2008 Buell 1125R First Ride
Buell 1125R- First Ride ………………. By Tom Monroe
Rosamond, California. October 16th 2007–
As I followed the Buell riding “coach” around the technical Streets of Willow Springs race course, I thought to myself “hey, this guy’s pretty fast, but we’re on the same bike so I should be able to keep up, right?” Right. As it turns out, this new 1125R is pretty easy to ride fast, even though I had just been handed the bike five minutes earlier.
Those familiar with Buells will feel at home on the 1125R. In fact, if you just glanced at it you might mistake it for a Firebolt. Buell’s Trilogy of Technology is again at work here, and the frame as well as much of the bodywork look to be interchangeable with earlier Buells.
For those not familiar with Buells, let me briefly enlighten you: lightweight front disc is attached to the rim, with a new eight-piston caliper gripping it from the inside; fuel is carried inside the main frame; until now, XB series Buells carried their oil in the swingarm, but not so on this Rotax-powered bike, which holds the slippery stuff inside the crankcase like “normal” sportbikes.
The motor, which developmentally started out years ago for use in Aprilia’s Mille and Tuono, has been changed and refined for this new bike. As a happy Tuono owner, it was easy for me to make a direct comparison. And this Buell’s motor rocks! It was smoother than the Aprilia’s, with a more linear powerband, but it lacked some of the charm of the Italian bikes.
However, engine character is subjective, and the Buell’s motor does not disappoint in performance.
1125Rs were circling the track all day, going noticeably faster than the XB12 Firebolts that were also present. Handling was very similar between bikes, but the 1125’s additional power and considerably lighter flywheel made it squirt between turns faster, giving the rider a big advantage. This advantage would translate well to the street, where the smooth performance can get you out of – or into – trouble quicker than the old air-cooled Sportster-derived motor.
Vibration was also noticeable – because of it’s absence. I’ve seen Buells parked on their sidestand, running, that looked like they were about to shake themselves apart. Sure, they smooth out when you get going, but the shaking at stoplights was a bit much.
Not the 1125R. In fact, my only complaint with this motor will easily be rectified by the aftermarket. It seems Buell did such a great job engineering the 1125R’s muffler to work well, that they lost sight of how it looks or sounds.
I could barely hear any note coming out of the muffler, most of the noise was generated by the motor. While this certainly pleases the EPA, I can’t wait to hear one that’s been uncorked.
The gearbox was another significant improvement, operating as smoothly as my Tuono’s, which is a far cry from what you get on the air-cooled Buells. Clutch action was smooth, in fact all the controls were placed in a nice, neutral sportbike position and they operated like you would expect on any Japanese sportbike.
Handling was typical Buell- great. Get on and ride your ass off, right away, without any worries or surprises. I found myself operating mostly in the midrange, but at just over 100 mph through some sections of the Streets, this bike was unflappable.
I noticed a bit of standup while braking into turns, but not enough to bother me. It feels like one solid carved piece beneath you, flickable yet it’s the stability that impresses you.
A friend named Steve was likely among the first people ever to crash an 1125R, putting it down gently in a slow-motion, left turn lowside. The bike is so stable, he described the experience as “almost enjoyable”, although he was pretty dismayed that he had crashed someone else’s bike. To the bike’s credit, it looked perfectly rideable, albeit with lots of scuffing on the radiator shroud, swingarm and tail section.
Buell has gone down their own road for years, carving out a small niche of believers but never penetrating The Big Time. The 1125R should be able to change all that.
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