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Buell 1125's and Ulysses XT - in pictures

My local Harley Davidson dealership (Privateer's Harley Davidson) was frequented today by a bunch of folks looking to get a ride on a Harley Davidson or Buell in what was the most recent stop of Harley Davidson's cross Canada demo tour. It was a fantastic day for it; the weather was beautiful; warm and sunny with not very much wind.

I was lucky enough to get to ride some Buell motorcycles. I've been wanting to test out any bikes with the new liquid cooled, Rotax built, 1125cc, v-twin engine based models. Especially since I've just finished reading 25 Years of Buell. Great book by the way! Definitely recommended reading.

As luck would have it I got to ride a 2009 Buell 1125R and the 2009 1125CR. For good measure, and to see what the differences were, I also tried an air-cooled, 1200cc thunderbolt based Buell; the 2009 Ulysses XT.

The difference is HUGE! I expect that you'll be seeing more 1125cc based bikes from Buell in the future. It's a fantastic mill that makes plenty of smooth linear power. It's easy to ride even at very low speeds. (In the fall of 2008 new engine spark and fuel calibrations were released for 2008 models - the calibrations can be downloaded at your local Buell dealer free of charge.) I barely had a need to get the bike into third at highway speed. The two 1125 based machines were particularly light feeling bikes that felt very nimble and flickable.

And now without further ado. Here's some pictures and some additional thoughts and comments about the bikes:

2009 Buell 1125CR (Cafe Racer) - Click the small symbol in the lower right to access our Comments about each picture.

2009 Buell 1125R - Click the small symbol in the lower right to access our Comments about each picture.

2009 Buell Ulysses XT - Click the small symbol in the lower right to access our Comments about each picture.

Special thanks to:

Privateers Harley Davidson - Halifax, NS for hosting the event. They've been named Canadian Harley-Davidson® Retailer of the Year for the third year in a row for 2008.

Harley Davidson Canada - for providing the bikes and all friendly folks helping everybody have a Harley/Buell experience.

Another big step for Buell

When most people think of American motorcycles they automatically think - Harley Davidson. Harley-Davidson is probably one of the most recognized brands worldwide. They’ve been around for quite a while, having made their bikes available to the public in 1903. Based in Milwaukee Wisconsin, USA - they're famous for their two cylinder air cooled, V-twin engines with the pistons mounted in a 45° "V" and a unique "potato-potato" sound.

A lesser known sibling of the Harley is the Buell Motorcycle company. Founded by an ex-Harley Davidson engineer Erik Buell, Buell Motorcycle is based in Wisconsin, USA.

Erik got interested in racing in his early 20's and worked as a mechanic. In the evenings he was an engineering student at the University of Pittsburg. In 1979 he picked up his degree and with his keen interest in motorcycles he went after a job at Harley Davidson. It took some convincing - but he got the job.

After several years at Harley Davidson, Eric decided to leave to pursue the development of his own motorcycle. He parted amicably with Harley and he would eventually use those connections to get engines to use in his motorcycles. You see, Buell builds motorcycles based on Harley’s V-twin, air-cooled engines.

Eric Buell has always been known for his ingenuity having introduced many motorcycle firsts. His three basic tenants are reducing unsprung weight, mass centralization and chassis rigidity – something that Buell refers to as the “Trilogy of Tech” design philosophy. That’s why Buell motorcycles are designed with underslung exhausts, gas tanks that are built into the frame, and in most cases they store oil in the swingarm.

Those air-cooled engines from Harley offer tons of low-end power but really haven't been able to strongly compete with the liquid cooled ultra-high performance competition. Eric has been working on something for a number of years to remedy this.

For 2008 Eric has brought something new to the Buell Motorcycle Company lineup. They've got a new bike, with a new engine; it's still a v-twin but it's not a Harley engine. And, yes, it is liquid cooled. It's Buell's new 1125 R. The engine was a clean sheet development that took about four years and the chassis taking almost as long as well.

