Hang On For The Ride
As I threw a leg over the racebike, my feet naturally gravitated to the position the stock footpegs usually rest…only to find nothing. The aftermarket rearsets, which allow for reverse shifting, place the feet about an inch higher and two inches further back, placing more weight over the front end. Otherwise, ergonomics between the stock model and this were largely identical. Thumb the starter and the engine wakes up with a loud bark through the race-kit exhaust. “Pass start/finish three times and then bring it in,” were my orders from Dave McGrath, Leader of Research and Development for the Buell race shop.
In the quest for shedding...
In the quest for shedding weight, the front subframe shaves off any unneeded tabs or braces that would normally be needed to support headlights or mirrors.
With the controls and levers to my liking, I clicked up once to put it in first and wasted no time getting up to speed down the hot pit. Surprisingly, power delivery was smooth and linear—a departure from the slow-speed fueling hiccups we’ve experienced on standard models, especially on corner exit. Rowing through the gears is also aided by the electronic quickshifter, making full-throttle upshifts a simple tap of the lever. I hadn’t even reached the first turn and it was clear that this bike would be worlds apart from what it started life as. It’s worth noting that because Pirelli is the official tire partner for Buell, providing OEM rubber for all its models, the bike we piloted was fitted with the company’s Diablo Supercorsa racing tire—a pretty significant deviation since the Dunlop Sportmax GP-A is the spec tire for the Daytona Sportbike class.
After getting acclimated with the bike during the first out lap, the remaining three laps were dedicated to seeing just what the bike could do. Approaching the uphill rise for the front straight, the 1125R had just tapped into fifth gear with the throttle pinned back. As I crested the peak of the hill committed in a full tuck, suddenly the front wheel left the ground and I was staring at the sky through the clear windscreen in a fifth gear power wheelie. Tap it into sixth with the throttle still at the stop and the front gently finds its way back to the ground. Speaking of the tuck, Buell’s always gotten flack for the bulbous front end of the 1125R, but when mated to the double bubble windscreen on the racebike a full tuck puts the rider in a cocoon of still air—literally directing air over the helmet and down the contours of the spine.
More race parts, including...
More race parts, including the racing wiring harness.
Machines like these demand to be ridden hard to get the most out of them and as I got more comfortable with it I learned to push my braking markers further and further—the Nissin master cylinder provides a great amount of feedback, making it incredibly easy to trailbrake deep into a corner with precise modulation of the lever. We’ve noticed in the past on the standard 1125R and XB series that trailbraking while turning was especially difficult as the bike's steep rake and tire profile would cause the upright tendencies, more so than other bikes we’ve ridden. Here, the lighter magnesium wheels make a drastic difference in turn-in while the extra degree of rake helped reduce the tendency to right itself. While on its side the Ohlins components provided a firm but compliant ride that held a line and transmits feedback to the bars. It finishes turns nicely as well, fighting squatting tendencies under power and keeping the front tracking where you want to go.
Rounding the final bend of Road America for the last of my four laps I contemplated staying out for a fifth lap—it was that much fun to ride. But not wanting to feel the backlash from McGrath and the others in attendance I brought her in. There’s no doubt about it; this is one quick motorcycle. My butt dyno clearly indicates that its torque advantage over the 600s allows it to launch out of corners, though top speed feels surprisingly on par with its four-cylinder competition. Both of these points were clearly demonstrated during the Daytona Sportbike round at Road America. With three long straights the Buell looked to have a distinct advantage on paper, but both races were won by 600cc machines. However, each Buell would jump past the competition exiting each turn, especially coming out of the chicane, only to lose ground at the end of the straight.
You Make The Call
The jury is still out on the validity of the 1125R, but it’s too late to erase Eslick’s and Buell’s name from the history books. In the uphill battle the company’s faced to gain credibility it seems the odds will always be stacked against them.
So what do you think? Does the Buell 1125R in Daytona Sportbike trim have an unfair advantage or are the teams running the bike geniuses for exploiting the rules in their favor? Sound off below.