An air-cooled monument
Working on the shapes
Tank sketch from top view
Study of the tank shape and knee grip
Detail study for the headlight stays
“Vintage and retro is all around us now, and car and motorbike makers bring new models to follow that trend” says product planning manager Oliver Grill. “But with the XJR we have a real authentic bike that has remained in production all the time. With its big air-cooled engine it gained a large and loyal fan group.” He smiles: “I ride one myself, I love this big block engine. And nowadays, we see more and more people interested in this simple and pure design. The XJR is one of the last remaining air-cooled 4-cylinders.”
His collegue Naoki Koike adds “So we decided to pay homage to this past by making a version that puts this engine in the centre of attention again. In motorcycle history, the Japanese 4-cylinder is an icon. And the XJR engine is probably the one that remained in production for the longest time. It is now a 1300, but in the ‘90s, it had 1200cc. This engine came straight from the famous FJ 1200 and FJ 1100 engines of the mid ‘80s. So our factory has produced this engine for about three decades now.”
Oliver explains “Our designers had one main goal: to expose this mighty engine as much as possible. And we stuck to masculine proportions as well: the XJR is truly ‘a man’s bike’!”
Design manager Yoshiro Shimizu joins in: “To emphasize the engine volume, we made many drawings from the top. As you know, usually we make drawings in side view or quarter view. We tried to find the best tank shape for a powerful engine appearance. Actually, all body shapes were designed to emphasize the cool mechanical components.”
Stephane dives into the details: “The tank shape is unique and iconic, with the tank bottom line cut by the frame to create the narrowest possible knee grip. This helps the handling, and also you can see the engine underneath you, which is pretty special nowadays.”
“In general, we removed plastic parts as much as possible. The rear frame and the tail of the bike is much smaller and shorter. The racy side-covers are aluminium and much narrower, the headlight is more compact. We paid a lot of attention to details like the headlight stay which is a nicely fabricated and technical piece. On a motorcycle, such small items make all the difference.”
Strong attitude and fun to ride
Racer version with vintage superbike feeling
Vintage superbike inspiration
Bike with real character
Beautiful aluminium sidecovers in number-plate style
Carbon cowling, analog instruments
Style and attitude
Oliver says “By the simplicity of the construction, the XJR is great for customizing. We offer many accessories for it already, and one special area for us was the riding position. By the option of three handlebars we offer three very different positions. Each with a very different riding attitude and riding feeling!”
What are these positions?
- A high and wide handlebar, close to the rider: for a cool upright position, casual and fun to ride.
- A sporty, straight fat-bar which is wide and forces you to bend forward. For a strong attitude.
- Clip-ons, the most radical option with a low and strongly bent forward position. The original café racer feel.
The clip-ons come as original equipment on the XJR 1300 Racer model. Other differences with the normal XJR are:
- a cool carbon front fairing with bubble screen
- a short carbon front fender with aluminium fender stay
- a carbon seat cover to create a race-style solo seat.
“For me, the XJR belongs to the Vintage Superbike scene from the 80’s and we developed the first sketches in that direction” says Stephane. “It is actually closer to an ‘80’s superbike than to a ‘60’s café racer.”
Oliver concludes: “The XJR has this unique combination of an air-cooled engine backed up by modern components like the fuel injection, the suspension, the chassis. It has this classic, torquey, silky smooth, big air-cooled engine while it rides like a modern bike. There is nothing superficial about it. This is a bike with real character.”