Yamaha XJR: Retro Muscle
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Yamaha XJR: Retro Muscle

By JeffWare - 07 September 2021

Words: Jeff Ware, Tony Wilding Pictures: Alexandra Cooper

Along with the GSX1400 (we visit that next week), the XJR was a true muscle naked and can be a great used bargain. We step back a decade to test the beast…

With all the bits fitted and ready to test. Looks neat!

I had a Yamaha XJR1300 project bike for some time in 2010/2011 (this is the bike in the shots) and after that, I had a GSX1400 bored to 1620. More on that next week…

Long wheelbase, huge seat, relaxed bar position. The XJR is the most comfy bike you are ever likely to ride without a fairing!

You can pick up an XJR13 these days for $7000 - $12,000 for an XJR now, depending on year and model, with the average price of a decade old one hovering around the $10k AUD mark, they have certainly retained their value.

Stunning from any angle, it really is a shame these muscle nakeds are gone. 

The bike is bullet proof, with the engine really going all the way back to 1984 and the FJ1100, it had been in production and development for 30-years! The last model of the XJR had Ohlins shocks, while fuel injection was introduced in 2007.

Strong brakes were featured, even better with Hel lines.
Ohlins shocks for the last models of the XJR.


The first thing I noticed about this bike was the weight. It’s heavy – there’s no getting around that but as I put on my gear to take the XJR1300 for a ride, I take a moment to have a good look at what you get for your $14,699 [in 2010 – Ed].

Pommie warming up the rear tyre. Or was it a slip of the wrist?

The bike is well equipped, especially in the suspension department, which is a pleasant surprise for a retro style bike. In fact, it’s fully adjustable and even features a set of Ohlins rear shocks. You also get powerful four-pot stoppers and a grunty 1300cc motor.

As I push the start button, click first gear and head off up the road, I find the engine to be surprisingly smooth with a quiet rumble coming from the single stainless muffler. Once I hit the freeway, I find the ride position perfect and the seat is like sitting on a lounge chair, but you do suffer from a bit of wind buffeting – as you’d expect on a nakedbike.

Old school clocks for the retro theme. No connectivity here!

One thing that is slightly annoying is the engine vibration through the pegs at 4500 to 5500rpm, that’s around the 120km/h mark in top gear. However, the vibration disappears after that.

Huge OEM exhaust system, a lot could be saved weight-wise with an aftermarket item. 

The bike is not really designed for carving mountain roads but that didn’t stop me trying; in-fact, this part of the test is what surprised me most. As I tip into my first corner, I can’t believe how great the bike feels. Flicking from side to side is a breeze and I forget that the bike weighs 245 kilos. It goes against all logic, that a bike of this size should be this much fun, but it is...

Handling, ground clearance and braking power all improved dramatically. 

Within a few kilometres, I have the ‘pegs scraping the tarmac but I really have the bike lent over, so this should not be a problem for most riders. I do find the suspension wallowing a bit, especially on bumpy corners. So, I pull over, get out the tool kit and have a fiddle. The rear Ohlins shocks are easily adjusted, and I can even increase the preload by hand – I also add slightly more compression. With the front, I wind up the preload and compression but leave the rebound as is. The wallowing is all but gone and the pegs are not hitting the tarmac as much.

Mick Withers testing the XJR1300 at SMSP, it is a great track day bike at a medium pace once set up, and comfy on the ride there and back!

Another thing that I like are the brakes – they are powerful and more than up to the job of hauling the muscle bike to a very fast stop.

So, does the bike tick all the right boxes for a retro muscle bike? The answer is yes. In fact, the XJR1300 more than meets and exceeds all expectations, especially in the engine and handling department…

My XJR project with the parts ready to go on. It was such a great machine!


I updated my XJR, with Hel brake lines, and Hindle four-into-one exhaust, Pirelli tyres, Trooper Lu Garage suspension tune, alloy handlebars, Sydney Dyno engine remap, a fender eliminator and some other goodies that really made it an awesome bike. I loved it and I wish I kept it!



Price New: $14,699+ ORC

Used Price: $10,000-$12,000

Colours: Midnight Black/Silver Tech

Claimed Power: 71.9Kw[96.4@8000rpm

Claimed Torque:108.4Nm[79.95ft-lbs]@6000rpm

Dry weight: 245kg

Fuel Capacity: 21L

Engine type: Air-cooled, four-stroke, DOHC, four-valve, in-line four

Bore x stroke: 79.0 x 63.8 mm

Displacement: 1251cc

Compression ratio: 9.7:1

Ignition: TCI fuel injection

Gearbox: Five-speed

Final drive: Chain

Frame type: Steel double cradle

Wheelbase: 1500mm

Rake: N/A

Trail: N/A

Front suspension: Telescopic fork with 130mm travel

Rear suspension: Monocross with 120mm travel

Front brakes: Dual 298mm disc twin-piston calipers

Rear brakes: Single 267mm disc single-piston caliper

Wheel/Tyres 120/70 – 17, 180/55 – 17

Overall height: 1115mm

Overall width: 765mm

Overall length: 2175mm

Instruments: Analogue taco/speedo, clock, fuel gauge, trip meter, warning lights.

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