Here you can see just how much space the front fairing of the 1125R takes up--but it works great in a tuck.
2009 Daytona Sportbike Spec Buell 1125R
This is really the bulk of the race components. A race-kit exhaust, Ohlins-tweaked forks, and TTX shock (though the one pictured is the upgraded Showa unit).
The race-kit swingarm allows for the chain-drive conversion. Note the magnesium rear wheel and electronic quickshifter.
In the quest for shedding weight, the front subframe shaves off any unneeded tabs or braces that would normally be needed to support headlights or mirrors.
More race parts, including the racing wiring harness.
There’s no question the face of American road racing changed dramatically when the Daytona Motorsports Group took over leadership of the AMA. In the beginning there was a whirlwind of ideas for classes and directions for the “new” AMA to take. In the end, after endless battles with manufacturers, four classes—American Superbike, Daytona Sportbike, Supersport, and MotoGT—have become the playing fields for this country’s fastest racers.
Perhaps the most controversial class, Daytona Sportbike has the entire paddock on the fence in regards to parity between machines. And that’s strictly due to one bike: Buell’s 1125R. Many argued that the advantage of having nearly double the displacement as the Japanese 600s was unfair. The fact that the Richie Morris Racing 1125R ridden by Danny Eslick won both rounds at Auto Club Speedway in dominating fashion and a third race at Road Atlanta further supports that argument.
With so much interest surrounding the 1125R, Buell gave select journalists the opportunity to sample the bike for ourselves during the company’s homecoming in early June at Road America, just days before the AMA circus took over (as an aside, SR also participated in the MotoGT race during AMA weekend, with yours truly and teammate Kevin Duke of www.Motorcycle.com at the controls. Read all about the experience in the September issue of Sport Rider).
Sum Of Its Parts As convincing as some of Eslick’s victories were, you’d think that the 1125R he pilots has extensive work done to it. The sad truth is that engine modifications consist of only a race-kit exhaust system, ECU, and a Suter slipper clutch. Engine internals are left exactly the way they came from the factory. Really. To get the machine to be competitive attention was paid to making the bike handle and stop as best it could. An Ohlins TTX shock sits out back (though Showa, who supplies standard suspension units for the 1125R, also provides a high-performance shock with improved internals for more precise oil metering). That’s mated to the race-kit swingarm necessary for the chain drive conversion. For the front, an Ohlins 25mm cartridge kit replaces the stock Showa components, again for finer adjustment. Stopping duties are handled by a finned ZTL perimeter-mounted brake rotor for better cooling. It’s mated to the standard eight-piston caliper fitted with race-spec brake pads. Steel-braided lines are fed fluid through a Nissin 19x17 master cylinder.
From there focus turns to putting the bike on a diet and getting as close to the minimum weight for twin cylinder machines of 380lbs as possible. That’s almost 100lbs (96 to be exact) that needs to be trimmed compared to the road-going version we tested. The obvious measures of removing any and all emission control devices were performed, as well as trimming or lightening pieces that couldn’t be removed. For example, the racing bodywork is molded completely from fiberglass, and both the front and rear subframes are trimmed of extra bracing normally meant to support lights and mirrors (front subframe) or a pillion (rear subframe). Of course the biggest gains come from reducing unsprung weight, especially rotating mass, and that means substituting the standard wheels with that of the magnesium variety which shave three pounds from each end. We couldn’t get exact weight numbers from Buell, but it would be safe to assume that it comes awfully close to the 380lb limit. Other minor changes include Vortex clip-ons with seven degrees of adjustment and an offset steering cup that pushes the rake out one degree further. After reading that list of modifications you might be thinking to yourself that there’s no way you could duplicate Eslick’s 1125R with what’s in your garage. But you’d be wrong—every part you see here is available to anyone, assuming you have a racing license.
Hang On For The Ride As I threw a leg over the racebike, my feet naturally gravitated to the position the stock footpegs usually rest…only to find nothing. The aftermarket rearsets, which allow for reverse shifting, place the feet about an inch higher and two inches further back, placing more weight over the front end. Otherwise, ergonomics between the stock model and this were largely identical. Thumb the starter and the engine wakes up with a loud bark through the race-kit exhaust. “Pass start/finish three times and then bring it in,” were my orders from Dave McGrath, Leader of Research and Development for the Buell race shop.
With the controls and levers to my liking, I clicked up once to put it in first and wasted no time getting up to speed down the hot pit. Surprisingly, power delivery was smooth and linear—a departure from the slow-speed fueling hiccups we’ve experienced on standard models, especially on corner exit. Rowing through the gears is also aided by the electronic quickshifter, making full-throttle upshifts a simple tap of the lever. I hadn’t even reached the first turn and it was clear that this bike would be worlds apart from what it started life as. It’s worth noting that because Pirelli is the official tire partner for Buell, providing OEM rubber for all its models, the bike we piloted was fitted with the company’s Diablo Supercorsa racing tire—a pretty significant deviation since the Dunlop Sportmax GP-A is the spec tire for the Daytona Sportbike class.
After getting acclimated with the bike during the first out lap, the remaining three laps were dedicated to seeing just what the bike could do. Approaching the uphill rise for the front straight, the 1125R had just tapped into fifth gear with the throttle pinned back. As I crested the peak of the hill committed in a full tuck, suddenly the front wheel left the ground and I was staring at the sky through the clear windscreen in a fifth gear power wheelie. Tap it into sixth with the throttle still at the stop and the front gently finds its way back to the ground. Speaking of the tuck, Buell’s always gotten flack for the bulbous front end of the 1125R, but when mated to the double bubble windscreen on the racebike a full tuck puts the rider in a cocoon of still air—literally directing air over the helmet and down the contours of the spine.
Machines like these demand to be ridden hard to get the most out of them and as I got more comfortable with it I learned to push my braking markers further and further—the Nissin master cylinder provides a great amount of feedback, making it incredibly easy to trailbrake deep into a corner with precise modulation of the lever. We’ve noticed in the past on the standard 1125R and XB series that trailbraking while turning was especially difficult as the bike's steep rake and tire profile would cause the upright tendencies, more so than other bikes we’ve ridden. Here, the lighter magnesium wheels make a drastic difference in turn-in while the extra degree of rake helped reduce the tendency to right itself. While on its side the Ohlins components provided a firm but compliant ride that held a line and transmits feedback to the bars. It finishes turns nicely as well, fighting squatting tendencies under power and keeping the front tracking where you want to go.
Rounding the final bend of Road America for the last of my four laps I contemplated staying out for a fifth lap—it was that much fun to ride. But not wanting to feel the backlash from McGrath and the others in attendance I brought her in. There’s no doubt about it; this is one quick motorcycle. My butt dyno clearly indicates that its torque advantage over the 600s allows it to launch out of corners, though top speed feels surprisingly on par with its four-cylinder competition. Both of these points were clearly demonstrated during the Daytona Sportbike round at Road America. With three long straights the Buell looked to have a distinct advantage on paper, but both races were won by 600cc machines. However, each Buell would jump past the competition exiting each turn, especially coming out of the chicane, only to lose ground at the end of the straight.
You Make The Call The jury is still out on the validity of the 1125R, but it’s too late to erase Eslick’s and Buell’s name from the history books. In the uphill battle the company’s faced to gain credibility it seems the odds will always be stacked against them.
So what do you think? Does the Buell 1125R in Daytona Sportbike trim have an unfair advantage or are the teams running the bike geniuses for exploiting the rules in their favor? Sound off below.