Geoffrey wrote to me asking me if I could perhaps do a “long-term up-date” on my Yamaha XJR1300. There are often things that you don’t know about until you’ve owned a bike for a while. (A good example is Martin’s experience replacing the battery in his Triumph Sprint, where even removing the seat is a tricky task! (Click here and read the first item, “Battery Woes”).
His reason for asking was that he was considering buying one. I said I would do a long-term article, but rather than keep him waiting for that, I replied with my impressions and general comments, in an email. We exchanged a couple of emails, and he was obviously encouraged by my mostly positive comments, so he decided to buy one.
Finding a good low-mileage 2nd-hand one could be a bit of a task, but he was lucky, one came up quite quickly. Only problem was it was in Queensland and he lives in Sydney. But, just like my bike – which I found inter-state – this sounded like an ideal buy, so he decided to buy it. Rather than have it freighted to home, as I did, Geoffrey decided to fly up to Queensland and ride it home.
I suggested that he might like to write a story for this section, so he did. He wrote a great story of both the bike and his trip home. Although written as one story, I thought it deserved two places on the site, so I’ve split the story in two. This article describes the bike, and the reasons he bought it, and his assessment of it after riding it over 1100km home. There’s also a separate story of his trip, which, of course, also contains further comments about the bike, and how he “discovered” what the bike was like during the ride home. Click here for that one. (There are a lot more photos in that too). Here’s Geoffrey story of the bike.
Elwyn asked me to write a review for his “me and my bike” section. I know Elwyn likes long stories, so I knew it had to have a fair few words in it.
When I was riding this bike home (1,150km) what struck me was the simple pleasure of it. Here’s what I wanted to write as my report, in entirety: “It is a bike and you ride it.”
Simple as that. But there’s a risk that people would misinterpret the immense satisfaction in that statement and I knew Elwyn wouldn’t like it as a report, so here are a few thousand words instead!
Reviews on motorcycle forums are all subjective and are therefore more easily interpreted when you understand something about the reviewer.
So, Who Am I?
I’m a bloke with a young family who enjoys riding all sorts of motorcycles. If it has two wheels and an engine I’m likely to enjoy spending time on it. Whether I spend money on it is a different story. I’m forced to be a bit more selective when it comes to ownership, especially given the cost of CTP these days.
My great love is sportsbikes. I also enjoy dirt-bikes. I have saved up and bought one of each. I’m happy spending all day in the saddle and like to feel like I’m riding each bike “as God intended”, within the limits of my own capabilities. I’m no Casey Stoner, Shane Watts or Chad Reed and I’m quite ok with that.
Why Buy An XJR As Well?
Whilst I love sportsbikes and am happy to spend all day in the saddle of one if I’m on twisty roads, I’m quite conscious of the often over-zealous effort the constabulary make to ensure we don’t ride over the speed limit. That means when I’m on a major highway on my 300kph sportsbike I roll along at the speed limit getting overtaken by middle aged folk in Toyota Echo’s and Camrys. Those same drivers would probably label sportsbike riders as dangers to society. And they pass me a lot. Annoying? Yes.
This speed targeting business has been going on for a while now. In 1999 I first started looking for a way to enjoy riding on the road without risking my licence. I haven’t received any big tickets, but the point is that I don’t want to receive any and I want to enjoy riding within our nanny state.
Sportsbikes are very capable, very satisfying machines. However, they are mighty boring at the speed limit. They are uncomfortable on long straight roads. Sportsbike tyres don’t last too long and cost a bit, so you want to use them where you get some enjoyment.
I chose the XJR1300 Yamaha because I thought it would be a bike I could enjoy at or near the speed limit, a bike I could ride anywhere, anytime without frustration. There is still a place for sportsbike ownership in this world of radars and political messages of fear. Thing is, I want to ride regularly and on all sorts of roads, so something else is going to do that better. Time for a “UJM”.
