The Yamaha XJR1300 is a relic from a bygone age, and we say that with a tinge of regret. It’s a big, brutal muscle bike that unfortunately has no place in today’s highly regulated market.
The hefty, air-cooled inline four still has an ardent fan base in Europe though, despite the engine being a rejigged version of the unit that powered the mid-80s FJ1100. And one of those fans is a Polish rider called Tomek, who commissioned Unikat to build the very solid café racer we’re looking at here.
“Tomek contacted us more than a year ago,” says shop founder Grzegorz Korczak. “He set the level of expectations high: he’s an experienced rider, and owns machines like a Kawasaki Ninja H2.”
This 1999 XJR1300 is not Tomek’s first foray into customizing either, so the design became a collaborative effort with Grzegorz and the Unikat crew in Wrocław. “Tomek had a lot of references, and the design process took some time. He also wanted all of the parts to be top shelf, with no compromise in the design.”
Grzegorz suggested a minimalistic look, and Tomek was happy. Fortunately, he was also happy to wait six months for the wheels to be built in Italy: a man who understands that good things take time.
In this case, the mechanical and custom work took around 400 hours, with another hundred hours assigned to design work, plus subcontractor and project management.
Unikat have refreshed the 16v dohc, 1251cc engine, which in stock form pumped out just under a hundred horsepower. The mods include everything from new piston rings to rebuilt cylinder heads, plus a Stage 3 Dynojet jet kit for the four rebuilt Mikuni carbs.
The intake end is now graced with K&N filters, and there’s a new 4-into-2 exhaust with handmade mufflers and dB killers. Most drivetrain wearables were replaced as well, including the clutch, and power now hits the back wheel via a D.I.D ‘ZVM-X’ black chain.
The suspension gets a huge upgrade, with the complete front end from a Yamaha YZF-R1—including the brakes, which have been treated to EBC parts and a Magura master cylinder.
The shocks were custom-built to Unikat’s spec by Bitubo, and the whole shebang rides on 17-inch Kineo tubeless rims, 3.50 at the front and 6.00 at the back. They’re shod with Pirelli’s super-sticky Diablo Supercorsa SC V3 tires—essentially street-legal track rubber.
Unikat whipped out the grinder and welding gear for the back end, fabricating up a simple but effective new rear loop. The classic humped café-style seat is upholstered in Alcantara, the electrics have been relocated to under the seat, and there’s an LED brake light embedded in the back of the subframe.
The electrics are now juiced by a tiny lithium-ion battery tucked in by the swingarm, which is wired up to discreet LED turn signals, switchgear and a Motoscope speedo from Motogadget. LEDs are at work in the Highsider headlamp and the custom license plate holder too.
The Polish company Womet-Tech supplied a smart fuel tank cap, classy rearsets adapted from a model designed for the R1, plus sporty clip-on bars—which Unikat have finished off with leather grips stitched with blue thread to match the finish on the Kineo wheels.
Touches of the same blue appear on the fuel tank and front fender, but this machine is overwhelmingly black. All the hard parts have been soda blasted, glass blasted, sand blasted or chemically cleaned—and then powder coated, anodized or black galvanized.
The XJR1300 is a supremely satisfying ride in stock form, with a wall of torque that eventually pushes the factory suspension beyond its limits. Unikat have fixed all the flaws, and added a little extra oomph and a lot more style.
“Giving an impression of the ride goes beyond my writing skills,” says Grzegorz. “The bike is lighter—it feels like it’s around 80 kilos less. And the power raises the wheel at the twist of the wrist.”
It won’t be as fast as Tomek’s supercharged Ninja H2, but in the old school entertainment stakes, we reckon this XJR will give Kawasaki’s tech-laden spaceship a run for its money. And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?