Atrophy's FJR1300AS

Trophy Replacement – :

Currently under construction - two year gap - added a paragraph for DisabledBiker.co.uk
Start date 9th August 2006    Last updated 30th July 2010
(Photo time: 2006:08:23 12:25:25)
Click on photos to get bigger picture; from within the bigger picture click on the more link to view the gallery.
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DisabledBiker

OK, this is an additional paragraph added because I've noticed a reference to this page from DisabledBiker.co.uk.

The questioner was asking about adding a torque convertor to the FJR1200AS, apparantly believing that low speed control was a real problem.

Well, it is, and it isn't.

It takes some getting used to, but it isn't difficult to control the speed. I have had problems, one explained in my little story Playing Santa where I did manage to drop it, but this was exceptional.

If anyone wants to ask me specific questions, please email me using the link below, and I will try to answer them.

mcatrophy

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History

I've had my Trophy for over 4 years now, and apart from its occasional lapses, I've enjoyed riding it.

Recently I've started to suffer from arthritis in my left little finger. This may sound funny to some, but using the clutch can be painful, particularly after a few minutes in heavy traffic or even stationary at traffic lights. I realise that this both distracts my concentration and makes good clutch control difficult.

Then along comes Yamaha with its electrically operated, clutch lever-less gear shift on its FJR1300AS (called an FJR1300AE in some areas of the world).

I am well aware that the FJR is a respected touring bike. I've met two riders of FJRs on tours (Peter of Highland Rider and Richard), both have had theirs for at least four years and have done many more miles than I have.

My dearly beloved is very supportive of this particular hobby of mine, even though she gets nothing directly out of it (except peace and quiet when I'm off on it).

So I've ordered an FJR1300AS. Needless to say, the part exchange value of my Trophy was not what I'd hoped for, but it's either cough up the readies or give up motorcycling.

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Investigation

I have not been able to get a test ride, demonstrators seem very few and far between. However, I have read everything I could lay my hands on, and I summarise my findings below.

There is no clutch lever in any form. Just move the foot gear lever (which is just a switch) up or down, it changes gear, de-clutching and re-clutching all by itself. So yes, the left hand doesn't have to be involved at all. (You can also change gear with a switch on the left handlebar, your choice.)

To move from rest, select 1st gear, then roll the throttle on. The clutch engages to allow a normal start. Stopping, the clutch disengages as the bike comes to rest.

In all clutch operations, the rate of clutch engagement is controlled by a computer that assesses bike speed, engine speed and throttle setting.

I've read many reports on it, all say it works well. The only adverse comments were a mild criticism of 1st to 2nd gear changes sometimes are not smooth (my fully manual change is often not smooth, particularly with my affliction) and slow speed "car park" manoeuvres require re-learning a bit to use the rear brake to control speed rather than the clutch. Other than that, all journalists who rode it were very positive.

I've also seen the hooligan element asking things like "how do you make it do a wheelie?" to which I can only say I don't care. (I have never had my Trophy do a wheelie, though its front end could get very light at times...)

Yamaha have even thought about holding the bike in gear when parked on a slope. Obviously when you come to rest in gear, the clutch is disengaged. If you leave it in gear then turn off the ignition, the clutch will re-engage after 3 seconds (I guess the time delay is to make absolutely sure the engine will have stopped and won't re-start).

There are some riding differences from a manual clutch set-up.

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Ordering

I did the rounds of the nearest Yamaha dealers, and I ended up with the best offer on my Trophy at Arnolds of Burton.

The salesman, Steve, said the FJR1300AS was available in blue/white or silver. This was unexpected because the Yamaha web site said blue/white only. As this was a Saturday, Steve couldn't find out from Yamaha whether the silver was really available, so I left it with him to order a silver if it was available, otherwise a blue/white one.

