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Discussion Starter #1
There have been a couple of threads recently discussing the various Buell bikes and their quirks/attributes. Many people are quick to judge and criticize without even educating themselves about the bike and the history behind Erik Buell himself.

Personally, I like many of the features of Buell's and I love the styling. When I found out Harley Davidson and Buell dealers generally offer test rides on any of their bikes, I couldn't resist. I headed down to my local HD dealer and the following is what I observed and exerpienced.


The staff:

The staff was friendly and quick to greet me as I walked in. They were knowledgable about their product. When the salesman asked me what I rode and found out that I rode and SV, he did not jump on the opportunity to recommend buying a "real man's bike", in fact he acknowledged the huge following and respect for the SV. He did use some of the "weak" points of the SV to pump up the XB12's image; he said the XB12 would provide a lot more torque in more places of the rev range and the XB12 would have a better suspension. One thing I was suprised to learn was that they will set up the bike for the rider before it leaves the dealership. The salesman said they'd even respring the bike (for free) for my weight before the bike left the dealer parking lot. Now whether this is true, I don't know. I don't know how well they'd actually set it up either, but this is already more than my local dealer ever offered.


The Dealership:

Amazing. Tons of floor space for all of the different bikes, a COMPLETE accessory shop - tons of inventory stocked in the store. Racks, racks, and more racks of gear. If there is one thing Harley does well, providing accessories at decent prices to their customers is it. If only my local dealers could even approach this level of retail... :cry: Then I saw the service area. Immaculate, immense, and incredible! There were tons of lifts and technicians to go with them. The shop was very clean well stocked with tools and parts. This is a model dealership to all other manufacturers.

The Bike:



Many people have criticized the Buell's fit and finish of being "cheap." I didn't think it looked cheap at all. In fact, the fit and finish was close to as good as my SV. The Buell has many things I really like: USD suspension, VERY low CG, belt drive, better handlebars, dual headlights, cool (very good) brakes, fuel in frame, oil in swingarm, a massive air intake, muffler under the engine (really cleans up the look of the bike), and much more. One thing I didn't like is that the Buell lettering on the tank is not paint. They are thick rubber letters that are glued to the tank. This would make the tank harder to wash/wax. The seat was rather hard, but so is the SV's. The clutch pull was a little stiff, but I'm sure that could be adjusted. There were other things that I wasn't a fan of, but there are things that I don't like about my SV too.

One thing I really liked: The rear fender LOOKS GOOD.. The signals look good, the headlights are great. I would have no reason to modify the rear fender/signals at all. They are clearly visible and the fender serves it's purpose without looking like an airbrake.


The Ride:

The salesman started the bike up, a 2003 XB12S Lightning. It shook like a paint mixer. I expected this - it's a big harley 45° V-Twin with no counter balancer - of course it's gonna shake. However, at speed it was pretty smooth. The mirrors were still fuzzy, but I expected this.

Sitting on the bike was great. The seat height was near perfect for my 6 foot frame and the reach to the bars was perfect. The ergonomics felt great to me. One thing I noticed was the bike felt MUCH lighter than my SV. It does weigh 30 more pounds, but the center of gravity is much lower on this bike.

The clutch pull was still a little stiff for my taste, but I got used to it very quick.

The bike only had 10 miles on it, so I didn't go real hard on it, only about 5000 rpm and not at full throttle. This isn't my bike and I don't feel like buying it. The bike accelerated smooth and hard in just about any gear - remember, I wasn't giving it full throttle either.

The transmission didn't really bother me, but it didn't stick out as great. There could definitely be improvements in this area. The drive was nice and smooth, most likely due to the belt drive. The wasn't as much drivetrain lash as my SV, something I noticed quickly.




However, the bike's handling was the shining attribute of this motorcycle. The bike was unfamiliar to me, so I didn't rail on any corners on it, however, I did take the turns fast enough to require leaning off the bike. It changed directions quickly and easily with little effort at the bars. Once leaned over in the turn, it took a set and easily allowed for line changes. Remember, this is on a bike that probably was not set up for my weight and most likely had no adjustments to it's fully adjustable suspension. The suspension felt better than my SV's modified suspension (GSX-R shock, new springs and oil up front). When leaned over, I always felt like I could be going faster - the handling was very confidence inspiring. Despite the extreme trail and rake numbers, the bike still tracked nice and straight on straight stretches. You can definitely tell Buell's attention to the chassis dynamics.


