2015 Yamaha XJR1300 | FIRST LOOK

Forbidden fruit, and motorcycles, taste the sweetest.

If you long for the days of big-bore air-cooled engines stuffed into minimalist chassis, you’re in luck…unless you live in the U.S. The new Yamaha XJR1300 isn’t headed for our shores any time soon, and that’s a shame, because it has just the combination of good looks and old-school performance that a growing segment of American riders is looking for.

At the heart of the XJR is an air-cooled 1300cc four that cranks out 98 horsepower and 80 foot-pounds of torque. A double-cradle steel frame preserves the classic look of the early days of the Superbike era, and a slimmer fuel tank helps show off the engine while holding 3.8 gallons of gas. The front fork has tubes coated with friction-reducing DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon), and the rear suspension is by Öhlins.

The newest XJR1300 is based on a bike that’s been prowling European roads for two decades. The 2015 upgrade makes it no less desirable. Working with custom builders, Yamaha tweaked the styling to bring the bike’s looks in tune with its performance. The solo seat and wide, tapered aluminum handlebar place the pilot in front of a redesigned instrument panel. A black 4-2-1 exhaust, and aluminum racing plate-styled side covers, round out the styling tour de force.

Yamaha has no plans to bring the XJR1300 to America…or does it? Why else, then, commission New York-based customizer Keinosuke “Keino” Sasaki to build a bike called Rhapsody in Blue? According to Yamaha Europe, the project sprang from a search for future inspiration for its Sports Heritage range of bikes. Keino’s creation has a slimmer and lower hand-crafted gas tank, and a handcrafted tailpiece. You won’t find anything like the springer-style front end on a bike like this. A host of other upgrades––Brembo brakes, a custom handlebar, rear shocks that match the springer fork, and a striking side exhaust¬¬––practically cry out for a production version with at least some of these features.

Will the XJR1300 find its way to these shores in any configuration? There’s no way of telling. But nobody thought the SR400 would ever make it to these shores, either, and it’s here. Yamaha is probably keeping a close eye on sales to see if the market would support another immigrant from overseas markets, this one a brawny four with the same retro-inspired styling.