Posted by: caryandjohn | January 3, 2015

FJ-09: 3600 miles through sand, dirt, sleet, rain and snow

3600 miles round trip, 2 weeks
From San Francisco to Los Barilles, Baja California Sur
Longest day ~420 miles
Roads: almost all paved; mostly biways, a couple of dirt and sand (with a hard bottom) mixed roads
Weather: cold! average 50 degrees; low 38, high 75; rain and sleet, with snow on the ground
photo (3)

Power, ride-ability…
Super lightweight, so great in the twisties, without at all feeling like you need to wrestle it into the corners; but solid weight enough to feel comfortable at 75/80 mph on the highway. Height was fine for me; I’m 5’7″ and a half with a 31/2 inch inseem. I could flat foot it at stoplights. Coming from a 4 four it took me several hundred miles to get comfortable with the proper shifting points… Once I got all the way to Los Barilles, (about 1700 miles into the bike), I started using the gears more to control the bike in the corners. On a 25-30 mph curve I would put it down into 3rd gear and the engine would hold the bike in the corner nicely, I could get somewhat hard on the gas in 3rd and not redline but have good power to pull out.. I really liked how the engine breaking works- It would get me settled nicely in the corner and there was enough power in each gear, even the low gears, to power out hard but still be in control.
On the way home, after 3000 miles I was excited to get home and looked down from time to time to see that I was mellowly plowing at 85 or 90 mpg on HWY 101… no problem, steady as she goes


Comfort …
Coming off of a 99 VFR800- having done a cross country trip and many multiple week trips- I have to say I don’t think I’ll turn back. I miss the sound of the gear driven cams and the exhust, and sporty-ness, but I don’t miss the riding position. The upright position is just what I needed. The upright, wide handle bars make it easy to sit up and easy to turn in the corners.  After about 1000 miles I adjusted the wind screen from the first level to the third level which made riding at 70 mpg from 60 mpg much more protected; so much that I didn’t realize my speed at 70 mpg. At 80 mpg, it’s a little less effective, so perhaps the higher windscreen might suit me, especially since I tend to do long distance trips;

On this trip, it was cold- with temps going into the mid 30’s and sitting in the 40’s – which is cold for me.  I think I’ll order the heated hand grips that Yamaha sells. For the most part my chest and core were relatively warm- it’s the fingers and toes that are really exposed and get uncomfortably cold.  I don’t wear heated gear- it seems too fussy.. I wear aerostich rain mits that do help a bit.  Heated grips would do just the trick for the longer days and when the weather dips down.

The seat was fine for me. I didn’t notice monkeybutt as much as I have in the past on the VFR.  2 hours in the seat seemed about my range (i think this is probably true with the VFR), where I wanted to get up and stretch and move around;  I usually used this time to get gas, have a coffee, warm up and chit chat with the locals.

Cruise control would be nice i suppose…although I guess I’ve always thought that…I used a $10 throttle rocker on mine and it was nice to have for sure…There’s not a lot of vibration coming through the bike from the engine, so it does the job.

Compared to the VFR I seemed to have more energy left in me to go longer miles… The 400+ mile ride from Long Beach to El Rosario didn’t seem too bad; my mood wasn’t too crabby, or impatient; where on the VFR I may have been over it and ready to stop, feeling like I needed to stand up and stretch, etc.  I didn’t feel like I needed to stand up on the FJ that much…

photo 1


Since I’ve never owned a brand new modern bike, the controls were fancy for me. I enjoyed toggling through the three screens to see my gas mileage, or the amount of time I had spent riding since last turning off the bike; or the air temperature (I liked trying to guess if the temperature had changed);  The bike doesn’t allow you to reset the mileage or toggle through all of the maintenance features when in motion… oh well

The gas gauge is a little funky- it seems to go down only after a half a tank or something like that, and then in increments of what seem to be quarters… I didn’t like this too much. I reset my mileage each time I filled up so that I could calculate it some on my own… To reset the mileage was a little confusing at first; then I realized I only needed to tap the reset button and then hold it again to reset;

The auxiliary plug is a big plus for me! Before I had a USB plug from my battery that I picked up from the BMW shop; it was awkward- I never had it mounted anywhere and unless I had my tank bag it was hung up from the side of my bike- so big improvement for me!  I used my to charge my phone since i use it to listen to music.

Gas mileage…

According to the bike readout, my bike was averaging 50 mpg for my trip… I was probably averaging 65 mph; On the last leg of the trip I ran the bike around 75/80 mph (which I think is something like an average of 45 mpg), half straight road and half twisties through the foothills… I got to around 160 when the reserve flashed and then 186 when I got to the gas pump…

My luggage…

I ride with a givi fabric tank bag (T401NG) that straps on with plastic coated hooks. It fits the FJ much better than it did my VFR… although there isn’t an ideal place to hook the front hooks (the rear 2 straps hook on pretty good to the frame); I hooked the front 2 straps to the fairing and the front right one slipped off several times and scuffed up the fairing a little bit… The rear bag (50 liters) I used is made by “bags-connection” -available from twisted throttle- It fits great! actually much better than on my VFR… I ordered hard bags, but this luggage would suit this bike great; the FJ has hooks that work perfect for strapping it on the bike;  I had tightened the bag too much in the beginning and the way it sat on the rack made me loose some space; so I just loosened the bag and once it was full, it filled out and made up the slack.

photo 2


Wow- whoever invited this is genius! I had chance to test it out on on 138 in California heading towards Palmdale; there was stop and go traffic backed up waiting to turn on to Rte 2 trying to get Wrightwood… there was a fender bender pulled off on the side of the road which I felt the need to stare at too long… when I turned around there was a white minivan 25-30 ft in front of me- I was probably going 45… I grabbed a handful of brakes and really didn’t think I was going to be able to stop until I got just the the edge of his bumper… Awesome – the ABS kicked in, slowed me down and kept me totally in control

Riding in dirt, bumpy roads, speed bumps, rain and sleet…

OK- so this is not a dual sport bike, at all. It’s a sport bike with a comfy position… Riding on washboard dirt (10 miles of it outside of La Paz where they were repaving the road) does not make this bike happy. I wonder if I played with the suspension if it would be better, but it was so painfully bumpy, I dropped my speed to like 15-20 mph.  I felt like I might hurt the bike if I went even faster. I tried to find the sandy parts, which helped.

The bike didn’t bottom out, only over some of the awful speed bumps “topes” in Guerro Negro.. where I had to stop the bike and paddle-walk over the speed bumps not to hit the bottom of the bike.  I wondered if I had hit my rear stand, vs. the exhaust pipe- I hope..

The road out to Playa Naranjos just south of Mulege is a few miles of dirt and sand (with a hard bottom)… The bike moves through this as you would expect any loaded sport touring bike with street tires.  Not ideal, but makes it though fine.

I was in rain and sleet on my last day of baja… snow on the ground, mud puddles and one very big mud puddle through one of the towns… plowed right though all of it as you would expect any sport touring bike…


On the highway, when the road is bumpy, the bike suspension seems choppy/bouncy… it’s not plush… I may play with the pre-load some… In the corners the bike seems planted and corners well.  I really enjoyed the suspension in the corners…

Rainbow in Catavina



  1. Great write up Cary, thanks for taking the time, I very much enjoyed being part of the journey.

  2. Always great to have you follow along Steve!

  3. Awesome rider, bike and trip! As usual, great photos—-
    Bill S.

  4. Thanks Bill! Thanks for reading… I realize this post was a bit more about the bike than usual!

  5. Sounds like good fun.
    Question for you, if I may: after a few months, do you still like your tailbag?
    I’m also coming from a VFR to the FJ09 (we call it MT09 Tracer in France) and am very interested in this bag, I wasn’t too sure it would fit nicely on this bike but from what you’re saying it seems good.

  6. Hi Jeremie, The tailbag is fantastic. And it works on all of our 8-9 bikes. It’s super versatile (and durable). Go for it. You won’t be disappointed. It’s a great bag, especially for the price. Bon Voyage- Cary

  7. great, thanks for the feedback. And keep on riding!

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