Sport Rider readers know we’ve been enamored with Yamaha’s FZ-09. Offering up a combination of seriously fun performance at an unbeatable price, it’s no wonder the FZ-09 has been Yamaha’s best-selling bike since its inception—this despite a few warts like flaccid damping and soft spring rates in the suspension, overly abrupt throttle response, and a seat that begins to do a good imitation of an upholstered plank after about 30 minutes in the saddle.
Speaking of selling, Yamaha also knows that the sport-touring category is one motorcycle market segment that has continued to grow, even during the economic meltdown that literally killed off other classes. Seems that a lot more riders want some long-distance ability in their bikes these days. And with the FZ-09’s versatile engine, it doesn’t take much to imagine the triple in a pseudo-adventure-tour role with more upright ergos and comfier seat, a small windscreen, bigger fuel tank, some saddlebags, and other touring accoutrements.
It turns out that Yamaha was already thinking along those same lines, as barely a year after the debut of the FZ-09 the company has released the new FJ-09. Using the same basic engine and frame/swingarm as its FZ sibling, the FJ features numerous design changes aimed at molding the bike into a middleweight sport-tourer. Ironically enough, in the process Yamaha ended up with a much better bike than its originating platform.
So you can imagine our enthusiasm when we finally got the opportunity to spend a day with the new FJ-09 during mixed weather in Central California.
The FZ-09’s fairing shows definite FZ1 influence, though the FZ-09 sports an all-LED headlight assembly, with both trim lighting and the main low/high beams all using LED lamps. Aerodynamic-looking hand guards not only look like they protect your digits in a fall, but they also do a good job of keeping the windchill off your hands and fingers in colder climes. Our FJ-09 was equipped with Yamaha’s accessory hard bags, which retail for $399.99 each. Seats for rider and passenger are much more comfy, and the rider seat can be adjusted for height.
Versatility And Adjustability
The same 847cc crossplane-crank triple-cylinder engine from the FZ is slotted into the FJ, so that same superb torque curve and revviness stays intact. The YCC-T ride-by-wire throttle system offers up three riding modes just like the FZ (A, Standard, and B), but thankfully Yamaha saw fit to alter the mapping to settings “best suited to sport-touring riding.” Unlike the FZ, however, is the addition of traction control and ABS to the FJ’s list of electronic rider aids; the TC system has only one setting, and it can be turned off via a button on the twin-LCD instrument panel (which appears to be lifted from the Super Ténéré adventure-tourer). The ABS cannot be turned off.
The Controlled-Fill Die Casting aluminum frame and swingarm are also basically identical to the FZ, with the exception of the bolt-on rear subframe extending another 131mm with a beefier construction in order to handle the added weight of a passenger and luggage. There are a ton of Genuine Yamaha accessories available for the FJ, including the pair of 22-liter-capacity hard bags and heated grips that were fitted to our bike, so it’s a good bet Yamaha engineers foresaw FJ owners loading up their bikes like pack mules for the long haul.
Some are surely wondering why Yamaha didn’t just make the hard bags standard equipment on the FJ-09. First, there’s the aspect of cost: The accessory luggage retails for $800 for the pair, plus $93.99 for the bottom mounts, which would drive up the bike’s price. But more importantly, Yamaha figures that there are plenty of riders who are interested in the FJ-09 but already have soft luggage or other accessories; this way they aren’t forced to swallow the extra cost for the hard luggage if they don’t want it.
Yamaha reps stated that the changes to the suspension compared to the FZ were intended to “calm the ride down for the added weight of sport-touring,” but it could just as easily be said that the FZ needed those changes regardless. For example, the Yamaha reps stated that the FJ’s fork has 2.5 times more rebound damping and 1.5 times more compression damping than the FZ unit, while the rear shock has twice as much rebound damping and 2.5 times as much compression damping. Yet despite the FJ’s additional 48 pounds, there were no changes to rear shock spring rate, while the fork gets progressive-rate springs. The adjustability remains the same, with both the KYB fork and shock offering rebound and spring-preload adjustability. Like the FZ, only the right fork leg has rebound adjustment.
Ergonomics were opened up compared to the FZ, with the tubular handlebar sitting 20mm higher and 17mm closer and the seat height raised 1.2 inches for more legroom. There’s also a lot of adjustability built in to the bike: The handlebars can be moved 10mm away from the rider by reversing the handlebar riser clamps on the top triple clamp, and the seat height can be raised 15mm by moving the rubber bumpers on its underside. This gives taller riders more opportunity for tailoring the ergos to fit their size.
