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The Ducati Hypermotard 1100 S - Ridden and reviewed.

My amp goes to 11:

Supermotard styled bikes are basically a combination of motorcross and road racing bikes. You take a light weight off-road bike and put some street wheels on it and take it racing on a short twisty track where rider skill matters more than the outright speed of the bike. Voila! - That’s a supermotard.

Manufacturers have jumped on the popularity of this style of bike and in some cases have put mirrors and signals on the bikes to make them street legal. The Suzuki DRZ400SM is such an example - a much cheaper example than the Ducati (more on this later). Most off-road bikes don’t have the same big displacement of their streetbike counterparts; that is until recently. A few manufacturers like KTM, and BMW have come out with big displacement off-road bikes. So it was only a matter of time before somebody put some street wheels on them. Ducati - not one to be outdone came out with a new category bike, no longer a ‘super’ moto. They’ve upped the ante and called their creation a ‘hyper’ motard because with a 1078 cc L-twin engine super just wasn’t enough!

Introduced to the public at the Milan International Motorcycle Show in November 2005, the Ducati Hypermotard 1100 was only hours later named "best in show". You and I both know that the concept you may see at a show isn't necessarily what the production model looks like. A pre-production bike is often made without regard to realities such as cost, safety, reproducibility, etc. Sometimes those bikes appear in a much toned down and practical form in the dealership. Thankfully, when the Hypermotard 1100 arrived in Canadian showrooms in 2007 it lost none of the excitement displayed in Milan. It is a wickedly sexy bike that makes it ever so difficult to stay on the proper side of the law whenever you hop aboard. It has the power and personality to convert even the most responsible of drivers into a hooligan.

The Hypermotard's air cooled, fuel injected 1078 cc L-Twin cylinder engine features a desmodromic dual spark engine producing 90 hp @ 7750 rpm and 76 lb-ft of torque @ 4750 rpm. The engine is borrowed from the Multistrada, where it produces 5 more horsepower and the same torque numbers. The engine doesn't produce quite the same dramatic results in the Multistrada due to a significant weight disadvantage. The standard Multistrada weighs in at 432 lbs dry (Ducati also reports dry weights without the battery). The regular Hypermotard comes in at 395 lbs while the S version cuts that down even further to 390 lbs. That's near 37 lbs difference in the standard model and 42 lbs for the 'S' model. The Hypermotard loses a little horsepower to the Multistrada in part because the Hypermotard design forces the use of a very small airbox that trims top-end power.

Lookin’ Good!

The S model is the top of the range model and improves on the base model by adding a few lighter weight parts and other upgrades. Upgrades include the same Brembo Monobloc calipers that were introduced on the 1098. "Each caliper is created from a single casting, as compared to the conventional two piece construction, to ensure rigid flex-free operation and a consistent solid ‘feel’ at the lever" according to Ducati. The 50mm Marzocchi forks of the ‘S’ include a durable low friction, DLC (diamond-like carbon) black coating to the sliders that make them nice and slick for there is no binding or sticking in the suspension. The rear suspension is upgraded to a fully adjustable high spec ohlins unit. You’ll get a generous 6.5 inches of travel up front and 5.6 at the rear.

Black Marchesini wheels with a stylish red-pinstripe also add, or should I say 'detract' from the S version because they are even lighter than those included on the standard 1100. Reducing weight in the wheels is particularly effective because it reduces the unsprung weight of the bike so that the suspension can react quicker. I've read in other 'technical' reviews that removing a pound of unsprung weight is like removing two pounds off the chassis. So any reduction in unsprung weight produces dramatic results.

If the appeal of an art-like tubular steel trellis frame and the desmodromic symphony for the senses isn't enough to entice you; and I can't see how it wouldn't be! But, if that's still not enough to impress you; well you need to see this bike in person! Careful and up-close inspection reveals a multitude of details that went into the design of the bike. Details such as the aerodynamic tail wing with its integrated LED brake light that functions as a passenger grab handle too, the multiple intakes on the tiny front fairing that break up the shape a bit, to the magnesium-colored aluminum engine cases and strategically placed carbon fiber bits on the fork protectors, timing belt covers, front fender rear section and tail side covers. It's wonderful to look at.

