Yamaha’s New XJR1300 is much like Yamaha’s Old XJR1300, But Much Trendier…
For what is essentially a 20-year-old bike, I’m having a lot of fun on the new 2015 Yamaha XJR1300. That comes as no surprise as I was a big fan of the old one, back when it was marketed as a muscle bike throughout the nineties and noughties.
But times have changed, as have fashions, and now Yamaha has the XJR marked as a retro machine, ripe to be struck down with customisation fever. Given its age, and the minor list of modifications, it’s a convenient box in which to put the bike.
The presentation of the bike was held at Sydney’s Deus Ex Machine store. Prised between the branded board shorts and moustache pomade was the new bike, not looking out of place in this haven for hipsters. There’s a niche here, and it’s growing, and Yamaha is the first of the Japanese manufacturers to make a play for it, following in the tattooed biceps of BMW with the nineT and the new Ducati Scrambler. Along with bikes like the XV950 and VMAX, Yamaha is calling the class ‘Sport Heritage’ harking back to the past with the bikes of the future…
The bunfight for the RnineT and the scramble for Scramblers proves that people are quite happy to buy it, not build it, and that’s why Yamaha is desperate to jump on board as part of a strategic revision of the firm. This has been helped by the back story of the Yard Projects, a series of Yamaha bikes built by the world’s most prominent custom shops. The customising customer is now king, and Yamaha is building bikes to suit, not forcing them on machines they essentially don’t want.
If you’re sensing a soupçon of cynicism then you’re not wrong. The presentation was big on setting the scene, little on actual changes to the bike. The technical aspect of the presentation was light because hardly anything has changed on the bike. Born in 1995 in 1200 guise and gradually updated to 2007 (by which time it had grown to 1251cc, got fuel injection and moved to a single can), the 2015 bike is differentiated from the last version by a tidier tail, wider bars, a polished aluminium number plate and a slimmer tank.
There are other changes, of course, but the frame, suspension and brakes are essentially unchanged, and the architecture of the engine remains the same, that being an air-cooled 1,251cc inline four, pumping out nearly 100 HP at the crank. There’s also a Racer version of the bike, with Yamaha starting the job off with a bikini fairing, clip-ons and splashes of carbon across the bike.
Meanwhile, I kicked things off on the standard bike, very handsome in blue, and looking just like an XJR should, butch and bold. The riding position is very familiar, with the repositioning of the new bars working in the bike’s favour. The engine also offers a feeling of déjà vu, and it’s a credit to the revised fuel injection settings that it feels as sweetly fuelled as the original’s carbs. Forget about the claimed power, this powerplant is all about the torque, and in top it’ll drive from standstill to whatever speed you dare to hit on Australian roads.
The cops are hot on speed out here. It helped that we were riding on a Sunday, but much of the ride was tempered by worrying about what could have been round the corner.
It hosed down in the morning too, soaking us to the skin and, more importantly, exposing the fallibility of the Dunlop D252 tyres (no, us neither…). It didn’t take much to break traction, front or rear, and with no digital solutions to curb this trait (no TC, no ABS), it was back to good old fashion wrist control to keep things in check. Retro’s all the rage!
The power, the brakes and the suspension all compliment each other. The initial soft feeling of the suspension is buoyed by sterner stuff further in the stroke, and it’s impressive to see all aspects front and rear are fully adjustable. And the look of those twin Öhlins shocks at the rear is pure XJR, with old and gold blending perfectly. The traditional look of the right-way-up forks is less flattering… But the brakes are enough to lock the front up, and the power is spread wide across the rev range, meaning you can ride wild or mild.
But back onto roads prowled by the police and the Racer’s riding position suddenly becomes unnatural. Your arms aren’t given much room, and with Australia’s draconian speed limits not able to let you go fast enough to let the wind take your weight, you soon start fighting the position it’s put you in and start wondering whether the stylistic enhancement of the Racer package is actually a liability on the hoof. The new 15-litre tank, losing six, is nicely sculpted, showing off the rocker covers of the wide engine, but I found my knees knocked on the outer crease; painful when you fluff a gear change mid-wheelie…
But all we’ve ridden is the blank sheet. Yamaha claims this is born customised, but offers over 30 accessories to soup-up your XJR, and collaborations with bike builders will offer more parts in the future. However, most of these parts are for show, rather than go – much like the bike itself. When you’re used to seeing a motorcycle as a dynamic tool rather than a fashion statement this is a difficult mindset to switch to.
But like I said, I was having fun. However, I can’t help but think I’d be having more fun on something else, not least an MT-09 from the same shop. Any balance of form over function is a delicate one. But as a manufacturer, what do you do? Re-engineer the motor, give it a stronger chassis, lop off a load of weight? All this costs big Yen, so if you can repackage an old bike in new clothes, be bang on trend and save yourself a few quid in the process, then why not sit back and relax if that’s what your customers want at the end of the day.
” All we’ve ridden is the blank sheet. Yamaha claims the XJR1300 Racer is Just the beginning for A customisation project…”
2015 Yamaha XJR1300 Specs & Price :
Engine : 4-Stroke, Air-Cooled, Inline Four, DOHC 16 Valve
Bore x Stroke : 79 x 63.8 mm
Capacity : 1.251 cc
Compression Ratio : 9.7:1
Fuelling : Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI)
Claimed Power : 95 HP @ 8.000 RPM
Claimed Torque : 108,4 N.m @ 6.000 RPM
Frame : Steel double cradle
Front Suspension : RWU Telescopic Forks, Fully Adustable
Rear Suspension : Dual Öhlins Shocks, Fully Adjustable
Front Brakes : Four pistons calipers, 298mm discs
Rear Brakes : Single piston caliper, 267mm disc
Wheelbase : 1,500mm
Seat Height : 829mm
Dry Weight : 240kg
Fuel Capacity : 14.5 litres
Price : £8,599 (Racer £9,599)