Skip to main content

Throttle Jockey: Just one bike? Yamaha’s FJ-09 triple does it all

Like any enthusiast, I’m always on the lookout for the next motorcycle (or the next three motorcycles) to fill in all the empty space in my garage. I tend to lust after stylish and iconic machines of years past, but I also keep an eye on the latest bikes coming out these days.

One trend I’m happy to see is the return – and update – of the “standard” motorcycle, a do-most-everything bike that can zip you to work, capably sport-tour or even raise your pulse at a track day. One machine that’s caught my eye is Yamaha’s FJ-09. Is it possible that I may only need one bike to do most of my riding? Surely not.

In Yamaha model-speak, FZ-series bikes are typically hot-blooded sports machines, while FJ rigs are a bit less frenetic and more well-rounded. So it seems with the FJ-09, but Yamaha has apparently taken that well-roundedness to perhaps a new level of performance and technical excellence.

The FJ-09 has the FZ-09’s hot-rod 117hp 847cc liquid-cooled 3-cylinder engine as its heart, and while 3-bangers have been Triumph‘s specialty as of late, Yamaha also dabbled in triples way back in the late 1970s with the XS750/850, cruiser-ish standards that are still well-regarded today in vintage circles.

The 09’s triple is a member of Yamaha’s “cross-plane concept” configuration family, designed for better power delivery, lighter weight and a thin profile, all tricks taken from their world-beating (but slightly wider) R-1 four-cylinder hyper sport. However, the engine management system for the FJ variant has been fine-tuned for less… overtly aggressive riding situations. Fear not, though, there are three ride modes to choose from.

Yamaha FJ-09 studio4

A 3-cylinder engine has many advantages: properly designed, it can rev to the moon like a four-cylinder, but it also has a punchier torque curve like a twin. It’s also thinner than most fours, keeping the bike slim and compact. And depending on how restrictive (or not) the exhaust is, it has a lumpier, distinctive sound signature. The main problem? Vibration. But modern design and engine cradling technologies have largely mitigated the buzz, and it seems like the once-testy triple is finally getting the love it deserves from more bike makers.

An aluminum frame wraps around the busy FJ mill, and the best way to describe the look of the bike is a mash-up of standard, sportbike, dual-sport and an anime creation. I love the look of the bike; it’s cool, aggressive, but also inviting, a tough trick for designers to pull off. Overall, the bike has a sporty, dense, compact, and ultra-modern appearance.

A small windscreen up front teams with a pair of slick aero hand guards on the wide tubular handlebar to blunt wind fatigue, the riding position is sit-up with some lean-forward mixed in, perfect for both urban technical riding and long-distance sport-touring. Both the seat and bars have a range of adjustability so you can really dial in the fit and comfort.

It was a photo of the smart-looking FJ-09 fitted with optional side cases that first caught my attention. Both the side cases and a top box are available, as are myriad other options, including heated grips, which should be standard on every bike made – in my opinion, of course.

Yamaha FJ-09 IRL8

Beyond those bits, the FJ-09 is a modern motorcycle technology showcase. ABS is standard, as is traction control, but only traction control can be switched off. There are also the aforementioned three ride modes available for different riding environs, from a powered-down profile for rain-slicked roads to an unhindered hooligan mode, plus a mid “standard” setting. Throttle is ride-by-wire and the triple disc ABS brakes are the monobloc types usually found on higher-end sporting mounts.

A comprehensive two-panel LCD screen takes the place of traditional clocks and features the regular speedo/tacho functions along with range, mileage, temperature and the current position of the International Space Station. OK, maybe not that last one, but it’s a very up-to-date data system to say the least.

Suspension that’s adjustable fore and aft for preload and rebound smoothes out the ride, and the rear swingarm features a banana configuration that allows for a stubby exhaust exit to peek out on the rider’s right – no chrome fishtails here. There’s even a rarely-spotted centerstand included at no extra charge. Dual LED headlights light the way and there’s a 12V powerlet up front for your phone, GPS or other gadgetry. You can add another as an option. The gas tank grows to nearly five gallons from the three and change tank on the FZ.

