Riding Impression: 2009 Buell 1125RR Superbike

Hot-lapping Buell’s controversial V-Twin Superbike.

2009 Buell 1125RR Superbike - Riding Impression

2009 Buell 1125RR Superbike - Riding Impression

Buell netted a Pro Daytona Sportbike national championship in 2009, with not a single mechanical DNF for the winning 1125R. And now we get the bad news—that Buell Motorcycles has been closed by Harley-Davidson after 26 years. After exploring alternatives, Erik Buell Racing will provide race support and build engines for 2010 and beyond.

Following the AMA's season-final event at New Jersey's Thunderbolt Raceway, we were given the opportunity to ride Buell's new 1125RR superbike—subject of so much controversy. Here is what we learned from Buell's Race Ready Superbike in 50 minutes of riding.

For me at 5-foot-8, the 1125RR's cockpit felt spacious. I could climb all over the saddle unimpeded by bars, tank, upper fairing or windscreen as I explored Thunderbolt Raceway. Neutral handling and quick-revving power eased my adaptation to the track's blind, crested corner exists during my first handful of laps.

Direction-changing from side-to-side was a snap and not a wrestling-match in the fast esses. The Buell's easy handling let me try alternative corner entry lines and gain valuable knowledge without heart-in-mouth moments or worse.

I listened and let the engine rev to 11,500 rpm where it continued to make power—instead of shifting at the 10,500 tach redline. Thanks to the Buell race ECM and DDFI electronics kit, the RR would spin to 12,000 rpm. The rider's right wrist and his appreciation of the grip provided by Dunlop slicks is all the traction control you get. Using the extra revs I found myself hanging on tight, pulling on the bars, being careful not to induce headshake. A seat cowl bumper would have eased my attempts at even earlier throttle opening. The RR would paint black rubber exit stripes leaving the third-gear esses. Unless I was ready with a touch of rear brake, the RR's 171-horsepower would power-wheelie on the 4th-gear upshift, over a crest onto the back straight. Impressive!

Tucked and centered in the big windscreen's still air I could smell the race gas from the tank breather and also could read the instruments—including the gear position indicator. This was handy because the Buell would pull hard in either of a couple of different gears in key places on the track. Using the RR's extra thousand revs down the straights made corners come quicker.

Braking later and harder, I had to think about front end traction and tapering off my trail-braking sooner. This was because the big, rim-mounted, 375mm-diameter ZTL front brake disc and eight piston Nissin caliper would build heat, causing my deceleration rate to increase even with constant lever pressure. Also, brake drag would linger after lever release, continuing to pull down my entrance speed and demanding my attention.

For those who like to make the triple downshift with one clutch pull, the Swiss-made Suter mechanical slipper clutch worked wonderfully. Late in the session, with tires hot and gripping, I was able to slide into turn one's braking zone smoothly even with a Twin's strong compression braking. There was no drastic stepping out or wheel-hop when the clutch was dropped. Confidence-building!

Hard but predictable acceleration gave corner-exit wheelspin only a Superbike can produce. Slick gear-changing and well-chosen ratios made upshifts easy.

The Buell Superbike was to sell for $39,995, ready to race, just add gas and go. It was nothing like earlier air-cooled Buell race bikes I have ridden. There are no false neutrals in this SuperBuell's transmission, and the flywheel weight of previous Harley-powered Buell models is gone as well. And unfortunately so is Buell as we knew it, although with Erik's new race-support effort maybe we'll get another chance to take a spin.

2009 Buell 1125RR: Cast weight by casting stock looking wheels in magnesium.

2009 Buell 1125RR: Fourth gear and flying.

2009 Buell 1125RR: Buell pulled its belt and replaced it with a chain and sprockets.

2009 Buell 1125RR: Two 61mm downdraft fuel-injected throttle bodies hide under the faux tank.

2009 Buell 1125RR: Piggyback reservoir Penske shock for rear suspension.

2009 Buell 1125RR: Fully adjustable 47mm Showa fork.

2009 Buell 1125RR

2009 Buell 1125RR: At its core, a liquid-cooled, Helicon 72-degree Rotax Twin.

2009 Buell 1125RR: CW testing at Millville, New Jersey's Thunderbolt Raceway.

2009 Buell 1125RR: Innovative off-center engineering.

2009 Buell 1125RR: Dunlop spec race slicks provided plenty of grip.