As Steve was on holiday the next week, he said Richard would sort it on Monday and let me know. So at 5 oclock on Monday, when I hadn't been contacted, I rang up (it took about 20 minutes to get through), to be told Richard was dealing with a customer (fair enough), but the chap who talked to me could tell me that the bike had been ordered in silver, but no delivery date.

I have to say I found this somewhat unsatisfactory, because I'm left in limbo, no bike (I'd left my Trophy as a deposit, at the time relying on Steve saying there would be no delivery problem).

So the next Monday I rang Steve to be told the bike was in their Leicester shop, would I like the registration number to get the insurance sorted?

(Photo time: 2006:08:23 12:28:10)
(Photo time: 2006:08:23 12:27:51)
(Photo time: 2006:08:23 12:25:59)
(Photo time: 2006:08:23 12:27:15)

The certificate arrived on Tuesday (from Carole Nash, very efficient), and I took it to Arnolds on Wednesday. My bike was there, so I could give it a quick look-over.

Had a chat with another salesman while I was drooling looking over my bike. He said that a number of people had shown an interest, in particular one who had general arthritis and couldn't ride sometimes, another who had an artificial left leg and had trouble changing gear. The FJR1300AS would help both of them.

Now I have to wait for a week and a half - knowing my bike is there - for the 1st of September to get the newer registration number.


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Reservations

Whilst waiting to get it, my mind has been reviewing all sorts of things. For instance, is my arthritis affliction going to move somewhere else? Like my right (brake) hand?

And what about when I pick up the bike from the dealer? I've never ridden a bike with an automatic clutch before. As I emerge from the dealer, to turn sharp right across a busy little road, immediately coming up to traffic lights, am I going to control the bike properly?

In the event, I will probably wait for a VERY safe gap, and be very careful. Perhaps a few practice straight line runs in the dealer's yard before putting my nose onto the street. I'm sure, once I've used it for a few miles, I shall be OK. It's just that initial start that's a bit of a bother.

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The pick-up

Having phoned to make sure it was ready, I bundled my kit into the car, and my SO and I went to Arnolds. The bike was ready in the showroom, and we completed the paperwork and the transfer of funds.

Steve then showed me the controls on the bike. I knew them from my investigations, but it was good to have the reminder.

Funnily enough, when Steve came to start it, it wouldn't turn over when he pressed the button, and was about to call a mechanic, when I suggested he held the brake on. It started immediately.

'Well, this is the first electric clutch bike I've seen' he said.

Steve pushed the bike out into their yard while I dressed. Inevitably another guy comes up and starts talking about it, and touring; perhaps rather selfishly, I'm trying to think about my first try.

Meanwhile, Richard, another salesman, says he'll move the bike a bit so I don't have to negotiate a drain gully - says he's seen people slip on this before.

So, with my dearly beloved watching, I sit on the bike, and select first gear. It feels very strange not pulling in the clutch, and I immediately decide not to use the foot gear change, and press the button to select the finger control.

Then I put the back brake on, and gradually increase the throttle until I feel the bike beginning to pull. I back off, then release the brake, and gently up the throttle. The bike moves!

I release the throttle and brake gently to a stop. I then back-paddle the bike about 20 yards, then with a little more confidence, I try again. It's easy, it just works!

I stop again, give my BH the thumbs up (she's going to follow me), and venture onto the road. I've already decided to do a left out of the yard and go round the block so as to avoid crossing traffic. I wait for a gap - a large gap - then pull out and turn left. No problem.

In ...
... my ...
... drive.

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First Impressions

Having run the bike home, and gone for a run over one of my favourite routes, about 50 miles through some of Derbyshire's minor roads, here are some of my impressions.

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Operation

I have tried various operations to see how the controls work, in particular starting the engine.

I have found that:

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Further Observations

After the first 100 miles, I'm beginning to get into this bike.

Dividing this into two parts, the bike and the electric gear-change:

Having used the bike solely for commuting for some days, then filled with petrol, the fuel consumption was only 31.1mpg (UK). This sounds poor, but the commuting I've been doing has all been 3-mile journeys, all of it stop-go with occasional 10mph filtering.

