First Report (2,847 miles) // MSRP $10,490
Yamaha’s latest sport/adventure crossover bike, the FJ-09, offers a lot of fun and competence at a reasonable price. While it finished third in our comparison test with the Kawasaki Versys 1000LT and Suzuki V-Strom 1000, those bikes are a bit larger and more moolah. The FJ-09 is quick and comfortable, but was hampered in the corners and around town by its weak rear shock, mediocre stock tires and abrupt throttle response. Both it and the FZ-09 upon which the FJ-09 is based have improved fuel mapping for 2015, but the FJ still needs a steady throttle hand or to be ridden in reduced-power B mode (vs. full-power Std or A modes) to prevent the herky-jerkies at low speeds and in corners.
At this writing we have yet to find an off-the-shelf replacement rear shock at a price that’s in tune with the FJ-09’s budget intent, but there is a set of Dunlop Roadsmart II tires in the shop ready for the stock rear tire to wear out, and it’s very close after just 2,847 miles. We had the opportunity to try the 6-inch taller and wider Yamaha Touring Windscreen ($187.99) for the FJ-09, and while it works quite well, it looks rather odd. National Cycle tells us it will also have a screen for the FJ-09 sometime in late spring.
At 2,189 miles Yamaha issued a recall for the FJ-09 to replace the shift cam segment stopper in the transmission, which the distributor performed on our bike and returned to us the same day. We didn’t notice an issue with the tranny before or any difference after, but it is a no-ride recall and should be taken seriously.
Overall, the FJ-09 remains a fun, nimble sport tourer at a great price. If we can hang onto it a little longer we’ll get the Dunlops on it and have another report in an issue or two. Mark Tuttle
Second Report (5,005 miles)
Dollar for dollar and cubic centimeter for cubic centimeter, the 847cc in-line triple in the Yamaha FJ-09 and FZ-09 is one of the most exciting motorcycle engines in production. I challenge anyone to hop aboard either Oh-Nine, goose the throttle and not feel your nerve endings catch fire, from your toes to your nose. The thrill is instant, like sticking your finger in a light socket (but much less foolish).
Nothing in life is free, of course, and the price of the FJ’s exhilaration is vibration, which sets the grips, pegs and seat abuzz and increases with revs. Also, as summer heated up and we switched over to mesh apparel, we’ve felt more engine heat on our lower legs. On the plus side, with more miles we’ve adapted to the FJ-09’s throttle abruptness.
The original Dunlop Sportmax D222 Roadsmart II rear tire was kaput after less than 3,000 miles, so we levered on a replacement set of Roadsmart IIs. Despite having the same name, the stock tires lack the Multi-Tread dual compound and Intuitive Response Profile of the replacements. The new rubber has improved handling and will likely last much longer than the OE tires.
To improve wind protection, we bolted on Yamaha’s Touring windscreen ($187.99), which is 6 inches taller and up to 2 inches wider than the stock screen thanks to its more rectangular (and peculiar) shape. The kick-up at the top pushes air over the rider and reduces buffeting, though the screen flutters in the wind at speed.
Our test bike is fitted with accessory 22-liter saddlebags ($973.96, including mounts and lock set), which come in handy on a daily basis, but the balky latches are annoying. We also added Giant Loop’s 9-liter Kiger Tank Bag ($290) after I used it on a BMW GS during a weeklong tour in Italy. The sturdy bag straps on securely, its clamshell opening allows easy access to the inside (which includes a removable waterproof liner) and its map pocket is touchscreen-friendly (but leaks in the rain).
Most of our local staff and contributors have put miles on the FJ-09, and we’ve averaged 40.7 mpg (196-mile range from the 4.8-gallon tank, which requires 91 octane), with a high of 46.1 mpg and a low of 36.7. It’s now in Clem’s hands, so who knows when we’ll see it again….Greg Drevenstedt
Third & Final Report (5,879 miles)
After 5,879 hard, fast, fun, sometimes buzzy miles, our longterm test of the 2015 Yamaha FJ-09 ended abruptly, in a pool of hot, black oil. Except for hard-to-remove bug guts, scraped footpegs and worn tires, we do our best to return test bikes to the manufacturers in good condition. But sometimes we make mistakes, and in this case it was me rolling over a particular curb as I’ve done dozens of times on adventure and dual-sport bikes. Despite its adventure styling, the FJ-09 retains the same 5.4/5.1 inches of front/rear suspension travel as the FZ-09 it’s based on, and it has the same limited ground clearance. With no skid plate for protection, I managed to catch the oil pan’s drain plug on the edge of the curb, ripping a big hole in the sump and puking nearly three quarts of oil onto the parking lot. Game over.
Prudence would suggest avoiding such antics, but it did highlight the vulnerability of the FJ-09’s underbelly. Yamaha’s factory accessories for the FJ include radiator guards and engine covers, but no skid plate. Hepco & Becker makes a 5mm-thick aluminum skid plate for the FJ-09 ($255.11, motomachines.com) that protects the exhaust, oil pan and other bits. As Clem mentions in his Road Tales column (December 2015), he took the FJ over Sherman Pass in the Sierra Nevada and then up into the White Mountains to visit the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. He ventured onto a rough dirt road but turned back after less than a mile because the bike’s suspension and tires weren’t up to the task, further underscoring the fact that the FJ-09 is a lightweight sport tourer, not an off-the-beaten-path adventure tourer.
Near the end of our test, we installed Corbin’s Dual Saddle ($452) with Ovalbac Standard Backrest ($218, corbin.com). The “dual” in the name refers to rider and passenger; the one-piece seat is not height-adjustable like the stock, two-piece seat. Corbin’s sculpted, leather-covered saddle with high-density Comfort Cell foam is firm but provides good support and even weight distribution. The tall, wide seat made reaching the ground more of a challenge, so we can only recommend it for those with long legs.
We already miss the FJ-09, which served us faithfully for nearly a year and won praise from all who rode it. Greg Drevenstedt