The conclusion:

I was not a fan of the engine, however; I did like it's broad torque curve and fat powerband. Still, the bike didn't seem that much faster than my SV. For engine almost twice the size, I expect more regardless of it's primitive nature.

The handling really shined on this bike. I had a lot of fun riding and it felt great in the turns. Buell's slogan, "Own the corners," is definitely true. The bikes do have the ability to own the corners. Unfortunately, race tracks also have straights and engine choice really hurts the Buell.

I really like the fact that Buell still chooses to use the belt drive. They are quiet and low maintenance, two things a chain will never be.

With the new emission standards coming in 2007, I suspect that Harley will have to resort to liquid cooling their engines. The basic design of the Harley V-Twin hasn't changed much - maybe Harley has been waiting for this moment to introduce a totally new design? Probably not, but they're definitely gonna have to do something and liquid cooling is a proven solution. Imagine a liquid cooled DOHC V-twin in the Buell chassis - hopefully they'll come up with this soon.

Would I own a Buell? No, not right now. I will not own a Buell until they advance the engine designs to exceed today's modern standards. Why exceed? The Buell's are a showcase of technology, the engine shouldn't be a history lesson.

What would I suggest Buell do? Keep the styling, I love it! Keep the belt drive - it's great for us who log tons of miles and may not have time to properly maintain a chain - tedious work if you ask me. Improve the handling even more (it was great, but I'm sure they could do better with a different engine design). I think they need to put a liquid cooled V-twin or V-4 between the frame rails with DOHC and maybe variable valve timing and/or lift. I'd like to see some more manufacturers apply their research and development dollars to the a desmodromic valvetrain as well.

My next bike will most likely be a Speed Triple, I haven't had a chance to ride one yet, but I've heard nothing but good stuff about them. I've heard them in person and they sound great. Hopefully my Triumph dealer will have a test ride event coming up soon. :p

Sorry for the long post, I just kind of wanted to clear up any misconceptions of Buell and their bikes.
 

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Many people have criticized the Buell's fit and finish of being "cheap." I didn't think it looked cheap at all. In fact, the fit and finish was close to as good as my SV.
this is a attitude carried over from the earlier buell days.. production wasnt nearly as high, and things just didnt always come together correctly... lots of leaks, breaks and recalls... not so now that they've grown into thier own entitity pretty much...

great review on the buell.. i love them, and would've bought one if i could have affordd one when i was shopping for a bike...they are different.. i like that... yeah the engine isnt the most modern piece on the bike, but there is some potential in there;) the new colors this yer for the 9 make it pretty enticing, i just dont know how much difference the extra 300 cc's would make.. thanks for not bashing the bike man!
 
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Good stuff... I test rode one also and I did wind it out. It had just the kind of power I crave. I loved the character of the motor, the shaking at idle and all. Fit and finish? I thought it was the most beautiful motorcycle I'd ever seen. I was ready to buy one but I wasn't ready for the insurance premium.
 

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well... I like Buells but... just like Harley's, they are known for their ability to leak oil plus .... fall apart. I just wish they had a better engine and reliability.

I had a buddy who rode several Buells at demo rides during past Honda Hoots and he loved riding it but always had a problem on each ride. He had a shift lever almost fall off once and a fender come loose for example.

I know a couple of people who are Buell owners and they tell me they get no respect from anyone... none from sportbikers and none from most Harley riders or dealers. One friend says he has taken his bike to a Harley dealer several times for service and work and they acted like he was some kid on a crotch rocket adn would barely give him the time of day. He said they acted like snobs and could care less that his Buell was a Harley too.

I read a test of the a new XB-12 I think compared to a Duc on a track. The Buell needed lots of tweaking to get it to run descent on the track and once dialed in... it was still not close to the Duc lap times. They said it was fun to ride but just didn't have the track savy to keep up with the Duc.

