WHAT WE LIKED
- Serious sports tackle
- Mid-range and top end performance
- Sharp price
NOT SO MUCH
- Not happy around town
- Wooden rear brake
Overall rating: 4.0/5.0
Price, Packaging and Practicality: 3.5/5.0
In the saddle: 4.0/5.0
|Engine: 1125cc liquid-cooled four-valve V-twin, injected|
|Transmission: 6-speed, wet cutch, chain drive|
|Power/torque:146hp @9800rpm; 11.2kg-m @8000rpm|
|Fuel tank: 20 litres|
|Seat height: 775mm|
|Price: $17,495 + ORC|
Buell Motorcycles have never been afraid to offer something different, however sometimes it can be a little too different - to the point of quirky and even questionable. For us, its two prime models over time have been its most conventional - the early Cyclone - and one of its more radical in styling terms - The X1.
Where the 1125R stands out is in its adoption of a completely new powerplant, ditching the arguably over-stretched Sportster derivatives and adopting a bespoke high-compression (12.3:1) 72-degree V-twin built by Rotax, which also supplies Aprilia and BMW. Many of the distinctive features are still in place, such as the single rim-mount front brake and a unique approach to styling, but the bike comes across as being on a more solid mechanical foundation.
PRICE AND EQUIPMENT
If there's a real surprise with the 1125R, it's the price. Perhaps cynically, we were expecting something that was borderline stratospheric, probably past the 20k mark. Instead, it's been set at $17,495, which plonks it in with the Japanese performance tackle and gives the Europeans a very big run for their money.
Keep in mind this is a serious sports machine and, in my view, the first to really put some horsepower behind the over-used term "American sportsbike".
Included in the package is the Rotax-built powerplant, a very solid fast-steering chassis, super-sharp front brake and an electronic instrument cluster which provides as much info as you could reasonably hope for. The latter includes a lap timer, temp and fuel consumption info and a clock, There's also an inbuilt ignition immobiliser.
Buell is said to have had Italian sports tackle such as Ducati in its sights when it come to developing the 1125, and the raw stats suggest the company is more than happy to give the European suprsport twins (which includes KTM and Aprilia) a serious run for their money. It is definitely in the ballpark, with basic stats of 146 horses firing a dry 170 kilos out of a turn, if not at the very upper echelons.
The powerplant is a mixed bag on the road. It's not always happy just dawdling around town, with our demo showing a tendency to 'hunt' on low, steady, throttle settings at low revs. It really likes to be kept spinning at 3800rpm or better. Also, the cold running can be uneven and we experienced the occasional stall on a crisp Melbourne morning if we rode off too early. It definitely likes to be allowed to warm up a little before taking off.
All that behaviour highlighted is this is very much a performance bike and not a commuter. Give it some throttle and cut it loose on some halfway decent tar, and the thing is an absolute joy. It's willing to rev, while the response from 2500rpm-onwards is strong under acceleration, rapid and faultless. Even without a back-to-back comparison, I'm willing to say it's definitely right up there with the other sports V-twins.
Freeway running at a steady 100kmh and over is also fine, and the machine is happy to cruise at those speeds.
The transmission is good - absolutely no complaints, while the clutch has a relatively long engagement point and worked nicely.
It's a little early to predict longevity, but Rotax has an excellent reputation and the Helicon powerplant should keep the servicing bills modest, thanks to a recommended 20,000km interval between valve shim adjustment.
The massive slabs of alloy that confront the rider immediately denote the bike as a Buell, with the fuel carried in the frame. This time around the oil is in a tank in the lower crankcase rather than in the swingarm.
Lots of familiar cues are on board, such as the incredibly steep-looking rake to the front end, plus of course the rim-mounted single disc brake grabbed by a monster eight-piston caliper.
The set-up highlights the machine's performance intentions. The front end feels as if it wants to 'fold' in a little on slow city turns, which can encourage you to over-compensate and run a little wide until you get used to it. That behaviour disappears the moment you stop pussy-footing around and sling it into a turn at a halfway respectable speed. Then the quick steering and short wheelbase come together.
It's surprisingly stable at speed, while being perfectly willing to tip in pretty much as fast as you like. The Pirelli Diablo rubber is a good match, aiding the predictable roll rate as you slice through the corners. Cornering clearance is generous (claimed to be around 48 degrees-plus) and something that will only ever be explored on a track.
Buell places a lot of emphasis on using the suspension adjustment, insisting on setting up demo bikes according to the rider's weight, and highlighting the issue in an online video. Certainly the suspenders on our demo gave a lot of confidence and delivered an admirably comfortable ride, given the sporting intentions.
The front brake is hugely powerful and will allow stoppies at will. It nevertheless offers very good feel and is one of the nicest set-ups out there. The back brake seems to be there largely as a rudder and was fairly wooden on our example.
Buell's styling is not going to win any awards for subtlety, but it grows on you. The huge front profile, which is mostly down to the massive air scoops, in fact makes the machine look bigger than it really is. The seat is at a modest height, while overall it's a light and easily-managed machine.
The seating position, which throws a fair bit of weight on the wrists, and limited steering lock, denote this as a sports bike. All the levers have adjustable reach and the controls in general are pretty standard.
It's all-singing all-dancing dash offers loads of information and delivers it well. Ours 'froze' its speedo on a couple of occasions, after the machine had been sitting idling at lights for some time and displayed an unusually high ambient air temp. It unfroze the second the bike was switched off and restarted and we expect this may be a one-off warranty issue.
Overall finish is fine. The headers were discolouring, but everything else was shipshape on our example and in line with what you'd expect in the price bracket.
The key competitors will be the hard-edged sport twins from Ducati, Aprilia and KTM. In this company, the Buell has nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to performance and is fiercely competitive on price.
ON THE ROAD
The 1125 is not an all-rounder -- then again the styling alone makes it bleeding obvious that was never the intention. As a performance bike, it's a very satisfying ride and one that has the potential to get involved in many memorable track days. Used the way it is intended, it's an absolute ball.