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Yamaha FJR1300

Diagnosis: MBS (Multiple Bike Syndrome)

Chances are pretty slim you’ll find any articles about Multiple Bike Syndrome in the AMA magazine.

That’s the Journal of the American Medical Association, by the way!

But there’s another AMA journal where you can read about MBS: the one that’s published by the American Motorcycle Association.

Some of us are more susceptible to this potentially serious disease than others.  Many are able to avoid the symptoms by suppressing the symptoms and sticking to just one bike at a time.

Other sufferers have a lower resistance and are infected only mildly and find that simply having a second ride can help to ease the infection.  Of course, there are the terminally ill types who have lost all resistance and who find themselves with 2, 4, 6 or more bikes.

Like the guy we bought the ’98 Triumph Tiger from, who had 30+ motorcycles sitting in a purpose-built Butler building.  But that’s another story…

Here are some of the MBS warning signs that you (or your significant other) should be aware of:  1) You go to a motorcycle dealer you find yourself looking at other bikes on display with keen interest, even though you’ve got a fully competent ride; 2) You find yourself taking motorcycles out on test rides even though you have no plans to buy one; 3) You find yourself browsing through sites like Cycle Trader during your lunch break, hoping to find that “special deal”.

Note that this disease can strike anywhere and any time without warning.  You may even find yourself checking the balance in your savings account balances to see if sufficient funds exist.  If this happens, you may not be aware that you have already been infected with the MBS virus.

I don’t consider it so much an ailment as much as an addiction.  I have to confess, I’m an addict, but only moderately so.  Of course, there are far worse things to be addicted to than owning and riding motorcycles…right?

Since my return to riding six years and 150,000 miles ago I’ve had only 3 bikes, all BMW’s.  But the mainstay has been my 1999 K1200LT (aka the “Starship Enterprise”) which I bought used in ’01 with 5,000 miles.

It now has over 131,000 miles and still pulls like a freight train, but throwing nearly 900 lbs around on a daily basis can get cumbersome, to say the least.  The signs and symptoms of MBS started to rear its head again this summer for something lighter and sportier.  I suspect taking the California Superbike School had a lot to do with this recent outbreak (take a look at my review and perhaps you’ll understand why!).

I originally though I’d like to set up a track day bike, but after considering how often I would really be able to use it, I shifted towards the practical, for something I could mostly use on a daily basis and thus have a higher use/enjoyment factor.  That’s not to say I have thrown out the idea of a track-day bike.  It’ll just have to wait.

So, what style, make, model to buy?  Do I want to go new or used?  I just can’t envision myself on a cruiser.  It’s just not my style. Nor can I honestly see me doing any off-roading, and I really do like the look of sport bikes.

Should I go with a full sport bike that would require me to visit a chiropractor if I ride it for more than 90 minutes?  Or something with a more relaxed riding position for this 50-something-year-old body?  Something that I could perhaps take to the track on an occasional club track-day?  There was also a need to carry a few things like my lunch bag and rain gear and other assorted necessities of modern life, so some type of detachable luggage would be convenient.

After much consideration and visiting the showrooms to sit on the various models, I had it narrowed down to one of two bikes, the 2006 Yamaha FJR1300 ABS and the 2006 Ducati ST3 ABS.

Notice there’s no BMW in there.  I’d have to lay out $20,000 (before tax, title & tags) to get what I was looking for from the Germans.  I’m also not impressed with their new braking system.  Besides, my wife suggested getting something different, and you know how important that kind of support can be!

A phone call to my insurance agent revealed that, as a second bike, the Ducati and FJR were within $30 of each other and the overall cost wouldn’t be too painful (I highly recommend contacting your insurance agent before you buy anything.  You’ll be amazed at how much one model can cost over another as certain models have a reputation that drives up their ratings and in turn their cost of insuring, as Rick found out with the GT1000!).

