For decades I've been well-disposed to Yamaha. Lots of friends rode the fantastic DT series bikes, retrofitted for motocross action, back in the '70s. When I lived in Japan I owned an SRX250 that I liked so much that I bought the SRX400 thumper when I returned to the States.
So I was already programmed to like the company's new FJR1300A.
I felt even better about it after a few days in the saddle. This is a comfortable, quiet, all-day ride, as easy on the body as it is on the eyes.
It's got a soft clutch, and a super-smooth five-speed gearbox, and a power band that feels seamless and very wide -- a combination of strong pull at the low end and low vibration at the top end, in part because the thrust of the inline 4-cylinder engine is transmitted by a shaft drive.
So it goes fast, and accelerates hard, but it also stops beautifully, thanks to standard ABS and big disc brakes (280mm in the rear, and twin 320mm in the front).
It's surprisingly nimble for its 637-pound fueled weight, and surprisingly not top heavy for a bike with a 6.6-gallon gas tank. Solid and stable on the freeway, it's also sporty in the canyons and supple around city streets.
Standard features include an adjustable seat, traction control and cruise control, a pair of riding mode options, a 12-volt plug-in for charging a cellphone or other electronic device, and heated grips that seem like an unnecessary luxury until your hands are cold, at which point they become a very welcome luxury.
Also standard are removable hard side bags, capacious enough to include my Shoei full-face helmet, and a center stand -- a relative rarity on sport touring bikes. The side bags even come with smart-looking canvas carrying bags, though I found that carrying these soft bags inside the hard bags made the luggage area overcrowded, and I had difficulty closing the side bags without getting the soft bag straps caught in the latches.
The FJR1300A also features the single best windscreen I've experienced in a year of testing dozens of motorcycles. At its lowest adjustment, it allows for a certain amount of breeze around the head and shoulders. At its highest adjustment, it creates an almost completely windless pocket -- and yet even at that height it's still low enough to see over.
I'm told the 2014 units, which will be in showrooms soon, differ from the 2013s only in available colors and a new electronically-adjustable rear suspension feature.
Economically-minded bike buyers might want to look elsewhere. At $15,890, this is an expensive Yamaha. And at only 36 mpg, you won't save enough on fuel to justify making the purchase.
But the sport touring customer who's looking at this elegant road runner probably won't be put off by these minor details. Instead, that customer will already be on the road, enjoying a delightful ride.