I then went on a 75 mile pleasure run through Derbyshire country roads, where I really enjoyed the run. The on-board computer said I averaged 51.8 mpg (UK), much better than the Trophy would ever achieve, so I'm not disappointed overall.

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Observations Further On

These are some further thoughts in response to an e-conversation I was having with Mick.

So far I've only adjusted the throttle cable to reduce backlash. I've not done many miles yet (about 1000), and, particularly before the 600 mile service, I didn't want to touch anything. I also don't get much time to fiddle (the "honey do" syndrome and dark evenings).

I have found that (for me) the technique required for smooth shifting takes some learning.

Right from the first time I rode the bike, I decided only to use the paddle shift lever. This was to (hopefully) make sure that if I ride a conventional bike I don't try clutchless changes with my foot. Flicking the lever with just my forefinger works extremely well. Early trials using my thumb to downshift gave a lot of jerky motion combined with horn noises :-) Using the finger shift also means better timing, it's much easier to move your forefinger than your foot!

For up changes in particular, the "throttle dip" at exactly the right moment works very well, particularly if accelerating. Changing up at constant speed is a little trickier, I often get a drive-train backlash hiccough as the clutch engages. I'm working on that.

For downshifts I have two techniques depending.

If simply slowing, I leave the throttle shut, and just flick the paddle as I feel fit; the gearbox seems to cope well with this. Whilst I can always feel the engine braking increase as the clutch engages, it never seems harsh, and it's never given me a problem even on fairly slippery corners (obviously I don't downshift at high revs if it is slippery, just as I wouldn't with a conventional shift).

If I want to downshift to get more acceleration, or because I'm at too low revs for a hill, I use a similar method to changing up, that is I just momentarily ease the throttle. I find this quite hard to judge for a perfect change (if pulling harder than I thought, the revs will rise significantly during the shift, if less then I can get a jerk), but again it's a matter of learning to adjust the throttle control for the exact conditions, and I am definitely improving. Leaving the throttle open does give a reasonably smooth change, but that moment of red-lining the engine with associated excessive transmission wear goes against my principles.

I have found that, particularly for the last couple of hundred miles, my shifting is a lot smoother than it was. I think this is a combination of my body learning to control the throttle automatically according to the conditions, and the gear changing mechanism wearing in. In particular the actuators seem much quieter than when new.

As for jerky take-offs, I've learnt a couple of tricks(?). If waiting at lights (or whatever), I hold with the back brake, then if I know the lights are about to go green, I ease up the throttle until I can just feel the bike pulling. After this, there is no jerkiness, either release the brake and barely touch the throttle for a gentle move off, or open the throttle as necessary. You can adjust the amount of "pull" according to how fast you want to accelerate.

Even snapping the throttle open as I once did without thinking too clearly (read: slightly panicky to make sure I got ahead of the car beside me) gave no jerking, just rapid but smooth acceleration. With the snapped open throttle I was amazed at the take-off, I don't think I could have achieved it with a manual clutch, certainly not with the confidence NEVER to get it wrong. I am still astounded by the "launch control" this system gives.

I find changing up into second (and sometimes third) at higher engine revs than is otherwise needed gives smoother changes than changing at a low engine speed.

The worst throttle problem I have is when negotiating a slow turn. If the clutch disengages, you are left coasting in this tight corner, no room to straighten, you have to get drive on. The first couple of times this happened I put the throttle on too quickly and nearly went into a brick wall (the entrance to my drive from a very narrow lane). Since I now expect it, the adrenalin no longer kicks in, and I find I can bring the throttle up sufficiently. It's not easy to control, but again, it's a matter of learning. It helps if I am dragging the rear brake against the throttle, but I seem to lack the confidence to "tie up" my left foot in case I need to put it down, particularly this time of year when we have lots of wet leaves on the road there. This is purely confidence, I will master it.

