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2015 Yamaha XJR1300 Review

Posted on February 23, 2015 by Scott in Review. 49 comments


A little while back I received an invitation from Yamaha to the XJR1300 European press launch. Naturally, I was thrilled to be part of it and sent back a RSVP with the requested passport information saying I would love to be involved in the European launch. So my mind wanders off, picturing where we would be riding the XJR? Maybe we would be taken on the legendary German autobahn where pesky speed limits have been slain? Or perhaps we’ll disappear down the picturesque Amalfi coast with the Mediterranean breeze flowing in my locks? Or could we be taken up one of the most famous and photographed roads in Italy, the Stelvio Pass, with its endless hairpin turns? Then reality hit when I finally read the details of the invitation. The launch was actually going to be held in Sydney, Australia! What? That’s where I live. So after the initial disappointment, I realised being a native could actually come in handy while doing the press ride, like being comfortable riding on the left hand side of the road… but more on that later.


The press launch started at the House of Simple Pleasures – AKA Deus Sydney – where we were given a brief history on the XJR by Shun Miyazawa, the product development guru from Yamaha. Over the past few years the XJR has been given to many well known custom bike builders through the Yard Built program. First, there was the Wrenchmonkees who kicked it off with their stripped back version – which Shun tells me over a beer that this is still one of his favourite builds. So much so that they have based the latest model on its clean horizontal lines. Unfortunately the bike doesn’t look much like the Wrenchmonkees rendition but it has been designed to be customized. And I don’t mean just by pro builders. No, Yamaha wants owners to be able to personalize the bike themselves with a catalogue of quality bolt on parts that have been designed with builders like Deus, Keino, Roland Sands and El Solitario. After the presentation was finished and seeing all the great XJR pro builds I was eager to ride it the following morning.


The morning came around fast and we were split up into different riding groups. I was in the ‘Italian’ group – all the journalists were from Italy or nearby countries like Sicily and Portugal, except for me. Outside the hotel there were over 20 XJRs lined up for journalists. It’s probably a good time to mention that the XJR comes in two different models: the standard and the Racer edition. As the name suggests the Racer is a ‘café racer’ inspired version, with carbon nose fairing, a carbon café racer seat and clip-on bars. The riding position is much lower than the standard version, and after sitting on it I felt like I may have been a touch too short for the set up (I’m 5’9″) to be able to comfortably ride all day on it. Luckily, I was given the standard model for the journey. It has higher bars and a comfortable riding position that is similar to my daily ride – a Triumph Bonneville.


We were introduced to our German guide, which was a little concerning, because obviously he was used to riding on the other side of the road. But then I was told he had been here for three weeks practicing the route he was taking us on. So we all jumped on our bikes and hit the road. We were 5 minutes into our ride when my concerns came back into play, with our German guide taking the whole group onto the wrong side of the road turning left at an intersection into oncoming traffic. It was like lambs being led to slaughter. Luckily there was very little traffic and he remembered right away that we were all on the wrong side of the road. After a few apologies by our red faced German guide, we got back on the road – this time on the right side.


After riding for a while, the first thing I noticed about the XJR is that it’s so incredibly smooth between gears. The inline-four 1251cc engine has loads of power and is apparently Yamaha’s biggest air-cooled inline-four on the market. We seemed to be unlucky on the roads, being caught behind trucks, learner cars and even a tractor. But the XJR’s 98hp and 80 lb-ft of torque made it extremely easy to pull out and over-take in small spaces. No matter what gear I was in, there was power to get past anything – even the odd Italian journo.


The second thing I noticed was the sound – the lack of it, that is. For a classic looking bike with a four-into-one exhaust it is relatively quiet. The Racer version did have a deeper note, due to the Akrapovic exhaust, which I’m told is an optional extra at an additional charge. Of course, it is easy to change that bark and would probably be one of my first mods – after replacing that ugly rear plastic fender – which I’m sure was designed to appease legal requirements.


As we were travelling down the winding country roads, I was thinking about the weight of the bike. It weighs 240kg, which is almost 20kg heavier than the BMW R nineT,  although, to be honest, it didn’t really feel that heavy when riding at speed. Sure, it didn’t feel like a nimble light-weight bike, but it didn’t feel as heavy as a Harley Sportster 883, which weighs about the same but has a very different stance. The only time the XJR feels weighty is when being manoeuvred into a tight parking spot, but you’d have that problem with any large capacity bike.


