My only previous experience on a Buell motorcycle was last year at the intro ride of the Buell SuperTT. I really had no idea what to expect of such a vastly different motorcycle than I am accustomed to riding but came away from the intro with a newfound respect for the Buell brand. I was very impressed with the handling but, like so many others, felt the motor let the bike down.
Well, it seems like Buell has finally built the bike we have all been waiting for them to build. For years people have been commenting how great the Buells handle, now if only it had a serious motor. Buell seems to have addressed the motor complaint with the all new 1125R.
The Buell 1125R features an all-new liquid-cooled V-twin developed specifically for the Buell by BRP-Rotax. The Buell puts out 146hp and 82ft/lbs of torque. Keeping this newfound horsepower in check is Buell\'s new “Intuitive Response Chassis” (IRC) with massive, rigid aluminium spars that double as the fuel reservoir. I was definitely looking forward to putting every ounce of that horsepower down to the rear wheel at the scheduled track day put on by Fastrack Riders at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana . . but first I would get to see how the Buell performed on the street.
The styling of the new Buell will definitely turn some heads. Whether it\'s the loud rumble of the V-twin or the unique exhaust and fairing design it stands out in the crowd. I think it\'s a good looking motorcycle but was surprised by just how many compliments I received on the Buell\'s styling while riding around southern California. Many comments were made about the massive air intakes and how short the bike looks. Styling of the hand controls could be much better however as the switches on the Buell look straight out of 1970 and take away from the overall appeal of the bike.
Sitting on the 1125R and firing up the motor you definitely know you\'ve got something between your legs. A nice rumble is emitted and you can feel the bike pulsating. The Buell felt a little foreign when first sitting on it, or maybe it just felt domestic and I\'m used to foreign. Either way I guess that was to be expected considering I just spent the last 2 weeks on a three-wheeled scooter! After a few miles I soon became accustomed to the slightly awkward feeling of the wide motor and fairing. The cockpit on the Buell is huge! I had no problem fitting my body behind the windscreen and, unlike most sportbikes on the freeway, wind protection was not a problem. The gas cap on the Buell is unlike most standard caps on modern sportbikes which flip open on a hinge and stay attached to the tank. The Buell gas cap needs to be removed from the tank which I found could be a bit of a hassle as you were always having to find a clean place to set the gas cap down while refueling.
There will be less unscheduled stops to stretch out the legs and arms while riding the Buell. Unlike most modern sportbike manufacturers, Buell seems to have actually put comfort somewhere near the top of the priority sheet. The Buell is comfortable enough for long rides and won\'t have you walking like the guy 2nd from the left on the evolutionary chart when you get off the bike.
The best part of the Buell 1125R on the street has to be the motor. The Rotax motor is an absolute riot on public roads. Twins are just plain fun to ride as the gobs of torque prove very addicting. Exiting corners felt almost automatic, grab a handful of throttle and loft the front through the air with a complete lack of effort. Being primarily a racer I don\'t get a chance to ride on the street too often but motorcycles like the Buell 1125R have me giggling inside my helmet as I fall absolutely back in love with street riding. Launching the Buell from intersections never seemed to lose it\'s novelty, the linear, manageable power delivery a thing of beauty. The engine emits a fair amount of heat but was definitely bearable.
My opening laps at the Fastrack Riders trackday were a bit frightful to be honest as the Buell was taking me a little longer than normal to get comfortable with on the track. The midsection of the Buell is quite wide and I was having some trouble with side to side movement. The motor on the 1125R also sticks out quite far and I found myself missing downshifts as my foot would hit the side of the motor instead of coming down squarely on the shifter.
Shift action itself on the Buell was quite good and had a positive feel, you did have to make sure to be smooth and fully shut the throttle while making full speed upshifts or it would be a little tough to get in gear. I am used to running a quick-shifter so it always takes me a few laps to remember to shut the throttle while making full power upshifts.
The other issue I was having that hindered lap times was the lack of feel and progression from the brakes. The Buell features a single rim-mounted rotor with an eight-piston caliper ZTL2 front brake which was developed for the XBRR race bike. Grabbing on the binders there was not much initial bite, but when the braking power did come in it was very abrupt. This made trail braking very hard and I was not able to hold the brakes as far into the corner while leaned over as I would normally like to; the abruptness was much too upsetting on the front wheel. There was also a very loud squealing throughout the day coming from the brakes.
While feel at the lever wasn\'t what I was hoping for, the rear of the bike was totally composed when hard on the brakes. The Buell uses a new HVA (Hydraulic Vacuum Assist) clutch that uses engine vacuum to provide a slipper effect when the engine is downshifted. There are some hard braking areas at Fontana where I was able to put the system to great use and I was impressed with the 1125R\'s composure when grabbing hard downshifts and never encountered any chatter from the rear.
There was some slight fork pogo when rolling the Buell into corners and on exit as well , especially in and out of the tight turn nine right hander. I played around with fork settings all day but was never able to fully solve the problem, leaving the set-up on the Buell a little too soft for my liking; bobbing it\'s head on corner entry and exit. Things out back felt much more solid and the rear shock did a good job on the track with no shock oscillation even when the suspension got hot after a long session. While the Buell does not feel overly heavy it does feel a bit lethargic and it takes some effort in the tight stuff. The Buell\'s wide midsection makes it slightly more difficult to move around on in the tight switchbacks.
Once settled in the corner the Buell 1125R was dead stable and had what I would almost call a Ducati feel while on it\'s side. You feel such confidence in the chassis while leaned over it seems like nothing could upset the bike. Ground clearance was good and I never had any problems with any hard parts touching down.
The Buell 1125R does not use a steering damper but I think it could benefit from one. While the 1125R is not exactly sketchy it dig wag the bars all the way down the banking and through the fast kink before the back straight. It never got to the point of a tank slapper but it did have me clenching the butt cheeks on a few occasions and I would like a damper for the added security.
The motor that was so much fun on the street was also quite capable on the track. After spending a few laps getting acquainted with riding a twin at Fontana the lap times started to come down. Gear selection is much different than most of the inline fours and I found you can carry a gear higher in some corners and let the Buell torque out, the engine spinning up quickly. The grunt out of tight corners was good but the Buell suffered in straight line speed on the longer straights at Fontana. I was wringing the neck of the Buell coming onto the banking but still found myself getting drafted down Fontana\'s long straight by race prepped 600\'s. The 1125R\'s fuel injection system uses dual downdraft 61mm throttle bodies; while not the smoothest fuel injection system rolling around on the street, it worked fine while running a quicker pace on the track. The low-maintenance belt drive puts the power down very seamlessly with no feeling of driveline lash.
The Buell 1125R came equipped with Pirelli Diablo Corsa III tires. The feel from the tires was great and grip was predictable. I was definitely able to find the limit of the tires but it actually made riding the Buell more fun. The slides were very controlled and with the Buell\'s smooth power delivery I was laying nice darkies lap after lap on corner exit.
Normally the highlight of any bike test for me is getting on the track however this may be the one time I looked more forward to riding on the street. This is not to say the Buell was not capable on the track, it\'s just that burning up the roads with the intoxicating Rotax motor was making even the boring commute to work seem suddenly exciting.
The Buell 1125R may not be the most refined motorcycle or perform great in all categories, however it was one of the motorcycles I missed the most when I had to give it back. While it would not be my first choice for a race bike, the sheer fun factor the Buell delivers on the street make this a motorcycle I would definitely be excited to have in my garage.