Ride Report: Columbus to Portsmouth via SR 104


Introduction 

On June 30 I took a ride with a co-worker and his buddy to Portsmouth, Ohio, to attend the Portsmouth Motorcycle Club’s 125th Anniversary Celebration. My co-worker Rob suggested taking Ohio State Route 104 to Portsmouth instead of U.S. Route 23. I had ridden/driven U.S. 23 several times for a previous job and was happy to give another route a try. Both routes follow the Scioto River and I was not expecting the alternate route to offer much more than U.S. 23 does. The route turned out to be very enjoyable and I am sure I will be riding it again sometime soon. 

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Route 

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Route Map: Port Side to Portsmouth

The ride began the same way many good motorcycle rides do: with a delicious, hearty American breakfast. I met up with Rob and his buddy at Port Side Café II and Catering on U.S. 23 near Lockbourne, Ohio. After a western omelet, home fries, and toast, the three of us started riding south on U.S. 23 and turned right onto SR 762 west. We rode for a couple miles until we reached SR 104 and turned left to head south toward Portsmouth. 

We stayed on SR 104 until we reached Chillicothe, Ohio, where we turned onto East Main Street (signed U.S. 50) and then got on the U.S. 23 expressway. We followed U.S. 23 (which SR 104 duplexes with just south of Chillicothe) to Waverly, Ohio, where we stopped for gas and water. SR 104 splits off from U.S. 23 in Waverly and we followed the SR 104 alignment from Waverly to where it duplexes with SR 73. From there we followed SR 73/SR 104 into Portsmouth. The Portsmouth Motorcycle Club’s clubhouse is located on Front Street. It looks out on the Ohio River and is one block south from where the SR 73/SR 104 bridge over the Scioto River connects with Portsmouth’s downtown. 

For the return trip to Columbus I decided to take U.S. 23 to compare the routes back-to-back. 

 

Weather 

The ride featured sunny skies and hot conditions on the way to Portsmouth, as well as on the way back to Columbus. Temperatures were probably in the high 80s or low 90s with moderately high humidity in the afternoon. I was sweating pretty good when I was stuck at red light after red light in downtown Portsmouth on the way home.

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Analysis/Summary 

I was not expecting SR 104 to be any better to ride than U.S. 23 considering both routes mostly follow the relatively flat Scioto River valley. I was pleasantly surprised by SR 104’s undulations, scenic views, and ties to Ohio transportation history. 

There was very little traffic on the rural sections of SR 104 during the ride. The section north of Chillicothe offers some scenic views of the agricultural fields and some foothills. It is a nice, low-stress, low-traffic volume alternative to the four-lane U.S. 23 highway.  

The southern portion of the route (south of Waverly) begins with a neat section of road atop a dam embankment on the southeast side of Lake White. The remainder of the route features some minor elevation changes but few scenic views due to both sides of the road being tree-lined. 

The most exciting part of the ride for me was the sighting of an old canal lock adjacent to the route. Further research has determined SR 104 by-and-large follows the routing of the Ohio and Erie Canal. I only saw the one preserved lock on the ride but will be researching the route further to determine if there are any other remnants of the abandoned canal to be visited. I am also really interested in going back to the preserved lock to see how its dimensions compare to those of the Genesee Valley Canal and Enlarged Erie Canal locks in Western New York. 

There was also a fancy-looking dirt speedway on the southwest side of SR 73/SR 104 just before the route enters Portsmouth proper. The facility is called Portsmouth Raceway Park and appears to be well-manicured for a short dirt oval. I may have to head back to Portsmouth sometime soon to see the track in action. 

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FJR1300 Comparison: 2003 model vs. 2008 model


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Introduction

For those in the market for a used sport touring motorcycle, I could not recommend the Yamaha FJR1300 enough. It is a great bike for long-distance riding that is still enjoyable on twisty roads and is generally bulletproof reliable.