One of the biggest cosmetic changes on this model is the tank – they’ve shaved 6 and a half litres off the original beefy 21 litre tank. They have made it considerably thinner, mainly on the sides, and it now holds 14.5 litres of fuel. Shun tells us they wanted it thinner so that you can see the engine sticking out on each side, which visually makes the bike look more agile. When riding the bike, the scooped out smaller tank now accommodates your knees a lot better, which makes you feel nice and tucked in when going into corners. Surprisingly, the tank is actually made out of plastic by Accerbis – who are an Italian off road tank specialist. The vintage blue and white livery makes the tank one of the best updates on this new model.


When it comes to the suspension, the XJR has a pretty good set up, with adjustable piggy back Ohlins twin-shocks on the back that made for a comfortable ride on some of the dodgier roads. Mine were set on the harder end of the spectrum and there was plenty of dampening on all the different roads we encountered. On the front it has standard right side up telescopic forks.

The braking was tested when we were travelling a little too fast through some country roads and I spotted a police car travelling the other way. I instinctively hit the front brake a little too fast and hard and it slowed the bike down immediately – my fellow Italian riders didn’t even flinch, oblivious to the fact that it was an Australian cop car. The brakes on the front are dual discs with a single disc on the back.


The Yamaha XJR1300 Racer model with icarbon fairing, clip-ons and carbon seat.

With such a large lump, it is a more thirsty beast. After we were halfway through our 280km I looked down at the gauges and I had already used half a tank. Which brings me to the gauges. They are simple in design and they have kept the digital component to a minimum, but the size of them is just way too big and bulky. But having said that, I haven’t seen a single classic styled modern bike on the market that has stock gauges which I’ve liked, since they are usually either too big or too ‘plasticky’. They do look much better on the Racer version though, because they are nicely hidden behind the fairing.


Then, before we knew it, we were at the end of our 280km ride and were back in the heart of  Sydney, fighting peak hour traffic in the rain on the way back to the hotel. Our group happened to be running 2 hours behind the rest – mainly due to the Italians and their love of being photographed.

The bike is a blast to ride. It is a real mile eater and although I didn’t get to ride it on the German autobahn, I did get to push it hard along some great Sydney roads. This Japanese muscle bike clearly comes into its own when there’s an open road in front of it. After I reluctantly handed the XJR keys back and said my goodbyes, I jumped back on my trusty Bonnie and after turning that throttle, I started to wish I was back on the XJR… riding along the Amalfi Coast.

[The price for the XJR1300 is € 10,499. In Australia, it will probably be priced around the $15,000 mark but there is no release date yet.]

The Sea Cliff Bridge south of Sydney. Who needs the Almafi Coast?

  • arnold

    Way, way cool.

  • Guzzto

    I think this is the single best looking standard bike being released today. I Love it. Not too overdone with loads of room for an owner to maker their own.

    • Agreed. I think they have done a great job on making this understated.

    • Spyker May

      For sure – CB1100 eat your love-handles!

      The XJ looks agile and delicious in blue (blue is always difficult to pull off on motorcycles). In comparison the Honda CB1100 looks as bland as it performs. Will Kawasaki respond?

      Interesting that the UJM is finding its niche long after it has been relegated to the middle pages of the product catalogs – only a leading feature to those who shop for checked-shirts and Captain Fawcett’s Private Stock one after the other.

      The UJM is a MEDIUM DISTANCE .., mmmmm, well it is not a ‘cruiser’ and it is not a ‘tourer’, so I guess it is a TRAVELER. In a sense it competes with the Ducati Multistrada and those that compete with in (note – ‘IN A SENSE’ and not directly; eg it serve two different target markets).

      It is NOT a ‘residential brawler’ – ie the small, light, agile thing you use to traverse the ‘milk run road’, but on a Sunday – to a local watering-hole. That is reserved for the Bonnie and smaller items alike.

      The XJ is for traveling ‘From Paris to Berlin’ (while listening to INFERNAL) early on a Saturday, staying over, then return late on Sunday. It is not in its element in start-stop congestion or short stints through residential townships.

