Turning onto my street to go home, a bouncing beam of light flickers from one mirror to the other. An instant later my peripheral vision picks up a motorcycle to my side. Not just any motorcycle, but a Honda ST1300 Police edition issued to one of LA's finest. From the way he is on my six I'm preparing to hand over some papers-but not this time. Said officer then pulls alongside with a most perplexed look on his face, as though he has just discovered some mythical creature. It is clear he isn't looking at me at all. I extend a friendly wave, which wakes him from his daze-he nods his head, waves back and rides away. I can't say I blame him for being puzzled. The Buell 1125R is anything but ordinary. But then again, neither is Erik Buell.
The 1125R is a motorcycle 20 years in the making. Buell had dreams of building a liquid-cooled motorcycle bearing his name since Reagan was in office, but for one reason or another those dreams never came to fruition. In fact the Harley-Davidson V-Rod project was originally going to be a shared engine design with Buell, but as development for that engine progressed Buell was given less and less say in the outcome. Reluctant to give up on his dream, he approached Harley-Davidson again to build a platform using a liquid-cooled engine. H-D, being low on resources from the V-Rod project, granted permission to contract another engine maker. Not wanting to go with Porsche (who helped with the V-Rod) again, Buell struck a deal with Rotax and the rest, as they say, is history.
You can read about the technical details of both the engine and chassis in The Geek's first-ride report from the intro at Laguna Seca ("Liquid Fire," Nov. '07) last year. In his story he also notes how the journalists rode preproduction models with some glitches and quirks that were promised to be worked out in the final versions. The problems were so inconsistent that a thorough track review would have to wait until we got a production model. We waited for almost a year after the intro to receive our press unit with the claimed revisions and fixes. As usual, we lived with the bike for quite some time, commuting with it, noting its street prowess and most importantly, stretching its legs at the track. Does the new bike deliver as promised? Read on.
Need proof that the right...
Need proof that the right side of the bike gets incredibly hot? Take a look at the cover just behind the oil dipstick. Notice how the edge closest to the rear cylinder is melting from the heat of the rear header tube despite the heat shield? That's hot, folks.
At the intro heat was a large problem. Coolant temperatures reached as high as 230 degrees on some bikes, and many riders complained that the heat was burning their feet. We've even heard similar complaints on production bikes, and our test bike was no different. We noticed that on a normal Los Angeles summer day cruising along at moderate speed, engine heat radiates onto the frame and through the right footpeg. It's definitely noticeable through riding boots, but it isn't enough to aggravate (or downright burn) as it did at the intro. The 1125R seems to be sensitive to ambient temperatures, however, and our test bike would tend to run in the 200-degree range on warmer days. While moving (and on cooler days) we've seen coolant temperature drop as much as 30 degrees. Interestingly enough, fuel venting is rather nonexistent-it gets dumped back on the frame. Combine that with the engine heat that's largely absorbed by the frame, and the resulting vapors play funny tricks with your mind when stopped at a light. Besides the obvious health concerns, one can only wonder what effect this has on the fuel stored inside the frame and the resulting power loss.
Another issue encountered at the intro was poor fueling under 4000 revolutions. Unfortunately our test bike exhibited the same sputtering fuel problems as the bikes at the intro. Even when warm the Helicon engine didn't like spinning at such slow speeds. Often it would cut, sputter and lunge unless the revs picked up. Buell is working on a revised engine map as you read this, which should be available to dealers shortly.
The 1125R actually makes less...
The 1125R actually makes less torque than a XB12R, but churns out horsepower the air-cooled bikes could only dream of. Also note how the torque curve is flat throughout the rev-range, dipping slightly between 5000 and 7000 rpm.
Get the tachometer past the 4 mark and the engine starts to smooth out. Get it roaring past the 5 mark and suddenly the huge 61mm throttle bodies open wide and ingest everything in their path. They probably would have sucked me in if the airbox wasn't in the way. That's definitely a highlight of this bike. It's a docile and rather comfortable creature when you want it to be, but it can also come alive at the twist of the wrist and take you for a ride. Buells are known for their flat torque curves, and the design team wanted to keep that tradition alive with the 1125R. Now the Helicon torque curve feels much like that of the Thunderstorm engines, only higher in the rpm range.