I have owned both a first-generation FJR1300 (2003-2005), and currently own a second-generation model (2006-2012). I am writing this post to help sport touring shoppers who may be trying to choose between a first-generation and second-generation FJR1300.

The FJR1300 first arrived in the United States for the 2003 model year. The first generation ran from 2003 (2001 in other parts of the world) to 2005. In 2006, the bike was given some significant updates, though many parts of the bike remained unchanged.

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The first FJR1300 I owned was a 2003 that I bought in January 2015. The FJR was only available in silver that year. It is easy to tell the 2003 models apart from all other FJRs, as it was the only model year to feature the “stalk” turn signals.

I logged over 30,000 miles of experience with the 2003 model from the start of riding season in 2015 to April 2017. I took the bike on two multi-day tours in the time I had it. The first was in April 2016 when I rode from Columbus, Ohio, to Austin, Texas for the MotoGP race. In July 2016 I took the bike on a six-day tour that included stops at the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville, Tenn., the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, the former Turner Field in Atlanta, Ga., and the Tail of the Dragon/Cherohala Skyway. Sadly, the bike was totaled when I was rear-ended at a stoplight in April 2017.

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My bought my current FJR1300, and black 2008 model, in December 2017. I had purchased a 2009 Ninja 500 to get me through the remainder of the 2017 riding season but knew I wanted to back to a true sport touring machine.

I was strongly considering giving a BMW a try but I got a deal on the 2008 FJR1300 that I could not refuse. I only have a few thousand miles on it so far, but now have enough experience with it to make an informed comparison between the two bikes.

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With regard to accessories and modifications, both of the FJRs I owned came equipped with the factory top case (not standard equipment on an FJR). The 2003 model had been outfitted by a previous owner with aftermarket heated grips (which I later replaced).

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The 2008 model was not equipped with heated grips at the time of purchase. I changed out the heated grips on the 2003 model for BikeMaster heated grips (big improvement) and added a voltmeter. I plan on making the same modifications to the 2008 model in the near future.

Similarities

Engine 

The most noticeable unchanged characteristic between the two models is the engine. The liquid-cooled, four-cylinder, 1298cc mill churns out excellent power and torque on both models.

Tire size 

The 2003 and 2008 models are equipped with a 120/70ZR17 front tire and a 180/55ZR17 rear tire. The standard sport bike/sport touring tire sizes make it easier to shop for replacement tires.

One thing that did change with the 2008 model is the recommended tire pressure. On the 2003 model, 33 psi is recommended in the front tire, and 36 psi in the rear tire. For the 2008 model, 39 psi is recommended in the front tire and 42 psi in the rear tire. This was probably in response to the cupping issue that plagues the big sport touring motorcycles like the FJR, Honda ST1300 and Kawasaki Concours 14.

Drivetrain

Both models are equipped with low-maintenance shaft drive. I have not experienced any shaft-jacking with either model. The final drive assembly on both models is relatively easy to remove for U-joint maintenance and spline lubrication.

Luggage

The luggage remains unchanged in terms of construction and dimensions between the two models. The orientation of the top case’s handle and latch are annoying, as is the fact that half of the storage capacity of the top case is in the top of the case. It makes it very easy for things to fall out if the top case is tightly packed.

The saddlebag interiors are somewhat oddly shaped but provide ample room for storing clothes, tools, and the like. The saddlebags are not large enough to fit a full face helmet, though the locking mechanism and ease of mounting/dismounting make up for it.

All three of the cases have excellent water tightness. I have never experienced a problem with rain or condensation getting into any of the cases in nearly 35,000 miles of riding.

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Differences

Transmission gearing 

The first distinction I noticed while riding the 2008 model was when I got on the freeway. The gearing on the 2008 model is a lot taller. On my 2003 model, I was at 4,000 rpm when riding at 70 mph in fifth gear. On the 2008 model, 70 mph is around 3,500 rpm.