      The Bonnie is your Mini Cooper, the HD Fat Boy is your Land Rover with massive low profiles (ie a URBAN-TRUCK that makes no sense but it is still the most expensive), the XJ is your 2015 Mustang Fastback or your Nissan 370Z.

      I big the latest XJ1300 – A LOT! I am six foot two to three and see an immediate biological symbiosis with it.

      I will rip off the Pinocchio-nose (std) exhaust immediately – go for a much shorter item (not extending much beyond the vertical end-line of the seat-end-cowl). The Akrapovic slip-on from the loooooooong list of accessories is still too long (perhaps Zard will come to the rescue). Then dump the donkey-ears mirrors for miniature Rizoma items. But that is it. I will not go for the “Racer” derivative…

      The XJ looks at its best in the first pic, I though, will want it for the Provence-Alpes-Cote d´Azur, wearing the new Bell Bullitt Barn Fresh…

      • Darkbrador

        Unless you’re built like a MMA fighter, you’re gonna have back pain way before you reach the border of Germany, on your way to Berlin … or you won’t be there by Sunday.
        Really cool bike, but the straight-up position and no aerodynamic protection makes it hard to cover long distances fast. (I own a 1200 Bandit, and I’m not a MMA guy, so I hurt).
        Really cool bike, though.

        • Spyker May

          Fair comment. I had a 750 Inazuma from ’99 – ’02. Indeed you have to chop it up in (max) two hour stints and then (at least) be trim and bike fit (with a good back and opposing six-pack – all the better to take a kick or two in the gut; always an advantage in some of those nightclubs in Cologne).

          • Darkbrador

            well, maybe for younger riders, actually. I rode once 1,000 miles through Portugal, Spain and France in about 15 hours, young and stupid, no pain.
            This useless comment aside, the large UJMs are great all-rounders that don’t do anything perfectly but lots of things great. This one looks good, too.

        • Fatwasp

          Utter bollocks. I rode the NW200 on my Racer from South Wales, through Ireland and back again. 1700 miles with mates on ‘proper’ sports bikes. I was comfortable, fresh and had absolutely no issue with keeping pace on motorways, A and B roads. The only issue is having to stop every 100 miles due to the smaller tank. When you get down to brass tacks, all bikes are much of a muchness. It’s down to how you ride. So buy something that you enjoy, feel proud to own and can afford. Go at your own pace and enjoy…. ignore the utter shite written on these sites.

          • Fatwasp

            Oh, and by the way it was a three day trip with Saturday off for hangover…. get a ‘cking’ grip and get out there. We also met six lads who had ridden from Devon on 50cc mopeds on L plates avoiding motorways in the pissing rain. They didn’t complain about discomfort despite being a chiropractors pension fund between them…

      • I think that the CB1100 handles the retro thing a little better, though.

        • Spyker May

          Perhaps a little too well – ie looks/performs a touch too dated (to me at least).

    • Terence John Wilshaw

      only made this year then nomore…im a UK rider

  • Andrea Erba

    just a note: Sicily is not a country.. it is part of Italy! 🙂

  • blackbird

    Love! And damn guys, the Australian coast is stunning! What a backyard…..

    • Fred

      Crickey. Now you have re paid your debt to yamaha for the free ride can we have the next custom bike please? Bye the way do any builders or corporations pay you to have their bikes featured? I am bored. Next bike. Fred.

      • Fred

        And why am I confused about which side of the road you are on in those photos? Fred

        • Bowds

          Cause either he was driving on the wrong side or some of the photos were flipped. For the record we drive were it is polite to pass the the dutchie, to the left.

        • Because I was riding with a group of Italians we had a photo shoot (they blocked off the road in some parts) and we were photographed “euro style”.

      • No we don’t get paid to feature bikes. Glad you enjoyed it.

      • blackbird

        ??? Thats not me in the photos guitarslinger. You posted in the wrong spot.

    • Terence John Wilshaw

      but em spiders.brrrrrr

  • MF

    Great looking bike. I’d love to know how many ads and stories the Sea Cliff bridge has been used in. I’ve seen it on ads whilst travelling OS, and on so many Aussie car ads. Such a beautiful place. I’ll cop to bias given I live 5 min from there.

