Yamaha’s first mile muncher
The FJ1200 still has a large following some ten years or so after the last one rolled off the production line. You cant travel too far in this world without passing one going the other way or stumbling across one parked up at a motorway service station.
Few machines have made an impact and stuck around for so long as Yamaha FJ series. Although little changed from its original design way back in 1984, the FJ is still up there among the best of the sports tourers. The production run lasted for the next 12 years and during that time small but none the less important items were altered or added to the initial design brief to create a true legend of its time.
The fairing got wider and the screen taller with the arrival of the FJ1200 and this only served to make life better still for the rider and pillion alike by directing what air blast there was around and over the occupants. The wheelbase grew, along with the all up weight, the former albeit by a mere 5mm, aiding high speed handling while the latter was unnoticeable, consumed as it was by a huge leap in power and torque.
To keep an FJ in fine fettle couldn’t be easier either, its relatively low-tech, 16-valve air-cooled engine may be dated in comparison to others from the period but in reality it makes it easier to service and cheaper maintain. The engine could easily be the star of the show where it not for the rest of the bike matching it shout for shout, it is old thinking but clearly the idea works well.
There is an active owners club with after market parts and endless technical advice on tap making ownership a breeze. Throughout the lengthy service life of the FJ it has never lot its character and original feel, some of the quirkier aspects that came with most early 80’s Superbikes were lost as the years rolled on, but the essence remained.
A brute of an engine, kept in check by accurate control systems and a beefy chassis; high speeds and long distance abilities combine with ease and yet with all of the agility of a machine many cc’s smaller. You really can ride one all day, every day and still get off after a long journey feeling relatively fresh and still able to walk unaided to a hotel room. Little touches, not immediately apparent when first getting on board, soon start to grow on you, the super wide rear view mirrors miss you and your elbows but, show all that is behind with ease, something many a modern day designer could do with emulating as so many still get this, all-important aspect, wrong.
Low speed stuff isn’t the FJ’s bag, thanks to its compactly mounted and half faired air-cooled power plant, sitting in traffic on a mid summer bank holiday will have the thing ticking away like Skippy the Bush kangaroo when two kids are trapped down a well so, keep the FJ on the move whenever possible. When forced to be in stuck in traffic the low speed handling is helped by the super smooth hydraulic clutch and light feeling chassis allied to a low seat and even lower centre of gravity, although the FJ is at its best cruising along winding A and B roads. Laden to the max or ridden solo the bike takes everything thrown at it and as such is among the best of its breed, even by today’s high standards.
In use, the FJ is a touring riders dream, often viewed as steady and dated the bike is well behaved and will enhance anyone’s riding, taking the strain out of most tasks and allowing the occupants to sit back a little more and simply enjoy the ride. Its seating position is comfortable and relaxed, providing just the right layout between your feet bottom and hands enabling long distances to be covered without the need for a stop other than for fuel.
The way it goes about the job in hand is impressive too, after all, this machine has some impressive relations in the handling business, the hefty steel perimeter frame is a Bimota design while the low slung engine and competent and compliant suspension takes care of bumpy roads or smooth, fast surfaces alike. All it takes is a screwdriver and a 14mm spanner to adjust the suspensions between full on, weight bearing tourer mode and a sharper and more single-minded B road hustler.
Well set up and accurate carburetion has been a watch word with four-stroke Yamaha’s ever since the first of the bruisers, the XS1100 came along in 1978, the FJ series built upon this from the outset and the result is a near perfect throttle response akin to the best of the latest fuel injected devices. This is a good job as with over 120 horses on tap, and a whopping 76 ft-lb of torque too, the FJ can really get a move on from the lowest of speeds.
The bike still has benchmark top gear roll on times making for an effortless, and gearshift free, ride once around the 40mph mark on the speedo. As if the low down grunt isn’t enough, hit 65mph and things really start to get interesting, if a keen eye isn’t kept upon the speedo needle, pretty soon you are in trouble speed wise, even though the bike is capable of handling it all and rarely gives any signs of being stressed.
The engine just revs though to its redline of 8500rpm without fuss and certainly never a sign of a flat soot, this makes overtaking a care free activity although the maximum punch is to be had where the peak torque is created at 6500rpm. Not that any kind of kick in the pants is felt at this rev range due to the spread of torque across a wide range. problems with the type were, and are still, few.
The engine did suffer some second gear problems, like its XS predecessor and most likely the result of the tremendous torque levels on offer, but the majority were sorted out under warranty as the symptoms occurred early in the life of the bike. Tyre choice can make a staggering difference to the way an FJ goes about its job, having been designed a shade before the emergence of current radial tyre technology, the chassis works best with older cross-ply designs with Bridgestone’s coming out as the clear favourite among the knowledgeable FJ owners.
Yamaha FJ1200 Model history
The FJ started life as a 1100cc Superbike, or so Yamaha thought but Kawasaki had a secret weapon awaiting in the wings, the ground breaking GPz900, effectively rendering the FJ impotent as an all out sports bike. Had it not been for the GPz, the FJ would have been the bike of 1984, none the less the FJ still cut the mustard in many respects and the type sold well. Air-cooled motor apart the FJ boasted a few of the latest early 80’s gizmos like anti dive suspension although looking back it does seem a shame that Yamaha elected to go with the sportier chain final drive in preference of the more reliable and less maintenance heavy shaft system.
Two years after it was first introduced the bore were stretched out by 3mm, growing into the FJ1200 in 1986, the extra grunt provided making the bike feel somewhat more alive and raring to go while a larger diameter 17-inch front wheel fitted in 1988, removed the earlier versions twitchy and sometimes unpredictable steering response. With the larger front wheel also came the same staggering four pot front brake calipers and fully floating discs that were fitted to the all-new 1000cc Superbike, the FZR1000 while the front suspension was simplified somewhat by the removal of he never too effective anti-dive system.
The touring world spotted that the FJ1200 was just the ticket, able to mile munch for hour after hour and maintaining stunning speeds too. From the outset the type was beset with vibration problems, which emerged as cracked plastic particularly around the belly pan and side panels, this was never really eradicated throughout the FJ’s life and still remains a problem today.
The ABS model was released in 1991 and immediately won many fans, the braking having a similar well-set-up feel as rest of the machine making the front end even more solid and dependable at all times. The engine lives on, relatively unchanged, now powering the popular XJR1300 naked machine.
Yamaha FJ1200 Specifications
Engine – air-cooled 4-cylinder 4-stroke 16 valve
Capacity – 1188cc
Bore/stroke – 77 x 63.8mm
Power – 105.2 bhp @ 8500rpm
Torque – 76ft-lb @6500 rpm
Carburation – 4 x 36mm Mikuni BS
Transmission – 5-speed wet clutch chain final drive
Frame – steel perimeter
Suspension – 41 mm telescopic forks, Single shock monocross rear
Brakes – 298 mm discs 4-piston calipers, 290 mm disc 2-piston caliper
Wheels – 120/70 x 17 150/80 x 16
Weight – 238 kgs ( ABS 248kgs)
Top speed – 150mph
Wheelbase – 1495 mm
Fuel capacity – 22 ltrs
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