By: Martin Lortz
It was at the Bikers Reunion in New Liskeard, Ontario earlier this year when I first spotted the FJ-09 at the Yamaha test ride event. There were so many cool bikes to check out but there was one bike that made me look twice. I guess we all have “a type”. For me it’s the adventure, touch of sport and a splash of comfort that I look for, and the 2015 Yamaha FJ-09 has all of the above. Judging by the rave reviews since its launch it’s obvious the bike is a winner. So when I was offered a chance to insert one into my daily life for a couple of weeks, there was only one answer possible – absolutely!
I am a one-bike-fits-all kind of guy with a lot of expectations. Daily commutes into the heart of the city, one thousand+ kilometer weekend jaunts and the odd sip and chat ride to the coffee shop. So a do it all machine is what I’m after.
There is always nervous anticipation when you hoist a bike off its side stand for the first time. Will it be heavy, awkward, intimidating? There was none of that with the FJ-09. It pops off the side stand with confidence-inspiring lightness. My second impression was rider comfort. I’m six four and it was a nice surprise to find that the stock setup presented no comfort issues on my thirty minute ride home. That said the first thing I did upon arrival is take advantage of the bike’s adjust-ability, a major feature. I raised the seat to the high position and moved the bars forward by spinning the risers around. The extra room took it from, “not bad” to “Oh Yeah!”
Who doesn’t like a good old fashion traffic jam? Can you tell I’m being sarcastic? But it’s an unavoidable reality of my daily commute to downtown Toronto. A bit of expressway, neighbourhood roads, main thoroughfares, speed bumps, streetcar tracks and, yes, bumper to bumper traffic. The Yamaha FJ-09 turned out to be a commuting treat. I would wager that the bike’s city prowling ability is due to its light and nimble feel. Thanks to the lightweight, compact & narrow CF die cast aluminum frame, the narrow seat tank area and wider bars, slow speed maneuvering is a breeze. Whether you are pushing it out of the garage, backing in to a parking spot or dealing with stop and go situations you always feel in control. There is ample and usable power from the 847cc, DOHC, 4-valve, inline triple. The clutch action is easy on the forearms and the smooth shifting tranny makes the twice a day grind through the city something to look forward to.
As I stop at the north end of Southwood Road in Muskoka, I don't know if I said this out loud or thought it, but I definitely meant it! Southwood Road, part of the Ride The Edge Motorcycle Route, might just be the most well know twisty road in the region. All 23 km are wall to wall turns. Add in some old pavement, some new pavement and a steady drizzle to slick it all up and you have a perfect testing ground. The FJ-09 performed with grin-producing perfection. The ABS, unified braking system, traction control and suspension make for a tight package that works so well you don't give handling a second thought, it performs perfectly.
I punch in a destination further north and let the GPS lead the way. I like to take an “any road, any time” approach to my road trips and the FJ-09 doesn’t mind. By the time I’ve parked the bike for the night in North Bay there is 650 km on the odometer and about nine hours in the saddle. An amazing day; we hit up the twisties on Highway 518, clocked about 150 km of cottage country gravel and even managed to do most of Northeastern Ontario Lake Nipissing Circle Tour. You can read all about that tour by clicking the link
• Lots of usable power, cruises with ease at highway speed, fun and responsive in the tight stuff. There are three power mode options. I gave the sport mode a few tries and found that it does offer more responsiveness, but the FJ-09 performed so well in standard mode that I found no need to switch
• Stable and predictable on gravel roads. The traction control keeps you hooked up but may feel strange is you’re coming from a bike that give you some wheel spin. It can be turned off.
• I found the foot pegs too narrow and the shifter and kickstand area crowded while standing, but perfectly find while sitting. Can you tell I ride an adventure bike most of the time?
• The suspension soaks up road imperfections with ease.
• The accessory saddle bags provide enough room for multi day trips and are easy to operate.
• The accessory adjustable touring windshield offers good wind protection. I was able to cruise at highway speeds with my visor up.
• The stock seat is comfortable and supportive and there is a touring seat upgrade available.
• At 18L and a 290 km range the gas tank will not limit your exploration range too much.
My second day on the road better reflected my feelings about the 2015 Yamaha FJ-09 best. From North Bay to home is generally around 300km, a three hour blast down the highway. I managed to double the distance and triple the duration because I wanted more time with the bike.
Commuting, sport riding, touring; the FJ-09 might just be the holy grail of multi-purpose bikes. Awesome performance and an awesome price point. Staring at $10,999 (with $2000 in credits available).
I managed to get to a couple of bike meet-ups on the bike. One was The Moto Social, a must-do monthly moto gathering in Toronto, and a quick ride to Higher Ground, the coffee shop in Caledon Hills where you’ll always find bikes and people hanging out. Sadly, I found myself rushing through my coffee to get back on the bike! With the Yamaha FJ-09 I would rather be riding it than talking about it.