Yamaha XJR 1200 Problems: 3 Known Issues (Explained)

Introduced in 1994, the XJR 1200 was part of the high-powered, naked bike scene that grew in the early 90s. With its retro design, the XJR 1200 is a bike for turning heads.

It offers enough speed for performance freaks, yet it is more comfortable than most modern-day sportbikes. There’s no denying that the XJR 1200 is a valuable investment.

However, it’s best if you know the problems associated with this model.

To help you, we’ve compiled a list of common issues experienced by owners of the XJR 1200.

Here are the most common problems with the XJR 1200:

1. Engine Cuts Out While Riding

The Yamaha XJR 1200 was as reliable of a standard bike as it was powerful; this thing was top-notch. That said, many of the complaints are simply due to the fact that it’s a vintage bike; the newest available model is the ’99.

One such complaint is that the engine tends to cut out while riding. This is in no way indicative of a flaw with the XJR 1200; older bikes just need upkeep to ensure the engine is running at spec.

An engine cutting out is the same as engine stalling, which means your bike may lose power and stop running.

Possible Causes:

Several things can be responsible for this problem:

Typically, the first suspect will be the spark plugs. The spark plugs provide the spark for igniting the fuel-air mixture in the engine’s combustion chamber.

If the spark plugs are dirty or faulty, they may provide a weak spark or no spark at all. Should this happen, the fuel mixture won’t ignite, and the bike won’t get the power it needs to run.

Another potential cause of the problem is a faulty pickup coil. The pickup coils work in tandem with the bike’s ignition system to ensure the bike runs properly. If the pickup coil is faulty, the engine won’t receive any spark.

Also, a failed pickup coil (or one that’s about to fail) will definitely cause engine stalling. Before the stall, you may notice that the engine is idling roughly as it warms up. Shortly after you start riding, the bike will stall and won’t start until the engine is cooled.

Finally, some owners have reported the stalling problem resulting from trapped vent hoses. The vent hoses help your bike’s engine breathe and reduce the gas vapors that escape into the tank during fueling.

You could easily trap/dislocate the vent hoses, especially if you disassemble the carbs or take the tank off.

If this is the case, the bike’s fuel supply will be affected, and the engine may cut out at speed.

Possible Solutions:

  1. Inspect the spark plugs: The color of the spark plugs should be light brown or gray. However, if they are white or completely black, there’s something wrong with them.
    • Spark plugs are cheap and easy to replace, so you shouldn’t have a hard time replacing them.
  2. Inspect the pickup coils: If they are faulty, we advise you to have a technician replace them.
  3. Check the vent hoses: This applies if you recently re-fitted your tank or carbs. During these repairs, it’s relatively easy to trap or shift the vent hoses.
    • You should get pictures/videos that show the correct position of the vent hoses. Inspect the vent pipes and see if they are correctly placed. If they are not, try to adjust them or have your mechanic do it.

2. Engine Misfires And Backfires

Another common complaint about the vintage naked ripper that shows the bike’s age is the complaints of misfires and backfires.

Misfires and backfires are different processes, indicating different issues.

Again, this isn’t a problem with the XJR 1200’s engine, technology, or design; it’s a common problem on any vintage bike.

A misfire is a product of unfinished combustion in the motor’s cylinder, while a backfire is the combustion of unburnt fuel that makes its way into the exhaust chamber. 

Symptoms of a Misfire on a Yamaha XJR1200:

  • Rough Idling.
  • Intense Vibrations.
  • Bike Shakes During Acceleration
  • Lagging Acceleration
  • Temporary Lapses in Engine Power

Symptoms of Backfires on a Yamaha XJR 1200:

  • Loud popping noise.
  • Flames are firing from the exhaust pipes.
  • Power loss and motion resistance.

Misfires are harder to diagnose than a backfire, as the Yamaha XJR 1200 was around before the days when a bike’s engine lights or diagnostic codes could signal a misfire for you while you’re riding.

Generally speaking, spark plugs are the most common culprit for moto-misfiring, but it doesn’t stop there–

–Common Causes of Misfiring on a Yamaha XJR 1200:

  • Bad Spark Plugs
  • Crankshaft Problems
  • Airflow Obstruction
  • Wiring and Circuit Failures
  • Engine Failure

On the other hand, a backfire is marked by the intrusive popping noise that explodes from your exhaust pipes while riding, often during deceleration, but not always.

A power loss usually accompanies the loud pop, manifested as the experience of residence to the motion of the bike, despite the rider’s input.

The primary cause of backfiring is air: fuel ratio issues or problems with cam chain timing, though leaking fuel distributor caps can also cause the problem.

Possible Solutions:

The first thing to look into on a bike that’s popping like crazy is the exhaust system, especially if you bought the bike used and it came equipped with an aftermarket system.

If it’s misfiring, the same could be true of the air intake and sparkplugs.

Because each motor has an ideal air: fuel ratio that must be maintained to keep performance consistent, changing the bike’s exhaust or the air intake requires an adjustment, and routine readjustments are required to keep the ration in its sweet spot.