Let’s go for a ride:

When I sat on the bike my first impression was that the bike felt surprisingly small considering the 1100 cc of displacement. Not small in stature, but in feel. I rode the BMW F650GS only days before and that felt every bit as large as at the 1100. The BMW has a seat height of 820 mm (32.3") whereas the 1100S is 845 mm / 33.27 in. Ducati’s efforts to create a lightweight bike really paid off.

The riding position and lack of bulk in the frontal area of this bike all contribute to its nimble, lightweight feel. The upright position has the added benefit of being good for riding in traffic because you can really see everything that's going on around you. Those folding mirrors make the bike wide so it may be tough to squeeze through tight spots. If you were in lane-splitting territory like California this might be a problem but that’s largely a non-issue in Canada. One benefit I found of this placement was that your body is not going to obstruct your vision at all when looking in the mirrors. I could see traffic very well from them. If you prefer a more traditional style you can purchase an optional inboard of the grips set of mirrors.

Once underway, everything feels likes it's right where it should be, the clutch provides appropriate feedback and the friction point is in the first third of the range. Speaking of the clutch, it's a racing-style dry clutch that requires a little more effort than the new 696 so if you're riding it at rush hour in stop and go traffic it might be noticeable. Because it’s a dry clutch it weighs a little less than an oil bathed unit and you’ll hear a characteristic bit of rattle from it. Ducati say that it’s “the popular preference of thousands of Ducatisti the world over.” I had several stops along the way during the test ride and the clutch didn't feel heavy to me despite the increase in effort required over the 696. Gear shifts are solid, smooth, and definite with no clunking noises when you engage the gear. Neutral is easy to hit at lights and the neutral indicator is clearly visible on the LCD display.

Note: The wires going into the LED signals (just in front of the clutch lever) that also serve as handguards look a little exposed to me. I'd try to wrap them up a bit tighter or tape them down so a stray finger or thumb wouldn't break them off.

When you start to crack the throttle a little you can hear, and feel, that desmo L-twin. It's got a distinctive sound and lots of low end grunt. The twin pipes are under the narrow and long seat. There’s plenty of room for roaming around. The power sounds a bit muted with the stock pipes but you can get some aftermarket pipes such as the slip on Termignoni's that will improve performance and lighten the bike a little; you'll get to hear a slightly more lively engine note too.

I'd want to look into aftermarket pipes if I bought one of these so that the sound matches the looks a little better. Another option might be the full race termignoni setup that sounds amazing and reportedly adds 6 hp. This system moves the pipes from under the seat to the right side of the bike. The full race system really uncorks a lot of volume and reportedly trims a whopping 7 kg (15.4 lbs) off the stock system.

The minimalist, GP styled, LCD display is tucked behind a tiny bikini fairing. You feel like you're almost sitting on the front wheel on this bike and you can really see 'all' of the road in front of you - without any obstructions. Combine that with a seat height of 845 mm (33.27 in) and you have a really good view of the road.

The digital LCD dsiplay features a digital speedometer and bar-graph LCD tachometer thats a bit tough to read at a glance. Luckily Ducati was thoughtful enough to include a red light shift indicator when you get a little too high up on the tach. That red light is a very noticeable indication that you need to upshift. A switch on the left handlebar can toggle through several different readouts, including a clock, oil temp, battery voltage, reserve fuel tripmeter and a lap-timer. In addition, the Hypermotard comes equipped to receive the Ducati Data Analyzer (DDA) data-acquisition system that is available as a Ducati Performance accessory.

Some may be worried about maintenance costs too. The Hypermotard comes with a standard 2 year, unlimited mileage warranty and is said to offer 50% less maintenance costs than older Ducati’s.

Room for improvement?

