Buell 1125R Launch

Words DC - Photos by Lou Martin.
Originally published in Kiwi Rider Magazine

Next year we’ll have to have to add a column to the retrospective page in Kiwi Rider.

It’s proved a very popular feature, that page where we dig into the archives and note the state of play 20, 10 and 5 years ago.

Not too many publications can do that!

However a redesign will be in order because by May next year we can look back 25 years as well.

With the release of their new 1125R, Buell is celebrating 25 years just before us.

Erik Buell told me that the 1125R’s commemorative black and blue colour scheme was chosen partly to represent what he ‘felt he had gone through getting the bike to market.’

Yeah, that’s right ‘Erik told me’.

Now that’s what you call a Press Release.

It started on Monday Night when various reprobates and celebrities from the region’s media were ushered into the wind tunnel at Melbourne’s Monash University to see Erik sitting on the new bike in the midst of trails of tracer smoke.

And it got better from there.

After the wind tunnel show came a presentation on the new 1125R and some Q&A time.

Then followed a two day event featuring unfettered access and plenty of hangin’ time with the man.

Hit the road.

Next morning we flew to Albury-Wodonga on the NSW-Victorian border and were introduced to a substantial fleet of the shiny new weapons. All lined up, suspension tuned to our individual payloads and ready to roll.

After a quick ride briefing the convoy headed out onto the rolling plains at the foot of the Great Dividing Range.

Erik and H-D Australia main-man Adrian were in the truck carrying our gear, three factory techs were in one van, photographer Lou Martin, the video and PR crews were in yet another van and all were travelling in the wake of the rumble of the fleet of 1125Rs.

Paul and Chris from H-D lead the way across the plains to the foot of the alps.
(You Kiwis can do a Crocodile Dundee-style ‘Alps – they’re not alps’ at this juncture if you like.)

But it was across the plains that we got our first taste of the potency of the bike.

Opening the throttle was a thing of beauty and speeds nudged up on the open, empty plains. No driveways, no cross roads - just the relative emptiness of the Great Southern Land.

After an hour of fast sweeping bends and photo calls we moved into the foot of the Great Divide and the wonderfully twisty and spectacular roads around Mt Beauty and on to Mt Hotham - with the regular photo stops providing ample opportunity to get in Erik’s ear and learn.

Kilometres of wonderful motorcycling roads and the 1125Rs just gobbled them up.

The terrain in the parts of the Alps we traversed is less rugged than on this side of the Tasman, but the roads are just as twisty and the surfaces, though occasionally rock strewn, are generally more reliable. Hot mix versus chip seal.

The boys were hooking in!

The choice of routes was to let us get the best feel for the bike in a variety of conditions and we had ample opportunity to really test it out.

The new Rotax engine develops 146 ponies at the crankshaft and when it is married to the wonderful handling provided by the Buell ‘Trilogy of Technology, the result is a true high performance bike - for under $20,000.

Many of its features would be familiar to fans of the XB series motorcycles already.

Mass Centralisation

The Mass Centralisation principle is carried beyond the 21 litres of fuel in the frame to the unusual looking radiators mounted longitudinally between the front wheel and the frame. This arrangement allows the engine to be mounted further forward.

In keeping, the 72 degree vee was chosen as the best compromise between getting the engine as compact as possible and as far forward as possible while still leaving room for the big throttle bodies that were necessary for the ‘enormous amount of power we wanted this bike to have’. (61mm diameter in fact.)

The large muffler is still underslung and the exhaust note is on the quiet side without sounding restricted.

The main thing is it all works so well that 54% of the bike’s weight is on the front tyre.

Low Unsprung Weight.

Following on the Low Unsprung Weight principle, a familiar ZTL perimeter front brake is employed. But now it’s an eight piston affair.

I grabbed a big handful a few times and liked what happened a lot, both feedback and stopping power.

Your correspondent did the best stoppie at the event. (The opportunity for an appropriate burnout didn’t present itself, sadly.)

The brake system is 2.72 kg lighter than a typical litre-bike setup, and also allows for a lighter front wheel - because torsional forces are transmitted directly to the wheel.

The belt drive is also significantly lighter than a chain, and because it is adjustment (and maintenance) free the rear calliper can be mounted directly to the swing arm.

Unlike the XBs the oil is not in the swingarm - but in a reservoir set low down and within in the crankcase casting. (Mass centralised of course!).