I think they are awesome street bikes. Only wished they were a little cheaper and more reliable and then I might consider one. :wink:

As for the Speed Triple... they are neat looking and sound nice but they don't put out the power like you would think they should and I hear parts are hard to come by :wink: just my 2 cents
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Syntheticton - I understand what you're saying and to an extent, I agree. Buell's aren't for everyone, I tend to think of them as more of a niche bike. But being a niche bike is no excuse for the lackluster performance.

The reliability of them is getting better. Buell has acknowledged that past bikes were unreliable. To remedy this, their bikes go through some of the most rigorous testing that a motorcycle could ever endure.

One thing that I maybe didn't mention enough, probably because you take it for granted when you're on the bike:

Belt Drive :p :D :p

It's nice and smooth and requires very little maintenance.

As for the Triple, nothing you can say will sway my infatuation with the bike. The Japanese bikes have their advantages, but sometimes they just lack personality (with an exception to the SV). I'll never sell the SV - by the time I would be ready to sell it, it'd have way too many miles on it to be worth anything.
 

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hmm... yeah, belt drive is nice for the lower maintenance and smoothness only it sucks that you have to remove swingarm to replace when it comes time. I do plan on riding one here some day soon though and eager to see how well that drive system does.

I know what you mean about the personality thing. Most I-4 bikes just are lacking in that area but I must say that there is something to said for the ever so smooth running engines and love the scream of a nice I-4 can going through the gears but I too prefer my SV, twins as well as V-4's and never rode a triple (only read some articles and know a friend with one). I don't thin I can ever sell my SV either. Its now my tinker toy and probably will become a track bike in a year or two when I add a bigger sport-tourer to my garage :wink:
 

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Personaly I dont even consider Buels as a motorcycle just like that HD crap.
But thats just me what do I know :D
 

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01blueFLsv said:
Many people have criticized the Buell's fit and finish of being "cheap." I didn't think it looked cheap at all. In fact, the fit and finish was close to as good as my SV.
this is a attitude carried over from the earlier buell days.. production wasnt nearly as high, and things just didnt always come together correctly... lots of leaks, breaks and recalls... not so now that they've grown into thier own entitity pretty much...
I'm not so sure, I was really interested in the new models when they came out, but each time I've seen them in person, I've been disappointed. The frame and swingarm are beautiful, but two details seems wrong. The weld along the top of the right frame spar is wisible outside of the platic "tank" but not on the left frame spar. The tank itself always seems unfinished. On each of the examples I have looked at closely, the edge of the "tank" was rough and uneven.
 

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AvidSV650Rider: Nice review! From your earlier posts regarding Buells, I thought you had already ridden the new XB models.
 

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OK, I am really confused here. AvidSV650Rider wrote: "...With the new emission standards coming in 2007, I suspect that Harley will have to resort to liquid cooling their engines...". I have read similar statements. What is it in the proposed 2007 EPA regulations that would "force" HD/Buell to switch to liquid-cooled engines?
 

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Discussion Starter #13
fdl3 said:
AvidSV650Rider: Nice review! From your earlier posts regarding Buells, I thought you had already ridden the new XB models.
Nope, just sticking up for an underdog bike that was getting a lot of criticism from poeple that had never even been within 10 feet of 'em.


fdl3 said:
OK, I am really confused here. AvidSV650Rider wrote: "...With the new emission standards coming in 2007, I suspect that Harley will have to resort to liquid cooling their engines...". I have read similar statements. What is it in the proposed 2007 EPA regulations that would "force" HD/Buell to switch to liquid-cooled engines?
EPA emissions standards. The level of hydrocarbons in the exhaust is required to drop 85% in the next couple of years. Air-cooled V-twins aren't nearly as clean as liquid cooled engines.

Harley Davidson President Jim McCaslin says that air-cooled V-twins will continue to be a mainstay of the company?s product line. ?We are prepared to meet the new standards through technologies that don?t sacrifice the things you love most about your motorcycle.?

Whether that is true or not, only time will tell. Just goes to show you how backwards the Harley Davidson management is. What's the point of keeping them air-cooled? I can see only a few: less parts, simple design, unique noise. Howeve, fewer parts and simple design don't necessarily mean reliable. Most people buy motorcycles for the joy of riding - I'm sure Harley could produce a unique sound from a liquid cooled engine as well.
 

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It seems like this would be a good opportunity for HD to upgrade their bikes without pissing off a bunch of the faithful HD followers. I don't know too much about the V-Rod, but I'm guessing it is not as liked by the diehard Harley guys.

