clutch is low effort. LED headlights are standard and quite effective on our night rides.

The 415-watt (about 35 amps) charging system is not overly generous for a bike that can tour, but ought to handle your heated grips, heated jacket, modest LED add-on lighting, and some small electronics. Tourmeisters who love options — do your calculations to avoid overloading the system.

The fairings, front and side, are newly designed from the FZ and there is a standard centerstand, which some riders consider essential on an adventure tourer. When putting in long days, the 4.8-gallon fuel tank and 40+ mpg will give you good range.

Our test bike came equipped with the optional hard bags. Adding around $1000 to the price of the bike, the bags are nicely integrated and easily removed and installed. It seems odd for a sport-tourer to be sold sans bags, but it does give you the option of using aftermarket soft or hard luggage, if you prefer, without paying for OEM bags you may not end up using.

I liked the look of the 2015 Yamaha FJ-09 when I first saw it at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach. Climbing aboard and spending time with it has only deepened my appreciation. This is a new-generation sport-tourer that should win many hearts in 2015, just as the FZ-09 did last year.

Riding Style:

Photography by Don Williams

Story from Ultimate MotorCycling magazine; for subscription services, click here.

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