I want to decrease my clutch engagement speed because of the amount of very low speed commuting I'm currently doing, both to reduce the amount of clutch slip and to reduce engine speed all the while I'm at walking pace. With my previous bike (Triumph Trophy 1200), a lot of the while I was just easing out the clutch lever with no throttle, just using the tick-over torque to maintain progress, sometimes even changing into second without any throttle. (I retire in August next year, but that's still a lot of commutes left to do.)

Summing up, my approach to using the YCCS has been to learn to cope with it as supplied. For me it is certainly fine for open road riding, where I revel in the ease of flicking up and down the gearbox with no effort and no missed gears or grated changes (yes, it did occasionally happen!). I only want to lower the engagement speed because of my commuting.

As an aside, with my Trophy I was often having to do clutchless gear-changes because of the pain in my arthritic finger, which again was OK on the open road, but not easy in stop-go traffic. I had stopped using it for commuting because of that.

Do I like the YCCS system? Yes. Do I prefer it to a manual? No, but it's not far off, maybe after I've stopped commuting I will prefer it. In any case I have no choice because of my stupid finger.

One other comment. I am sure Yamaha have "tuned" this system for the more sporting type of riding, which has to be the correct choice for them. Although I'm not a "peg-scraping max-throttle-to-red-line max-brake" type of rider, when riding to enjoy myself it works very well.

Improvements I would like to see?

I suppose automatic throttle control during changes, but that would reduce the skill satisfaction even further!

(Because of my commuting) when moving from rest, if the bike speed remains within the "slip hysteresis range" then the clutch could fully engage (although this might mean some rider skill to reduce the throttle setting as it did so, maybe Yamaha saw this as a safety issue).

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Observations Further On Still

I have done the throttle spring release modification. This involves releasing the centre throttle return spring by one turn, and results in reduced tension on your throttle hand.

This has two advantages, one is that there is less fatigue after long spells in the saddle, the other is easier control of the throttle at low speeds.

For me, this is a very worth-while improvement.

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Observations After 3½ years

There have been a few (very few) issues. Of note are:

  • An SH_35 Error
  • Ignition Switch
  • SH_47;
  • Clutch grabbing;
  • Tyres;
  • The SH_35 error

    The SH_35 error display

    The display started showing this error intermittently, accomanied by the ABS light blinking. It didn't affect any operation of the bike (except perhaps the ABS), but was inconvenient because you couldn't read the odometer or trip displays.

    The error code is shown as "Start switch signal is abnormal" and "Signal is received from start switch while vehicle is driven"

    I checked out what I could, but found nothing, so I booked it into the dealer.

    He spent many hours looking for a problem, also changing out relays, but never found the root cause.

    In the end I had to have the bike back as it was because I'd booked a tour in Scotland.

    Over the next few days, the problem lessened, until it disappeared altogether.

    In the end, I got a letter from Yamaha saying they would "look sympathetically" if the problem re-occurred. So far, it's been OK.


    Ignition Switch

    It became increasingly difficult to turn the ignition key in the ignition switch.

    My dealer tried lubricating it, but nothing seemed to free it.

    In the end, Yamaha agreed to a new ignition switch, ECU (which is tied to the security chip in the key),and new locks for the panniers, fuel tank and top box, all under warrenty.

    The SH_47 error

    The SH_47 error display

    This error, and a flashing ABS light, occurred while returning home from a local shop. Since the bike was running OK, I rode back home, took the photo, and decided to ride to the dealer to get his take.

    Having turned off the ignition, I found the bike would not re-start.

    I then found out that the error was listed as: "Braking signal is not detected while braking" and "No braking signal is received by MCU (motor control unit) when vehicle is braking".

    Since it seemed to be a braking related problem, I decided to check the brake switches; so, ignition on, front brake lever pulled, check brake lights are on, OK.

    Then release front brake lever - brake lights still on!