The XJR makes enough grunt to feel like you don’t need to hustle it along all the time, yet is slow enough that you don’t feel like you’re wasting your time when riding at the speed limit. It is sporty enough to use on a windy road without running out of clearance or revs, but ponderous enough to enjoy at the speed limit on any road. It does all of this on hard OEM tyres which will last a long time and with a fuel tank which is big enough to allow you to really ride it, not just pose on it.
(The photo here was taken at a scenic spot on Geoffrey's ride home from Qld. Elwyn).
I chose a 2007 model because it has fuel injection, Ohlins shocks, better forks and meets the latest EURO emissions requirements. (The fuel-injection was the main reason for me wanting the ‘07 model, too. Elwyn).
Given I plan to use the bike, I wanted one with low kilometres and in excellent condition. I found such a bike in QLD and bought it from a lovely bloke called John. It was stock as a rock, so I will have to add a Radguard, extender fender, Oggys and Ventura rack to it to ensure it happily completes many miles without suffering at the hands of lazy council road-works.
John had done a great job of looking after it and I’m sure he’ll be back on a bike as soon as his schedule allows. He’s the sort of bloke I’d enjoy riding with. He obviously has good taste in bikes too!
Inexperienced Riders and Pillioning
On the trip home I’d decided that this bike would also be great for my wife to ride along on. She’s recently obtained her full licence and likes bikes of this style. I thought the ride position would suit someone of her height (5’5” or so) and the power was delivered just how she likes it. I’ve subsequently changed my opinion on this since being back at home. Whilst it would be great for her on the open road, this bike is really too heavy for her to easily manage on and off the side stand and is too high and heavy for her to be comfortable with around town / commuting etc. The engine, whilst not really very powerful, is probably also just a little too grunty for a small person with no big bike experience who isn’t confident of their ability to ride a heavy bike at low speed. It doesn’t matter though, because I didn’t buy the bike for her to ride and she has no plans to ride regularly on the road on any bike for another 7 or 8 years (mostly child related). But I had thought it would be nice if the bike suited her for one or two outings each year.
Since being back home, I’ve had one opportunity to take her out for a decent ride around town as a pillion. She loved it! Like most riders, she isn’t a big fan of being a pillion, but she really enjoyed this. She said she wished I’d bought this bike before we had kids as she could envisage lots of fun days / weekends out on it exploring the countryside. Oh well, better late than never. This bike is a keeper, so it’ll still be around when the kids have grown up enough to look after themselves for a day or weekend.
Observations Since Returning To Sydney
The bike is fun to ride and is a great ‘do anything’ type of bike which is just simply fun to ride anywhere. It never feels like you’re wasting your time on it in any sort of riding environment. The engine has such adequate low down power that I never bother revving it. I do almost all of my riding between 2,000rpm and 4,000rpm. (Me too. Elwyn). At 80kph in top (it is a five speed) you are doing 3,000rpm. It is very happy there and overtaking is no problem with a simple roll of the wrist. 110kph is about 4,000rpm in the same gear.
After a pleasant roll down the east coast on the ride bringing it home, I was reminded I was back in Sydney when a turbo Subaru decided he wanted to drag-race me off the lights. When cars try this and I’m on the sportsbike I don’t bother doing a fast start. What fool wants to race a sportsbike in a car? However, I’d never done a fast start on the XJR as I was just plodding around everywhere enjoying its torque so I thought I could take this opportunity to find out. As you’d expect, the big bike launched off the line and pulled quite impressively for a bike of its type until I shut it down to cruise again. The Subaru was a dot in the mirrors and behaved himself in a much more controlled manner at each subsequent set of lights. So if traffic light GP’s are your thing the XJR won’t let you down. Since then I’ve not bothered.
To temper my assessment, I think the reason I am so totally satisfied with the XJR is because I know I still have a sportsbike. Horses for courses. Despite a big engine and Ohlins shocks, the XJR is no sportsbike. Anyone who relishes the precision handling and superb acceleration of a sports motorcycle will simply be disappointed if they seek the same from the XJR.