While the lower RPM sacrifices some throttle response when trying to quickly accelerate to pass freeway traffic, it helps a bit with fuel economy. The 2008 model’s main tank is slightly smaller than the 2003 (an extra 0.2 gallons was reassigned to the reserve tank), yet the 2008 model gets the same fuel range as the 2003 model.

Instrument changes 

Other than the revised bodywork, the next most obvious visual change to the bike is the instrument cluster. Like the 2003 model, the 2008 model sports an analog speedometer and tachometer. The analog gauges appear to have been enlarged, through the numerals on the gauges appear to be smaller and somewhat harder to read.

The 2008 model’s digital display contains the same gauges as the 2003, plus a gear indicator and ambient air temperature. The appearance of the fuel and water temperature gauge was changed for the 2008 model but remains easy to read.

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Windscreen

My 2003 model was equipped with a stock windscreen. In the fully raised position, the 2003 model’s screen would push the air to the crown of my helmet. The 2008 model is equipped with a much taller windscreen than the 2003. Despite the larger dimensions, the air is not pushed much further over the crown of my helmet.

One of my biggest disappointments in the 2008 model is the flimsy construction of the windscreen. On the 2003 model the screen did not wobble or move with the wind. The 2008 model’s taller windscreen moves and shakes a fair amount. The movement is more pronounced near the top of the screen. The movement is annoying and distracting and may have had a hand is causing my E-Z Pass to fall off the windscreen during a ride.

Handlebars

The 2003 and 2008 models both feature adjustable handlebars. On the 2003 model, the handlebar “towers” (for lack of a better descriptor) could be mounted in one of two positions and made for a very upright riding position. On the 2008 model, the bar adjustment system is very different and allows the bar towers to be mounted in three different position. The bars on the 2008 seem lower, flatter and more wide-set than the 2003 model. I have not tried adjusting the bars on either model, so I cannot comment on that aspect of the bars.

Fairing pocket 

One of the most convenient new features on the 2008 model is the fairing pocket. The 2003 model had room for a fairing pocket, but instead left a void beneath the work within the upper left fairing. The pocket on the 2008 model is not huge, but large enough to fit a small smartphone or some charging attachments.

The pocket is also equipped with a 12-volt accessory outlet for charging electronics. The outlet only works when the key is turned to the “ON” position, so there’s no leaving a phone or power bank to charge off of the battery while away from the bike.

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ABS 

The 2008 model is equipped with ABS whereas my 2003 model was not. I have not had the ABS kick in yet, so I cannot comment on its functionality.

I had replaced the stock lines on my 2003 with stainless steel lines, which made a huge difference in terms of braking performance. I am planning on replacing the 2008 model’s brakes lines with stainless steel lines as well and will write a follow-up post about it.

OEM Seat 

The first generation FJRs had a different seat design to the 2006-present models. The shape of the stock seat on the 2003 model was wider than the OEM seat on any of my previous motorcycles but still became uncomfortable after an hour or two. The way the top of the 2003 stock seat tapered in toward the bike would cut off circulation to my rear end and legs. I replaced the 2003’s seat with a Sargent seat in 2016, which was a big improvement.

The 2008 model’s stock seat is much more comfortable that the 2003 models and appears to be a little wider. It feels like I have plenty of room to move around the seat and can ride almost three hours before it becomes uncomfortable. I may replace the OEM seat with another Sargent model next year but am happy to keep the OEM seat for the 2018 riding season.

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Heat management/radiator 

One of the biggest problems with the 2003 model was engine heat management. The bike would generate a lot of heat inside the lower fairing, which would could easily be felt by a rider’s legs in hotter conditions. Without purpose-built riding pants the heat would become unbearable.

The 2008 model seems to have largely solved the problem. I have ridden the 2008 model in 90-degree heat and did not experience any problems with feeling excessive heat escaping from the lower fairing.

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