Warren
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My neighbour always tells me I have seen so much of Japan, which is true, but there remains more here to explore on the remote back roads and so I am pausing to consider if I need to change motorcycles to reach these places and indeed if I want to ride trails or stick to the open road.

It’s not for lack of trying

Whilst the FJR could well be with me many more years five years seems a reasonable milestone to reflect on the ownership experience.

Five year ownership notes

I got the FJR because I wanted to explore the length of this country in comfort protected somewhat from the cold and rain that even the best riding seasons here experience. It’s done a fair job of this. The electric windscreen is like climate control, it lets you regulate air flow and thus temperature and also limit rain and eliminate buffeting. It’s brilliant. Getting to destinations has been effortless thanks to comfortable aerodynamics, seating and electronic cruise control. It averages 4.3L to 100km and range is usually 500km per tank and it only requires regular gas which is big saving.

I have 70,000km on the odometer and it has been totally reliable. The valves have still not needed adjusting, the bike has just had simple servicing which has been very cheap. Besides regular wear and tear items the only issue has been one of the badges on the panniers came off.

The finish is still very good. It sits under a tarp so has been exposed to a lot of rain and cold but plastics and paint still look good. No corrosion issues. I think it is fair to say it deserves the reputation of high build quality and reliability.

As alluded to though it has not all been rosy. Forgetting minor design niggles my main criticism would be, on an already heavy bike, Yamaha positions the 25L fuel load up high and wide creating a top heavy feel. This high COG then creates additional under steer on an already long wheel base.

Altering the ride height front and rear and bringing the bars up and rearward permitting more leverage went some way to improving turn in. (and to head off the FJR fanboy hate mail I always get, extra tyre inflation does not fix this but keep drinking the bathwater)

However the biggest adjustment I made was to my attitude. I set more realistic daily mileage, stopped thinking I need to ride at a certain pace and just tried to embrace the ride is the destination, no need to be pushing on. It’s been the best thing that has happened to my riding.

Where to next.

I’m hesitant to change, the FJR is worth very little now yet is still a premium touring bike. Not sure I need a ADV bike in Japan as backroads are often still sealed or closed. But taking a quick look no shortage of dual purpose models renamed adventure in a stroke of marketing genius to inflate prices.

I would eliminate the road bias models since basically not much different in capability. I have ridden the Yamaha Tracer, Kawasaki Versys, Suzuki VStrom, Honda CB500X. All good bikes on road but 17″ front wheel and too tall and heavy for off road. The lifestyle like Triumph Scrambler, Ducati Desert Sled look great but bit heavy to take bush.

Shifting focus in this finely segmented category I’m surprised nobody seems to talk about how heavy they are. I presume like urban 4*4’s it’s the idea you might go off road, but never do.

BMW 1250 GSA 268kg. Honda Africa Twin 250kg, KTM 1090 Adventure 230kg. The ‘middle weight’ models; BMW F850GS 228kg, Triumph Tiger 800 215kg. The ‘rally’ models KTM 790 Adventure 209kg, Yamaha 700 Tenere 204kg. Still got to add your luggage to those curb weights. Stupidly heavy to go bush with. My Kawasaki KX two stroke I used off road two years weighed 87 kg before fuel.

So what is lighter? The BMW G650GS I rode in Australia is 191kg curb weight. It felt lighter thanks to fuel under the seat but was not sold in Japan. The BMW G310GS I rode in South Africa was 169kg with full tank. I rode that down the Sani pass so I know I can control that weight on difficult terrain (just) and the bike is capable. I’d short list it as a candidate. But it is shame not 250cc as then I would not need the Japan bi-annual safety certificate that is very expensive.

There is also the Kawasaki Versys 300 (which is a 250cc in Japan) but it has such a peaky engine, need to have it high rpm constantly. The Honda CRF250L I rode in Laos and Philippines is very capable bike off road being much lighter but it’s borderline underpowered for highway here.

I’ve got a feeling I’m over thinking all this and given how far I’ve managed to take the FJR already anything small and cheap with dual sport tyres might would work fine – if I decide to go down this path.

Speaking of which I picked up a set of superseded Dunlop Sportmax Roadsmart 2 tyres at half price for the FJR so I’m taking it in to get a check up and these installed. The rainy season has just ended in Japan and it’s a steamy hot summer. Maybe get out for a few days ride on the big bike to see if I can decide what to do next. (follow up on those tyres – they lasted just 5000km – very poor life)

Update: I did a 3 day tour of backroad riding Japan looking for ADV type roads but the few that existed were closed. Every road was sealed, abandoned roads were impossible to access with locked gates or land slips. I know a chap that uses a Honda Cub with off road tyres to explore abandoned places and he can get around gates on old mountain passes but the range is limited. Whilst I want to see the remote spots it does not make sense to be riding a bike that suits only 2% of the country so I will keep thinking about this.

