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.
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.