Whilst many people in the USA seem ok with the way their Yamaha FJR300 corners, riding on tight narrow roads here and being used to lighter bikes I wanted to quicken the steering if possible. My motorcycle is 2014 FJR1300A and to me it always understeers needing additional bar input (counter steer) to hold a line and to initiate turn it needed much more leverage on the bars than I have experienced on other motorcycles – even similar large touring models or raked out cruisers. The fanatical self pro claimed experts on the owner forums tried to tell me this 296kg bike steers light as a feather, as light as a 125cc I believe one senior forum member claimed and simply pump the tyres up a little more and I will see. However no amount of extra air achieves anything (surprise surprise). Furthermore no braking was being done in corners and the tyres had even wear. The FJR besides being heavy is also long but not as much as some and I have ridden big cruisers that turn easier so something is not quite right. If this sounds familiar then read on as there is a (partial) solution - and it’s nothing being suggested on owners forums.
Before I get to what has provided the best change to the way my FJR steers I want to explain the journey I took. First of all I sought assistance on the owners forums but found them less than helpful, actually they were rather misleading. The majority of advice was I simply needed to inflate my tyres a little extra and the bike would turn easy. Well this is not the case. Of course you should maintain the correct tyre pressure but adding a few extra pounds air pressure does not magically alter the way the bike steers, not on any of the tyres I have fitted in any measureable amount. Asking for other solutions I was informed by senior forum staff I had already been provided with the solution (air pressure) and if I chose to not follow this then I was an idiot and I should leave the forum. Righto then, like so many forums these days advice probably being dished out by 13 year olds pretending to be senior riders. I then started from scratch myself trying one thing after another.
The first thing I tried which did make a difference was to set the rear suspension preload to firm.This slightly raises the rear ride height or reduces the sag and thus slightly sharpens the steering angle. This made a small but noticeable difference to turn in speed but at the sacrifice of ride comfort when riding solo. However once used to the difference I was not able to go back so the motorcycle has remained in this setting. You can easy try this on the A series by flicking the lever and on the ES from the dash control.
Building from here and after trying various suspension settings on the front I found the best result was setting the front pre load to soft or increased sag in the ride height which of course opposite to the rear firm preload will slightly lower the front thus further sharpen the steering. Very minor affect, not as noticeable as the rear preload but again so easy to do and you will notice it as the fuel load lowers and the COG is not as top heavy.
Inspired by this slight improvement from tiny change in ride heights I raised the fork legs in the triple clamps about 25 mm to lower the front and further alter/sharpen up the steering angle. You can do this fairly easy on the FJR by loosening the bolts at the mid and upper fork leg clamps and then sliding the fork leg up gently. This then made a further improvement most noticeable when the fuel load dropped and the motorcycle was operating without such a high COG. The steering at this point with the combination of things done was a minor but noticeable improvement from standard. On half a tank or less of gas it steered much better. No adverse affects. Not unstable, actually it still displays some understeer and remains slow to change direction but is some improvement over stock for zero outlay.
The next thing I looked at was ergonomics. The bars on the FJR1300 are low, forward and narrow when compared to a standard motorcycle or other touring motorcycles. They sit in a position a long way from me despite being 6’ tall. I installed a bar raising plate and this moved the bars up 25mm and back 40mm bringing them to a position that is closer to what other touring motorcycles offer. Raising the bars may not alter the geometry that is affecting the steering but it sure does provide more leverage on the bars which helped me a lot. It also made the FJR comfortable like a touring motorcycle should be. If only the bars were wider like the Yamaha MT-09 I rode in New Zealand which offered ample leverage despite being slightly forward. The narrow bars on the FJR are a mystery to me, just a legacy design item.
Along the way I had been trying different tyres. Tyres threads on forums are a bit like oil threads, people come out with the most crazy wild claims. That said I have experienced some noticeable differences in the way a couple of motorcycles I have owned felt on the road in the past when changing tyres. Perhaps not to the level of change I was seeking with the FJR but certainly improved steering once OEM tyres were replaced. The FJR came with Metzeler Z8 tyres to begin with. After the Metzlers I tried Bridgestone BT23 then Pirelli Angel GT and there is only minor difference in the steering effort once they had bed in. The Angel GT tyres steer nicest but they wear out very fast. The BT23 wear more consistent than the others and last a bit longer but are not as confidence inspiring in the wet. But for steering they are good in the sense they take longer to get scalloped on the front tyre which makes the FJR steering super heavy. I have Pilot Road 4 tyres on now and they steer slow on the FJR.
Lastly I decided I would change the rear suspension links called the dog bones to raise the rear ride height and further sharpen the steering angle. I had left this to last since it seemed the hardest but in fact it can be done in probably 30 minutes. I chose to fit 30mm raise links which is achieved by a very minor change in the links. I sourced them for about $39 from a eBay retailer in Germany with good customer feedback. Well the transformation this brought once fitted was the most of anything so far (but please note it was in conjunction with the other things already). The FJR felt noticeably lighter to turn. Ok you still are riding a heavy tourer but it honestly felt somewhat nimble for the first time ever and actually became fun to ride on tighter corners not needing me to drag it around every bend. It will hold a chosen line easier now and does not want to understeer as much. (update – this was on Angel GT tyres, on the Pilot Road 4 GT steering is slower so this is not a fix for every brand of tyre but I think would work fine also with the BT23’s) It is not unstable in any way even at high speed the motorcycle remains rock solid but now it turns more like a motorcycle usually does.
The best way IMO to install the dog bone links is to put the bike on the centre stand and loosen the dog bone links then use a jack to lighten the rear wheel from the link pins (not supporting the bike which is on stand - just the wheel weight) take the top pin out then remove the shock lower mount pin and rotate the lower link pin forward past stand then remove the dog bone links. For install reverse and use the jack to position the wheel at correct height to get top pin back in with new length links. I took loads of time and it still was all over in 40 minutes.
To anyone seeking to make their FJR1300 turn better I would say this is really going to be a core item. It is easy to fit and really delivers the biggest improvement. But the make of tyre fitted will affect the turn in speed with this and other adjustments quite a bit in some cases so I guess come back for further updates as I try more tyres but anyway there is my list of things tried and the combo with the Angel GT tyres does deliver a FJR1300 that steers much faster then stock.
My long term Yamaha FJR1300 review is here if you would like further information.