Norm Kern | Ohio
I enjoyed my ‘03 Honda ST1300 for 7 years and over 100k miles, but I wanted a bike that was lighter, with more air flow in hot weather, better suspension and cruise control. I rode most of the sport-touring and even some adventure bikes last fall. I was shocked that the clear winner of my comparison was an inline four, which has been my least favorite configuration over the years.
On January 30th, I took delivery of a 2014 Yamaha FJR 1300 ES motorcycle. I named him ‘Felix’ after Felix the Cat, a popular cartoon character from my youth. Felix the Cat had a round head, big eyes and a big smile. The front of the fairing on Felix the FJR has a similar round shape and the relatively large headlights look like eyes. One difference- the big smile is on the face of the rider rather than Felix himself!
So far this year (mid August) I’ve ridden over 15k miles on Felix. The FJR ES has the perfect combination of power, handling, and comfort for my riding style. My longest day so far was 780 mi. on the way to STAR 2014 in June. This bike is so comfortable I could have easily done more. LOVE the cruise control. The ES suspension can be adjusted on the fly for softer or firmer ride. Soft saves the day on a freeway full of expansion joints, but you can switch to hard damping in a couple of seconds when things get twisty. Everything is wellthought out on this bike and all the pieces work in harmony for a great riding experience.
I keep my bikes a long time and put a lot of miles on them, so I want comfort, convenience and reliability. Regardless how good a bike is out of the box (and this one IS good!), it needs modifications to make it fit and please the rider.
Making Felix Comfortable
The first consideration is comfort. I knew right away that the handlebars needed to come back, as I get pain in my arm if it is extended too far for too long. A German MV setback/riser plate put the bars exactly where I like them.
It was still winter when I got the bike and the windshield was much too short, so I installed a Yamaha Touring Windshield, which is about 4” taller than stock. I thought it was a bit too tall, but when my seat came back from Russell about 1-1/2” taller, the windshield was just right. I have a 30” inseam, but can still get both feet flat on the ground, so the seat is not too tall.
The extra seat height has the added benefit of decreasing the bend of my knees, making Felix my most comfortable bike ever. An unexpected bonus- Yamaha has done a great job on the Gen 3 FJR, keeping engine heat away from the rider. Even on a hot day, I barely notice it.
The final comfort item is V-Strom hand guards. These keep my hands warm and dry in bad weather so I can wear lighter gloves during most of the season. I designed the custom mounting hardware so they can be removed or installed in about a minute, using a 5mm allen wrench I keep in my tank bag.
Getting Luggage Under Control
I carry all raingear, gloves, heated gear etc. in the saddlebags, which I leave on the bike. I use a topcase strictly for clothing and stuff that I take into the hotel. At a rally, I leave the topcase in the room during day rides. I loved the Honda Pan-European 46L topcase from my ST1300 so I kept it when I sold the bike. There were two challenges to making it work on the new bike. First, one of the few weaknesses of the FJR is the rear frame section, which isn’t strong enough to support a heavy topcase. This was solved with a Gerauld ‘stiffy bracket’ made by a member of the FJR forum. It installs under the bodywork and solves the strength problem once and for all. The second problem was adapting the Honda mounting platform to the Yamaha luggage rack, which was done with a custom 3/8” aluminum plate. Finally, Tom Bartels (MSTA member) did a beautiful paint job to color-match the paint for the new bike.
The FJR saddlebags open on the side, which is both a blessing and a curse- it’s easy to get to stuff, but things fall out when you open the bag. I installed elastic nets in the lids that unhook easily. In the left bag, I installed a vertical panel in the main compartment that is about half the height of the bag. It’s made of thin aluminum sheet that is velcroed to the bottom of the bag so it bends out easily to access the contents. This enables me to carry many items but still get to them easily. The saddlebags each have a couple of exterior Bungee Buddy loops to attach bungee cords if I want to add a bag across the passenger seat.
I chose the SW-Motech EVO City tankbag which uses a lockring to mount on the tank. It’s narrow at the front so it clears my set-back handlebars and the bottom is curved to match the rear slope of the tank. The capacity of 11-15 liters is just right for what I want to carry.
Tip over Protection
My bikes always fall over sooner or later. I was spoiled by the ST1300 tip over wings and saw immediately that I needed to protect Felix. I installed front and rear Canyon Cages to protect the fairing and bags. The side stand pad on the FJR is pitiful, so I welded a larger steel plate to it. Even the Canyon Cages won’t always save a mirror if the bike falls over, so I made some custom frame sliders to add to the front Canyon Cages, based on an idea I saw on the FJR forum.
Yeah, it’s complicated, but I finally got everything I wanted and got it all to work together. The list is long: Garmin660 GPS/MP3 player, Spot tracker, Valentine One radar detector with audio to helmet, Samsung Galaxy S5 phone for Waze & weather radar apps, Sena 20s Bluetooth headset to hear everything and have intercom with friends.
Power for the gear is wired into the bike through a fused, relay operated circuit. To provide panel space, there is an electrical console on the right side of the fairing above the battery compartment. It has the cigarette lighter jack for the phone power adapter, a voltmeter, relay bypass switch and a coaxial jack for connecting a battery tender or charger. The Powerlet for running the Gerbing heated gear didn’t need much space so I was able to mount it on the battery cover panel.
Having Felix for two months while winter was raging outside, provided plenty of time to plan, fabricate and install all the goodies. I am thrilled with this bike every time I ride it!