It’s fair to say that the 1125R has been greeted luke-warmly. A bodged launch last year at Laguna Seca was followed by a ‘band-aid’ launch earlier this year for the water-cooled Buell in Spain. Not a good start for a platform that Buell wanted to use to bring new riders into the marque.
This, then, would be an important launch, and we were sent to Berlin to see if this 1125CR ‘Café Racer’ could cut the mustard, or whether it was just a sauerkraut...
Many of us Brits were hoping that it would be a major improvement, but almost resigned to the fact that it would share the same basic faults of the 1125R – disappointing power delivery, warp-prone brakes, over-sensitive suspension and ugly looks. When we finally rolled out of the pitlane at the small and twisty Spreewaldring circuit, an hour from Berlin, the differences were marked.
The motor benefits from changes to the fuel-injection system with new angle injectors, which beef up mid-range. The bike is also geared down by 8.5%. Out on track and on the road this transforms the motor to something much smoother than the original 1125R. Gutsier, too. Erik himself told us that he didn’t want to ‘dumb-down’ the Helicon motor in the CR, so it’s the full-monty 146-claimed-bhp twin from the racier R, but with a more refined feel, while still retaining a big twin’s character.
The tight last corner at the Spreewaldring would have the ‘old’ 1125R stuttering, but you can be smooth as you like on the CR. It’s a real sleight-of-hand that the gearing seems to have had a major effect on, as has the new calibration of the Rotax-designed Helicon motor.
Suspension again is improved: the test team spent a week working out a basic setting for the 1125CR, which works for all riders across all road surfaces. Much better. Braking is still with the ZTL2 set-up, which I’ve never had a problem with, warp-wise, although some journos have. The bike still has a marked tendency to sit-up with the merest brush of the lever, something that a Jap sportsbike wouldn’t: It’s liveable with though, just call it character.
Looks-wise this is a major improvement over the 1125R – which almost seemed to have a Rickman-esque fairing attached to it. The minimalist cockpit, sits between the massive air-scoops, which – while looking over-done on the R – accentuate the aggressive, hunched looks on the street bike.
Little Buell/Harley things still annoy: the clocks – which feature a gear-position indicator now – are still a little hard to read, the mirrors vibrate so you see little in them and some of the bolts are still a mite agricultural.
But overall this is the bike the 1125R so should have been, and is a fun bike to ride and should compare favourably to the Japanese and European options. I kid you not.
It seems Erik Buell and his team have finally given us a water-cooled Buell worth shouting about. About time too.
The Buell 1125CR will be available later this month in the UK for £7995.