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Uncle Stan's Bike of the Week - Yamaha FJR1300 AS 2007

Posted on 1st Apr 2011 @ 4:31 PM

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This type of transmission is the way of the future with almost every racecar, supercar, and even family sedan offering a clutchless pushbutton manual. Its easy to use, and actually adds to the fun of riding the bike. But don’t just take my word for it, read an individual test on the FJR1300AS.

Independent review.

Yamaha's long-running FJR1300 sports-tourer has been revised for 2007 with new clothes, some intriguing chassis changes and, an optional semi-automatic transmission. The new fairing allows a 40mm greater range of adjustment on the power-operated screen that now moves through 135mm vertically and 49.7mm fore and aft. A new mid-cowl on either side is adjustable over a range of 30mm to micro-manage the climate around the rider's and pillion's legs and a new central sub-screen duct channels cool air into the riding space to reduce wind pressure on the rider's body

The new, larger headlights are individually adjustable from inside the fairing and there's a 12-volt socket inside the glove compartment on the left of the fairing – which also now locks when you switch of the ignition. Heatable grips are now standard and the handlebars are adjustable – although you need tools to do it – while the saddle can be mounted in a choice of two positions 20mm apart. The footpegs have also been moved 20mm down and 40mm forward for a more relaxed ride. The panniers are new too; for 2007 their mountings have been moved closer to the centreline of the bike so although they're actually bigger than the old ones, the bike is 50mm narrower than the previous model with cases in place.

The 1298cc, 105kW engine and five-speed, shaft-drive transmission are unchanged but the swing-arm has been extended by 40mm to throw more weight on the front wheel  Anti-lock brakes, also previously an option, are now standard, as a is form of linked brakes Yamaha has called the unified braking system (UBS). In this set-up the footbrake pedal operates the rear brake and the lower two pistons on the right-side front calliper while the handlebar lever is responsible for the upper two pistons on the right and all four on the left. 
The net effect is that sports riders who do most of their braking with the front brakes won't feel the difference in the dry but riders at all levels will notice that the bike is steadier when using both brakes on wet tar.

The first thing you notice about the new FJR1300AS is the clutch lever – it's not there; instead, an electronic clutch takes up automatically as you roll on the throttle. This is not a scooter-style CVT transmission, however, it has a gearbox with a foot-lever. Unlike the standard system, neutral is at the bottom, which takes a little getting used to – but even if you get it wrong the worst that's likely to happen is that you try to pull away in neutral, which is embarrassing but hardly life-threatening. You simply start the bike (remember to hold on to the front brake, there's a cut-out switch) change up into first and accelerate away.

You can change gears either by the usual foot lever or by a pair of buttons on the left handlebar – one in front to change up, one next to the hooter for down – similar to the paddle-shift system on many modern performance.  Either input will send a message to two small electric motors that operate the clutch and gear lever on your behalf.

The FJR has always covered the full range of sport-touring demands. For 2006, Yamaha has made some improvements to the standard FJR1300A but the new model isn't radically different. The big changes come with the new FJR1300AS, which features speed-sensitive heated grips and an automatic clutch and electronic shifting.

Some might find it amazing that Yamaha's biggest, baddest supersport-tourer would borrow a feature from the company's tiniest bike, but that's what it did. Although the technical guts are waaaaay different, the clutch on the AE model works a bit like the clutch on a PW50. There's no lever on the left grip to worry about. You twist, you go. If a 4-year-old can get it, you can.

However, don't think easy-to-operate means simple. The system running the FJR auto-clutch is probably smarter than that 4-year old on the PW50—and definitely less temperamental. Indeed, the automatic clutch is only one half of something Yamaha terms the Yamaha Chip Controlled Shift, or YCC-S. The other half—the electronic shifting—is a more radical break from how we're used to operating motorcycles.

The most visible change to the bike is the push-button shift mechanism on the left handlebar. On the front of the grip, where you'd normally find the high-beam flasher, is the upshift button. On the back-side of the grip, just below the horn, is the down-shift button. Both the upshift and downshift buttons are part of the same piece of plastic that levers inside the control housing.

Although the button-shift feature draws the most attention, it's only one way to change gears on the AS. The bike still comes equipped with a foot shifter that can alternately be used to actuate the system.

Regardless of how it's triggered, the shifting and clutch are both managed by a sophisticated computer that operates the clutch in tandem with rider input (throttle, gear selection) and terrain (tight uphill twisties or long sweepers). What that means is, if it needs to slip, it'll slip.

But "controlled" does not mean "automatic." The rider still determines what the motorcycle does and when it does it. The YCC-S is still a manual transmission—although one that changes gears with an instantaneous click instead of a delayed clunk. But it's a manual transmission that you can operate with a finger instead of a toe.

Still, it's a lot to digest, and hard for some riders to accept, particularly when they rely on shifting reflexes honed over decades of riding. Trust me, though. After a few miles (and probably a couple of beeps of the horn when you really meant to downshift instead), you'll be a pro.

The other unique feature of the AS model is the heated grips. The rider chooses a setting between LO and HI on the rotary dial on the fairing and the grips adjust with the speed of the bike. Go faster, grips get warmer. Stop at a light, they cool off.

Yamaha also made some tweaks to the basic FJR package beyond the automatic clutch and electronic shifting and the heated grips on the AS.

Styling-wise, the FJR has always been a looker. It gets even sleeker this year, with larger but more shapely mirrors and new lights, both front and back. Carried over are the detachable hard bags that are big enough to carry a full-face helmet, yet take nothing away from the rocket-ship looks.

Not that you'll be overly concerned with appearances after you swing a leg over the FJR. There's nothing like a bottomless pit of silky-smooth power and a day's worth of winding pavement on your schedule to take your mind off how you'll look on the boulevard.

The route that Yamaha planned for the FJR intro included ample time on both highway stretches and mountain roads. It was a great course for getting a feel for both versions of the FJR, which proved to be an exceedingly comfortable motorcycle for munching away the miles, regardless of the distance between curves.

No, the FJR is not as nimble as a 600cc sportsbike. It's more at home in sweeping curves than tight switchbacks. But it is certainly one of the best handling motorcycles you can buy that can also comfortably carry a passenger and a weekend's worth of gear. The FJR is wonderfully stable on the freeway but still fun on the two-lanes.