AUTOS

First Ride: Yamaha FJ-09, asphalt Adventure bike

Yamaha FJ-09 is a great starter bike for a newbie adventure rider

The "Adventure" and "Sport Touring" motorcycle segments are said to be the fastest-growing niches in the industry.

Suddenly, every OEM is trying to horn in on the action traditionally dominated by BMW's GS and KTM's Adventure machines.

Already on the road are Yamaha's Super Tenere, Suzuki's V-Strom, Kawasaki's KLR650 and Versys, Triumph's Tiger and Ducati's Multistrada -- each a little different, each taking a bite out of sales once reserved for BMW and KTM.

Even Honda, which has been ignoring the Adventure boom, has announced it will start selling an "Africa Twin" 1000cc version of its venerable XR650L dual sport.

Enter the Yamaha FJ-09, one of the most refined and affordable new bikes in the category. Yamaha calls it a "Supersport Touring" bike. I think it ought to belong to a new class entirely: the "Asphalt Adventure" category, one reserved for dual-sport-style bikes that will probably never see the dirt -- and never should.

Built on the FZ-09 platform that has already won hearts and minds as a naked street bike, the FJ-09 sits a little taller and has wider handlebars for a combined rider position that is extremely comfortable for long-distance riding.

It shares with the FZ-09 a quick-revving, 847cc, liquid-cooled, three-cylinder engine, paired with a six-speed transmission with tall higher gears that make for easy freeway riding.

The FJ-09 comes standard with ABS and traction control -- both of which can be switched off when they're not wanted. It also comes with a centerstand, a must-have option for any self-respecting adventure bike.

Heated grips are an available option, as are the easy-on, easy-off side bags, which I found useful and easy to operate.

Also standard, and most welcome, are an adjustable windscreen, adjustable riding position, and handguards. The wheels wear Dunlop Sportmax D222 Roadsmart II radials.

The gas tank holds almost 5 gallons of gas. With the FJ-09's estimated 40-plus miles per gallon, that gives the bike a good touring range.

The FJ-09 handles light and lively. It's not as flickable or nimble as, say, a Ducati Hyperstrada, but it's breezier (and would pose a flatter learning curve) than a bigger but stodgier BMW GS or KTM Adventure.

And it's cheaper. The FJ-09 starts at $10,490 -- adding the saddlebags would run an additional $900 or so -- which is an extremely attractive number for a machine that, out of the box, can open the open road for an asphalt adventure rider.

Twitter: @misterfleming

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