A Buell trademark, the rim-mounted...
A Buell trademark, the rim-mounted ZTL2 brake rotor and eight-piston caliper taken straight from the XB-RR provide massive stopping power. What they don't provide is feedback and feel.
On The Track
Normally when we receive a new test bike we like to put on some street miles before we take it to the track. That way we can see its street manners and how they compare with the racetrack. This time around our pal Carry Andrew and the gang at Hypercycle (www.hypercycle.com) invited us to one of their well-run track days at the tight and twisty (and bumpy) Streets of Willow Springs racetrack. Seeing as how we took delivery of the bike less than a week prior to our track day, we'd have to reverse our normal SOP and look at how the bike's racetrack manners performed on the street. Immediately it was clear that the factory suspension settings were off the mark. Turn-in was slow, and once leaned over, constant input on the bars was required to keep the bike on its side. Trailbraking was nearly impossible, as the bike would stand up almost violently on the brakes. A testament to the strong ZTL brakes on the Buell, to say the least.
To fix this we dropped the fork tubes approximately 10mm until they were flush with the triple clamp. That effectively raised the front of the motorcycle and made it less resistant under turn-in. With the addition of slightly more preload in the rear shock, the 1125R took much less effort to turn in, held its line without constant bar inputs and exited the corners without running wide under power. A dramatic improvement, though overall steering still felt slow and heavy compared with the likes of the Ducati 1098. The compromise was that the fork had little free sag left to play with. Fine for our testers, as yours truly is (shockingly) the giant of the staff at 5 feet 8 and 150 pounds soaking wet, but depending on your weight and suspension preferences, that might be a problem.
A moment ago we mentioned the ZTL brakes. Another Buell trademark, the latest edition of the rim-mounted brake disc and six-piston caliper provided very potent braking power. Initial bite is strong, but it lacks feel if you're trying to modulate that power-as in a trailbraking situation or when braking very aggressively. It's difficult to discern where you are in relation to the braking power curve.
We were pleasantly surprised with the Helicon engine on the track. The Streets of Willow course doesn't require high horsepower; instead, bikes with torque benefit from being able to squirt out of corners quicker. This is where the 1125R shone. It was able to dart from turn to turn with its massive torque, though the widely spaced gearing left the bike between gears occasionally. Speaking of gears, we're glad to see a sixth ratio on a Buell, though rowing through the cogs is very un-Rotax-like. Clicking from one gear to the next feels more Harley than Rotax, and there's noticeable throttle lag when shifting without the clutch. In one instance, as I entered the front straight and started applying throttle, the bike completely lost power. With my hand still twisting the grip, suddenly all systems came alive again and rocketed me down the straight. Fortunately this happened as the bike was completely vertical. Pity those who experience this phenomenon while leaned over-a launch into orbit awaits. Banging down through the gears, the vacuum-assisted slipper clutch helps reduce wheel hop, but skip multiple gears at once and one starts to wish for a true ramp-style slipper unit.
Last, for the department of odd motorcycle quirks, the bulbous front fairing actually impedes upper-body positioning for riders of the "new school" (like me) who like to get the upper body down and out. When transitioning from side to side my helmet would smack the fairing on multiple occasions. For "old-schoolers" who keep their upper body in line, this shouldn't be a concern. Stay in a tuck, however, and it works as advertised and surrounds the rider in a cocoon of still air.