Yamaha FJ-09 IRL16

The sportier FZ-09, a sharper, more urban-focused naked bike, has been roundly praised and is still versatile in its own right – it’s also Yamaha’s best seller. But the FJ-09 has taken that versatility up a notch or three, giving riders more range, more seat length for two-up riding and more while maintaining the strong heart of the FZ variant. Wheelbase of the two bikes is identical, so expect sporty handling.

The best feature may be the price: the FJ-09 is $10,500 before taxes and DMV fees, etc. Kitted out with luggage and heated grips, the price tag is closer to 12 large, which is still a really good deal for the impressive performance and technology stuffed into a great-looking package.

Looks like I may have some room left in the garage after all.

We’re hoping to get some seat time on the new Yamaha FJ-09 in the near future for a comprehensive review.

All photos courtesy of Yamaha Motor Corporation. Optional accessories are shown in some photos.

Editors' Recommendations

Bill Roberson
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Please reach out to The Manual editorial staff with any questions or comments about Bill’s work.
The 16 best war movies of all time, ranked
From Inglourious Basterds to The Thin Red Line, there are the best war movies that you can stream now.
Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, and other actors playing as American soldiers riding a boat in "Saving Private Ryan."

War movies are among the most morally sticky films produced in Hollywood. While the best war movies go out of their way to reveal the violence and bloodshed that comes with any armed conflict, many can't help but valorize the men and women who fight in these wars. As a result, many movies about war end up glorifying war even if the creative voices behind the project didn't intend them to. In the best war movies, though, moral questions are never easily answered. Well, unless your war movie is a Star Wars movie. 
If you want black-and-white morality, this list of the best action movies on Netflix may better fit the bill. 

War movies, on the other hand, often speak to the way that violence breaks men, even if they believe in their cause. These war movies will shake you to your core, and remind you that humanity is capable of being messy and violent just as frequently as it is brave and valorous. 

Read more
The 10 best action movies on Amazon Prime that will blow you away
From The Tomorrow War to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, these are the best movies you can watch on Amazon Prime
how to watch the tomorrow war online

There's a reason action movies are so popular. The best action movies can thrill you with a dazzling combination of car chases, fight scenes, and special effects. The best action movies can also, and this is important, be wonderfully dumb. Indeed, the plot of an action movie is typically fairly unimportant, as long as the set pieces that get you from sequence to sequence are compelling enough. If you're looking for some great action, you don't need to look much further than these, which are some of the best action movies on Amazon Prime. Whether your goal is to find something gritty and realistic or something completely silly but joyous nonetheless, Prime has plenty of great movies to choose from.

For more great action movies, you can check out the best action movies on Netflix or the best action movies on Hulu.

Read more
The 11 best Sean Connery movies of all time
These films starring the Scottish actor rise above the rest
best sean connery movies ranked seanconnery1

Connery leans on the classic Bond Aston Martin on the set of Goldfinger.
If you're too young to remember the hype around Sean Connery, ask your parents or grandparents what it was like to be a movie fan during his era of stardom. There wasn't a person on the planet who didn't immediately think of Connery when listing the actors with the biggest screen presence. But what is it that makes this man so incredibly iconic? Could it be because he never changes his voice for movies because “the emotions should be the same, internationally”? Perhaps it’s because of his unique Scottish accent that any novice impersonator is sure to try and mimic. All we know for sure is: Connery’s James Bond is -- for an overwhelming majority -- the best and most memorable of all 007 iterations in history.
Though his big on-screen break was as the devilishly handsome and smooth secret agent, real fans know that Sean Connery was much more than that. Besides being a respectful, earnest, and successful actor, Connery spent his first 25 years -- starting at the age of 7 -- working manual labor jobs and eventually joining the Royal Navy at 16. Truly a man of many hidden talents, he also took dance lessons for 11 years, was offered a soccer contract with Manchester United, and also spent time working as a nude model for art students after being honorably discharged from the military.
There are so many reasons to love the late, great Sir Sean Connery, but we are here to praise him for his most memorable on-screen performances. Yes, James Bond will, of course, be mentioned, but we also bring out the later films in his career that made him so much himself. So mix yourself a vodka martini “shaken, not stirred” and help us celebrate the shining star that was Sean Connery.

Dr. No (1962)

Read more