2009 Buell 1125R DSB Comparison

MotorcycleUSA Staff | May 6, 2009
2009 Buell 1125R
Buell 1125R
MSRP: $11,995
Horsepower: 122.7 hp @ 10,500 rpm
Torque: 68.5 lb-ft @ 8300 rpm
Weight: 434 lbs w/fuel 
Best Time: 1:21.14 (Atlas)

Surprise, surprise, surprise. The ugly duckling becomes the beautiful swan. Well, maybe not beautiful, but it sure has grown up since our first peek. Buell turned a machine that in prototype from was a nightmare into a race-winner and hands down the shock of this test. After our experience at the original press introduction, which revealed a motorcycle that would accelerate with the throttle closed and give off enough heat to cook an egg on your thigh, it was nearly impossible not to enter our DMG Shootout with a list of questions hanging over this American-made sportbike: How would it handle, is the suspension up to task and have the engine woes been resolved?

But who doesn’t like a good surprise now and again, right? Hopping on the Buell reveals a totally different machine compared to the other two motorcycles in this test. Who would have thought a V-Twin Buell would turn-faster and sharper than the best 600cc Supersport made? I know I didn’t. Until we rode them, that is. The high handlebars and extremely centralized mass make for turning quickness rarely seen from a machine of its size (54.4-inch wheelbase) and weight (434 lbs). Being so light on its feet makes it deserving of the Flickability King award for this shootout. Aggressive chassis geometry, said short wheelbase and low center of gravity aid in the 1125R’s dexterity. This philosophy is the core-basis of nearly all Buell motorcycles and has been from the beginning.

“It looks and feels really big at a standstill; it’s bulky and heavy when sitting on it, but… What a blast to ride,” Dhien reports. “The seating position is roomy and feels like I am quite low to the ground. In my opinion it’s by far the most flickable of the bunch, turning from side-to-side with the slightest of tug on the bars. There’s nothing fancy with the cockpit but a big tachometer makes it easy to read and a racer doesn’t need much more. It’s a very predictable motorcycle with good feedback.”

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Its fuel-in-frame chassis proved to be extremely stable, with the suspension at both ends responding to changes with precision. The fork may not be as amazing as the BPF unit on the Kawasaki, but once dialed in feel and feedback is quite communicative. Don’t let its size fool you, huge lean-angle is the name of the game for the 1125R.

“When pushed, the Buell’s suspension doesn’t feel quite as taut as the Kawasaki or Aprilia, yet it delivers an enormous amount of feel,” Waheed explains. “Despite its large exterior appearance it actually changes directions really fast and with much less effort than the Aprilia. Once turned the chassis is exceptionally composed and tracks well over bumps.”

2009 Buell 1125R
Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-6R was right with the Buell 1125R all day at Streets of Willow.

Like the chassis, Buell’s outsourced Rotax V-Twin powerplant works quite well too. Power is smooth and seamless with no big hits anywhere in the rev-range. Fuel injection has been greatly improved from pre-production to now and doesn’t exhibit any of the scary traits we first saw. Worth noting is that the Aprilia and the Buell both outsource their engines to Rotax, though for Buell’s needs the Aprilia powerplant wouldn’t cut it, thus they had the Austrian firm design them a totally new V-Twin powerplant from the ground up, aimed at more performance. Yet another factor DMG didn’t factor into the equation while making the rules…

Our biggest complaint: vibration. Even on the track, where this is mostly overlooked, it’s impossible not to be taken back by the buzzing through the bars and footpegs. For a short stint it was easy to put up with, but when it came to putting in a string of four to five laps one’s hands and feet become numb rather quickly. Tooling around town this sensation isn’t as bad, but once the 1125R is at speed it’s all but impossible not to notice.

2009 Buell 1125R
The most horsepower and torque of the group made lifting the Buell’s front wheel quite easy.

Buzzing bars aside, the engine works extremely well. In fact, the powerband is so good that we discovered the Buell to be the easiest on the rear tire of the three by a good deal – we experienced nearly double the tire life from the Buell rear tire as opposed to the Kawasaki. That big V-Twin pulse and excellent rider feedback makes power-slides both easy and fun. We found this extra grunt hard to resist considering the 1125R churns out 122.7-hp and 68.5 lb-ft of torque compared to the 108.3 hp and 43.3 lb-ft of torque churned out by the ZX-6R. No doubt if this translates the same in race trim, come the end of a race the Buell boys should have a huge advantage. Thus, it was no surprise it lapped fastest in our test, laying down a 1:21.14 and doing so on heavily worn tires.