However, if Harley changes their whole lineup to liquid-cooled and pins the change on the guv'ment then the Harley guys can grumble at them. I doubt that Harley would lose any followers due to a change of this nature.

If it did happen, it might payoff to buy some of the last few air-cooled ones beecause they might become quite the commodity.
 
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acted like he was some kid on a crotch rocket adn would barely give him the time of day. He said they acted like snobs and could care less that his Buell was a Harley too.
Being a past Buell owner, I can say that this is the prevalent situation with most HD dealers...

The belt drive was great! I put 23.6K miles on my Buell in 2-1/2 years without replacing a belt. There were, however, many other repairs......

Buells still appeal to me, mostly because they're a bit different. I liked the torquey engines - nothing has torque from an idle like a Harley engine! But, it also redlined at 6700RPM... I have heard that they have improved the reliability. I wouldn't necessarily try to discourage somewone from buying a Buell, but I would strongly suggest they pay the extra $$ for an extended warranty.[/quote]
 

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AvidSV650Rider: Granted the source is September/October 2003 FUELL(TM), a Buell-oriented magazine, but Erik Buell's answer to this very idea seems to contradict your statements regarding HD/Buell being forced to switch to liquid-cooling in order to satisfy the EPA:

<---- Begine Excerpt ---->
FUELL: What kind of "rules" are you talking about?

...

The other thing is, people will say we're going to have to go to water-cooled because the emissions standards are getting tighter, and that's the only way we'll be able to get there. But that's not true at all! The current bike passes 2004 California and Euro II standards. And we're already very close to meeting California '08 - with no catalytic converter and no secondary air injection. How can this be? It's just sophisticated engineering. Exhaust after-treatments are needed on engines that have too much waste product.

It's not about whether you're air-cooled or water-cooled - it's all about how well the fuel gets burned in the combustion chamber. And we are very good at that. We have very high BMEP (brake mean effective pressure, a measure of power-producing efficiency) and very low brake-specific fuel consumption (BSFC), which reflects how much gasoline you use for a certain power output. This motor is extremely clean burning. It also lights off quickly and gets up to the appropriate temperature quickly, so it doesn't have that long, dirty, cold start period the water-cooled engines have.

FUELL: Why are you so good at that?

EB: Practice ... and setting goals. Basically, instead of fooling around with gimmicks - you know, this year it's four valves, this year it's five valves, this year it's swirl combustion, this year it's new pistons or a different combustion chamber - we just keep working on refinement. We're understanding what's happening in the combustion chamber and designing the intake tract and the fuel injection such that it burns the fuel very, very efficiently.
<---- End Excerpt ---->

Link to above: http://www.buell.com/en_us/brag/fuell/catchingup.asp

Granted, this is just one source (and certainly a very biased - though published - source); but, if any of the above is true, then your statement that "Air-cooled V-twins aren't nearly as clean as liquid cooled engines" doesn't hold water - pun intended! ;-)

Also, you say "fewer parts and simple design don't necessarily mean reliable", but it sure does help. Isn't it true that the more comlicated a design, the more likely it is to fail? Engineers could answer best I suppose. I mean, think about the VW Beetle. Man, that thing is almost bullet-proof! Does it fail? Sure, it is mechanical. Would it pass emissions? Doubtful, but not because it is air-cooled.

I am not flaming nor singling you out personally. Your past posts seemed to me to be level-headed, open, and as un-biased toward other motorcycles as any SV owner could be (especially toward Buell, and to some extent, HD). You always seemed to demand proof of what people said, rather than anecdotal conclusions.

There seems to be a desire, a bias, by some people to see HD "toppled" from their "lofty" position, their market dominance, and be "forced" into changing their product in order to "comply" with EPA regulations. Almost like an anti-Microsoft fervor in the computer world, whether justified or not. Naturally, since Buell is owned by HD, Buell gets lumped into this fervor. I do not sense this same fervor against other motorcycle companies with air-cooled products. Is the desire equally the same to rid the world of air-cooled motorcycles? Is the desire equally the same to force motorcycle companies into liquid-cooling? As a capitalist society, shouldn't we be up in arms if a company is forced into an unneeded product change because of government regulation? OK, note to self, must...take...Prozac...now...:)

Humbly submitted for your review.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Well, I stand corrected. Thank you for that imformation fdl3. But keep in mind, there are many other air-cooled V-twins beside's what Harley has to offer.

