The accessory windshield fitted to our ZZR has an upturned lip at its top that sends buffeting air to its rider that makes for a lot of noise and highway speeds.
The accessory windscreen fitted to our ZZR was disappointing, as its taller design induces a lot of noisy turbulence. The item is perfectly quiet when the rider is in a full tuck, but then that's not really the sport-touring mode, is it? We'd prefer the smoother flow of air from the standard screen rather than the extra coverage and the din that comes with the tall one. One other minor gripe is that the trailing edge of each side fairing can interfere with long legs.
With temperatures again hovering well into the 100s, we kept the pace high as we wound our way south. We should note here that all three bikes emit plenty of heat from their big engines. We wrote about the excessive heat from the ST1300 during our ride on the pre-production bikes, and Honda delayed the production machines to take the time to engineer changes that better contain high temperatures emanating from the lower fairing. There is still plenty of heat released from the ST, but it now has slightly better heat management than the other two.
Crossing over Highway 101 at Paso Robles, we headed toward one of my favorite roads in California. Highway 58 runs toward the oil town of Taft and has a bit of everything that excites motorcyclists. Lightly patrolled and little traveled, 58 has a mixture of miles of unobstructed straightaways, a variety of twisting sections that go on forever, and several up-and-down roller-coaster sections that can launch even these large machines into the air if a rider is especially courageous.
It was here that our riders began to divine the winner of this test. The $11,379 ZZR excelled with its high-speed manners on the straights and its sporting pretensions in the corners. The ST1300 cossets its rider with comfort, grace and rider friendliness. The FJR struck a fine balance between them, offering nearly the speed of the ZZR (and more than enough for this class of motorcycle) while easily providing greater protection from the elements and more luxurious appointments.
All three bikes can make a legitimate claim to the sport-touring title among Japanese bikes, but the FJR simply does just about everything really well and nothing poorly, all at a price significantly below the Honda.
The ST1300 nearly won this contest, primarily because it was the first choice of tired riders, and these bikes are all about covering long distances. It has plenty of sporting potential for most riders, and it is the most finely crafted among this trio. But, at a base price of $13,499 ($200 extra for 2005 models that arrive in a Candy Dark Red color), it is by a significant amount the most costly of this group, although its 3-year warrantee is the best in class. The ST is also the heaviest, has the least amount of maximum power, and it doesn't work as well as a do-it-all motorcycle.
And so Yamaha's FJR1300 emerges as the best big sport-tourer from Japan. It was judged the best looking, has more than enough S-T power, enjoys the best throttle response, and it doesn't look ridiculous without its excellent standard hard bags. Its list price of $11,799 has to be considered a bargain for all that it offers, but keep in mind the ABS equipped unit we tested here is the best deal at $12,899.
The biggest criticism a consumer can levy against the FJR is that it can be difficult to find one in your local dealer because of Yamaha's priority delivery program that encourages prospective buyers to put down a deposit during the advance ordering stage. But for anyone who buys the FJR, this unique process ensures higher resale value.
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