Also, be sure to shop around.  Rates can vary from one carrier to the next by the hundreds, even thousands of dollars.

I’ve been reading the reviews on the Yamaha FJR1300 since the bike first appeared in the U.S.A.  It had everything I’d come to favor on a bike, such as a power windscreen, ample cargo storage, ABS brakes, shaft drive, beautiful lines, fully adjustable suspension, not to mention plenty of power.  I had often thought this might be a bike that I’d like to own.

But there was this “heat issue” that so many riders and reviewers mentioned that made me cautious.  The LT is a hot enough ride in warm weather due to its large windshield and faring and I didn’t want another “hot” ride.

Of course, should I want to buy a new FJR1300, the fact that I would have to put down $500 and then wait several months before it’s arrival was also a put off (are you listening Yamaha?).  I’m the type where if I have too much time to think about it, I just might talk myself out of it.  That’s not to say I’m an impulse buyer, either.  Just somewhere in between…

Then there’s the Ducati ST3 ABS.  Just the name Ducati evokes images of fast, superb handling, handcrafted motorcycles and beautiful Italian women.  Both have tremendous sex appeal, but are also high maintenance.  Still, they look so good even sitting stationary!

I contacted a different dealer for each brand and was frank about being able to pay for it, but unsure of which model to buy.  Now, you would think they would practice their best sales tactics on me to try and sway me to their particular brand, but, surprisingly, that was not the case.

The dealers had neither model in stock, but they took my name and number and promised to get back to me ASAP.

Guess what?  Neither dealer ever called me back, even after 3 long weeks!  Needless to say they didn’t, and won’t, get my business.

Since I was anticipating putting 10,000 to 15,000 miles per year on this bike I wanted something I would spend more time riding than repairing or servicing.  For the Ducati, the frequent valve adjustment intervals (Editor’s Note: They’re now up to 7,500 miles, which isn’t too bad), fixed windscreen and the limited number of dealers (compared to Yamaha) throughout the country tilted the scales towards the Yamaha.

Thus, I reasoned, the FJR was the better choice for me.  So, having read all the latest reviews on the ’06 FJR and how the heat issues seem to have been resolved, I figured this was the time to pull the trigger.

On a fluke I called a dealer I use for occasional parts for the BMW K1200LT, Battley Cycles in Gaithersburg, Maryland (coincidentally the same dealer where Rick purchased the GT1000).

Bernie, the sales manager (who also coincidentally sold Rick a BMW K75 some time ago) answered the phone and after explaining my quandary he informed me that he just happened to have an ST3 ABS and a Yamaha FJR1300 ABS sitting right there on the showroom floor!

He even had one of the new electric shift FJRs available.  “I’ll be there Saturday” was my immediate response.  While I had him on the phone, I inquired about the chances of taking either on a test ride, figuring the answer would be a quick NO.

I suspect the reason I ended up on BMWs awhile back was because BMW dealers let you take ANY model out for a test ride, convinced that if you ride one, you’re going to buy one (which worked by the way).

But this is not the case with most of the other dealers.  This is a REAL bone of contention with me.  I understand their reasons, but at the same time I’m not about to lay out that much money for something I’ve only SAT ON!

Much to my surprise and delight Bernie said a test ride would be possible.  Things were looking up!

Now, the doubts started to appear in the back of my mind.  It’s called “buyer’s remorse”, and this must be the body’s natural defenses to the MBS virus.  Remember, I told you that if I had too much time that I may change my mind?

The doubts started ringing in my head.  Did I REALLY want or need a second motorcycle?  Is this a practical thing to do?  Thankfully, the three days passed quickly and so did the doubts.

Upon entering the showroom I had to take one last long look at the Ducati (Geez, that bike is beautiful!) before moving across the showroom floor to the FJR.  After looking the bike over I again broached the subject of a road test.  In the time it took me to get all my gear on (which is kind of funny since Battley Cycles deals primarily in Harley Davidson and many of those riders ride up in shorts and tee shirts while I never ride without full protective gear) he rolled it off the showroom floor and out to the parking lot.

