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A full review of the 2008 Buell 1125R, Buell's First Water-Cooled Motorcycle

Buell Finally Enters the 21st Century with their 1125R Superbike

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A full review of the 2008 Buell 1125R, Buell's First Water-Cooled Motorcycle

The 2008 Buell 1125R blasts across Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Photo © Tom Riles

For the past 25 years, Buell motorcycles have been big on distinctive design and efficient engineering. But the company's missing link, at least in terms of performance, has been their engines: the air-cooled V-Twins supplied by parent company Harley-Davidson offered nostalgia and low-end grunt, but Buell was never able to venture into ultra-high performance territory... until now.

Enter the 1125R.

Boasting the first water-cooled engine in a production Buell, this new V-Twin powered motorcycle seeks to compete with the big boys on the superbike scene. How does the 1125R compare? Read on!

Non-Traditional Engineering from the Ground Up: Building a Bike the Buell Way

For his past 25 years or so in the motorcycle business, Erik Buell has prided himself on doing things a little differently. His "trilogy of tech" is a sort of manifesto for Buell's engineering goals, and incorporates three basic tenets: low unsprung weight, mass centralization, and chassis rigidity.

Race-only bikes like the Buell XBRR pushed the company's boundaries, but a quantum leap in performance couldn't come without embracing a liquid-cooled, dual overhead-cam design. Because Harley-Davidson was stretched too thin to develop and build a new powerplant, Buell hired Austrian firm Rotax, who also builds engines for BMW and Aprilia. Sticking to the V-Twin configuration, the 1125cc Helicon engine incorporates a 72-degree design and produces 146 crank horsepower at 10,500 rpm, with an additional 5 to 6 horsepower pumped out when ram air is in effect. Torque peaks at 82 lb-ft, most of which is readily available throughout the fat powerband.

Though a dry sump system prevents oil from being stored in the swingarm (as with air-cooled Buells), mass centralization is utilized in the 1125R's underslung exhaust and fuel-in-frame design, which boasts over 5 gallons of capacity.

Low unsprung weight is evident in the Zero Torsional Load front brakes and the rear brakes, which are mounted directly to the swingarm.

Other unconventional choices for a superbike include a belt drive, which is 75% lighter than a traditional chain.

A pneumatic slipper clutch offers reduced clutch lever effort and diminished wheel hop by requiring less moving parts than standard spring-operated systems.

Styling that's Different for Buell, and Yet Still Somehow the Same

The Buell 1125R at rest.

Photo © Buell

Externally, the 1125R boasts some fresh shapes without losing Buell's distinctive look.

Due to the bike's dual radiators, two large, curved radiator housings were incorporated for air scooping.

Though the bike's front end might recall the Buell Firebolt from certain angles, other angles emphasize the tall frame which houses fuel, one of Buell's visual trademarks.

The 1125R's wide, distinctive fairing makes itself visible from afar, but the whole package starts to look less odd as you spend more time with it. In fact, after two days with this Buell, its quirky looks grew on me quite a bit. Though a certain love it or leave it aspect of the 1125R's styling remains, I wouldn't be surprised if the 1125R develops a cult following simply because it looks so different from typical sportbikes.

Like the 2008 Kawasaki Concours 14, the Buell 1125R is available in any color you want, as long as it's one hue-- in this case, black.

Friendly Ergos; Ergo, Comfort

Unlike certain severely focused Italian superbikes which will go unnamed, the Buell 1125R is ergonomically biased more towards comfort than outright performance. Footpegs are relatively low (in order to prevent lower leg scrunching), and the handlebar is in a forward position, but not so dramatically as to cause long-term discomfort. After several hundred miles of riding, I found the 1125R to strike an excellent balance between comfort and sportiness. Though the somewhat thinly padded seat becomes more forgiving when rider weight is shifted towards its rear, it never felt punishingly uncomfortable. A rear seat is hidden underneath the rear cowl, which provides a sporty one-up look when in place.

The 1125R's fairing, whose shape looks wide, squat, and ungainly from certain angles, does an excellent job of providing protection from buffeting and excessive wind noise. An analog tachometer and digital speedometer convey information effectively, though the speedo might be positioned a bit low for some riders.

Overall, the 1125R's ergonomics are more welcoming than one would expect for a 146 horsepower motorcycle.

So How Does the 1125R Ride? First, a Few Caveats...

Photo © Kevin Wing

The 1125Rs we rode during the bike's launch in Monterey, California were pre-production models, and journalists were warned that a few kinks will be sorted out before the bike officially hits the market in late 2007.

Among the issues, the rear brakes emitted a howl, which we were told will be solved with the incorporation of different pads. Front suspension damping felt a bit soft during aggressive riding, which, apparently, will be solved with a reworked combination of spring rate and pre-load. Also, during several hundred miles of street and track riding a few of us experienced unusual amounts of heat radiating towards our right boots (which was not helped by 100° + ambient temperatures); Buell engineers assured us they were working on a fix.

And finally, punchy fueling at low engine speeds-- mainly in the 3,000 rpm to 4,000 rpm range-- was attributed to fuel injection mapping which is still being massaged by the Buell team.

<<Next Page: Riding the Black Beast>>
User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 4 out of 5
1125R.....Best ever American M/Cycle?, Member pheonix59

Bought my 1125R after divorce, hip replacement and redundancy....Needed a bit of a lift and by feck did I get it! Fed up with jap whizz bangs, multi valves etc; Best bike i ever had, nightmare to ride through town, few electrical snags, put a real smile on your face when it comes alive on B roads, CAN'T WAIT for Le Mans GP, trundle down through jolei France! Big thanks to Eric and his crew, even if it all went pear shaped when the posers dropped out (sorry OCC). Buell will be back in some guise and I hope it gets close to the purist ideal that is embodied by their last creation.

8 out of 8 people found this helpful.

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