If the bike is misfiring or backfiring, take the bike to a Yamaha-literate mechanic and have them tune the air intake and exhaust to specifications.

3. Excessive Vibration Under Acceleration

It is quite normal for a motorcycle to vibrate while riding. The up-and-down movement of the pistons in the engine produces shaking forces, which cause vibration. This type of vibration is hardly noticeable and won’t be a source of discomfort.

However, if vibrations become pronounced and cause discomfort, something is wrong.

Once again, this section isn’t attempting to indicate a design flaw; we’re huge fans of the XJR 1200 as it’s one of the most powerful and reliable naked rippers of our lifetime.

That said, there hasn’t been an XJR 1200 in production since 1999.  Over time, the vibration on a seldomly-inspected vintage bike shakes things up in the motor and requires routine maintenance.

If you fail to catch the culprit at the first sign of dislodging, the vibration will worsen in time, and you’ll have more to fix when you finally get around to inspecting the engine.

One of the common causes of worsening vibration on a Yamaha XJR 1200 is loose engine mounts.

Engine mounts separate the engine and the bike’s frame, preventing the engine’s vibrations from reaching the frame. The whole bike will vibrate if they get loose, especially on a bike like the XJR, where the engine is heavier than the frame.

If the engine mount is loose, it won’t absorb shaking forces from the engine. Consequently, the vibration from the machine will be transferred to the motorcycle’s frame.

Also, a bad crankshaft may be responsible for engine vibration. The crankshaft uses a system of journal rods, bearing journals, and weights to counterbalance the rotating pistons’ vibration. If any of these parts are bad, the counterbalance isn’t happening effectively.

Another possible culprit for abnormal and aggressive vibration is a stuck piston. If a piston in the engine cylinder meets resistance, its inertia will shake it loose and keep it moving, resulting in energetic vibration.

Once again, all of the above-mentioned vibration-causing culprits occur on any vintage bike that’s been sitting since the 90s without routine maintenance.

Still, since the XJR 1200 is a score regardless of the bike’s condition, let’s take a look at some of the troubleshooting that should take place on a used model.

Also, read our article on 3 Most Common Problems With Yamaha XTZ 125

Possible Solutions:

  1. Inspect the engine mounts: Check if the engine mounts are secured in place. If the bolts are loose, try using a torque wrench to tighten them.
  2. Examine the crankshaft/crankshaft bearings: We suggest tagging a pro for this job for novice home mechanics. Whichever way, if a faulty crankshaft is responsible for the problem, you will have to replace the old part with a new one.
  3. Inspect the Piston: This can be a detailed job. There are some great DIY techniques for doing this online, but if you doubt your experience, we recommend getting a Yamaha-experienced motorcycle technician to take a look.

General Pros and Cons of the Yamaha XJR 1200:

Here are the selling points and shortcomings of the XJR 1200:

Pros of Yamaha XJR 1200

1. Great Performance:

As we said earlier in the article, the XJR 1200 was part of the naked muscle bikes popular in the 90s.

This meant the XJR 1200 came with a powerful 1188cc, four-cylinder engine that produced around 67 lbs-ft of torque at just 6000 RPM.

If you’re looking for an affordable performance bike, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option than the Yamaha XJR 1200.

2. Good Ride Quality:

Unlike modern-day sportbikes, the standard or naked style of the Yamaha XJR 1200 combines comfort with performance.

The riding position is fairly upright and comfortable for long rides.

In addition, the handling is incredibly responsive and gives the rider a sense of control.

However, the high weight of the bike may affect handling on occasions.

3. Classic Design:

The Yamaha XJR 1200 features shiny black paint and chrome polish on specific components, all of which accentuate its retro look.

If you find classic bikes appealing and are willing to fork over the cash, the XJR 1200 is an excellent option.

Cons of Yamaha XJR 1200

Here are some of the drawbacks of  unkept Yamaha XJR 1200 that have been sitting for decades without maintnece:

  1. Engine Cuts Out While Riding
  2. Engine Misfires And Backfires
  3. Excessive Vibration Under Acceleration

What Do the Reviews Say?

“If you do hanker after that authentic 1970s experience, then consider the Yamaha XJR 1200 retro motorbike. With a meaty four-cylinder, air-cooled engine derived from the XS 1100, the Yamaha XJR 1200 has a right look, feel and comfort levels for a trip down memory lane.”

[Source: carolenash.com]

What’s The Resale Value On the Yamaha XJR 1200?

Year Mileage Price($)
1997 3,982 $1,960
1999 3,931 $1,900
1996 3,694 $1,999
1997 3,255 $2,000

Note: You may have to import these bikes into the U.S.A. Besides, these prices may vary based on factors such as mileage, location, etc.


YAMAHA XJR1200 – Review

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ⓘ  The information in this article is based on data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall reports, consumer complaints submitted to the NHTSA, reliability ratings from J.D. Power, auto review and rating sites such as Edmunds, specialist forums, etc. We analyzed this data to provide insights into the best and worst years for these vehicle models.