This is a supermoto styled bike that one could actually live with. The seating position is upright and easy on the wrists. While I like sportbikes I find them uncomfortable to ride on for more than a hour or so. I realize that makes me sound old but it's just the truth. Sportbikes are fun but their seating position places greater emphasis on aerodynamics than comfort. That is inarguable! The Ducati Hypermotard doesn't really place a lot of emphasis on aerodynamics. It is comfortable though. The Ducati offers a very high thrill factor while still being a bike you can ride comfortably in all variety of on-pavement riding. It attracts lots of attention too - just like sportbikes.

Some of the attention you'll attract is desirable and some of it might not be so desirable, particularly if you want to keep your licence. This bike looks fast sitting still so don't be surprised if you make some new law enforcement friends. In the city or on the twisties is where you'll be happiest on this bike but it's very capable on the highway too as long as you don't mind the wind blast. The lack of fairing and the high and upright position might make long distances at speed a bit tiring. That shouldn't be too much of a problem because with its 12.4 litre plastic gas tank mounted under the seat, you're going to need to stop regularly on any long distance trip. That's a pretty small tank that's going to limit any long distance riding where you're far from a gas station.

I was riding on a very windy day on a flat straight stretch of highway doing a little over the speed limit and I felt a little bit of a head shake. It wasn’t really dramatic or too unnerving but there was definitely some wobble. I talked to a couple other riders and I was the only person who seemed to experience it. I’ve heard headshake described as feeling like you're riding on a tightrope that’s being gently shaken from the other end. That’s a pretty good description of what I experienced. After relaxing my grip and slowing things down to the proper side of the speed limit I didn't feel it again. Fact is, it was just one short stretch that I felt it; but if you're going to be on the highway quite a bit, at and near the speed limit I'd look into getting a Ducati Performance steering damper put on or one of the many top-quality aftermarket ones. It's a very easy fix.

Another issue I have with the bike is its price. The 'S' version has a MSRP of $17,995. Admittedly, you can feel and clearly see the quality of the construction of this bike and I’m not saying this bike is overpriced for what you’re getting; I’m just saying that it is expensive. I'd be hard-pressed to shell out that kind of cash on any one bike. But if that price doesn't phase you I'd take a serious look at this intensely fun bike!

When I win a lottery it’s on my list of purchases to make immediately! This bike has a new spot on my favorite bikes short list. I'd better go get myself a loto ticket!

For more information on the Ducati Hypermotard visit the Ducati North America website here.

Some photo's courtesy Ducati.

BMW F650GS test ride - Getting more than you bargained for.

It was Thursday and I had finished up the work for the week early in the day so I got to thinking… Hmmm – the BMW F650GS should be arriving at the dealership any day now if it hasn’t already. I better get down there for my monthly visit. *Those guys must really starting to be getting annoyed with me by now. I’ve been there probably six times in the last year and I’ve only bought a magazine.*

No matter, I head on down to the shop hoping to get lucky and spot the new 650. I arrive at the dealership and look left, look right. 1098 S - saw it, SportClassic GT - saw it, X-Challenge - saw it, R1200GS - saw it. Cruisers - check, dirt bikes - check. No F650GS in sight. Guess I’m out of luck - Well, I’m here, might as well look around. I nod at the sales guy and say hello - we both know each other because of the frequency of my visits. I even have made friends with the shop dog – Waldo.

Neither the sales guy nor me know the other’s name but I say; Just in for my regular visit; thought I’d stop in to see if the F650 GS (twin) was in yet. Should be arriving soon I imagine. “Hang-on” he says and heads off to the back room where he talks with a woman briefly behind a partly closed door. A minute or two later he’s out and says “C’mon out back - I’ve got something to show you.” I follow down the hallway and we end up outside at the back of the building. Sitting there amongst a few other bikes is a shiny new F650 GS, iceberg silver. I look it over carefully and we exchange some “great bike” comments.

