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First Ride: Revised Buell 1125R

After a fairly troublesome birth Buell’s 1125R is back. But have they got it right this time?

Click to read: Buell 1125R owners reviews, Buell 1125R specs and to see the Buell 1125R image gallery.

The 1125R was meant to be Buell’s break through, its first water-cooled engine and the bike that would move the American manufacturer from being an interesting quirky anonym to a serious contender. But, as is so often the way with Buell, things didn’t quite go to plan.

At the bike’s launch in Laguna Seca some serious flaws were exposed, so serious in fact that Buell had to delay the launch of the 1125R, redesign a few bits and organise another unveiling of this updated bike a few months later. Having not been on the original launch I was looking forward to riding the 1125R. I like Buell’s quirkiness, but having spent a day on road and track I don’t understand what the company is trying to do with this bike and think they have missed the mark.

Buell claim the 1125R is aimed at street riders rather than track day hooligans, which is fair enough, but it still has some serious issues that make it a fairly poor street bike. For a start the engine vibrates like hell. At tickover it shakes enough to be annoying while get above about 6,000rpm on the go and it’s actually quite painful. These vibes make the mirrors all but decorations and ruin the ride, and all this despite Buell fitting three balancer shafts to the motor!

Although having said that, another bike I rode didn’t vibrate quite as much as mine, which is fairly typical Buell. And while the engine has a lovely flat torque curve, which is great for the road, it feels crude to use. It’s very similar to Aprilia’s RSV-R motor, and makes virtually the same power. But this is a 10 year old engine, everyone else had moved the game on when it comes to V-twins. While I loved the fuel injection, throttle response and huge torque it doesn’t have the same power or speed as other twins.

Then there is the handling, which is really good, as long as you have the bike set up correctly. Buell claim the bike’s suspension needs to tailored to specific riders, when you buy the bike your dealer will set it up to your size and weight. Great, but I gave Buell my size and weight and the suspension setting I was given didn’t work and ruined the handling. It kept wanting to sit up in corners until I softened the fork’s settings. When I did this it handled well, but on Buell’s settings it didn’t.

I don’t know of any other bike which you have to set up so specifically. A rider of 10 stone or 17 stone can hop on a GSX-R1000 and it will handle the same. With the Buell if you get the suspension wrong it doesn’t handle, which is daft. I can see owners riding around on a bike that doesn’t handle as well as it could because the setting are wrong. How pissed off would you be if that was you?

And then there is the look. It’s a Buell, just a bit fatter at the front. According to Buell the huge front fairing (which reminds me of a whale for some reason) creates a ‘quiet zone’ for riders. Well yes, but only if you stick your chin on the ignition key. Other than that it offers no more noticeable protection than any other sportsbike fairing, and they look a million times more attractive.

But all this aside I have to admit on track the 1125R was good. The handling, when the suspension is correct, is very precise and if you avoid holding the brake on mid-corner the Buell turns in rapidly and is very stable. Drag the brake up to the apex, or touch it mid-corner, and it tends to sit up but you can ride around this by braking in a straight line. It’s not in the same league as a more track orientated bikes such as a 1098, but would certainly be capable on a track day.

I think what annoys me the most about the 1125R is that I really hoped it would be a good bike and would be the machine to launch Buell to a whole new audience. But it isn’t. The look is dull, the engine crude and the handling too sensitive to suspension adjustment. Buell could have done something amazing with this machine, created a bike that was totally fresh and a given riders a reason to try a Buell, much like KTM has with the RC8. But it hasn’t.

It has made a bike that from the headstock back looks like a Firebolt, and forward of that looks fat and bulbous. Owners of the air-cooled XB12 range will probably love the 1125R and think it is a massive leap forward, which it is from that bike, but it has too many irritations and niggles to appeal to the mainstream rider.

Once again, and I’m sick of writing this about Buells, Buell has made a bike that will appeal to enthusiasts or someone who wants to own a Buell and will put up with its limitations. The 1125R was Buell’s chance to break this trend. They failed.

Buell 1125R Specifications

Price new £8,495
Engine 1,125cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 8-valve V-twin
Power 146bhp @ 9,800rpm
Torque 82lb.ft @ 8,000rpm
Front suspension 47mm showa usd, fully-adjustable
Rear suspension Monoshock, fully adjustable
Front brake 375mm disc, eight-piston caliper
Rear brake 240mm disc, two-piston caliper
Dry weight 179kg (claimed)
Seat height 775mm
Fuel capacity 21.2l
Top speed 150mph (est)
Colours Black