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Tag: Yamaha FJ1200

Motorcycle Enthusiasts Only

by on Jun.23, 2009, under Motorcycles

0073-fj_to-calgary_smThis page is devoted to my complete enjoyment of my beautiful 1990 Yamaha FJ 1200 during my trip, so those who are not devotees of two wheel travel need read no farther.

This photo was taken as soon as the rain stopped on my way to Calgary. The sun is in the east and the plains stretch before me bathed in sunshine.

Despite the rain,  I completely enjoyed the ride. The sun was, of course, more fun and scenic; but the joy of riding soared over the discomfort.  I have mapped out all of my major stops so far as I am still in Summerland on my return trip to Vancouver. On the highway, I can get about 175 miles to a tank of gas without going on reserve. The usual fill was 10 litres, just to be on the safe side, but I was really empty for my first stop in Abbotsford and the tank took over 16 litres. I don’t worry so much in urban areas, because I know that the FJ has a large reserve, but on those mountain roads, I like to keep the tank topped up when I can, so frequent 10l fills were routine.

Center map

0058-fj_to-calgary_smThis photo, from the same set, shows the weather clearing behind me and the mountains in the distance.  One of the reasons I love riding this bike is because the gusts of wind don’t blow me around the way they do on a smaller machine. I am so light that I remember several terrifying incidents where the wind has picked me up off the ground and dropped me in the wrong lane.

Motorcyclists who weigh more than me have never experienced this, but the combined weight of my slight frame and a Yamaha DT enduro was less than 500lbs. The FJ, without me and my luggage, weighs more than that.  A small corrective lean and the heavy motorcycle holds the road against all of the strong weather and semi-truck wind streams that try to push me around.

This is the last of the air-cooled giants and the lack of water  cooling plumbing and radiator makes it much more narrow, nimble and easy for me to straddle than most four cylinder bikes. This cooler, wet weather has actually been perfect for the bike as overheating has only been an issue while stuck in traffic in Kelowna on the way up to Banff.  It has also been comfortable to wear my full protective layers of Technics waterproof armoured pants and two jackets, a leather under an armoured net jacket. Layers of protective gear can make a rider overheated very quickly in traffic and waterproof clothing can feel like being sealed in with plastic cling wrap, but this cooler weather encouraged me to keep my sweater on underneath.

The Yamaha is as light as any small street bike I have ever ridden, as long as that powerful engine is pulling the weight. It is perfectly balanced and straightens out the curves, tracking along any line I choose without a deviation. The Trans-Canada Highway has changed considerably since the last time I drove through in 1986. Most of the really twisty curves have been straightened and most of the long climbs are two lanes. There was a considerable amount of construction still going on, so I don’t know how recent these developments are; but the Yamaha was not challenged at all by any of the tightest curves.

The road-racing heritage of the big bike shines through as it will take a more daring (and less loaded down) sports rider to push this bike to its limits. I was content to make it though the rain shed sides of the mountains and enjoy the scenery on the rain shadow sides.  I am starting to feel really comfortable on the FJ, although I do need to be very careful when I am parking, turning around or any other time that I can’t use the engine to pull the weight.

These are photos I took with my phone because I didn’t want to stop too long in the rain to get my camera out. I have become a great devotee of earplugs on the highway, but sometimes I forget to put them in. These photos are the result of juggling my helmet while sitting on the bike to insert the plugs.

I had taken the southern route a couple of times since the 1980’s, but had not retraced my wandering pathways through Roger’s Pass in a while.  I have never driven through the Rockies on a motorcycle before, only in a van or dual rear wheels, one and a half ton van loaded with musical gear and a touring ensemble. Well, things haven’t changed that much .  .  .


I am using my motorcycle as a small truck carrying an array of luggage that includes my tripod (still on the bike above), two cameras, notebook computer, three external hard drives, a remote battery powered recorder, tools, flashlights and a few clothes (duffle not pictured at left – used as backrest top photo). I can achieve a complete audio/video/photo documentary project just with the equipment on my bike.  No guitar though . . . I could not figure out how to fit it on with everything else I had to carry.


A major problem on this trip is the lack of hard luggage and I have been thinking about this for a while. The old Skookum soft bags that came with the bike are starting to rip at the seams from age and overloading and they offer very little protection from impact. My solution is underway as I visited Optimal Cases and Lights, the Pelican Case distributor located in Calgary. Pelican cases are legendary in the video world and the music department at the Banff Centre had their Sony camcorder snugly housed in a Pelican box.  I had been thinking and measuring all winter, but there is nothing like a live demo to seal the deal.

Lucy, the customer service representative, had been giving me information for months and assuring me that a lifetime warrantee meant they would replace the cases if they broke. Period. Drop an FJ on them — no problem. Here she models the chosen case as I took the photo of the case, held next to my bike. She was so helpful, she even stayed after work on Friday to allow me to make my purchase. Note the wheels and pull out handle, so even if I load them up, I will still be able to move them around. I’m getting the lid organizers for the small stuff and I can use the cases even if I fly or travel in my van. A full face helmet does not fit, but I can get a cable lock and secure it to the bike rack or get a top box. I really don’t want to get a top box as I need to keep the weight low as much as possible. If the signal lights are moved back a bit, there will even be room to have the boxes in place and take a passenger and still sling my duffle across the top.  Maybe even take a guitar .  .  .

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