EB775 - 1995 Yamaha XJR1200
If you’re after a big, capable, classic inspired street bike we find it hard to look past the Yamaha XJR1200 and XJR1300 models. To be honest we’re surprised more people don’t use them as donors for custom builds down under when you consider how much bike you get for the budget these days!
Enter David and his 1995 Yamaha XJR1200 (he’s seen the light!). Having already owned a Buell Firebolt and with a KTM 1190 Adventure R currently in the garage, David knew only another big bore beast was going to suffice.
After some research he decided that the ‘big XJR’ was going to be the one and set about searching for a 1200 model with ‘carbs and twin exhausts’. Although in 1995 when the XJR1200 launched it was seen as a knee-jerk reaction to Suzuki’s popular big Bandit, the Yamaha actually benefited from years of development from the predecessor XS1100 and FJ1100 models to produce a pretty solid bike from the get go.
The Yamaha XJR1200 doesn't overcomplicate things, it’s a big honest bike and that’s one of the reasons we like them. At 235kg they’re no lightweight, but once the bike is moving the weight is low and the riding position is comfortable. Then there’s the big air cooled engine, which is the hero of the bike. Not record breaking numbers by today’s standards, but it’s got enough grunt to stretch your arm sockets in any gear and the sound it makes while doing so is even better.
A grey import from Japan in 2009 with only 31,000km on it meant that the bike hadn't done much work for it’s age and was in good running order when it arrived. David mentions “It didn’t come with any history but I imagine that it was owned by some sort of Yakuza boss who rode around with a samurai sword strapped to his back”. Buying a solid running and riding donor bike had paid off for David (maybe thanks to the Yakuza!) and our attention was turned to the aesthetic parts of the build.
The main areas for attention (as with most builds) were focused on trimming down the original equipment. Work started at the rear with the factory rear frame being shortened and de-tabbed, before mounts were made to reuse the original rear ‘horizontal bar’ tail light for that classic XJR look.
With the rear frame finished a reasonably complex metal seat pan was made to fit the tank at the front, wrap the relocated tail light at the back and pickup on the factory seat latch system for easy removal. With no cowl or rear guard, the seat foam shaping would provide the required silhouette for the back of the bike, supporting the rider when the throttle is open while still providing a pillion option should David require. An Ellaspede universal tail tidy mounts the plate and keeps things legal out back with an LED plate light and rear reflector.
The front now needed attention to match the new snug rear end. The stock headlight, indicators and gauges were removed in favour of an LED headlight, aftermarket indicators and a set of Daytona Velona gauges shielded by a custom mini-cowl. New bars, grips and mirrors complete the makeover for the riders cockpit.
The stock front guard was cut down to suit, while the side covers also copped some modifications to match the new look.
Stock mufflers were removed in place of custom mounted reverse cone items with extra baffling, unleashing a little more of the epic engine noise and trimming down on visual and physical weight. David noted “I just like the symmetry of the classic dual shocks and dual pipes at the rear” and we agreed for this build, ensuring the new mufflers were mounted low and tight.
The front and rear suspension was removed and rebuilt, ensuring a smoother ride and improving on one of the XJR’s weaker points. During the process fork legs, triple clamps and shock springs were painted and powder coated.
The XJR’s have a recognisable tank shape and an iconic engine plant, so little changes were made here apart from some polishing and painting to ensure both were looking their best. The tank receiving a glorious red over the stock silver, a nod to the original colour-way but now providing a little more pop.
A swag of other parts were removed for refinishing, paint, polish or powder coat so that they matched the XJR’s new dress code.
With the bike all back together we’re really happy with how it’s turned out. Trimming off all the large or unwanted items has turned a big bike into a tight package that now shows off the important areas. The stock tank and tail light ensure it still has that classic XJR style, but it now looks, sounds and rides better than ever before.
What does David think? He said “The thing I liked most about the project was that Ellaspede was able to pretty much turn all my ideas for the bike into reality, with the final product exceeding my expectations, which were pretty high. My favourite part of the bike is the sound of the engine and with the new pipes the crackle and pop when you back off on the throttle and downshift is just fantastic.”
David’s shown you don't have to reinvent the wheel or replace everything to create a nice custom bike, and he’s done it on a very fair budget by picking a good donor to match his end goal. Given how much bike you can get for the money and with the amount of XJR1200 and 1300’s still floating around in Aus we’re hoping more people will consider the big bore Yamaha for future custom builds.
In the meantime, you’ll find David firing up the XJR for the work commute at least once a week, with regular weekend rides ‘a bit further afield’ to really make the most of the big bore Yamaha!
Albums we listened to during the build of this bike:
|1. Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino||2. Falling Joys - Aerial||3. Amy Shark - Love Monster|
Photos and Features:
|Photos by AJ Moller Photography|