The word "iconic" gets bandied about a lot, especially in the motorcycling world, though very few brands can make a strong historic or cultural claim to creating a truly iconic model.
A case can be made, however, for the Yamaha FJR1300 legitimately deserving icon status. When Yamaha first released it in Europe at the tail end of 2000, it was a unique offering and a game-changer. Here was, well, a big-ass speedbike that you could take on extended road trips, one that had enough storage (you could actually fit a change of clothes and shoes in the bags!) and just the right ergonomics to make the trip comfortable. Adding an ABS option to North American versions, and even putting out an automatic transmission-equipped model (the FJR1300AE) for a short spell added to the bike's cred.
The FJR1300 was the original high-tech "luxury" sport-tourer, and it took the rest of the motorcycle world a few years to provide any competition. Its standing as an icon wasn't hurt by the way serious long-distance riders continue to choose it as their preferred mount. In the 2013 Iron Butt Rally, five of the top six riders rode an FJR1300. In 2015, it was three of the top five.
Of course, these days the FJR1300 has lost a bit of its mystique, thanks in no small part to advances in the sport-touring segment by the competition. So for 2016, Yamaha is offering two new versions of the FJR1300: the FJR1300A and the FJR1300ES. Both have some new features that may make the bike an even better buy.
First, the engine and transmission. Both new versions of the FJR1300 are powered by a 1298 cc, liquid-cooled, inline four, of course. The big change here: The transmission adds a gear. The new six-speed transmission, according to Yamaha, presents slightly taller first and second gears and a slightly shorter fourth and fifth gears, with a tall sixth gear for highway riding. Also new: Both FJR1300 models will come equipped with Yamaha's assist and slipper clutch. Yamaha's ride-by-wire Chip Controlled Throttle and D-Mode adjustable engine mapping system give riders two throttle-response options, T-Mode (touring) and S-Mode (sport).
Both models will come standard with traction control, ABS, a linked braking system, and cruise control. Where the FJR1300ES differs is the suspension option. The "ES" refers to that model's electronically adjustable front and rear suspension. This utilizes four pre-load settings, three damping adjustments, and seven total fine-tuning damping adjustments. Yamaha claims that this will result in riders having some 84 different suspension variations.
The bike's lighting has been upgraded, as well. Both versions will feature full LED headlights, taillights and turn signals. The ES adds cornering headlights, a great feature for riding the twisties at night. As the bike's lean angle increases, up to three additional LED lights will illuminate in sequence, from inside to out, lighting corners that would otherwise be dark. The FJR1300ES will be the first Yamaha model to offer this feature.
According to Yamaha, these technological bells and whistles weren't merely added to impress motojournalists. A company survey showed that 96 percent of FJR riders viewed having their bikes equipped with the latest technology as extremely important. And despite all of the buzz surrounding small and mid-size bikes lately, Yamaha sees the sport-touring segment as a vital part of their business. Yamaha's surveys also revealed an increase of sport-tourer riders who actually use their bikes for what they were made to do, with 21 percent of owners saying they take their bikes on long touring or overnight trips, while 25 percent use theirs for all-day rides. These percentages have increased over the past three years while the number of FJR riders who use their bikes for short trips or commuting has dropped by a few percentage points.
One thing FJR riders apparently don't care about, or perhaps Yamaha simply didn’t bother to ask: color options. The 2016 FJR1300 models will only come in one color, "cobalt blue." Both bikes are scheduled to arrive in dealerships in March of 2016. MSRPs will be announced in February.