We went over the usual instructions, controls, etc. and he suggested a route that would take about 10-15 minutes.  Yeah, right!  I had to get it up to a little bit of speed to evaluate the wind protection, noise level, handling and what not, right?  Well, I didn’t think I was out that long, but it was 35 minutes later when I rolled back onto the lot.

Bernie was not happy with me.  He looked that bike over VERY closely and even noted that the tires were scuffed farther up the sidewalls than before.  OOPS.  I knew the tires were new so I had refrained from pushing it in the turns.

In the end, I signed for the bike, left a deposit and made arrangements to take delivery of it the following week with my appointed sales representative, Andy Ratner (again coincidentally the same sales person who sold Rick the GT1000!).  Andy did a fine job of keeping me notified of any changes and any insurance papers I would need to bring along at delivery.

The week passed pretty quickly, despite the wait, and then it was finally Saturday.  My wife drove me there and then nearly drove off with my gear in the car.  After going through the usual settlement procedures it was out to the lot for a go over of the bike itself.

Yamaha FJR1300
Chris (left) and Andy.  Andy, it’s time to give me the keys!

There it was, all shined up, absolutely beautiful and looking ready to take me anywhere I pointed it.  I appeared to be listening to Andy’s instructions, but I don’t think I really was.  Mentally it was: “Come on! Let’s get this done so I can ride this baby out of here!  I can read the owner’s manual at night, dude.”

Finally we were finished and after they topped off the tank he handed me the keys.  With my gear on, I thumbed the starter button and that 1300cc motor sprang to life with that low throaty sound which spoke to me, come on, let’s GO!

The ride home was both fun and frustrating.  After 131,000 miles on the LT it seems my hands had been programmed for the clutch and throttle action on the LT and the FJR was totally different, so I wasn’t very smooth with the shifting.  Having ridden nothing but BMWs I also had to get used to the single turn signal switch most of the rest of the world uses.  The right thumb felt left out.  No big thing, just some personal retraining.

Yamaha FJR1300 - Rear View

I’ve now put over 1,000 miles on the FJR in under 2 weeks, and even though I’m not finished with the engine break-in, I have some observations.

This baby has all of the power I need for the street and it’s not fully broken in yet.  It’ll get you to triple digit speeds in no time if you’re not paying attention and it doesn’t feel like you’re going that fast at all.

And when it’s time to haul that thing to a stop, just two fingers on the front brake lever will do the trick.  Use all four and you’ll feel the ABS kick in too!  The rear brake seems to have just the right amount of stopping power.  I’m getting 40+ mpg combined highway and back roads on regular fuel, which beats using premium.

The wind protection is adequate yet there’s still enough air flow over the body to keep comfortable on a hot day, although a windscreen at least 3” taller may be on the list of add-ons since I’m 6’3” tall.

You only need to look at a turn and the bike’s there.  The finish is flawless and that blue is stunning in the sunlight.  I’ve gotten nothing but praise for the looks.  The headlights are great!  BMW could take a lesson in how to make headlights that actually illuminate the whole roadway from Yamaha.  Adding more lighting is not a priority on the FJR like it has been on every BMW I’ve ever owned.

So here’s the conclusion:  I’m tickled pink (or in this case, cobalt blue) with this new ride.  Leave the bags on and it looks like a touring machine, take them off and it looks ready for the track.  It’s not an out and out sportbike and can’t hang with some of them, but it’s no slouch and I bet I can ride this baby all day.

I hope to prove that next month with a run up to Vermont (via the scenic route) for a mini family reunion.
Oddly enough, I’m not looking at other bikes with keen interest as before (yet).  I guess the FJR has sent the virus into remission.  Other than being a bit costly (like healthcare isn’t?) this disease may prove to be worth “catching”.