Of course I want to sit on it and see how it feels but always ask first. Turns out it’s a customer’s bike. All of the initial allotment the dealership received had been pre-sold. No sitting allowed. There’d be trouble if the owner came around the corner and saw me all over his shiny new machine! So no sitting – I have to make do with looking it over.

Once I’ve had my fill we head back in the shop. I casually ask - thinking there’s not a chance! - So, do you guys offer test rides or have demo days? To which he replies, yes, we’ve got one on Saturday. What! You’re kidding me - that’s 2 days from now! *thinking* I really could have missed that whole event if I hadn’t gone in the shop, and if I hadn’t mentioned about the test rides I don’t think I would have found out about it either.

I should mention that a recent, and temporary, move to Winnipeg from the east coast had me thinking a few months prior I might as well leave my gear on the east coast for when I return, no sense bringing it with me for a few short months.

As soon as the words “test ride on Saturday” come from his mouth - It hits me. I have no jacket, no helmet, no gloves. The test ride is in two days! I only know a handful of people and none of them ride. Argh! Should I buy new gear? I’ve already got two pricy jackets and other equipment at home. Do I really want to shell out that kind of money and have to drag all that stuff across the country. No, I really shouldn’t. I’m highly tempted though and start thinking how I’m going to get my hands on some gear. I must go on a test ride!

I head home and immediately send off emails to all the people I know asking if they or anybody they know has any equipment. I don’t even know many of the people very well. I play Ultimate with them once a week. I live in an apartment building and there’s one lonely Vespa in the parking garage. I even write a note and stick it to the seat begging if I can rent some gear from them.

I’m a member of several motorcycle forums and so I post a note on one of them asking anybody if they have any gear that I can borrow or rent for a few hours. After many hours of waiting I finally get a bite on my request. “What size” I immediately reply back with some measurements and wait. I wait all Friday and no responses – it’s not looking good. I head off to bed thinking that I probably won’t get to ride. I mean what are the chances a total stranger will let me borrow their stuff. Not likely.

Saturday morning arrives and I immediately turn on my computer to see if I’ve gotten any responses - nothing. I make one last post on the forum at 9:27 am and resign myself to the fact that I’m not going for a test ride today. I grab some breakfast, and head back to the computer to work on a few things. At 10:12 am I get an email from somebody from the forum; they’ve got some stuff I can borrow! I call the dealership immediately and the earliest test drive is at 1pm. I reserve a spot and email the forum reader to say I’m on my way over!

I get to the fellow bikers place and try on the helmet (an MX style) - fits great. Gloves - good too. Jacket - he’s only got a summer one that I can use - no matter, I’ll put a windproof jacket underneath; that’ll be perfect. I say. Thanks!

I head home finish off the coffee I left behind in my haste to track down the gear, grab a bite to eat and get ready to ride. It’s only about 5 degrees out so I put on a thermal layer and head on down to the dealership to be there for 12:30 pm. I make my way to the counter, sign my waiver, have my licence photocopied, and hand over my $20 cash. Now the fun starts!

1 o’clock rolls around and we head outside and get the scoop on the ride. It’ll be about an hour - we’ll get some town riding, and some highway riding. There are about a dozen of us including the lead rider and sweep rider in the back. He goes over the instruments briefly and the unique BMW indicator switch operation. He suggests that we turn on the standard heated grips - it’s a little chilly on the highway. We’ll be travelling with traffic - typically about 20 km/hr over the limit. But please drive only as fast as you’re comfortable he says. Now it’s time to board our machines.

Somebody already snagged the flame red model so there’s two 650’s left for me to choose from. One is iceberg silver metallic the other is azure blue metallic. I want to get the standard height one if possible or the higher of the two at least. I take a look and decide on the silver one.

Turns out that the silver one had the low seat option (a free option), the blue had the lowered seat and lowered suspension (the lowest of the bunch and a small additional cost). The red one was the standard seat and suspension model. So I got the slightly lower than stock version (a no cost lowered option). Notably, the lowest model didn’t have a center stand which is due to the height. The two other models had them though. The center stand is a $170 option.

