Words – Rod Chapman

Words – RodChapman

Yamaha's XJR1300 celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2009, but thisretro-style muscle bike can still hold its head high

Mr Muscle


  • Grunty engine
  • Quality components
  • Tough looks


  • Fuelling around 5000rpm – can 'hunt' ever so slightly on a steadythrottle


Overall rating: 4.0/5.0

Engine/chassis: 4.5/5.0

Price, packaging and practicality: 4.0/5.0

Behind the bars: 4.0/5.0

X-factor: 3.5/5.0


Initially launched in Australia back in 1999, the XJR1300'sheritage in fact stretches all the way back to 1984 – via theXJR1200, FJ1200 and FJ1100. A naked musclebike, the XJR1300 isstyled after the Jap superbikes of the late '70s and early '80s,but – thankfully – has all the benefits of modern technology andconstruction techniques.

Its production run has so far seen it receive comprehensiverevisions in 2004 and 2007, the latter instance marking theintroduction of electronic fuel injection and a catalyticconverter. Late 2000 to mid 2002 also saw the option of anXJR1300SP introduced alongside the standard bike – a roughly $1000price premium got you a trick paint job, a different seat and, mostnotably, a set of Ohlins piggyback rear shocks. The SP model'sreign was short lived – its benefits were absorbed into thestandard model, and the “SP” suffix was subsequentlydropped.


For a price tag of $14,699 plus ORC you get you get one hefty lumpof a motorcycle, with – in the best tradition of an old Jap blaster- a big-capacity in-line four at its epicentre. Wrapped around thatair-cooled, 1251cc, DOHC, 16-valve donk is a tubular steel doublecradle frame. Forget screens or front fairings – at speed you canhunker down behind the clocks and the headlight, chin on the tank,like any other red-blooded male…

While simplicity is at the very core of this particular retroniche, the XJR's running gear is thoroughly modern. The bank ofcarbies made way for electronic fuel injection two years ago, andwhile there's nothing remarkable about the tubular steel frame, thebumps are ironed out by quality suspension, with adjustment forpreload, rebound and compression available both front and rear.Like their overstressed 'spaghetti' frames, braking was alsosomething of an Achilles' heel for early Jap superbikes, but not soon an XJR – twin 298mm discs up front are gripped by powerfulfour-piston calipers, derived from an earlier version of themarque's sporting flagship, the YZF-R1. At the rear, a strongtwin-piston job squeezes a sizeable 267mm disc.

You'll find an old school needle-and-clock style speedo and tachois the main focal point of the instrumentation, but a few modernniceties have also been included – idiot lights are set into atasteful brushed alloy surround, while a central digital LCDdisplay shows fuel, the time and your trip meter info.

The one-piece seat is broad and plush, and pillions also benefitfrom a grabrail, the latter with an ockie strap mounting point oneither side. The seat can be removed via the helmet lock assembly,revealing easy access to the battery and a small amount of storagespace – enough for, say, a set of wet weather pants. A centrestandis provided as standard, and is easy to use.

Rubber represents one departure from the true early Jap rockets -skinny hoops have been left in the past. Our test bike was fittedwith a set of Dunlop D252 Sportsmax tyres – a 120/70ZR17 at thefront and 180/55ZR17 at the rear, so you're spoiled for choice whenreplacement time rolls around.


Swing a leg over the XJR and there's no mistaking you're on a big,solid machine. At 795mm the seat isn't overly high, but it's broad,meaning there's a bit more of a stretch to the ground than itsheight alone suggests. The broad handlebars place you in animmediate feeling of control, which is a good thing – because whenfully fuelled, you'll be managing over a third of a tonne of manand beast.

Turn the key in the ignition and you're greeted by the sort ofstart-up ritual that's now de rigeur on modern street bikes – thespeedo and tacho needles sweep through an arc, while the fuelinjection primes. The stock pipe permits a rather sanitised in-linefour rasp, and after pulling in the heavy(ish) hydraulic clutch,first gear will snick home in a quiet and fuss-freemanner.

