by Neale Bayly
With the outside temperature a crispy 27 degrees, Jamie James’ response to my question, “Do you think it will be too cold to ride?” brought an instant smile to my face. And, as I made my way over to Jamie’s place to take my ride, I thought what a wonderful way to describe riding a sub 400lb motorcycle that kicks out around 145 horsepower at the rear wheel. As one of the most down to earth and approachable people I have ever met in my life, spending time with Jamie has been just as pleasurable as riding his incredible bike. In fact, I could probably write a couple of stories just about Jamie and his long and successful racing career, but for the moment I will stick to “his baby:” The Jamie James Productions R1.
On arrival, I climbed into my leathers and swung a leg over Jamie’s immaculate R1 for the first time, making a mental note of where Jamie wanted to meet for photos. Between his Louisiana Cajun drawl and my English accent we already had some amusing miscommunications over directions prior to the ride. Beneath me, the bike purred away through the Acropovic pipe, the only thing giving the engines “non standard” state of tune away, being the uncharacteristic low hum. With significantly different cam timing, this bike sounds very different from a stocker with a pipe, but more of that later. Clicking into gear and easing out of Jamie’s gravel driveway I headed out down a nice pot holed, country lane, peppered with damp mud and tight decreasing radius corners.
This, of course, was just what I needed for my first ride on a limited edition, $23,500 Superbike. Needless to say, the first couple of miles were spent with my jaw, as well as some other parts of my anatomy, well clenched as I made my way towards a more open highway. Having ridden a 600 supersport over to Jamie’s place, it took a few moments to get used to the heavier steering input on the big 1000, but by the time I hit the open road, this had all disappeared and I was feeling a little more relaxed. The bike is actually very easy to ride under these circumstances and, with its taller gearing and broad power band; it is not intimidating, other than mentally.
Short shifting through the six-speed box, I made my way along a nice smooth piece of highway, heading for our photo rendezvous. Running legal speeds in top gear, the engine was barely turning over and provided instant forward progress at any throttle position. A few miles up the road, I rounded a turn to see a long straight stretching away through the deserted North Carolina farmland, downshifted to second and nailed the throttle. Holding it wide open, I shifted right before the redline and repeated the process. The JJP R1 inhaled the road, sending the surrounding countryside into a green and brown blur as I tucked in behind the full fairing. Backing off, after hitting the redline in fourth, (152 mph for those of you not in law enforcement) I slowed down, decided to recommence where I had left of in the breathing department and rolled on down the road as if nothing had happened. Of course it felt like one of those dreams when you are walking through the shopping mall and have forgotten to put your trousers on. My mouth was dry, my pulse racing and imaginary policeman lurked behind every tree. Wow! What a rush, and what a surprise. I had come expecting a ferocious, fire spitting monster and been completely surprised to find a bike that could only be described as “civilized.” Opening the throttle in anger, produced a smooth flow of power, with no real hit anywhere in the rev range: Just gobs of smooth, abundant power. According to Sport Rider’s Andrew Trevitt, it wasn’t until they put the bike on the dyno that they realized it was making close to twenty more horsepower than a standard R1. Jamie has tuned this bike to make so much mid range (read useable) power, that the top end rush is somewhat disguised, allowing Trevitt to not notice the added power. I had just returned from flogging the new Ducati 999 around Willow Springs raceway and, with a claimed 123 horsepower at the crank, it was no preparation for the Jamie James production R1.
The engine itself is untouched below the Yamaha Racing Kit head gasket and receives special attention from Jamie above. In his early years of racing as a privateer, Jamie and long time friend Doug Crawford performed all the mechanical work on his bikes. Their levels of preparation, and mechanical abilities were a large factor in helping Jamie gain a factory ride. And, even though he did not have to build and tune his own bikes anymore, Jamie never lost his interest in this area. He starts by removing the stock engine from the donor bike’s frame, and takes it up to his engine building room. Next he sends the cylinder head to Robert Reeves, of Nascar engine building fame, for a valve job and to be ported and polished. This step is further enhanced by Jamie’s good friend, John Claus from Claus Speedworks, who kindly sent Jamie his patented Serdi-valve cutter for Robert to use during the valve job. This increases the flow and when added to the racing head gasket and degreed cams, that use Orient Express cam sprockets, helps in achieving the aforementioned healthy horsepower gain. There is also an increase in compression from the racing head gasket, but that is the extent of the modifications. Jamie refuses to get any more radical with the engine, stating that he is building this bike as a “street bike” and is after drive-ability and long-term reliability.
Out on the road, I found Jamie and Ken and we moved on to a twisty section of road to shoot some pictures. This was not a joy. Picture the scene: Narrow, tight twisting uphill corner, no run off, cold tarmac and a few fallen leaves thrown in for good measure. Next you have to ride back and forward as fast as possible, not only being scrutinized by the owner of the machine you are doing your best to keep in one piece, but an owner who won the AMA Superbike title in 1989. As you will see from the pictures, no heroics were performed, and I am happy to say the bike made it back in one piece.