We start them up and I’m immediately struck by how different the new 650 feels and sounds than the previous 650 single. This new model is actually 798 cc and boasts 71hp. It’s a big jump up in power from its predecessor, which had right around 50 hp. Turning out of the parking lot and onto the road I fumble a little with the right turn signal. It seems small to me and not on the left like I’m used to. Canceling it proves equally challenging. I try not to look down but have to glance to hit the cancel button residing just above the right signal activator. They're under the bar and pressed with your thumb.

Note: Just behind the keyfob is a powerpoint. So hooking up the GPS or other accessories should be a breeze!

Working the signals continues to be an issue for me throughout the ride. I find that I can’t help but roll off the throttle trying to hit that right signal switch and the cancel switch. It’s not so bad when you're in an RPM range that doesn’t produce a big amount of engine braking when you roll off the throttle a little. But every time I pull away from a stop sign when making a direction change I’m not riding very smoothly.

The ride takes us on a route that moves on fast city streets, a bit of highway time, and a road with a couple twists in it too. No hills really, this is Winnipeg after all; they were lucky to find a road with a few bends in it!

The bike rides smoothly - the pavement is bumpy and full of dips and cracks after a long cold Manitoba winter. There are plenty of tar snakes as well. The bike handles all the bumps and road imperfections wonderfully. On my old Suzuki GS500 I would have had to brace my legs or risk bouncing up off the seat on some of the bumps we hit. I saw many cars heave up and down over the bumps in front of me. They didn't phase the 650GS at all.

The F650GS was smooth, the suspension soaking up the bumps nicely. The seat is very comfortable too. The amount of cushioning is good; firm, yet soft enough to help soak up some bumps too. The seat position doesn’t drive you forward onto the airbox either. I was very comfortable the whole time.

Note: The seats on each of the three models each have their own unique shape. This blue model was the optional low seat low suspension model, that comes at a additional fee, had the lowest seat and you can see a significant upturn in the seat near the airbox. The low seat option (silver bike pictured elsewhere in this article) has a curve but not as much. The regular height (red model in pictures in this article) has the least upturn in the seat. All were quite comfortable.

The rider position is fairly upright, I had no pressure on my wrists at all. My legs had lots of room. The windshield is fairly short but it also wide. The steering has a wide 40 degree lock stop that when turned all the way almost touches the windshield - you wouldn’t likely find an after market windscreen that could be much wider than the stock model. The F800GS will have a lock stop of 42 degrees reportedly.

I found that the wide but short m-shaped windscreen deflected the wind very well. I moved my head around a bit to see if there were any turbulent spots. I didn’t notice any. You’re in the wind unless you tuck your head down but had no buffeting problems. I’d previously ridden a 2002 BMW 650 Dakar for a ride around Cape Breton, NS. I think this new windscreen is an improvement over that model - at least for me. I had a really sore neck after only a few hundred km’s on the 02 Dakar. Still I’d be tempted to see what a slightly taller windscreen would do. My legs didn’t seem to get cool at all and I didn’t feel much wind on them.

It was a bit windy at points and I had to lean the bike into it at times, it wasn’t raining out or wet for that matter but I think the wind was still a good test of the protection offered by the bike. There doesn’t seem to be much frontal area but the wind tunnel testing of the screen seems to have been effective. You’ll know you’re not on a full faired bike but it doesn’t feel like a naked either. Those standard heated grips were a welcome addition in the chilly conditions. I'd seriously consider some hand guards and protectors to keep even more wind off my hands (BMW offers this as an accessory).

