Buell 1125R

First Ride: 2008 Buell 1125R Trackday Preview at Laguna Seca.

There are few bikes that have been as eagerly anticipated as the Rotax-motored Buell 1125R, but what’s it like now that it’s a reality? To find out, journalists from around the globe gathered at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California, last week for an early ride aboard Buell’s recently announced liquid-cooled 1125R sportbike. Nearly three dozen validation build (pre-production) 1125Rs had been assembled for the bike’s inaugural round of public scrutiny.

Members of Buell’s engineering and development staff were present gathering rider opinions and feedback—good and bad—eager to evaluate any issues before the bike begins rolling off the assembly line in the coming months.

Although the bike’s unorthodox styling may not have evoked love at first ride for me, it took no time at all to gain confidence in the 1125R’s very user-friendly nature when pressed into duty on the track. The claim of 146 crank horsepower and an extremely flat torque curve laying down as much as 82 foot-pounds across a 5000-rpm spread is consistent with Buell philosophy.

It’s also pretty much what my seat-of-the-pants dyno registered when driving off of Laguna’s grippy corners, all of which were taken in second or third gear. Control operation is light and precise and the no-nonsense sporting ergonomics simply fit without there being any quirks requiring an acclimation period.

The 1125R’s chassis steers lighter than any clip-on-equipped member of the XB family from which it was derived. It also displays little tendency to stand up when trailing the rim-mounted single-disc front brake into corners—an XB characteristic that won’t be missed. The XB-RR racebike-inspired upper fairing is very broad, providing a great deal of wind protection with minimal helmet buffeting.

That should make for some extended sport-tours.

One fine trait of its XB brethren I did miss was the near-nonexistent drivetrain lash of Buell’s Milwaukee Twin-powered models. Even though the new machine features Buell’s trademark belt-drive arrangement called Immediate Throttle Response System, it would seem the 1125R’s much snappier-revving, light-flywheel-equipped Rotax engine negates a degree of the smoothness experienced with Buell’s existing product. But once on the boil, running through the gears, the 72-degree, dohc, four-valve per cylinder, six-speed V-Twin appears to have brought Buell in line with other modern machines in its class.

Comparisons with the Aprilia RSV1000 are unavoidable, as both are powered by Rotax engines and share certain high-tech features. An example is the vacuum-assisted hydraulic-actuated clutch that provides both lighter effort at the lever and a slipper-clutch function to reduce engine braking during downshifts and hard deceleration.

Buell isn’t relying entirely upon clutch slippage to control unwanted rear wheel hop, supplementing it with sophisticated ECU programming that allows tuning in a hint of engine run-on once the rider closes the throttle. Along with final fuel-injection mapping, this parameter is still undergoing testing, but I experienced the positive effects following a software tweak made to the bike I was riding that further reduced engine braking after having skated the rear entering Laguna’s tighter turns.

Perhaps Buell’s hands-on world press preview of a bike still undergoing final refinement has prompted more questions than answers. Pretty clever move really; if we don’t find the final product to our liking, who’s to blame?

Sound Off! Does Buell have a Ducati hunter?

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