Whilst many people overseas seem ok with the way their Yamaha FJR300 corners, riding on tight narrow roads here and being used to lighter and smaller bikes I wanted to quicken the steering if possible. My motorcycle is 2014 FJR1300A and coming from smaller bikes prior it always felt so slow to turn in and then wanted to understeer in corners.

The fan boys on owner forums insist this big motorcycle steers light as a feather. Simply inflate the tyres a few more PSI is all that is needed. I am sure you will have read the same right?

My bike tyres were inflated to 43 psi at delivery, every tyre fitted since has been inflated to same by the tyre shops and Bridgestone tyre engineers in Japan say with any heavy bike like this to always inflate both tyres to the very maximum psi (and they explain why this is best and safest). So this is not something new, and it doesn’t make the 300kg weight or high centre of gravity sitting on a long wheel base magically disappear.

“Learn to ride”. “You must be braking into corners” or “You must weigh 200kg” as one dickhead on the FJR Owner forums suggested. Some forums revolve around people telling each other what a great choice they made and flaming anyone who speaks ill of the bike/camera/game console etc so I just went on and found what I could myself.

Changes I have made

The first thing I tried was to set the rear suspension preload to firm. This slightly raises the rear ride height (actually it reduces the sag) thus ever so slightly sharpens the steering angle. This made a small but noticeable difference to turn in speed but at the sacrifice of ride comfort when riding solo. However once accustomed to the difference I was not able to go back so the motorcycle has remained in this setting.

Following this I tried setting the front pre load to soft or increased sag in the ride height which of course opposite to the rear firm preload will slightly lower the front thus further sharpen the steering. Very minor affect, not as noticeable as the rear preload but again so easy to do.

Inspired by this slight improvement from tiny change in ride heights I raised the fork legs in the triple clamps about 25 mm to lower the front and further alter/sharpen up the steering angle. You can do this fairly easy on the FJR by loosening the bolts at the mid and upper fork leg clamps and then sliding the fork leg up gently. This then made a further improvement which is most noticeable when the fuel load dropped from full to 2/3 or less and the motorcycle was operating without such a high COG.

The steering at this point with the combination of things done was a noticeable improvement from standard. No adverse affects. Still ample ground clearance. Not unstable as owners forums were warning, actually it still displays understeer and remains slow to change direction but an improvement over stock for zero $ outlay.

The next thing I looked at was ergonomics. The bars on the FJR1300 are a bit low, slightly too far forward and little narrow when compared to a standard motorcycle or other large touring motorcycles. That’s how I find them despite being 6’ tall. I installed a bar raising plate (from MV Motoradd in Germany) and this moved the bars up 25mm and back 40mm bringing them to a position that is closer to natural. Raising the bars provided much better leverage which helped a lot. It also made the FJR comfortable – like a touring motorcycle should be.

Along the way I had been trying different tyres. The FJR came with Metzeler Z8 tyres to begin with, these wore unevenly on the front getting scalloped badly. Pirelli Angel GT made the steering lighter but they are soft and the heavy FJR tore the sides away on the front tyre in just one tour then the steering slowed dramatically with the triangle shaped front tread and the rear tyre was bald by just 6000km. Dunlop Roadsmart 2 also steer lightly but were nearly bald at just 5000km, hopeless for touring.

The Michelin Pilot Road 4s were by far the slowest steering, if using these then you should switch. I had the front tyre a premature failure of the carcass about 3000km. This is second time I have had premature failure with these tyres (previously on rental bike) so I just got rid of both tyres. The Bridgestone BT-023 GT steers not a fast as the Angel GT but it wears evenly and lasts 8000-9000km which at least means not needing tyres mid tour which is a huge hassle and it means you don’t get a sudden drop off in the steering speed with tyres as happened with the Angle GT tyres and Dunlops.

Lastly I decided I would change the rear suspension links called the dog bones to raise the rear ride height and further sharpen the steering angle. I had left this to last since it seemed the hardest but in fact it can be done in probably 30 minutes. I chose to fit 30mm raise links which is achieved by a very minor change in the links. I sourced them for about $39 from a eBay retailer in Germany with good customer feedback.