The 1125 R is powered by a 72-degree V-Twin that's built by BRP-Rotax. Rotax builds engines for BMW and Aprilia, among others. When Buell got the go-ahead to look outside the company for a new powerplant Rotax quickly rose to the top of the list of companies to consider. They were willing to work closely with Buell to come up with an engine with the characteristics they were after.

Buell set parameters for power output and weight, but not displacement. That’s why it’s a somewhat odd displacement – 1125cc. It’s the size that was needed to get what Eric wanted – a powerful engine with a broad torque band with no flat spots. It was designed with the rider in mind – not the racer.

The engineers really put their thinking caps on for this one, obsessively reviewing every part of the design in an effort to squeeze out more power with less weight. The 72-degree angle was carefully considered and chosen because of its mass centralizing configuration, compact design, vibration reducing characteristics, and still allowing a very straight intake tract.

It’s got some innovative technical features which Rotax claims the design offers a number of performance advantages including less friction, faster revs, and effectively eliminates valve float. Maintenance is simplified as a result and because of the elimination of shim buckets, valve adjustment are extended to intervals of 20,000 kilometers or 12,500 miles.

The all important horsepower number is a claimed 146hp at the crankshaft, (without ram air taken into account – worth about 5 hp reportedly). Combine that figure with a 10,500 rpm range and 82 foot-lbs of torque.

"We designed the 1125R from the rider down," said Erik Buell, chairman and chief technical officer at Buell Motorcycle Company. "The 1125R takes Buell to a new level of performance, while continuing to embrace the fundamental Buell principals of motorcycle design and offering a great motorcycle riding experience."

The v-twin engine gives the bike some unique character – a much different feel than Japanese four cylinders or Italian v-twins that dominate the sportbike class. Three balancers keep the engine smooth while still letting it feel like a twin. Testers report that despite the 54-percent weight bias to the front, heavy handed throttle application will bring the front up with ease.

The aluminum frame doubles as a 20.1 litre fuel reservoir with Buell’s patented Fuel in the Frame technology. No oil resides in the swingwarm on this bike, as is typical on most Buells. The new frame design incorporates venting ducts that direct heat away from the rider. Some initial reports indicate that some heat is noticeable on your right foot which is close to the muffler. So you might want to time any setting changes on the adjustable gear shift and rear brake so they don’t coincide with the end of a long ride because they’ll probably be hot to handle.

The front fairing and radiator cowling was developed using the latest computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling to provide excellent aerodynamics, efficient air flow to radiators and a ram-air intake system, not to mention – rider comfort. Lead Design Engineer Tony Stefanelli indicates that the design of the fairing makes it a comfortable place for the rider, in a tuck the air flow will just “kiss” the top of the helmet. In the hand pocket area, air flows around your hands and arms so when it’s raining out or it’s cold out the elements are going to flow around your body and hands, keeping you warmer and more comfortable. The rider is also in a bit more upright position than most sportbikes.

You’ll probably notice those two rather bulbous bodywork pieces at the front of the bike – one on each side and just below the upper fairing. These pieces are radiator air scoops that serve double duty as frame protectors. Most Buell’s come with a puck on the outer most part of the frame spar to act as a crash protector. With this bike the radiator air scoops extended out a bit too far for a puck so they just designed them with the ability to take the brunt of the damage in a tip over or crash. There’s a metal strip behind the outer cowl that combined with their bowed out shape, help them to bounce right back after an impact. It’s usually the outer color-coded piece that will take the big damage. The Buell tech people say that it’s a cheap piece to replace – good news!

The fairing and body work was inspired by the Buell XBRR race bike and features six-bulb headlamps. LED turn signals are integrated into the mirror housings. You’ll see a bit more of the components on this bike than with most sportbikes where everything is covered. Some might call it a semi-naked look. You’ll get to see a bit more go fast bits on this bike.