  • whytaylorwhy

    That XJR 1300 racer looks awesome.

    • keyle

      It’s such a fad though! I mean if you felt the weight of the beast, it completely goes against the idea of a cafe racer in my opinion. It _looks_ alright though.

      Another poor example is the bolt cafe-racer – whaaaat happened.

      • probably true but am currently making a cafe racer xjr, not hard to get them down to about 200kg and tune to 130bhp so no problem doing the ton, and a bit more on ze german autobahns, gets boring after about 5 minutes

  • Dodeejeroo


    • keyle

      you mean the opposite, use the bolt’s gauges on this, right? I have a bolt and I’m digging the neo-retro slick digital gauge.

  • keyle

    Good review! I liked the fact that it was a rider-oriented review and not the usual mag-style spec table that all end up the same. I hope you get more offers to review bikes.

    I hopped on one at the dealership. Just too bulky. Too heavy. But I could appreciate the classic lines and much preferred it over the overdone modern power-ranger lines. I’d consider a 650 of those.

  • Livo

    Ha! I saw you guys while me and my good mate were blasting our CT110’s round the royal national park, great road and very nice looking bike the new XJR.

  • h m gaither

    Didn’t Kawasaki do this same bike

    15 years ago; even 25 years ago if you go back to the Zephyr 750/1100 series… ?

  • Bultaco Metralla

    How can i resist a bike being reviewed on the roads in my own backyard. I live in Wollongong and that run on the Sea Cliff Bridge is one of my commute routes. The yamaha is a good bike for a new UJM but the Sea Cliff bridge is a killer photobomb..

  • Yamaha should send me one to customize.

  • AWLongmeyer

    Nice looking, but if Ford can knock 700 lbs. off a pickup…

  • SpecialCafe

    Hey Scott, next time I’ll take you riding to the Amalfi coast, I promise.
    Great review though. I smiled thinking of you in the middle of us italian hooligans: speeding whenever possible, not caring about police cars, posing like actors, risking life engaging at the traffic light with brutos on a merc.
    You could also mention when we hit that branch trying overtaking a car before roadworks. By the way that was a real test for suspensions: the bike was as stable as on binaries.
    Well get prepared, in Italy it will be messier!
    Cheers and by the way, it was a real pleasure to get to know you.


    • Marco! It was a great day. Was fun to ride with you guys. Might take you up that Amalfi Coast ride one day!

  • Stephen Christena

    When are they going to release it in the USA?

  • not to sure about corporate customs and the small tank but it looks good, i have got two


    one bog standard other modified, best thing about them is the engine

  • yamahappy

    I can’t imagine any reason I would ever want or need 1300cc’s but that is a great looking bike.

    • Don’t knock it unless you try it. Scott would have said the same, then he rode the bike and he was clearly sold.

  • I’d definitely have the Racer model. IMHO, the headlight/instrument cluster looks slightly awkward without it. Almost as if the headlight needs to be bigger or further forward. Still, an amazing bike overall.

    • Spyker May

      Now that you mention is – yes it looks a bit unusual. Armchair photo reviews are often just self-hypnosis. The large ‘scapha macrotia’ mirrors do not help either – Rizoma Spy-R or alike is the perfect otoplasty.

      The gauges look attractive from the riders view though – I am an absolute sucker for the large analogue stuff. Perhaps polished-alu/chrome gauge-cluster, or -nacelles, will neutralize the size a bit (but will add cost – so unlikely to come from big co’s run by accountants and other MBA’s). Perhaps a mate with a lathe and a few bits of alu stock can craft something.

      Good review nonetheless – you mentioned a near 300km trip; perhaps some feedback on how YOU took the miles (so to speak) in the seat of the big XJR – eg Darkbrador seems less convinced.

      • gauges are digital dials, you would need a pre 02 for the real mccoy

        • Spyker May

          Analogue LOOK if you insist (eg as opposed to Ducati Corse’s OLED Dash)

      • Actually, Scott touched on it in. They are just too bulky for the rest of the front. That said, they may well be intended to act as a wind break. I’ve ridden a few nakeds and you realise pretty quickly that the instruments do more than just tell you if you’ll be arrested at highway speeds…


    The return of the UJM