Whilst many people overseas 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 coming from smaller bikes prior it always feels like it understeers needing additional bar input (counter steer) to hold a line or initiate turn it needed much more leverage on the bars than I have experienced on other motorcycles.

The self claimed experts on the owner forums insist this big motorcycle steers light as a feather. Simply inflate the tyres a few more PSI and it turns like a 125cc one senior member told me and when I questioned that I was flamed by all and sundry whom I doubt have ever ridden any other motorcycles to know better. I am not braking in corners and the tyres have even wear, it’s simply a long and heavy bike with a huge fuel load up high.

There is a partial solution – but it’s nothing being suggested on owners forums.
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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 got the pump up the tyres thing from the owners forums. But my bike was already inflated to 42 psi. And every tyre I have fitted since has been inflated by the dealership to that or higher 42-44 psi. Its a heavy bike so inflating to maximum is what tyre engineers recommend – not some miracle fix the forum experts came up with.

So the first thing I tried 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 accustomed to the difference I was not able to go back so the motorcycle has remained in this setting.

Following this 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.

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 which is most noticeable when the fuel load dropped from full to 2/3 or less and the motorcycle was operating without such a high COG.

The steering at this point with the combination of things done was a noticeable improvement from standard. No adverse affects. Still ample ground clearance. Not unstable as owners forums were warning, actually it still displays understeer and remains slow to change direction but an improvement over stock for zero $ outlay.

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The next thing I looked at was ergonomics. The bars on the FJR1300 are a bit low, slightly too far forward and little narrow when compared to a standard motorcycle or other large touring motorcycles. That’s how I find them 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 natural. Raising the bars provided more leverage which helped a lot. It also made the FJR comfortable like a touring motorcycle should be.

Along the way I had been trying different tyres. The FJR came with Metzeler Z8 tyres to begin with, these wore unevenly on the front getting scalloped badly. Pirelli Angel GT made the steering lighter but they are soft and the heavy FJR tore the sides away on the front tyre in just one tour then the steering slowed dramatically with the triangle shaped front tread and the rear tyre was bald by just 6000km.

The Michelin Pilot Road 4s were slowest steering and the front was premature failure of the carcass about 3000km where they were already half worn out so I just got rid of both tyres. Second failure with Pilot tyres which I will never fit again. The Bridgestone BT-023 GT steers not a fast as the Angel GT but it wears evenly and lasts 8000-9000km which at least means not needing tyres mid tour which is a huge hassle in Japan.

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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 straight way felt noticeably lighter to turn. Ok you still are riding a heavy tourer but it honestly felt somewhat easy 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.

It is still a big heavy bike which you need be aware of but now it steers well even in very tight corners. 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.

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Update: I finally managed to try a set of Dunlop Roadsmart tyres (series 2 as could not find series 3) Well these are by far the lightest feeling tyre for steering on the FJR and they feel great mid corner and change of direction as well. Of course you still are riding a very heavy bike but for steering feel these are a noticeable improvement from any other tyre I have tried. (in conjunction with the modifications I have made) I will update my total mileage on these after I have done a couple of tours, after 1000km I think they are not going to last as long as the BT023’s.

My previous long term Yamaha FJR1300 review is here if you would like further information.

17 Comments

  1. Great stuff mate on working out how to make the bike handle. Should sell it to Yamaha now as they obviously don't know. Haha

    • Ha-ha, I wish! The machine is built primarily for the US market so I presume the slow steering is by design. Not sure why. Hope this helps a few people as not much in the way of genuine info for people who like it's comfort but still want to enjoy a corner.

  2. after many years (and a couple of FJR's) I found MY solution to the problem. I switched to DUNLOP ROADSMART III… what a difference they make.

  3. Good article! Thank you for telling it like it is and the tip about lowering the front end. I too raised the rear and it was a BIG improvement.
    I didn't know how much to lower the front and your articles guidance is helpful. I have an Angel GT front/Dunlop RoadsmartII tire combination, its the best of the many that have been on the bike in 50K miles.
    Kelvin

  4. Put a 28mm lift in my 2005 FJR from day 1. Had a 25mm lift in my 97 Bandit and boy did it steer fast. Your article was thoughtful well presented. What I didn’t see was any reference to extra ground clearance at the pegs, less in your case because you dropped the front.

  5. Hi Neville, I have not experienced any issues with ground clearance.
    The pegs in middle of bike only fell a portion of the height the front was lowered then lifted back a fraction when the rear was raised. I cannot say exact where they are now compared to factory except no issues at my road pace.

  6. 28mm rear lift, no drop on the forks gained about 15mm at the peg. Info only, let’s go ride. A kiwis in the USA.

  7. Mr Adriaan Jacobs

    Hi Warren have you got a link to the seller as Gen3 A model dog bones are not available in the UK only the ES model?

    • I’m sorry my eBay purchase history doesn’t list back that far. I presume you have set your search to ‘worldwide’ from the eBay default of same country sellers? Or try google for the item which will bring up all the Ebay sellers worldwide.

  8. Hi Warren

    I had a FJR 2008 A with Pilot 4 and a FJR 2015 ES with Pilot 4 but changed to the Dunlop Road Smart IIIs. I feel my FJR corners better and no longer had that front wheel hop from the factory tires on both bikes. I also got about 12-14K miles on those sets of tires ( Road Smart III ) and still riding on them. Pilot 4 only gave me about 8,500K miles. Pilot 4 goes from a little life left to worn out to bald fast when they get to the end of life on those tires. I have not made any frame changes other than what the factory bike electronic settings can do. I now have a FJR 2017 ES and will go back to the Road Smart III again unless Dunlop makes a newer improved RS III tire. Would that be a Road Smarter IV tire?

    • Hi Guido,

      I am considering trying the Dunlop Roadsmart 3 tyres next time. They are expensive in Japan and other riders here report not getting much more mileage.
      You get incredibly long mileage from your tyres, double what any rider I know here can achieve.
      Pilot 4 average 4000 miles. Dunlop RS3, 4500 miles is what local guys manage, similar to the Angel GTs which I love but also wear out fast.
      The Bridgestone BT023GT remains the only tyre anyone here can get a reliable 9000 km (5500 miles) out of on heavy big bikes.
      I think the road surface and endless corners here mean tyres wear much faster. I dream of getting 6000+ miles from any tyre but it is impossible.

    • There are weekends when we get 3,000 miles out of a rear, Arkansas chip and seal tears them up.

  9. Sebastián Demaria

    Hi, don’t the front forks bottom out with such a high lift? Did you change oil quantitiy ?

    • Hi Sebastian,

      Moving the triple clamps does not reduce the fork travel, that remains exactly same.

      It alters the front suspension angle and ride height. My rear has also been raised. Overall the travel remains same and pegs are not overly lower or higher.

      It might sound like a lot, about an inch lower front and inch higher rear. But the FJR comes with conservative steering geometry and is a large bike. This adjustment I have made still leaves the steering geometry or angle at front and rear less than a super sports bike and the turn in is still slower than I am used to but better than when I got it.

  10. Sebation, putting a lift in the rear has no impact on the front fork travel.

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