At the racetrack, only two bikes had the correct, production fork springs while the rest had springs that were too stiff. The rebound damping circuit in the rear shock had the incorrect needle, giving too much damping that couldn't be adjusted out. And switching from one bike to another revealed more differences than could be accounted for by simple adjustments. Bearing that in mind, it's difficult to form any conclusions from the track portion of the intro, but some characteristics of the bike were clear and consistent.
Foremost, the engine is a huge improvement over the XB motor on the racetrack. The Rotax mill simply has more power everywhere and is not crippled by the wide-ratio five-speed box and low rev ceiling of the Firebolt. The 1125 comes off corners with more strength and carries more speed further in each gear. For track work, the ratios are still slightly wide given the flat torque curve, and I found myself spinning the engine in a lower gear or lugging in a taller gear through more corners than I would have liked.
While the bikes showed no signs of overheating on the track, the ambient temperatures were significantly cooler than the day previously, and coolant temperatures were still in the 210-degree range-warmer than I would have liked if it were a personal track bike. As on the street ride, the footpegs vibrate increasingly with revs, and on some straights the combination of heat and vibration on my feet was almost painful.
Steering effort is lighter on the track than on the street (a point we've raised previously with the Firebolts), but still not as quick as the claimed dry weight and sharp geometry numbers would indicate. Even with the mismatched springs and damping rates, the suspension did a good job of soaking up what few bumps there are on Laguna's new surface. The Buell was quite nervous going over the rise that is Turn 1 and would seriously shake its head arcing through the ripples in Rainey Curve. In smooth turns, the R is solid and stable midcorner, with the Pirelli Diablo Corsa III tires giving excellent grip, but overall handling is quite busy. Whereas the Firebolt could manage without a steering damper, that would be high on my list of add-ons for the more powerful and faster 1125R.
A more in-depth evaluation will have to wait, as final production models are for sure going to change from the bikes we rode. One thing is certain, however: At speeds that taxed the Thunderstorm engine to its absolute limits, the Helicon motor is hardly breaking a sweat. That handily addresses the major concern that Buell's potential customers have when considering a purchase and goes a long way to making the 1125R a much better road and track bike than the Firebolt. Production bikes should be available before the end of the year, and we'll put a bike through the wringer as soon as we can get our hands on a test unit.
An interesting detail: Buell has worked with Sentry Insurance to negotiate lower rates for the 1125R based on the bike's design. For example, small nylon pads protect the sides of the engine in a low-speed tip-over, and the radiator shrouds-sure to be scraped in a crash-protect the frame and are low-cost, easily replaceable parts. Adding these features reduces repair costs, and Sentry takes this into account when calculating premiums for the bike.
Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 72-degreeV-twin, 4 valves/cyl.
Bore x stroke: 103 x 67.5mm
Compression ratio: 12.3:1
Induction: DDFI 3, 61mm throttle bodies
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Corsa III
Rear tire: 180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Corsa III
Rake/trail: 21 deg./3.3 in. (84mm)
Wheelbase: 54.6 in. (1387mm)
Seat height: 30.5 in. (775mm)
Fuel capacity: 5.6 gal. (21L)
Weight: 375 lbs. (170kg) dry