This did give me a chance to think about the incredible suspension that graces this bike. Time after time I would come diving into the turn and each time I kept twisting the throttle harder, the bike just feeling more and more comfortable. Wearing top of the line Ohlins, fork, shock and steering damper, the Jamie James Productions R1’s handling is absolutely out of this world. It just soaks up bumps and keeps the bike on line as if they weren’t there. The way it turns is almost telepathic, and I had to keep reminding myself that the bike is a liter class Superbike. Having never ridden a bike with such high quality suspension components, I had been a little skeptical of their benefits and high price. Not now: I have simply never ridden anything that felt so planted or so in control, and can only wonder what it would be like to put them to full test on a racetrack.
Jamie had set the suspension up at Road Atlanta with a view to “holding the front end down a little better.” He had wanted to lower the front end without dropping the fork legs down so initially took out 4 rounds of pre-load. (The springs are plenty strong enough) Then he dialed in 5 clicks of rebound and wound the compression out 5 clicks from maximum to absorb the bumps a little better. Out back, Jamie added a little pre-load, took out some rebound and left the compression alone. I only rode the bike set up like this, so can’t comment on how it works stock, but knowing that Jamie has worked with some of the worlds top suspension experts during his long and successful career, I think it is safe to say it is probably the best it can be.
One way I was able to put the Ohlins front fork to test was under hard braking. As with everything about the JJP R1, this is another area where Jamie has graced the bike with the highest quality components. The standard set up is removed and replaced with Wave rotors from Braking U.S.A, AP Racing 6-piston calipers and an AP Racing Master Cylinder. This is fully adjustable for lever positioning as well as lever ratio. Unlike, conventional lever adjusters, (Ducati 999 and 749 excluded) where you can accidentally move the position all the way back to where you started, the AP Racing adjuster only winds in or out. This ensures you will not make any mistakes if you adjust the lever position on the fly. The AP set up also allows you to adjust the braking ratio. Jamie has set it up the way he likes it and it worked just fine for me. The first 10mm’s give little change, with progressively harder braking available after the initial travel has been taken up. I like my lever like this, as it allows a little trail braking if needed and I know that I am not going to accidentally over brake the front wheel by touching the lever at the wrong moment.
Squeezing the lever hard, with triple digits showing on the digital speedometer, is similar to getting kicked in the ribs while slamming the contents of your brain into the front half of your helmet. Simply unbelievable would be a mild way to describe the way the brakes haul the big Yamaha down from speed. There is no excessive dive from the front end and the front tire feels as if it is turning to liquid rubber as it glues itself to the road. I was able to try this out a few times on the deserted North Carolina roads, each time trying a little harder and each time I was just simply in awe. This is absolutely the best braking system I have ever sampled, bar none.
Satisfied I had given the brakes a thorough testing, I met back up with Jamie and Ken to shoot some more photos. As Ken set the bike up for the beauty shot you see here in these photos, I sat back and took in the bike’s good looks. The standard bodywork is custom painted in black magic and pearl gray with Jamie’s signature and the bikes personal number on the gas tank. It is subtle and understated, which is really the whole theme of this bike. Quality exudes from the Acropovic Evo Titanium pipe to the Jamie James Productions upper triple clamp. Brake lines are Goodridge stainless steel, foot peg brackets are black powder coated and the turn signals are Euro style. The back end is cleaned up with a JJP rear fender eliminator kit and bike runs a 520 Vortex sprocket conversion with a couple of teeth dropped on the rear. The bike also wears JJP serial number plaques and DEI lighted license plate bolts.
Is all of this worth twenty-three large is the question I am sure most of you are asking right about this moment. Sure, you are buying a lot of nice off the shelf hardware, a top quality paint job and some light engine tuning but what about taking a stock bike and adding the stuff at home? This is certainly the question I had been asking myself prior to meeting Jamie and going to see his production facility, talking with him and riding the bike. And, for me the answer is most definitely “Yes!” The person who is going to buy this bike is going to want it for exactly what it is. A subtle, but extremely tasteful custom motorcycle! One the owner will be able to ride down the road on with out attracting too much attention, but one that will immediately attract the attention of anyone who knows a lot about motorcycles. An incredibly fast, competent motorcycle that performs flawlessly in every department that you can buy off the showroom floor. I have ridden some really fast and extremely expensive “Specials” and have always been impressed with the levels of performance attainable. There has always been a price to pay though: Speedometers that are no longer accurate, reduced steering lock, erratic idle; heat build up the list goes on. Not so on the Jamie James Productions R1. Just a totally reliable, stock feeling motorcycle that performs way, way better than a stocker in every department. Interested? Log onto www.Jamiejamesproductions.net to find out your nearest participating dealer and hurry, Jamie is only producing 50 of these amazing bikes and I have a feeling they won’t last long!