The mirrors are bit small but no smaller than the previous model they replace and they’re not vibrating nearly as much with this much smoother twin cylinder engine. You can actually see things if you have the mirrors adjusted properly! Both the speedometer and tach are sweeping analog. Personally, I prefer a big digital speed reading and an analog tach. I want to see quickly and relatively precisely how fast I'm going, particularly if I'm riding in a spirited manner. Analog sweeper for the tach is fine since I don't need quite so much precision there. To the right of the speedometer and tach you've got a big LCD display that comes with the on-board computer option ($215 option) that shows all sorts of useful information such as air temperature, gear currently selected, radiator water temperature, average fuel consumption, fuel level and current range, and a stopwatch. If you buy the optional tire pressure control (TPC) system that information is displayed as well. You toggle through the LCD display with an Info button on the left hand control. In this shot you can also see the big ABS button, horn, and left signal switch.

So what about that engine you say! I’ll come right out and say this is a fantastic engine. While it’s no wheelie monster there is a substantial and very noticeable increase in power and smoothness in this engine. It sounds and feels a lot different. I was doing 140 km/hr at a couple points and the bike felt like it had plenty left on tap. The bike had about 2,000 km’s on it so it probably would be even better after a few more kilometers on it. Many of the bikes still had that new bike smell - like things were still getting heated off when you pushed them.

This Rotax produced power plant has a huge, broad power delivery. As long as you’re in close to the right gear you’re going to pull away strongly and smoothly right up to near redline. I couldn’t feel any noticeable large surges in power at any point in the RPM range. It pulls evenly all the way up.

The brakes on this machine are strong; It only took a gentle touch of the front to get slowed down pretty quickly. I can only imagine how quickly you could stop if you really put the binders on. The ABS would certainly help keep things under control. If you want ABS it'll cost an extra $850 and adds just 1.5 kg (or 3.3 lbs) to the weight of the bike. The bike has a dry weight of 179 kg (394 lbs); unladen weight road ready and fueled weight is 199 kg (438lbs).

Unlike the old 650 BMW Scarver, this machine has a chain rather than a belt drive. It's an O-ring chain and features a chain guide rail that protects the aluminium rocker from damage.

I think there is no question that this bike is going to sell well. At $8,990 there are going to be a lot more people driving BMW’s. Couple that price with BMW’s excellent level of quality and 3 year warranty and you've got an appealing bike. BMW want to attract more young people to the brand and appeal to a broader range of people. This bike should go a long way in achieving that goal.

Now - it wasn’t all rosy for me with this bike, I mentioned it earlier but those signal switches were troublesome. I spoke to the sweep rider of my group ride and mentioned the difficulty I had and he said it’s pretty common with new BMW riders and that you get used to it.

It just seems that leaving those controls on the left would leave the right hand available to work the throttle and the front brake. Two pretty important controls on a motorcycle. Why add the right signal and the cancel switch for both to the list of right hand side tasks? Why not move the ABS button over to the right. That’s a button that wouldn’t be a frequent use item - That would give a little space to rearrange the left controls and put all the signal controls in one spot on the left side.

The signal lights on the instrument cluster were at the very bottom of the speedometer portion just above the tachometer. I found them a little hard to see – they weren’t quite bright enough - and the thick rounded edge of the tachometer hid them a little from my view as well. It was really at the lower edge of my peripheral vision. I suspect your ability to spot them would improve with familiarity but they’d be better if they were a bit brighter and maybe up slightly from their current position - in my opinion.

The brake fluid reservoir is way up high on the right hand side like it’s being honored on a pedestal. It’s rubber mounted and was jiggling around like a bobble head doll. I found it a little distracting at first. I did get used to it pretty quickly and didn’t notice it too much at least.

In the end I’d still say that despite the issues I have with the bike I still like it. The price, the engine, the warranty, the level of quality – it’s all top notch. The boost in horsepower adds some much needed excitement to the bike which was sorely lacking in its predecessor. The engine is a significant improvement in smoothness, power delivery, and feel; yet still very competitive with 650cc bikes in terms of the weight and size.

So when you buy this 650 cc bike you're going to get a little more than you bargained for - you're going to get a 798 cc! An extra 148 cc!

For more information on the F650GS check out the BMW Motorrad Canada website.

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.