    It soon became evident that the rear brake lever was not releasing properly. On lubricating the brake lever, all systems back to normal.

    No problem since.


    Clutch Grabbing

    Ever since the bike was new, I was never completely happy with the gear change. I always assumed I wasn't judging the throttle movement quite right, also, sometiimes on moving from rest the bike would judder, as if the clutch was rapidly engaging and disengaging. Neither of these effects were consistent.

    Browsing the internet showed that there was a known issue in that the clutch plates could be dry from the factory, this could cause the effects I was experiencing. The cure was a "clutch soak", where the clutch plates wer removed, possibly cleaned, then soaked in oil and re-assembled.

    I asked my dealer to do this at a service, but I found no significant improvement.

    Partially disassembled
    All removed parts laid out,
    in order, inside face down.
    After a few more months, I decided to have a go myself. I bought a new clutch cover gasket, and went through the procedure.

    I took photographs of the whole procedure, they are shown here.

    OK, confession time. When I put it back together, I made the mistake of putting all my tools away and tidying up before testing. When I then turned on the ignition, it gave me a "SH__26" error code, which means the clutch movement isn't what is expected. I took it all apart and re-assembled it, taking extra care that everything was seated correctly, and this time it was fine.

    I suspect either the innermost friction plate wasn't properly round the ring it sits round, or the pressure plate's dogs weren't seated properly in the splines. I've noted the care needed for these items in the captions.

    Was it worth it? Well, yes. The gear changes are now much, much smoother, especially the first-to-second change.

    There's still a significant clunk from neutral into first, but all other gearchanges are better, in particular 1st to 2nd and 2nd to 1st, which were usually clunky and grabby, now smooth.

    The requirement for how much and how quick throttle movement needed to be during a gear change was inconsistant. Now it is both more consistant and less fussy.

    If the revs are wrong for the next gear (for example a high throttle up-change), take-up is smoother (but no quicker).

    As far as I am concerned, well worth the effort.

    Why the clutch operation wasn't this good after my dealer did the job, I don't know. I think he took it apart because the friction plates weren't correctly aligned (the pink dots weren't where they should be), but all except the innermost and outermost friction plates were dry, albeit with no sign of burnt grease that I have seen reported.


    Tyres

    The FJR1300 is heavy on tyres, a combination of a relativly heavy bike and high performance.

    It was suppied with Bridgestone BT021 tyres. These, when new, performed very well, with good steering characteristics and wet road-holding.

    I got about 4000 miles out of front and rear. I was expecting this from the rear, but I would have expected more from the front (my Trophy gave 6000 front to 4000 rear).

    Anyway, I continued to use these for two changes.

    Worn out BT021.
    "V" wear.

    Now, I'm no expert on motorcycle handling, and I've not ridden many different bikes, but I finally realised that for the last half of the tyre's life, the bike's handling was not good.

    In fact, it was poor.

    The most obvious symptom was that in any sort of corner, I needed to push the inside bar to hold the curve, rather than the neutral steering input that I would consider "normal"


    I've now changed to Avon Storm ST tyres, which seem to hold their characteristics throughout their life, and the front at least seems to last nearer 6000 miles (I changed the first front at 5500 after a puncture).

    I shall probably continue to use these; the other "good" tyre I've heard about is the Michelin PR2, but these cost about half as much again.


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    After 4 years

    (Photo time: 2010:09:25 06:23:05)
    (Photo time: 2010:09:25 06:23:17)
    (Photo time: 2010:09:25 06:25:49)
    (Photo time: 2010:09:25 06:26:04)

    Decided to exchange the bike for another the same.

    So I've now got a 2010 FJR1300AS, colour smokey grey.

    Gallery here.


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    Miles per Gallon

    As I put fuel in, I try to keep a record of the fuel consumption. The detail of this can be viewed here.

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    Extra pictures

    Click here to add extra pictures
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    Various brochures

    European brochure - WARNING: This file is 5.6MB and will take a while to download.

    Links