First Ride: 2006 Buell Ulysses review

If you like adventure bikes and you want that air-cooled Harley character, then your choice is pretty limited. Enter the Buell Ulysses

This review is part of the Monster Trailies Lap France mega-test review. Click the link for the rivals.

My part in this little lap of France doesn't start with a bleary, early-morning Dover-Calais ferry, like most. Nope, I got the job of flying to Sardinia (where Buell chose to hold the world launch of the new Ulysses) and picking up a bike. So I kick off with an overnight ferry from Porto Torres that deposits me early doors in Genova, Italy.

By the time we all finally get together - 24 hours after we'd originally planned and 48 hours after I got off the boat in Genova - I've already come to some conclusions. Firstly, make sure at least one rider in a group of four can read a map. Tossers... Secondly, that the Ulysses is good at some things, less so at others.

Leaving the horrible hotel on the outskirts of very nice Brive, the destination we finally gather at, in morning rush hour isn't a nice experience; the Buell is tall (extreme tip toes for me, and I'm Mr Average at 5ft 10in) and has a lazy turning circle that makes it awkward to manoeuvre in tight spots. At low speed the 1203cc air-cooled fuel-injected engine feels lumpy and coarse, giving the odd hesitant cough at just the wrong moment while the clutch and gearbox are plain hard work. Not the best town bike, then.

Mind you, the thing has a character all its own, like all Buells. It just takes a bit of getting used to. In theory the Ulysses is a sportsbike with adventure sports (that's light off-road) pretensions. Its roots lie in the pared-down Lightning S, but long travel suspension, fat, chunky Dunlops and wide, braced handlebars give the Ulysses an air of utilitarian usefulness. It certainly looks like one tough Tonka-toy mutha.