The transformation this brought once fitted was the most of anything so far. The FJR felt noticeably lighter to turn. Ok you still are riding a heavy tourer but it honestly felt somewhat easy for the first time to ride on tighter corners not needing me to drag it around every bend. It will hold a chosen line easier now and does not want to understeer. (but please note it is achieved in conjunction with the other things already altered – just doing this alone will not deliver same)

It is still a big heavy bike which you need be aware of but now it steers well even in very tight corners. The best way IMO to install the dog bone links is to put the bike on the centre stand and loosen the dog bone links then use a jack to lighten the rear wheel from the link pins (not supporting the bike which is on stand – just the wheel weight) take the top pin out then remove the shock lower mount pin and rotate the lower link pin forward past stand then remove the dog bone links. For install reverse and use the jack to position the wheel at correct height to get top pin back in with new length links. I took loads of time and it still was all over in 40 minutes.

Afterthought: I also should mention that along with the changes I made to the bike and tyres along the way I have adjusted my riding style on the FJR1300. I stopped doing day rides when I moved from Nagoya to the greater Tokyo region where it would require 3 hours to escape the city. I now only ride this bike on long distance tours which it suits well. That sort of riding is at a more relaxed pace than a day ride where you push the miles out and are looking at the clock. Additionally I slightly adjusted my riding style to a more smoother flowing way to suit the bike. That might sound like a negative but in fact it has been a positive. The FJR1300 has forced me to slow down and enjoy the journey not be pushing on and as you can see I travel a lot and this is a riding style I now enjoy in other countries on any size bike.

For awhile I wanted to change to a smaller lighter bike but I am glad I persisted as this bike with it’s improved steering suits what I am doing in Japan now well.

My previous long term Yamaha FJR1300 review is here if you would like further information.

25 Comments

  1. Great stuff mate on working out how to make the bike handle. Should sell it to Yamaha now as they obviously don't know. Haha

    • Ha-ha, I wish! The machine is built primarily for the US market so I presume the slow steering is by design. Not sure why. Hope this helps a few people as not much in the way of genuine info for people who like it's comfort but still want to enjoy a corner.

  2. after many years (and a couple of FJR's) I found MY solution to the problem. I switched to DUNLOP ROADSMART III… what a difference they make.

  3. Good article! Thank you for telling it like it is and the tip about lowering the front end. I too raised the rear and it was a BIG improvement.
    I didn't know how much to lower the front and your articles guidance is helpful. I have an Angel GT front/Dunlop RoadsmartII tire combination, its the best of the many that have been on the bike in 50K miles.
    Kelvin

  4. Put a 28mm lift in my 2005 FJR from day 1. Had a 25mm lift in my 97 Bandit and boy did it steer fast. Your article was thoughtful well presented. What I didn’t see was any reference to extra ground clearance at the pegs, less in your case because you dropped the front.

  5. Hi Neville, I have not experienced any issues with ground clearance.
    The pegs in middle of bike only fell a portion of the height the front was lowered then lifted back a fraction when the rear was raised. I cannot say exact where they are now compared to factory except no issues at my road pace.

  6. 28mm rear lift, no drop on the forks gained about 15mm at the peg. Info only, let’s go ride. A kiwis in the USA.

  7. Mr Adriaan Jacobs

    Hi Warren have you got a link to the seller as Gen3 A model dog bones are not available in the UK only the ES model?

    • I’m sorry my eBay purchase history doesn’t list back that far. I presume you have set your search to ‘worldwide’ from the eBay default of same country sellers? Or try google for the item which will bring up all the Ebay sellers worldwide.

  8. Hi Warren

    I had a FJR 2008 A with Pilot 4 and a FJR 2015 ES with Pilot 4 but changed to the Dunlop Road Smart IIIs. I feel my FJR corners better and no longer had that front wheel hop from the factory tires on both bikes. I also got about 12-14K miles on those sets of tires ( Road Smart III ) and still riding on them. Pilot 4 only gave me about 8,500K miles. Pilot 4 goes from a little life left to worn out to bald fast when they get to the end of life on those tires. I have not made any frame changes other than what the factory bike electronic settings can do. I now have a FJR 2017 ES and will go back to the Road Smart III again unless Dunlop makes a newer improved RS III tire. Would that be a Road Smarter IV tire?

