This past weekend, I rented a Yamaha FJR 1300 and took a trip up through New Hampshire. The FJR is a “sport-touring” bike – power and handling like a sport bike, and a fairing like a sport bike, but more comfortable, and with luggage, like a touring bike. My own bike is getting long in the tooth, and is less comfortable than I’d like for longish trips, so I’ve been thinking about replacing it. I feel like I’m at the fork in the road – either it’s Harley time, or go with something along the lines of the FJR. I’ve ridden Harleys before, and really enjoyed them, but I wanted to try the sport-touring route too. Longer term, I’d like to take some longer trips via motorcycle.
I rented the bike through Eagle Rider; they’re essentially a network of motorcycle dealers who rent bikes. They’re mostly orientated towards Harleys, and I’ve rented one from them before, but the Yamaha has more limited availability; I ended up having to rent it from Manchester NH. Given that, it made sense to make it a weekend trip through the northern end of New Hampshire.
I picked up the bike around 1 on Saturday. The first thing I noticed was how tall it felt. I was on tippy-toes at low speeds. I took a quick spin around the parking lot to get accustomed to it, then headed out onto the local streets. Any new bike takes some getting used to, and I wanted to get used to it before hitting the highway.
The general goal was to mostly backroad it, spend some time on the Interstate, and definitely do the Kancamagus Highway, and then head north through the White Mountains, find some place to stay overnight, then head back through Franconia Notch the next day.
I took Route 3A north for quite a way while getting accustomed to the bike. Once underway, I found it quite comfortable. The riding position is much more upright than my own bike – after about 45 minutes on my bike, I feel like I have a knife stuck between my shoulders, but I was comfortable through most of Saturday. I did get a little butt-sore by the end of the day, but then, I’d spent most of the day in the saddle.
I eventually transferred to I-93, mostly to be sure of finding the Kancamagus. I stopped for lunch and gas in Lincoln before starting in on the scenic highway.
The bike handled the highway nicely. I was still a little uncertain on it, so I wasn’t pushing it very hard. It was nice having the saddlebags on the bike; I had the Nikon with me, and I stopped at several of the turnouts for photography.
While I was there, I met a guy flying a DJI Phantom 4 drone. I’ve been wanting one for a while, and it was cool seeing one in the wild. He sent it zooming out over a valley and halfway to the next set of hills, and must have gotten some cool footage. There was some kind of muscle car meet up going on that day – at one of the stops, a guy mentioned it, then suddenly a fleet of exotic cars flowed past, while the drone hovered overhead.
After finishing the Kancamagus, I headed north via Route 16 through Conway, then west via Route 302 through Bartlett. By this time, the sun was starting to get low, and it was time to find a place to stay overnight. It was a great weekend weather-wise, and the were a lot of “No Vacancy” signs. I didn’t want to stay in town; I was looking for a roadside motel in fairly quiet area. I sailed past one place, and then decided to turn back and take a second look. I found a driveway to turn into, and had a close call. I mentioned at the outset that the bike seat was very tall, and had to tippy-toe at slow speeds rather than flat footing it. The driveway I’d turned into was gravel, not asphalt, and didn’t give me any traction. I stopped the bike, but then it capsized on me in slow motion.
I managed to keep my left hand on the clutch the whole time, so it didn’t take off on me, and then got my right hand off the throttle and hit the kill switch on the engine before it went totally over. I said a few bad words, took off my jacket and helmet, and using my legs, was able to get it back upright and on its side stand. After a few minutes to settle down, I started back up, no harm, no foul, and found a place to stay overnight.
It occurred to me that a bike with as many adjustments as this one probably had adjustable seat height, and sure enough, looking at the manual on my phone, it does. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to figure out how to get the seat off to get at the adjustments.
I was up early the next morning. On a previous trip north, I’d stumbled upon Polly’s Pancake Parlor, in Sugar Hill and wanted to have breakfast there again. The last time, it had been full and there’d been a wait; I had to have the bike back by around 2:30, so I wanted to get there before it got too busy.
I checked out before 8 and hit the road, continuing west along 302. I really enjoyed this stretch. The bike was comfortable, and I was starting to feel more comfortable with it, and the scenery was great, despite the fact that the clouds had come in overnight. Along the way I stopped a couple of times to grab some pictures:
It took a little bit of work to find it, but I finally found Polly’s around 9:30; happily I didn’t have to wait at all. It was as good as I’d remembered. By 10:30, I was back on the road, and headed south towards Franconia Notch. I stopped at Echo Lake to see the site where the Old Man of the Mountains had been. A memorial to the Old Man has been set up; there are a number of “profilers” set up at Echo Lake; when you look at them just so, you can superimpose a replica of the profile onto the mountainside.
I would have preferred to have had more time to do more here, but the bike had to be back in Manchester by 2:30, so I compromised with myself, and took Route 3 back south, through Laconia and the Lakes region. By this point, I was starting to feel the bike. I was starting to get saddlesore, and my arms hurt from gripping the handlebars continuously.
I got to Tilton, and the junction of I-93 by about 12:45. I wasn’t sure how long it would take to get back to Manchester via backroads, so I switched to the highway, and was back by about 1:30. When I got back, I asked about the seat height, and the guy there came out to show me how the adjustment worked. From 200 feet away, he was able to tell that the seat was in the high position. He showed me how the adjustment worked, and I tried sitting on it with the seat in the low position. Much better. I still couldn’t absolutely flat foot it, but I wasn’t tippy-toeing either. I would have liked to have tried to take it for a short spin with the seat in the low position, but there wasn’t time.
So how did I like the bike? I liked it a lot. It felt kind of big to me, and I wasn’t comfortable with slow speed maneuvers (especially after the capsize) but I think it would have been a lot better with the seat in the correct position for me. Even so, it was physically a lot more comfortable than my current bike, and I think it would be more comfortable than a Harley at highway speeds, where the wind blast becomes a factor with a cruiser type bike. I think the size is something I could get used to. Especially Sunday morning, when it was a little cooler, I enjoyed riding it, and that’s what it’s all about.