That adjustability also carries over to the small windscreen attached to the twin-LED-headlight-equipped quarter fairing. The windscreen can be moved to three positions within a 30mm range without requiring tools. Wind protection also extends to the hand guards, which are stout bar-end off-road-style units that look more like accessories for the Super Ténéré with aerodynamic pieces added. And the fuel tank capacity has been increased from the FZ’s 3.7 gallons to a rangier 4.8 gallons.
Three Times The Fun
While the FJ-09’s listed 33.3-inch seat height sounds tall, it actually isn’t that high, as the seat’s narrower front section provides a straighter shot to the ground for your legs, and the suspension’s generous sag (this isn’t a supersport bike, remember) drops it even farther. Even with the seat switched to the tall setting, the reach to the ground didn’t require my 31-inch inseam to sidesaddle at a stop like some supermoto bikes I’ve ridden.
The roomier ergos are immediately noticeable, with a lot more space for fore/aft movement on the seat and the higher handlebar putting your torso in a more relaxed position compared to the FZ-09. The FJ’s seat is a veritable sofa compared to the FZ’s saddle, and we put in hour-long stints without our derrières crying for mercy. I found the windscreen to do a very good job of wind protection considering its size, with the tallest position keeping airflow off most of my upper torso on my 5-foot-8 frame. Also doing a good job of wind protection were the aero-looking hand guards; on colder days, the tops of my fingers weren’t feeling the chill like normal.
From the first twist of the throttle, it’s pretty obvious that this is what the FZ-09 should have felt like from the beginning, even with the FJ’s traction control dulling the fun a bit if you’re leaned over and you get a little too happy with your right wrist. The FZ’s abrupt throttle response is gone, replaced on the FJ by a nice and smooth reaction to your right wrist in the Standard mode, yet the engine remains crisp and responsive. Turn the TC off, and the FJ becomes a supremely fun wheelie monster despite the extra 48 pounds it carries compared to the FZ. It’s still a little abrupt in A mode, which feels like the original Standard mode on the FZ; if you keep it above 6,000 rpm, the throttle response is smoother, but then you feel like you’re playing boy racer on a sport-touring bike.
Your first corner entry at speed will also make you wish the FZ had these suspension settings from the start. Instead of wallowing and coming unwound at the slightest bump or steering input, the FJ remains far more poised throughout the corner. There’s much less front-end dive on the brakes, and weight transfer during aggressive throttle/braking maneuvers is much more controlled as the pace picks up. No, the suspension certainly isn’t perfect; but for the FJ-09’s intended performance envelope, the suspension does a much better job of keeping the chassis from tying itself into knots.
Steering response feels a little quicker with the FJ-09 compared to its FZ brother despite the added weight, which we’d attribute to the OEM-specific Dunlop Sportmax D222 Roadsmart II rubber and the higher and wider handlebar offering more leverage. Midcorner line changes are easier, yet there’s plenty of stability when railing through faster corners riddled with bumps or elevation changes. Even with the FJ-09’s good legroom, there’s a decent amount of ground clearance, with hard parts like the centerstand only becoming a hindrance during really aggressive cornering that would be better suited to a supersport bike.
Braking power is more than adequate from the four-piston ADVICS calipers and 298mm discs up front and single-piston Nissin caliper/245mm disc combination out back, but feel is lacking a bit even before the ABS intervenes. Once the ABS does activate, its cycling is a tad coarse but gets the job done.
Yamaha claims the FJ-09 gets 44 mpg, and we found that was a pretty close estimate as long as you’re not having too much fun playing with the Yamaha’s power. We put 180 miles in one stint and hadn’t even hit reserve yet, meaning a good 200 miles is certainly within reach on the FJ-09. And the larger fuel tank was by no means noticeable in the saddle; the bike’s midsection feels just as narrow as the FZ-09.
Sign Us Up!
An MSRP of $10,490 makes the Yamaha FJ-09 a genuine steal and follows right in the footsteps of its FZ-09 sibling for motorcycling bang for the buck. Its performance is well above most other competition with similar displacement, and none can match its sticker price. For both the experienced rider looking for a light, agile middleweight that can take them long distances in comfort, and the intermediate rider looking for an introductory mount into the world of sport-touring, the Yamaha FJ-09 is hard to beat.
Specifications - 2015 Yamaha FJ-09
Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC inline-triple, 4 valves/cyl.
Bore x stroke: 78.0 x 59.1mm
Compression ratio: 11.5:1
Induction: Denso EFI w/ YCC-T, 41mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax D222F Roadsmart II
Rear tire: 180/55ZR-17 Dunlop Sportmax D222 Roadsmart II
Rake/trail: 24°/3.9 in. (100mm)
Wheelbase: 56.7 in. (1440mm)
Seat height: 33.3–33.9 in. (adjustable)
Fuel capacity: 4.8 gal. (18L)
Claimed curb weight: 462 lb. (210kg)