On the go that whopping great engine is the XJR's prime point offocus – that and the chunky 11.1kg-m of torque it has the potentialto churn out. Wrenching the throttle on hard from a standing start,or rocketing away from a corner apex, becomes second nature on anXJR. It's all about feeling your head snap back and your armstaking up the strain, as 1251cc of fire-breathing fury dangles ajuicy carrot of anti-social behaviour before you.

There's plenty of useable go from just off tickover, while from3000rpm onwards it streaks off at an impressive rate. However, thefun to be had at low revs is really just a support act for thetruly stonking mid-range, and this is where you'll find the key tothe XJR's popularity and longevity. Most of the time I found myselfshort shifting not far after I'd passed max torque at 6000rpm, andalthough you don't hit peak power until 8000rpm, I preferred tosurf that towering wave of grunt. Certainly I never found reason toexplore the upper limits of its rev range, where an indicatedredline is set at 9500rpm.

The fuelling is crisp and it's virtually devoid of vibration -until, that is, you hit a roughly 1000rpm-wide window from 4000rpmto 5000rpm. Here I found the XJR displayed a tendency to hunt everso slightly on a steady throttle, while a little bit of a tinglewas present through the bars and pegs (just enough to blur theotherwise excellent mirrors). However, there's an easy solutionhere – because the XJR powerplant is so flexible, simply shift up acog, drop the revs back, and all is right with theworld.

Then we come to the XJR's handling. If it was to truly emulate an'80s Jap bullet, the XJR would have a frame made of pipe cleanerswith a big hinge in the middle. Fortunately, modern technology hascome to the rescue. This sizeable lump of a motorcycle acquitsitself incredibly well up a winding road, where its fullyadjustable suspension comes to the fore.

Take a considered approach and you'll be truly surprised how agilethe XJR can be, and although it takes a little muscle to punt itfast up a tight road, it's an involving, thrilling ride – it's areal rider's bike, should the mood take you, even though there's noundue pressure to hammer its gearbox.

Of course it's a true all-rounder, in the best spirit of theUniversal Japanese Motorcycle. It's a competent commuter, beingnarrow enough and with a generous enough steering lock to makelight work of traffic congestion, while it's an able companion onthe long haul too – provided you're willing to put up with the windpressure on your upper body.

The upright ride position is another big plus here, as is the supersupportive seat, the generous legroom and the ease with which youcan tie down a bag on the back. Pillions are well catered for too,with a similarly relaxed ride position, a relatively low seatheight and a good grabrail. Fuel economy is reasonable give theperformance on offer, at 16km/lt – this gives you a workable rangeof 300km, which will also be appreciated on longer runs.

The XJR is finished to a high standard, with decent paintcomplemented by quality brackets and fittings. Given this and itsoverall ride quality, I'd say its $14,699 plus ORC price tag isright on the money.

A decade after it first bullied its way onto the Aussiemotorcycling landscape, the XJR is still trading blows with thebest of 'em. If this retro niche pushes your buttons I reckonyou'll already be sold on the XJR's tough looks. Take a test ride,and you'll quickly see that even 10 years on, the brawn is stillthere to match the bluster.

Type: Air-cooled, four-stroke, 16-valve, DOHC, in-linefour-cylinder
Bore x stroke: 79.0 x 63.8mm
Displacement: 1251cc
Compression ratio: 9.7:1
Fuel system: Electronic fuel-injection
Type: Five-speed
Final drive: Chain
Frame type: Tubular steel double cradle
Front suspension: 43mm telescopic fork, fully adjustable
Rear suspension: Monoshock, fully adjustable
Front brake: Twin 298mm discs with four-piston calipers
Rear brake: Single 267mm disc with twin-piston caliper
Wet weight: 222kg
Seat height: 795mm
Fuel capacity: 21 litres
Max power: 71.9kW (100hp) at 8000rpm
Max torque: 11.1kg-m at 6000rpm
Price: $14,699 plus ORC
Test bike supplied by: Yamaha Motor Australia
Warranty: 24 months, unlimited kilometres