    • Hi Guido,

      I am considering trying the Dunlop Roadsmart 3 tyres next time. They are expensive in Japan and other riders here report not getting much more mileage.
      You get incredibly long mileage from your tyres, double what any rider I know here can achieve.
      Pilot 4 average 4000 miles. Dunlop RS3, 4500 miles is what local guys manage, similar to the Angel GTs which I love but also wear out fast.
      The Bridgestone BT023GT remains the only tyre anyone here can get a reliable 9000 km (5500 miles) out of on heavy big bikes.
      I think the road surface and endless corners here mean tyres wear much faster. I dream of getting 6000+ miles from any tyre but it is impossible.

    • There are weekends when we get 3,000 miles out of a rear, Arkansas chip and seal tears them up.

  9. Sebastián Demaria

    Hi, don’t the front forks bottom out with such a high lift? Did you change oil quantitiy ?

    • Hi Sebastian,

      Moving the triple clamps does not reduce the fork travel, that remains exactly same.

      It alters the front suspension angle and ride height. My rear has also been raised. Overall the travel remains same and pegs are not overly lower or higher.

      It might sound like a lot, about an inch lower front and inch higher rear. But the FJR comes with conservative steering geometry and is a large bike. This adjustment I have made still leaves the steering geometry or angle at front and rear less than a super sports bike and the turn in is still slower than I am used to but better than when I got it.

  10. Sebation, putting a lift in the rear has no impact on the front fork travel.

  11. Sebastian Demaria

    Sorry, I know, I meant botton out the front forks beacuse now that they are rised, the lower part of the fork is closer the lower triple. So may hit on a big pothole.

    • The way the fork operates, the amount of movement it has over bumps remains the same regardless of raising or lowering their position in the triple clamps.
      My forks are conventional but this applies to upside down forks as well, no difference.
      If your forks are bottoming out then you need to increase your compression damping.

      Follow up: You seem to be trolling me now with many comments repeating yourself, I won’t be publishing you further.

  12. Sebastian Demaria

    ahh, may be yours are inverted forks, mine is 2 gen, conventional forks… thats why if I rise them too much they have less travel..

  13. Sebastian, I think you are missing the physics of the lowering. You are only changing the position of the bike itself ON the fork. The fork travel remains the same. The only thing that you are losing is ground clearance from the road to the bottom of your oil pan, or drip fairing etc. Hope that helps.

    Great article BTW. Im looking to buy one of these bikes next 2013 or newer.

  14. Jack Underwood

    Hi I got my 2009 FJR1300A last summer and purchased a new set of 120/70 | 180/55 ZR17 Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart at the beginning of May as i could see the wear indicators rushing towards the surface of the Michelin road pilot 4 GT’s . So yesterday thought this will be the last ride on them but after 150 miles I was surprised to see serious bald strip to right side of the front tyre and when I got home after 300 miles was really shocked at the rapid deterioration. Note my bike has lowered rear suspension but forks are stock.

    • Hi Jack, I just replaced my Dunlop Roadsmart 2 tyres. Front was bald at 5000km. Nice feel but crazy short lifespan (on Japan abrasive roads)

      Lowered rear suspension will make the steering slower.

      • Jack Underwood

        Hi Warren
        All the reviews I read before purchasing the Dunlops seemed to be claiming good wear rate compared to other makes. I suppose time will tell once I get them on bike and see what happens. I’m Normally midrange with tyre wear but this is my first heavyweight bike and I was wondering if the lowered rear increased the wear rate if raising it helped reduce it…. Raising the rear is not an option for me as I ‘m vertically challenged and don’t like tippy toeing when stationary or trying to maneuver. I think i need to check and see if forks are true before fitting new tyres, suppose I could drop front end a little at same time?

        • Hi Jack, you could perhaps get a custom lower seat made then return the rear to normal height or slightly higher then lower the front an inch.

          The tire life claims on the FJR sites or groups seems like a contest. One guy wrote he got 20,000 miles from Pilot 4’s and could probably do another 4000 miles. I said ‘is that with the bike on a trailer?’ because seems plain impossible to me. I average 5000 miles life and that is easy touring, best ever was 6000 miles BT023GT but they were bald by time I finished the tour. I have T31 GT’s on now, will update blog after next tour but I suspect they wont beat the BT023GT.

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