2016 Yamaha FJR1300A Review – First Ride
Ultimate MotorCycling Editor Don Williams is currently in Arizona testing the new 2016 Yamaha FJR. On Tuesday, he rode the FJR1300A – the model with standard suspension. Before riding the version with electronic suspension on Wednesday, he provides ten Quick Facts about the standard model – the FJR1300A.
1. The 2016 Yamaha FJR1300A – the FJR model with the standard suspension – is a refinement of the previous edition, not a revolutionary change. The big news is the six-speed transmission, replacing the old five-speed. There’s also a new clutch that is an Assist & Slipper design that uses lighter springs, and has a slipper function for downshifting. KYB suspension replaces last year’s in-house Yamaha suspension, and the spring and damping rates have been modified. There’s also a new dash, with easier-to-read displays. Finally, the headlights, taillight and rear turn-signals are now LED, which have a lower draw on the electrical system.
2. Yamaha fit the new six-speed transmission in the space designed for a five-speed. It’s a separate dog design, rather than having the dogs integrated into the gearset. This allowed Yamaha to narrow the gearset enough to fit it into the existing FJR1300 cases. Also, the gears are now helically cut rather than straight cut in an effort to reduce noise and gear lash.
3. The gear ratios have changed, along with adding a cog. First and second gears have been raised incrementally, while third gear is virtually identical. Fourth and fifth are lower than last year, and the new sixth gear is about 10-percent higher than last year’s fifth gear. This means the lower five speeds are a much closer ratio transmission than before, with a sixth gear lurking to lower engine speeds when barreling down the open highway.
4. The Assist & Slipper clutch claims a 20-percent lighter clutch pull. The power of the motor is used to keep the clutch plates engaged, which means lighter springs can be used, which, in turn, reduces the effort needed to pull in the clutch lever. For deceleration, the slipper clutch lightens the clutch engagement when it senses that rear wheel torque exceeds engine torque. This makes rear-wheel lockup on downshifts less likely.
5. The new six-speed transmission is magic. On older FJR1300s, we were constantly trying to shift up to “sixth”, only to be frustrated by the five-speed transmission. With the extra cog and revised ratios of the other five, the FJR1300A is better than ever. You get a close-ratio five-speed transmission that definitely aids in acceleration, plus a semi-overdrive sixth gear that is about 10-percent higher than the old fifth gear.
Add in the new helical cut gears, and the FJR1300A’s transmission is outstanding. The bike is noticeably smoother, shifts better, and is much more relaxed in top gear. When an update improves both performance and comfort, it’s a good one, and the new six-speed transmission in the FJR1300A is nothing short of phenomenal.
6. The new KYB suspension is very close to the previous Yamaha in-house brand. Yamaha tells us they revised the specs when going to the KYB units, but the FJR1300A feels very much the same as before.
If Yamaha hadn’t told us the suspension was new, we wouldn’t have noticed. You might discern a difference in back-to-back riding, however. Regardless, the KYB suspension, which features fully adjustable forks and a spring-preload and rebound-adjustable shock are fine units. The settings are a perfect balance between sport and touring, with enough of a nod toward sport to keep the Yamaha FJR1300A’s reputation as a scorching sport-tourer alive. For my 170-pound frame and moderate riding style, the suspension was perfect as set from the factory.
7. Like the suspension, the new clutch doesn’t feel that different, but it works great. Again, without the back-to-back comparison, the 20-percent lighter clutch pull claim is difficult to quantify. However, we rode quite a bit in stop-and-go traffic, and the clutch pull was not an issue.
8. The FJR1300ES version has electronically adjustable suspension and LED cornering lights. However, both the ES and A get the new LED headlights and taillights.
9. The high beams on the FJR1300A are like the sun. While the beam is aimed fairly low in standard mode and cuts off abruptly, making it easy to overrun the lights, when you flick on the high-beam, it’s like you’re riding in bright daylight. They are extremely powerful, and on dark mountain roads, you have to be sure to switch back to standard because the high-beams blind oncoming cars.
10. Everything that made the FJR1300A a great bike in the past is still there, but with more performance, more comfort, and more panache. Yamaha took an already excellent FJR1300 and markedly improved it.
Photos by Brian J. Nelson
- Helmet: AGV GT-Veloce
- Eyewear: Tag Heuer Reflex Original Rimless
- Jacket: Tour Master Transition Series 4
- Gloves: Tour Master Mid-Tex
- Pants: Rev’It Defender Pro GTX
- Base Layer: Fly Racing Heavyweight Base Layers
- Underwear: Moto-Skivees Adventure
- Boots: Sidi Roarr
- Socks: Moto-D Cold Weather Socks