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.
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.
When the 1125cc engine is spinning at track speeds it's an impressive mill. Power is available until nearly redline, though rowing through the gears isn't as precise as its Japanese counterparts. The vacuum-assisted slipper clutch on the 1125CR proved to be a nice feature, but banging down through the gears quickly still caused the rear end to chatter-something a ramp-style unit typically does a better job of controlling.
Speaking of control, the ZTL2 brakes again proved to be extremely strong at the expense of feel and modulation. Getting on the binders was an on/off affair with no middle ground. Great if you're into lofting the rear wheel, not so much otherwise.
The 1125 family really hasn't shown too many hiccups on the racetrack. Its street manners, on the other hand, leave some to be desired. Earlier we mentioned Buell engineers personally meeting with their Rotax partners to determine what was causing the heating issues and poor fueling below four-grand. The result of this meeting is a revised spark map that drastically improves the bike's low-speed fueling. Whereas before the R model would lunge and surge at slow speeds, the CR cruises along. Even deliberate sixth-gear runs at 45 miles per hour didn't get the mill to burble. And wouldn't you know it; now that the air/fuel mixture is being ignited efficiently the engine heat we complained about last year has all but vanished. Even sitting idle at a rest stop, the heat emanating onto my leg was marginal at worst.
Of course, with an engine like this what's the point in keeping it under four grand? With the shorter final-drive gearing, the CR leaps from the line or out of corners much more sprightly than the R. Though top speed runs are downright maniacal on most roads this side of the pond, the German autobahn proved to be about as perfect a setup to really stretch the CR's legs. And stretch'em we (err...I) did-bouncing off the rev limiter in sixth gear showed an indicated top speed of 263 kilometers per hour, which translates to roughly 163 miles per hour. Wind protection is obviously limited on this bike, but it was only at these outrageous speeds where I was starting to wish for a screen.
Buell has a host of accessories available for the CR already, but a must-have for the average street rider is the upright handlebar kit. For $185, it includes the handlebar with extended brake lines and throttle cables. At anything but a track setting, these bars are the way to go for truly comfortable riding.
Hard Work Pays Off
As charming as the city of Berlin proved to be, there weren't many options for twisty roads-the route being set up mainly to experience the improvements made to the engine bay. Initial impressions are that Buell definitely succeeded in righting its wrongs. Complaints are few, but the brakes are on top of that list. Having mind boggling stopping power is nice, but being able to control it would be even better. Also, the addition of a gear indicator is a nice touch, but its small numbers located low on the gauge cluster make it hard to read.
That said, it looks like the Buell 1125CR is ready for the big show-after only one year. Bikes should already be available by the time you read this and MSRP is $11,695. By that time we'll hopefully have our hands on one, as well as the other contenders in the class, for a naked bike free-for-all. Stay tuned.
Type: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC V-twin
Bore x Stroke: 103.0 x 67.5mm
Induction: Magneti-Marelli EFI, dual 61mm single-valve throttle bodies, one injector/cyl.
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Corsa III
Rear tire: 180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Diablo Corsa III
Rake/trail: 21 deg./3.3 in. (84mm)
Wheelbase: 54.6 in. (1387mm)
Claimed dry weight: 375 lbs (170kg)
Seat height: 30.50 in. (775mm)
Fuel Capacity: 5.6 gal. (21L)