13 Comments

  1. The FJR is awesome. I had one from 2010 to 2014, but after an accident went to a VFR 1200. I am ready to get back to the FJR. It is such a great machine.

    • Yes it has been a good bike and so economic to own.
      I read about the service costs for guys with KTM’s, BMW’s and even worse here Ducati’s and I have not spent in five years what they spend every year.
      At the moment no idea how I can keep the long distance comfort I need to escape Tokyo then have something lighter for the narrow back roads. It doesn’t exist in any one bike.

  2. I always liked that the FJ had sport bike styling but with a riding position that was manageable for longer trips. I rode a CBR600 in college but a buddy of mine had one and let me give it a go one time. I was really impressed at how much more comfortable it was. I think that one was a 1988 model so I would love to try a newer model. Thanks for sharing!
    -Cheers!

  3. I took a long hard look at the FJR during the recent Progressive International Motorcycle Show in Dallas, Texas. It is not only a beautiful machine it has so many great features. My wife and I are hoping to make the purchase in the next 3 to 4 months.

    • I think it is a excellent bike and would suit North America very much. In Japan it is fabulous on the highway and wide roads but on the narrow one lane roads that make up much of the rural mountains it can be a little bit big and heavy at times. The $64,000 question (for those who remember that phrase ha-ha) is do I have a bike for those narrow roads or for the roads used to get to them and back home?

  4. 300 miles on a tank? Seriously? I can’t get a drop over 250 or 260. That’s riding conservatively. Well, my idea of conservative, anyway. I admit, I do run it pretty hard. I like to get on the throttle and triple digits are a sweet spot on this bike so I don’t expect to get more than 200 miles a tank. You must be in granny mode to get 400 miles. That engine wants to suck some fuel and air. Let it.
    Also, the Suzuki VStrom does not have a 17 inch front wheel. Its 19 inch.

    • Hi Nick,

      This is Japan not USA. You are assuming roads and conditions here are like where you live.

      There are very few roads in Japan to “open it up” as you suggested in your email to me. Besides a few boring city expressways they simply don’t exist. Speed limits are conservative and penalties for speeding harsh extending from loss of licence for life to jail time.

      Fortunately that is not a bother since I find myself in Japan at a stage of life past being concerned about acting macho and don’t feel a need to ride fast. On my annual trips to Northern Thailand I usually rent something more sporty and ride a little more spirited but merely since it’s a country with beautiful open flowing roads and no speed enforcement – not because I feel I have to.

      I am aware the Vstrom has a 19″ front. I toured New Zealand on a Vstrom. Decent bike but not what I am looking for.

  5. Gordon Banks

    My red 2014 FJR, bought new in March 2015, now has over 102,000 trouble-free miles on it, except for the little plastic insignia on the right pannier which fell off twice. In Granny Mode I can get 54 mpg, so a bit over 300 miles per tank. Normal for me is about 280 per tank. My favorite tire is the Michelin Pilot Road 4 (GT or not), but the newer Michelin Road 5 is awful. The latest Dunlops run well, but are too prone to punctures and flats. The FJR (Freakin Jet Rocket!) seems to be the perfect bike for me, even at age 74, I’m sad to hear that it’s finally being discontinued, but mine has been so reliable, I doubt I’d ever need a newer one anyway. Thanks, Yamaha.

    • Hi Gordon,

      My FJR now has 100,000 and 7 years old and mostly reliable still.

      I have an on going issue of the bike not wanting to idle and stalling when I arrive at lights. This was fixed in 2020 when the dealer cleaned the fuel injection but now a year later is starting to happen again. There isn’t much chance to open the throttle in Japan and I think that is part of the problem.

      My clutch switch recently failed also and I will have that looked at shortly.

      I’ve twice had Michelin Pilot tyres experience premature carcass failure. I won’t use them again. Currently using Dunlop Roadsmart 4 GT tyres.

  6. “5 year old FJR with 70,000 km is worth very little”? Maybe in Japan but not in the USA. Guessing that is a 2013 and at 8 years old would sell quick for $6,000.

    • Hi David

      My bike is now 7 years old and 100,000km and would be hard to get anything much for it but I don’t see anything on market I would change to at the moment.

      Not interested in ADV bikes anymore (just not enough places here to ride them off road) and bikes like MT09 Tracer with bikini screens lack weather protection. That leaves just the R1250RT or the redesigned Goldwing offering proper wind protection for touring and they are both very big bikes on the one lane back roads here.

  7. What year is your FJR? I know they made some changes over the years, so I’m curious.

    Also the CB500X now comes with bigger front wheels or you can get the Rally Raid kit.

    But if you want something small and narrow, get a Honda Trail 125.

    • Hi Joseph,

      My FJR is 2014 – specifications wise, same as the 2013 update.

      In the two years since I posted this I have mostly lost interest in ADV bikes (for Japan) as almost no unsealed roads here. Even the most remote forest roads are sealed and can be ridden with any model bike.

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