And then there’s Chassis Rigidity

The 3rd principle is Chassis Rigidity and Buell claim the ‘New generation Intuitive Response Chassis (IRC) is optimised for tortional stiffness’ with the engine as a stressed member and it also sports 47mm forks to aid front end performance.

Overall the way the bike handles, chucking it along the Alpine way, had me sporting thoughts of adding references to more than ‘Tortional’ stiffness.

Which brings us back to the engine.

The 1125R Helicon engine is a 72 degree, DOHC, liquid cooled V-twin specified by Buell and designed in collaboration with BRP-Rotax.

Buell supplied a lot of unique design work for the engine and its performance is totally in tune with all the other innovations on the bike.

It pulls from very low in the rev range to ridiculous speed with a smooth power curve and very little vibration – courtesy of its three balancer shafts.

There is a full page of engine innovations listed in the Buell press release, taken from Erik’s presentation on our first night.

The things that stood out for me were the emphasis on ‘reduced cost of ownership and ease of servicing’ – as well as the balls out performance.

Features like the way that the intake cam is chain driven, whereas the exhaust cam is gear driven.

Also that the valves are actuated with ‘finger followers’ and adjusted with shims. It means that it’s easy to change the shims and a special tool is not required.

The whole thing is fed by Buell DDI-3EFI and a RAM air system. I didn’t have any issues with the EFI at all. It didn’t run as smoothly at 60kph after a real thrashing as it did before said thrashing, but very minor and it sorted itself out pretty quickly.

The bike also features a ‘slipper’ type clutch that I didn’t notice at all, but I wasn’t charging hard enough on the road to bring it into play. I just enjoyed riding it a lot.

20 Years

The bike he’s wanted to make for 20 years.

I was having some ‘Dave time’ away from the crowd in the cosmopolitan surrounds of the ‘Rex’ Airlines lounge, Melbourne, when Erik plonked himself down next to me.

Suddenly I wasn’t quiet. We talked about his guitars and I asked him who was the coolest he had jammed with. ‘Awww…Joe Satriani was pretty cool.’
We talked family and kids and houses and careers and shot a whole lot of sh*t over the next few days.

He had a black and blue custom guitar with him and handed it over for me to have a quick strum. The instrument matches passion with the bikes.

You want to know about seriously and unpretentiously cool dudes?

The conversation turned back to bikes and my Ulysses (Hey - let’s talk about ME!). He said that the 1125R was a bike he ‘Had to build’.

‘I ride my Ulysses a lot too,’ he grinned.

‘We know how sweet that engine and package is, but there is a whole lot of riders out there that want a liquid cooled engine. Our air cooled engines are meeting all the pollution standards and all that, and the 1125R doesn’t replace anything in the XB range – it’s just that the only way we can get some guys on to our fabulous handling and cornering bikes is with this high powered, liquid cooled engine. And this engine is a…well, you just wait till you ride it’ and left it hanging there as our flight was called.’

I managed several such snippets. He seemed to be having as much fun as the press corps and he’s very comfortable in the company of bikers. (Occasionally at the bar, on Harley-Davidson’s tab – someone pinch me!)

The ergonomics are sporty without being extreme and will be good for anyone in the medium to tall height range for a reasonable stint in the saddle. Bars are reasonably wide and the controls and levers all have some adjustments available.

The instrument pod features an array of digital readouts underneath a large analogue tacho. It has a stopwatch for lap times and splits and can cycle through service codes and also includes a pin number immobiliser system.

After a night at ‘Dinner Plain’ (You Australian have funny name) and a photo shoot on Hotham airstrip (professional rider - controlled conditions!) we retraced the Alpine route back to Albury via the rusty autumnal colours of the township of Bright and the high country Victorian Goldfields. Splendid countryside amidst the haze of the clearing fires.

As you can imagine after all that in two days of glorious sunshine we returned to base a pretty happy and impressed press corps.

The bikes were immediately readied for the onslaught of dealer reps flying in next day.

So I’ll finish that hanging sentence now, Erik: ‘This motor is a peach’.

I thought it is a peach of a motorcycle, actually.

Like all the other Buells I’ve ridden this is a well thought out solution to a set of two-wheeled engineering, and marketing, problems.

It offers performance and handling similar to machines that can cost up to $10,000 more and it does it with innovation – and with consideration to ongoing ownership costs.

As far as the ride and the Australasian release event went:

Now that is what you call ‘A Release’.

Here’s to the next set of 25s.

(Edit - And not long after there was no more - blindsided or what!)