I’ve been commuting on it and it is a very chilled out commuter. Whilst the buzzing 250cc bike and scooter riders are flogging their machines I’m just rolling around in a relaxed state on the 1300 with no fuss, no effort and at peace with the world. We’re all going the same speed, but the atmosphere is different!
At first I was cautious about this bike, thinking it’d be a lumbering ox in lane splitting and tight manoeuvres, but I soon found there was no need to worry. It is a surprisingly nimble machine and the ‘any gear’ torque of the motor also makes life easy.
The bike has a nice burble at idle.
The brakes are a one finger job, even though it is still a relatively heavy bike. So, no problems with brakes.
The dials are easy to read as you ride along. The triple clamp cover in polished aluminium (or perhaps plastic, who knows – the Japanese are sneaky with their pretend metal sometimes) can be annoyingly reflective on a sunny day, but I found it was out of my field of vision as I rode along, just annoying if I looked down to check something.
The wind blast is about spot on just as it is. No need for a screen. I might get a little insect screen just to keep bugs off the instruments and to perhaps help me out a bit if I’m caught in heavy rain but I’m not sure it needs it.
I’ve not cleaned it yet but will soon if the weather allows. I think cleaning this thing will be more of a headache than a faired bike is. John sold it to me in great condition so I feel obligated to try and keep it that way whilst I pile on the kilometres. My fender extender arrived today, so that should help keep muck off the headers but I can see myself getting annoyed with trying to get bugs out of the cooling fins and in the intricate bits around the dials. John mustn’t have ridden much when the bugs were out! (I don’t seem to get many bugs in the cooling fins; don’t know why. Elwyn).
Still no heat problems on the legs, even commuting on hot days, so that is not going to be an issue with this bike. You can feel warmth there, but it isn’t a problem. I think it is all part of the fun of riding around with a big air-cooled donk between your legs.
Like the weather, everyone seems to like to discuss fuel matters. I use around 5.5 – 6 litres per 100km. It requires 95 RON, so I use that or 98. (I probably ride a bit more gently - and not as much around town. I get between 5.0 and 5.5 per 100km. Elwyn).
Real world range? Well that’s always the unknown with a new bike. I noted that when the last of the bars on the fuel gauge disappears and it starts flashing the fuel bowser image that it has five litres left. I calculated that because it claims a 21 litre tank and I put 16 litres in when it was at that point last.
I figured that meant I had a safe 60-80km from that point but I didn’t know where the fuel was hiding inside the tank or where the fuel pump collects from so it was a guess. I found out coming home today. I live in a steep street and as I rode down hill I got to my driveway and it coughed once then died. No long and lingering death throes for this Yamaha just “cough, dead”! I had done 270km. I had some 98RON in a jerry for the sportsbike, so it had a top up of that to get me to the servo. Unfortunately that means I won’t be able to be too precise with working out how many litres of useable tank capacity this bike has, but clearly you can’t use all 21 litres. My guess is I’d used about 17 litres when it died on the slope.
I’m sure I did 300km or so with fuel to spare at some point on the trip back from QLD, but I may be wrong. (I have got 300km out of tank, with mostly open-road riding; and 280km without the “Reserve” indicator coming on. Elwyn).
Yamaha shows off that it has a rotary fuel pump. I don’t even know what that is, or what is supposed to be special about it. What I do know is that it makes a ridiculously loud noise when you turn the ignition key as it pumps fuel to the injectors ready to start the bike. The fuel gauge is also a bit of a laugh. It takes quite a long time each time you set off to work out where it is at – always initially freaking out that you’re empty, or at least lower than you were when you last stopped, before it figures out where the fuel level really is. I don’t understand that. My sportsbike is injected. It doesn’t have any pre-start noise and the tracking of fuel use is super precise – it provides info in litres with a decimal place and always is accurate when you compare it to fuel you put in at refill.
