Buell Ulysses XB12X

Buell Ulysses XB12X Review

You might not like the taste at first!

I was intrigued. I’ve never ridden a Buell before. I wasn’t sure what to expect, I’m a Buell Virgin! Buell’s are so unusual, with a design philosophy driven by Erik Buell that makes them unique.


Some features do hint at off-road ability; high wide cross braced handlebars, wide alloy foot pegs, hand guards, dual front fender and a headlight grille.

Buell say the Ulysses is able to cope with no more than dirt, gravel and other unpaved road surfaces. Certainly there is little protection if you drop it, though large rubber pucks fitted to either side of the frame are designed to limit damage if you do.

The first time

My first ride on the Buell was very much like my first time. the first time I had a pint of a beer. I remember being told you might not like the taste at first! However after you’ve had a few pints the taste grows on you and it can become quite intoxicating, so it is with the Buell Ulysses.

To start it, you have to put the key in the ignition lock in the side of the headlight cowl; this is fiddly as you can’t see the lock. Press the starter button and the engine instantly thuds into life, emitting a satisfying rumble.

Now I can’t avoid this, but the bike vibrates. It’s evident through the foot-pegs and bars below 3,000 RPM. Beyond this the vibration diminishes, providing a fairly smooth ride. Luckily, on the open road you’ll be exceeding 3,000 RPM most of the time. For slow traffic work though you have to accept this is part of the Buell’s unique character.

As is the heat from the engine, it’s tucked up under the massive frame spars and tank and doesn’t seem to get much cooling air. Buell have fitted an electric two speed cooling fan, which almost constantly emits a high speed turbine like whine which continues for some time after you switch the ignition off.

However the rumbling exhaust hints at the performance delights that await those who are prepared to fully indulge themselves.

There’s 100 BHP on tap, but it’s the huge amount of torque available, 110 NM that provides the kick. The amount of accelerative punch on tap is simply intoxicating. Combined with the roaring exhaust note, this is a bike other road users WILL take note of. The performance really starts to come on hard after 4,000 RPM providing with instant jaw dropping punch. The bike only has a 5 speed box, but you rarely need to use it, such is the broad spread of power on offer.

Many overtakes can be easily achieved in 5th gear, change down to 4th or lower and you can really experience the accelerative forces. The cable operated clutch action is surprisingly light, the gearbox is somewhat positive in action.

The straight line punch and the exhaust roar is truly addictive, you just revel in the noise and acceleration. This bike has serious grunt!

Awesome performance needs awesome stopping power. The front wheel has a 6 piston fixed calliper which bites on to a 375 mm single sided, inside out, stainless steel, floating rotor. This rotor design increases the heat dissipation, reducing heat fade. For the most part though, it just looks great.

The rear brake is a single piston floating calliper on a standard fixed rotor. The brakes are excellent; they are progressive with plenty of feedback and they quickly bring all that performance under control. They enable you to fully explore the Ulysses performance potential.

The broad wide seat is supportive and comfortable. Wide bars, broad foot pegs and an upright riding position all mean your body is not contorted to mould to the bike. You sit forward and tank sculpting provides a comfortable position for your knees, whilst the rise in the seat to the pillion level cushions you into the bike.

Comforts like the hand guards and small screen also help deflect some of the wind blast off you.

This bike has also been designed for touring; a taller screen, hard-shell side cases and top case are available as accessories. The bike’s unique Triple Tail System can also be a pillion back support, a rack, or a loading platform on the pillion seat. The fuel capacity is 16.7 litres, but I achieved 47.5 MPG, which gives a range of 175 miles.

70 MPH comes up on the clear analogue clocks at a relaxed 3,400 RPM in top gear, the redline is at 7,000 RPM.

The tank is a dummy; petrol is contained within the frame. It has a car style petrol cap, it’s not hinged. Be warned, do not fill the tank to the top.

There is a maximum level lip in the filler orifice and the tank fills really quickly. On test I filled beyond this to find petrol pouring from the overflow, inches away from the very hot exhaust! Some form of warning sticker on the tank could have avoided this situation.

Does the Buell handle given Buell’s much claimed Trilogy of Technology? The massive aluminium frame means frame rigidity is excellent. Mass is centralised by having the fuel in the frame, the oil in the rear swing arm and an under slung exhaust, and it has a fairly low unsprung weight (193kg dry).

Combined with the fully adjustable 43mm Showa upside-down forks and rear monoshock should have meant the handling was near perfect, but unfortunately it wasn’t in all circumstances.

The frame and suspension provide a fluid and fast reacting ride on open, fast roads; but when you ride on slower, minor roads with tightening hair pins and back to back tight corners, the Ulysses tends to run wide and the steering does not react as quickly. It handles better when shifting your body weight rather than applying counter-steer. I think in part this is due to the tallness of the Ulysses.

The weight might be centralised, but the weight is carried higher on the Ulysses. In fairness the bike’s cornering prowess was blunted by rear tyre that was past its best. This did inhibit my cornering, particularly on wet road and poor surface roads.

Low speed manoeuvring is not helped by a relatively large turning circle. For the 2008 model Ulysses, Buell has improved the turning circle.

The Ulysses emphasis is on the Sport side, liking fast, open roads, where the handling is difficult to fault. Plus the punch out of the corners delivered by the Thunderstorm engine makes each corner an exhilarating experience. Also be warned this bike is very easy to wheelie, even if unintentionally.

The morning after

Like many things in life, they are best judged in the cold sober light of the morning after. Does the Buell leave you with a hang-over? Is it as good as you thought, the night before?

It’s looks are distinctive and aggressive, with the double front fender, grilled headlights, cockpit screen, wide frame, distinctive drive belt system and, the seat with the Barricade Orange coloured pillion section matching the tank which is emblazoned with Buell.

No need to clean up the morning after, as the smooth and fuss free drive belt doesn’t need oiling.


The Ulysses will get looks where ever you go and inquisitive questions when you park up, if only to ask how it rides.

But will the looks last or fade? I’d say they will last. I was continually impressed with the quality of the finish and components on the Ulysses. It exudes a solid and high quality feel.

The bike also washes up really easy, with no sharp edges to catch unsuspecting.

Little extras like two 12v power take offs, one on the dash and one under the seat are quality extra touches.

So what of the hangover?

The bike is not perfect but perhaps like real ale, rather than a mass produced beer, you can over look it’s character quirks to revel in the intoxicating performance and the taste it leaves. Plus if you over indulge there’s the comfort of the excellent brakes to reign it all in. With a street presence that will turn heads and an exhaust note that will get you noticed, may be the hangover is worth the pleasure.

Article and Photos by Jon Booth – www.inter-bike.co.uk – The UK Biker Site. Note all performance figures, weights and technical specifications are as claimed by the respective manufacturers

Thanks to the Buell Motorcycle Company UK for the loan of the Buell Ulysses XB12X

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