A smooth-shifting six-speed transmission is mated to a new HVA (Hydraulic Vacuum Assist) Slipper Action clutch that uses engine vacuum to boost clutch-lever action and to provide a "slipper" effect when the engine is down-shifted at speed.

The 1125 R weighs in at 375 lbs (170 kg) dry. Buell does report a wet weight but that weight doesn’t include fuel – it tips the scale at 421 lbs with fluids other than gas factored in. Word is that they don’t report it with fuel because it holds a class leading 20.1 litres. 20 litres of fuel should weigh somewhere around 34 lbs. Just an FYI – The Ducati 1098 has a reported dry weight (and without the battery) of 381 lbs.

Signs of the Trilogy of Tech at work are visible all over this bike and some are not so obvious. The belt drive system – roughly ¼ the weight of a typical chain drive system, fuel in the frame, under mount exhaust, and Zero Torsional Load (ZTL) brakes to name just a few.

The ZTL front brake has a huge disc attached directly to the rim (rather than the hub). On the 1125R, this disc is squeezed by a single, eight-piston caliper through four separate pads. The single rotor measures 375mm, contributing to a system that allows a much lighter front wheel (due to the lack of force at the hub) and an overall weight reduction of several pounds compared to other modern sportbike designs.

The rear brake rotor measures 240mm, and is gripped by a two piston caliper mounted directly to the swingarm (more weight savings). Braided steel brake lines come standard.

The frame is an all new design and it’s claimed to be the stiffest chassis ever designed by Buell, already known for producing incredibly stiff chassis on other models. The engine is a stressed member and a new swingarm design pivots directly in the engine cases to increase rigidity and provide quicker, more direct response.

The Showa suspension pieces are fully adjustable at both ends of the motorcycle. Featuring huge 47mm inverted forks up front. The rear shock is mounted directly between the frame and the swingarm (without linkage) slightly off-center to optimize air flow through the motorcycle. Like several other Buells, fuel is housed in the aluminum frame spars.

“Seeing the first 1125R come off the line marks the start of a significant new era for everyone at Buell,” said Erik Buell, chairman and chief technical officer at Buell Motorcycle Company. “The 1125R is designed and built from the rider down to take Buell to a new performance level. As we look forward, we will continue to embrace and enhance our fundamental vision of motorcycle design that offers the ultimate riding experience.”

According to test riders the bike is fast - very fast! It kind of sneaks up on you with it’s forgiving delivery of power. You can’t really be in a wrong gear with this bike. With approximately 83 pound feet of torque available it pulls strongly in every gear.

The instrumentation is comprehensive and offers a cluster with ODIS (Onboard Diagnostic Information System) featuring Analog tachometer with integrated shift light, digital speedometer on LED display, odometer, ODIS service code display, 4-digit security system with ignition immobilizer, lap timer (records up to 99 lap times) and splits, ambient air temperature, coolant temperature, average and instantaneous fuel consumption, miles to next service display, low fuel (plus miles traveled on reserve); high beam, neutral, turn signals and a clock. Some say it’s a bit tough to read in bright conditions because the LED display figures are very thin. Maybe it’ll just take some time to get used to them.

So who are Buell targeting with this bike? According to the man himself they believe their target customer is an experienced rider who wants a sportbike that’s capable of not only short bursts in the twisties and occasional track day, but also all-day rides, a sophisticated buyer who will appreciate the broad power delivery more than a high-rpm screaming machine that’s hard to use on the street.

“He's not looking for the girly giggle of the guy who's buying his first high-performance bike," said Erik Buell of the 1125R buyer he has in mind. "He's not looking to scare himself."

This first year of availability the bike is available in just one color, Midnight Black; Diamond Blue Frame. It’ll come with a 24 months (unlimited mileage) warranty. Head on down to your nearest Buell dealership and check it out. All this fun and engineering marvel has an MSRP of $12,919.

- For more details you could check out Buell’s website here.
- Maybe you'll get a chance to take one for a ride during Buell's cross Canada demo tour. Read here for more information.