2021 Yamaha FJR1300ES

Back into the two-wheeled life again.

While writing up these sections on motorcycles I reflected on how much fun I'd had having a bike and, especially, the long road trips I'd taken. I had stopped riding when my bike had broken down and I'd gotten busy with other things in life like kids, an old house to work on, finish up schooling, etc. Now, all of that is in the past and I started thinking about getting back into biking again. Over this past winter I looked around online, trying to re-educate myself on the world of motorcyles. Lots had changed since the 1980s: bikes were listed by class, they were full of electronics, and displacements, along with the assoicated horsepower ratings, had increased.

I quickly decided that I did not want something really big so I scratched off the Gold Wings and others in the touring class and started looking at the "sport touring" bikes. Unlike the larger and off-roads bikes, it's a small group and after I put together a spreadsheet, which allowed me to compare them, I was only looking at about 20 models.

Initially I thought that the BMW R1200RT would be the perfect bike but was willing to consider the rest. At first I decided to go with something smaller, and less expensive, to see if I even liked riding again and thought that the Yamaha Tracer 900 would be a good candidate. I let that roll around in my mind for a while and at some point I realized that, while I liked it, it didn't get the juices flowing and felt like it was selected by default rather than desire. I remembered back to when I rode my 1976 Honda CB750 and how I thought about what my next bike would be and what the specifications were: at least 1000cc, shaft drive, and 4-cyclinders. That got me motivated again so I went back and revisited my spreadsheet, scratching off anything that did not meet that description. Another consideration is that I wanted something for which I could get local service and here in Billings Montana that eliminated the BMW which also only has a 2-cylinder engine.

When I shook it all out it came down to the Kawasaki Concours 14 and the Yamaha FJR1300ES. Comparing the two they are nearly identical, specification-wise, but I thought that the Yamaha had the edge even though it was more expensive and only had a 1-year warranty compared to the Kawa's 3-year. The decision made, the problem is that the FJR was not available at my dealer and they didn't even know if they could get one. I talked to friends who said that I at least should sit on a bike before I buy it so I started looking online and found one in Rapid City, South Dakota, about 320 miles away. I contacted them and they confirmed that they has a 2021 model and I was more than welcome to come over and sit on it.

I rented a motorcycle trailer, just in case (no one-way trailers available in Radid City) and made the 6-hour drive on April 8. The dealership had about 40 bikes in their showroom. Sitting next to each other were the three bikes I'd been considering: the Yamaha Tracer 900, the FJR, and the Kawasaki Concours 14. I sat on all three, multiple times, as well as a few others including a used BWW. While the BMW felt the most comfortable between the other three, the FJR was definitely the one. I made the deal, loaded it in the trailer and headed back to Billings.


At the dealership.

Strapped in for the return trip.


The drive back was fine except for the 60 mile-per-hour winds, snow, and rain from Gillette to Sheridan. After that it was fine. We unloaded the bike and the next morning I returned the trailer and stopped by my agent and got insurance in place. Next up was a bath since the bike had picked up lots of dirt riding behind the Suburban in that bad weather. Of course I felt like hopping on and heading out for a good ride but, alas, I didn't have a helmet. My old Bell had a disintegrated interior and after failing to restore it, it got tossed and my really old, as in first, helmet didn't really fit anymore. I'd already researched helmets so I went online and orderd a Shoei GT Air II helmet.

In the meantime, I did take it out. Since I was feeling like a total novice I decided to just putt around the neighborhood, avoiding any traffic. The bike feels BIG. At 600 pounds it's the heaviest bike I've ridden and it takes some getting used to. Add to that, the feeling I used to have where I was at one with the bike, where we were extensions of each other, that will take some time to reestablish. Every day I take it out and every day it felt better. The helmet arrived the following Tuesday and, wouldn't you know it, the weather changed and it's was in the low-30s all day. Friday is looking good.




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Updated April 2021.