Overall feel—especially the bike’s front-end is one area where the racebike is significantly improved over a stock machine.
For an avid motorcyclist, one of the biggest question marks surrounding AMA Pro Road Racing’s Daytona SportBike class is what it’s like to ride one of these “SportBikes” in full factory race trim. Recently, Motorcycle-USA received just such an opportunity, piloting the Geico Powersports Richie Morris Racing Buell 1125R racebike around Road America’s 4-mile road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
In our Daytona SportBike street bike comparison we determined that, indeed, a production 2009 Buell 1125R has a performance advantage when compared to its class rivals – including the 2009 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R and Aprilia RSV1000R. But how does it compare to the stock motorcycle which it’s based off of? To our surprise, it isn’t all that different.
In order to create better parity within the class, the DSB series rules don’t allow a whole lot of engine modifications. (To view the current 2009 rules click here.) Instead the rules package gives more leeway for chassis modifications. Thus many of the team’s modifications are focused in that area.
Most apparent is the bare finish on the racebike’s aluminum frame and braced swingarm, which also allows for a conventional chain/sprocket final drive as opposed to the stock belt drive. It’s also surprising how much different the bike looks with race plastics. The lower fairing and tail sections make the 1125R racebike look closer to a Japanese or European sportbike, until your eye catches those two huge air scoops on either side as well as its oversized upper fairing, which remind you it’s all Buell.
Hop aboard the machine and notice its hard, slightly shorter seat. Designed to not only lower the rider’s center of gravity, the racing perch enhances feel between the rider and the back end of the motorcycle. Reaching forward to the handlebars, the rider feels more tucked in with the torso angled more closely to the bike. Placing feet on the footpegs, knees will tuck up into the bike’s pseudo fuel tank much tighter than in the stock position. While the ergonomic changes aren’t exactly radical, they do enable the rider to direct more of his or her weight towards the front of the motorcycle.
Poke the starter button and the engine gurgles to life with a deeper, scarier rumble courtesy of its $1799 exhaust system. Lift up on your left toe (reverse shift), notch the transmission into first gear and you’re ready to roll…
Maneuvering out of pit lane and onto Road America’s finely paved surface, one notices its limited steering radius due to the steering lock limiter. Fitted as a safety precaution, the device reduces the likelihood of severe headshake, which could cause the rider to lose control.
Slam open the throttle and, unlike its production brethren, the front wheel actually has a little easier time staying in contact with the road. This is most likely due to the way in which the controls keep your weight pushed ahead. With the throttle wide open, simply press down on the shift lever and the RMR 1125R jumps into the next gear courtesy of its quick shifter. Despite its final drive power delivery method being converted from belt to chain, gearing felt roughly the same with a tall first gear followed by closer gear-sequencing as you move down through the remaining five gears.
By the end of pit-lane you’re easily going well over 100 MPH before braking and merging onto the racing line as you go through Turn 1. Dial in full throttle and drift the bike wide onto the newly erected white and blue curbing on the outside. The front end gets light cresting a small hill, labeled Turn 2. From there, hug the left side of the track while accelerating in preparation for the right-hand corner ahead .
When entering Turn 3 it’s important not to downshift into too low of a gear, as its exit leads onto the first of three long straights. To get a decent lap time, it’s better to keep corner speed up and get on the gas early. Upshift into fourth, followed by fifth gear passing underneath the Sargento Bridge. The pavement bends slightly to the left, then right and is labeled as Turn 4 (though on a bike it’s not much of a turn at all). Only a soft touch of the handlebars is required for the bike to follow the curve of the road. It’s easy to appreciate the relative tranquility afforded by the 1125R’s humungous front fairing and raised windscreen. It’s almost ridiculous how much calm and comfort the pilot enjoys while blasting down the road at speeds of nearly 160 mph.
One of the biggest differences between a production and racing version of the 1125R is its braking performance.
The track slopes downward while grabbing the brakes for Turn 5, a slow-speed left-hander. Slowing from almost 160 to 50 mph is no easy feat, yet pulling back the front brake lever delivers a substantially higher level of brake feel and power compared to stock, due in part to the Superbike-spec Nissin radial master cylinder. In fact, closing in on the apex of the turn we quickly realize how much of a squid we are for braking so early.
Even on a warm, dry afternoon Turn 5 can be a slick. Fortunately, the bike’s smooth, yet copious, corner-exiting thrust is paired with a wide 5.75-inch magnesium wheel, which is lighter and also enhances the rear tire’s contact surface area to keep you in control. When the rear end does start to squirm finishing the corner and accelerating uphill into Turn 6, it’s surprisingly easy to control.
A 90-degree left awaits you at the top of the hill. Here it helps to have a bike that can change direction fast and the RMR 1125 continues to impress, no doubt due in part to Buell’s fundamental engineering principles, which include minimal weight and mass centralization not to mention the racebike’s lighter magnesium front rim. