A little more than a year ago journalists the world over migrated to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for what promised to be an epic turn of events in the world of motorcycling. It was here that Buell would finally legitimize itself and have a contender in it's hands with the 1125R. With Buell's knack for innovation, the only thing keeping the company from being a major player was a liquid-cooled engine. As we all know by now, the world's press (including SR) didn't exactly walk away from the launch brimming with confidence about the new bike. There were a number of issues that needed to be addressed and it wasn't until almost a year later that we received our own test bike for evaluation ("Breaking All The Rules", Sept. '08). That test bike showed a noticeable difference to the preproduction bikes we rode at the intro, but the problems were still there. Being the types that we are, we, the motorcycle press, were quick to point these things out. Some with utter disregard for political correctness.
What a difference a year makes. Buell read all the reviews and listened to its customers and set out to right the wrongs. To avoid any language barriers or miscommunication, Buell engineers made the trip to Rotax to talk directly to the engineers to figure out what was causing many of the issues the new engine was experiencing. Meanwhile, visions of a modern interpretation of the caf racer style motorcycle were starting to take shape back in Wisconsin. Hence, the 1125CR was born.
What Is It?
The formula for the 1125CR is quite simple, really. Start with a standard 1125R, lob off the front fairing assembly and replace it with a minimalistic headlight and pseudo flyscreen. Next, toss the clip-on bars and fit a clubman-style bar instead. That's it. The rest of the bike is exactly the same. At its heart is the venerable 1125cc Helicon engine that we've written about plenty of times in these pages. In case you forgot, the main things to remember about this engine is it's liquid-cooled, 1125cc, and actually pumps out less peak torque than the air-cooled mills in the XB12-series Buells. But where the XBs made good power but ran out of revs, the 1125 will pull you into next Tuesday-no matter what gear you're in. What you also need to remember about this engine (at least in our 1125R test bike) is that fueling below 4,000 rpm was inconsistent and the amount of heat being spewed was almost unbearable. The CR promises to remedy both those issues with its revised fuel mapping (which sees its way to the fully faired R model for '09 as well). We'll cover how well that works a little later.
The 1125cc Helicon engine,...
The 1125cc Helicon engine, while visually identical to last year's, now benefits from revised engine mapping. Low speed fueling is greatly improved and engine heat has been drastically reduced.
In stark contrast to the bulbous...
In stark contrast to the bulbous front fairing on the 1125R, the CR's menacing headlight and flyscreen give the bike a distinctly different look. Mirror stalks are mounted directly to the bars with integrated turn indicators. Note also the standard steel-braided brake and clutch lines.
This angle gives a clear view...
This angle gives a clear view of the clubman-style handlebar. Reach to the bar is similar to that of the 1125R. An optional "high bar" is also available. Gauge cluster shows the same as the fully faired version as well, only now an additional gear indicator has been added. Note the provision just above the starter for the optional heated grips.
In traditional Buell style, all 5.3 gallons of fuel is stored in the frame, while the same 47mm inverted fork with compression and rebound damping as well as preload adjustment is also carried over from the R. Buell's trademark Zero Torsional Load rim-mounted brake disk sits out front with the same eight-piston caliper from the XB-RR racebike, only this time it's red-you know, to distinguish itself. One change worth noting: the final-drive gearing has gained three teeth in the rear compared to the R model, increasing acceleration at the expense of top speed.
Seeing as how naked-style bikes aren't as popular in the states as they are abroad, Buell launched the 1125CR in Berlin, Germany, giving journalists one day on the track and another on the street to see if the changes actually worked. History will remember the launch of the original 1125R at Laguna Seca as something just shy of a debacle-the bikes were preproduction machines suffering from various issues, with the launch being used as more of an R&D session for production models. In short, the bikes weren't ready for primetime.
This time around things would be different. First, a day at the Spreewaldring would let the CR showcase its track manners, while the street ride the following day would show how the bike would be used in everyday situations.
When we tested the fully-faired 1125R at the Streets Of Willow racetrack we experienced various handling issues; constant pressure was required on the bars to hold a line, eventually leading to the fork tubes being lowered in the triple clamps ten millimeters. With the fork tubes flush with the top of the triple clamps, handling on our bike was much improved. With the CR set at the factory settings, it again showed slow-speed instability at the Spreewaldring. Sitting on the bike, the clubman handlebar puts the rider in a position similar to the 1125R. Once moving, bar inputs again were needed to keep the bike in line; the bike's shallow 21-degree rake not helping in the stability department. At a higher pace this tendency went away and the bike would hold a line with minimal bar inputs. Seeing as how the Spreewaldring is a new facility with excellent upkeep, the racing surface was glass smooth, which didn't give much in the way of suspension feedback.