Be sure to check in here at webBikeWorld as I report back on the improvements that will make this my “Ultimate Sport Tourer”!

Got a comment or story related to the FJR1300?  Send it to 


From “J.B.R.”:  “The story I have to tell is backwards of yours.  I have successfully put 11,400 miles on my 2005 FJR 1300 ABS in eleven months.  I then decided to purchase a 2006 K1200LT as most of my miles ended up touring.  The FJR is now in the BMW dealership in Tulsa OK on consignment.  I miss playing on the commute to work and riding the twisties as I live in Arkansas on the FJR.

I don’t miss the sore butt after an eight hour ride.  I own (me and the bank) four motorcycles: the 05 FJR, 04 Honda Shadow Sabre 1100, Yamaha 250 Virago (trainer) and the KLT.  I am a MSF Rider Coach and Master Scuba Instructor which tend to take up my leisure weekends.  When I ride I ride a lot.

History lesson over I’ll tell you the road you are now traveling will be wonderful.  Two up riding on the FJR is no problem I have the Yamaha trunk on mine.  The Yamaha windshield option (larger) is one I purchased also but in the summer its way too hot to use.  I am 5’8” tall so I need all the cooling I can get.  The 06 is much cooler in the heat as well due to air flow updates and a new radiator.  My friend has one and we rode to Sturgis and Wyoming to the rally in August he stayed much cooler in slow stop and stop some more Sturgis traffic.

I was unfortunate to get caught at red traffic light at the intersection leading to the interstate from Gillette Wyoming to Sturgis and had to press the speed a little to catch the group of other motorcyclists riding with me.  Needless to say in no time I caught up with them and looked down and was traveling between 150 and 160 on the speedometer.  I applied some brake and took my place at the tail of the group.  The bike had more in it and the speed wasn’t even felt until the vision of the speedometer registered in my head.  Bottom line you did real good.”

From “C.C.”:  “In addition to MBS, Harley riders have OCD – Obsessive Chrome Disorder.  One disease just multiplies the effects of the other!”

From “L.H.”:  “Congrats on the new FJR1300.  I own a ’03…..THE best bike I’ve ever owned or rode.  Nice article; thanks for the good press.  If you have not joined already, please check out the FJR forum…. . There, you will find out more information regarding the FJR than you could possibly ever imagine existed. Ride safe.”

From “L”:  “It was interesting to put a name behind the sickness that afflicts guys who need or want more toys.  However I think you found the cure with the FJR if it fits, feels and rides the way you have been searching for in the other bikes.  Its true that we always want a bike that’s faster, more comfortable, looks better, more MPG, or what ever your criteria may be.

I’ve found after putting more than 18,000 miles on my 05 FJR in 8 months, that each time I ride it I just have more fun.  More power?  Still can’t tap this baby out, it has way too much for me to handle yet, and as you noted it turns like a race horse.  Once you get over the shock of how you obtained the bike in the first place, sleepless nights planning your next destinations, you’ll be into the next level of “farkling” your bike.  Meaning, how do I become a “motorhome god” by stuffing every conceivable electronic device, option and after market accessory on this thing?  Welcome to my world!”

From “B.N.”  “I agree that my 06 is one of the best bikes I have ever owned.  I just got back from a trip to New York and back from San Diego, and have a couple of comments.

There is a large community of owners on the web.  Check out the FJR Forum and FJR1300 Info for lots of information on modifications and improvements to the bike.

The throttle return spring is way too strong.  It is painful to hold it open for more than a couple of hours.  A Throttle Rocker or similar device helps a lot.  Some owners have modified the return spring to lessen the resistance.

Most bikes come from the dealer with too much free play in the throttle.  Adjusting this helps a lot with low speed throttle control.  Also, there are a couple of modifications to help off-idle response which tends to be a little abrupt on many bikes.  Details can be found on the above web sites.

Other than these small items, the bike is pretty much perfect out of the box.”

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