Change of Heart
A simple flyscreen and angled...
A simple flyscreen and angled headlight replace the bulbous front end of the 1125R to create the Café Racer, though the humongous side-mount radiator ducts still remain. Braking system is the same as the R model as well except caliper color is now red instead of black. Either way, the brakes still lack feel through the lever.
So maybe straight line speed isn't what these bikes were meant for. As both are born from companies with racing in their blood, it's only natural for both to be in their element in the twisty bits. Again, here's an area where we were certain the Ducati would trounce the Buell. In the canyons some testers had problems adapting to the seating position of the Streetfighter, the awkwardness making for a loss of confidence. Those who could adapt to the seating position found it resistant during initial turn-in-the longer wheelbase and increased rake surely not helping here. This hurt side-to-side mobility, but once leaned over the fully adjustable Showa components absorb road imperfections with ease and provide a compliant ride, though leaning a bit on the firm side. Bringing the action to a halt are a pair of 330mm discs paired with monoblock Brembo four-pot calipers that were so powerful we wondered whether one of the local train lines were missing some stoppers. One-finger braking was more than sufficient in all but the most aggressive braking situations.
To increase stability, the...
To increase stability, the Ducati has a more relaxed rake angle. Headlight assembly is oddly inspired by the number plate design of the 1098R, while the ram-air inlets were redesigned to accommodate the new headlight. This results in a five percent horsepower deficit compared to the fully-faired 1098. Braking power on our test bike was of Herculean proportions.
If there's one thing about Buells we've come to expect by now, it's razor sharp handling. With just a 21 degree rake and 3.3 inches of trail, the 1125 is the exact opposite in the handling department from the Ducati. It falls into turns with ease and is surprisingly nimble from side to side. Showa components damp road imperfections on the Buell as well and we couldn't find any faults with its damping abilities. We've written about the trademark Buell ZTL perimeter brake many times before-while an innovative idea, performance advantages are nil-and like Buells of yore, the binders on our test bike lacked initial bite and feel at the lever. Between these and the scary-strong Ducati brakes, our testers were at a loss to choose a winner. Another 1125R trait we noticed on our test bike was excessive heat stemming from what seems to be the right footrest. So much so that at times we'd need to take our feet off the peg to cool off. Again, an issue we've written about before.
Burgers or Pasta?
Both of these bikes are polarizing. That's the point. Even among our testers, deciding a winner wasn't an easy choice and the pondering lingered on for days. We were all pleasantly surprised at just how well the Buell performed, and at the same time the Ducati was put on a pedestal a bit prematurely, despite its $3000 higher price tag. If it was strictly a numbers game, the 1125CR would be the winner-our subjective scores indicate as much. But motorcycle ownership is about more than just function over form; there's an element of lust as well-and frankly, despite surpassing all of our performance expectations, it's hard to lust after the Buell if it were in our garage.