If you’re thinking of getting one of these bikes for all round motorcycling enjoyment then I commend it to you. It has given me back my motorcycling freedom.I can now go for a ride anywhere, anytime and it won’t be boring. Excluded from that statement is hooning with sportsbikes. I didn’t buy it to scratch on. I know some people make statements about how you can “show up a few sportsbikes” yada yada, but I think that’s bollocks. If the rider on the sportsbike is bad then perhaps, but what does that prove?
This is a classic muscle-bike which will provide lots of fun in a variety of conditions, should be reliable and last a really long time with minimum running costs and tyre costs. It will let you ride solo or two up wherever you feel like riding to and do it all with ease and with classic naked-bike character. It will let you ride many kilometres without risking your licence each time. But it won’t compete with a sportsbike.
It is a simple, honest bike with enough grunt, handling and brakes to satisfy an experienced rider but not enough to encourage you to hoon everywhere. Perfect!
You could say, “It’s a bike, and you ride it”. But that would be way too succinct!
I thought I’d add a couple of comments to what Geoffrey wrote. Firstly, on the subject of power. It's interesting to read comments like “not overly powerful” applied to the XJR. I think every road test I've seen in magazines talks about the “big muscle-bike power.” For example, in Australian Road Rider, in their list of new bikes, the little one-line comment they give beside each bike says, “See you in court.” But Geoffrey is absolutely right. In terms of outright power, of course it is not as powerful – or as fast – as sportsbikes. So, “See you in court” would be much more appropriate if written beside an R1 or any such sportsbike, not the XJR! When people (mostly non-bikers) heard I had a “1300” they were often surprised at the size of the engine. Even many bikers comment on the “big powerful bike.” I always explain that when I bought this I was considering two other bikes that were smaller, about 1000cc, and both were more powerful than this one. What makes the bike feel powerful is the low-down grunt. And I love that, as I've said before. Overtaking by just wrapping on the throttle, not bothering to change down etc.
Geoffrey had this to add. “Power is not very impressive compared to a sportsbike. The Fireblade makes 130kw. The XJR makes 72kw. So just over half the power. The Fireblade weighs 190kg wet, the XJR weighs 240-245kg wet, so at least 50kg more. The Fireblade has six gears (presumably enabling closer ratios; more urgency in acceleration). I think those numbers say enough without writing more. They clearly target different types of riding.” Well put, Geoffrey!
Geoffrey’s mention about dragging off a turbo-Subaru at traffic lights reminded me of a similar incident. I don’t usually indulge in such behaviour, but … On one occasion I was sitting at the lights in the centre lane and an old Commodore with go-faster wheels came up behind and pulled purposefully into the left lane. I thought, “You've got to be kidding!” I mean, he didn’t know I was an old bloke, from behind all he could see was someone on a big bike. So when the lights went green I took off fairly gently, the Commodore surged ahead, and then I just wrapped on the throttle and watched the Holden disappear behind me. Big grin factor! My thoughts went along the lines of: “There! If you're gonna pick something to race off at the lights at least pick something you've got some hope of beating! Don't insult me!”
With regard to the fuel gauge, when the bike is pointing uphill and leaning to the left it will under-register. I joke that I once ran onto reserve while I was having coffee! I had parked the bike in a spot where it was facing up-hill and leaning to the left on the side-stand. The gauge was showing low, but not on reserve. When I came out and switched it on, the fuel gauge went to reserve. I joked that it was just as well I wasn't having a meal – I might've run out of fuel altogether! That day it stayed on reserve, but on another similar occasion it went about 10 km before finally deciding it was actually not low enough for reserve yet. You can live with that though – better than the other way around and telling you it has more than it does!
Anyway, thanks for the great story Geoff. And keep on enjoying the big Yammie!
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