“The engine in the Buell is so easy to exploit,” Waheed comments “It feels like you’re riding a vibrating sewing machine as power production is smooth through its rev-range. Anytime you want a burst of acceleration, simply hammer the throttle, regardless of what gear you are in. It also revs out especially fast, even compared to typically faster revving Inline-Fours.”

“The engine is very torquey and it pulls strong all the way to the red line,” Dhien adds. “Good gearbox (never missed a gear) and an engine that is the strongest of the bunch made the bike the most fun to ride. And the good thing is you don’t have to look at it when you’re the one riding it.”

Eslick celebrates the Buell victory in the first Daytona SportBike race at Fontana.
Eslick celebrates after one of his three wins so far this season on the RMR Buell 1125R.

We did find the unconventional ZTL perimeter braking system to not deliver the power, feel or feedback we desired. While slightly better than the Aprilia, the outright initial bite wasn’t there, requiring excessive lever effort to get the Buell slowed from speed, far more than needed from the Kawasaki. They also exhibited a dead spot the first half-inch of pull, in which the level seemed to travel into the stroke too freely before creating pressure and initiating pad compression.

And though the brakes may not be the best and the bike tips the scales at a slightly heftily at 434 lbs, which falls in the middle of the Kawasaki and Aprilia, the Buell 1125R surprised all of our testers with its fickability, stability and extremely easy-to-manage power delivery. All these add up to a package far superior than most give it credit for.

Although, we understand that it’s hard to give credit to a bike that looks like a deformed alien, once you get past the looks this beast is all business. We’ve yet to meet a rider who finds its styling appealing. It’s a shame, as the bulbous bodywork and strangely-high upper fairing hide beneath them one of the better V-Twin sportbikes on the market. Who knew so much potential sits under that funky fairing? We sure didn’t – until now!

And The Winner Is…

2009 Daytona SportBike Lap Times

Who’s the winner and who’s the loser? Talk about a loaded question – especially in this case… By virtue of top performance scoring and coming in a close second in the subjective category, Buell’s 1125R finishes on top of our DMG sportbike comparison. It may not have been the top pick for everyone, but the numbers don’t lie – just try not to be seen on it in public.

But, in reality, this comparison dives much deeper than just the motorcycles. It isn’t solely about the machines, but about the racers, fans and DMG. Considering the new rules, the only winner we see in all this is DMG – and subsequently Buell as well. Don’t get us wrong, more power to Buell for taking advantage of what looks to be lopsided rules; any one of the other manufacturers would have done the same. Where the shame falls in our eyes is on DMG for instigating something this absurd before testing it’s fairness. No trials, no hard tests (at least to our knowledge) – they just pulled the rules from where the sun don’t shine and called it law. It appears from their series of releases defending the rules they based them almost solely on power-to-weight ratio, but we all know much more goes into a machine’s competiveness than this ratio.

While the rules are a bit hazy, which seems to be intended as such from DMG, there’s no doubt anyone observant can see the advantage Buell has; easier to push harder, more steam coming off the corners and is better on tires. Plus, the added weight given to them, at least at this point, is nothing more than a press ploy. Not to mention, where most seem to think the Inline-Fours have a major advantage in corner speed and the Buell gets it back coming off the corner, we found in stock form the Buell is right on par with the Kawasaki mid-corner, leaving the Inline-Fours with little-to-no advantage. In fact, when it came to the ease of changing direction, the Buell is superior to the lighter Kawasaki.

As a result we would have to say the real losers here are the fans, the motorcycle industry and the riders on anything other than a Buell. We all want close racing and no one is against having an American manufacturer in the series, but let’s at least make it fair. Even in the Aprilia’s case, the Buell has a definite advantage.

What would we do to make things more equal? Air restrictors on the Buell to keep the HP down, or even more weight than currently outlined could possibly slow it down. But maybe we are focusing too much on restricting the Buell instead of empowering the others. I say allow the 600s to user lighter aftermarket wheels to aid in acceleration and fickability. This would help close the gap while still not adding excessive costs. As for the Aprilia, from our view this could be the toughest fix. I think if the KWS team were able to get the bike’s weight down it could be competitive as is, but this is an issue that stems from the stock RSV1000R, not a DMG rule issue, and would take large piles of cash to achieve. Hence, I say allow the Aprilia 1mm overbore to give them slightly more displacement and some much-needed power (this would be cost effective as well), and then make them adhere to the same minimum weight as the Buell. Sounds complicated, I know, but what do you expect when they think 1000cc-plus V-Twins should race against 600s?

MotorcycleUSA Staff