As I said before, Buell motorcycles are a showcase of technology. However, the engine used is still primitive compared to todays modern powerhouses. The way I see it, they are shooting themselves in the foot. They are sticking with an engine design that doesn't have very much potential to make more power while the competition continues to make advances in peak power and wider power bands.

Also, don't forget that Harley has a 98% stake in Buell. I highly doubt that Harley really wants to invest money into research and developement of liquid cooled engines when their current air cooled engines will suffice in their cruisers. Buell represents a very small portion of their product line in terms of profits, so they probably don't really want to spend developement dollars on something that possibly will not sell well.

I'll stand by my opinion that a simpler design (fewer parts) doesn't necessarily mean more reliable. I'm not saying it can't be more reliable - it certainly can be and in many cases, a simpler design is more reliable - but in terms of producing competitive power, the reliability of the air-cooled v-twin is being pushed towards the limits.

Compare the XB12 to the SV1000. The SV1000 makes 110 hp at the wheel I think? The XB12 makes 102 hp at the crank, despite it's 200cc advantage. The XB12 engine could be made to crank out more power, but reliability will be sacrificed.

Of course, this isn't just due to air-cooling vs liquid-cooling. You have to consider push-rods vs SOHC and DOHC and other engine technologies as well. To make more power reliably, a more complicated design is needed.
 

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I've said repeatedly that I enjoy the Buells, so it comes as no surprise that I still do. FUN bikes to ride. Way fun.

For those that think the motor is a failing because it's not a 'true' sportbike engine and doesn't create enough power for its size - that's fair. But - yer also missin' the point.

I mean, really - the SV doesn't create 'enough' power for its size. Does it? With 50 more cc's shouldn't it be rolling away from smaller 600 SS bikes?

Ahh....that isn't the point for the SV, is it? So it is with Buell. Although certainly the XB's are more esoteric than the SV.

If you want class leading power, go buy an R1, CBR600rr or whatever. In two years - the bike will be usurped by the latest and greatest and given the 'old 'n slow' moniker, despite what reality is. The Buells (and SV's) will continue to be what they are. Something a little different. Fun.....cool.

If Erik Buell wanted a world beater - he could buy Duck motors or RC51 engines like so many other companies have done (Bimota, Mondial etc.). I doubt that if his vision were going toe-to-toe with Japan that getting into bed with The Motor Company was a choice he'd consider.

Buells aren't for everyone, and I'm sure that's not their intent - the be for everyone. Nobody competes with Japan for outright performance. Ducatis cost too much and Triumph really focuses elsewhere, despite the existence of the Daytonas. Both brands are for people who 'get' why you'd want one.

Buells aren't for everyone. Frankly, I'm not sure they're even for me until I ride a KTM 990 Duke.

All I know is that the only other bike that's ever been able to make me laugh out loud while riding is the XB9S. It accomplished that in an under 15 minute ride to boot.
 

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Ruefus: Well said, and exactly the point that needs to be remembered.

AvidSV650Rider: You made some good comments, too. The SV1000 does have a higher peak horsepower number, but smaller peak torque. So the SV1000 will be considered by some to be better because it makes more peak horsepower; and yet the Buell XB12 will be considered by some to be better because it makes more peak torque. Is there a winner here? Both engines accomplish the same goal: they each get you down the road. But based on the information I posted earlier, I contend that the old-style air-cooled Buell might be more EPA-friendly than the liquid-cooled SV. If this is true, then it is false to assume that it will take a liquid-cooled engine to allow HD/Buell to meet proposed EPA regulations. And that would be one more myth busted against HD/Buell.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I'm not saying they'll need the engine strictly for emissions purposes. In the end, the power your engine produces will determin how fast it is. The torque gives the engine a powerful character, but the horsepower is what will give you the big acceleration numbers. Buell may not contend with the Japanese makers, but they are still a sportbike and will be compared to them. For them to keep up in the horsepower races, the air-cooled engine may have to go in favor of a liquid-cooled engine.
 
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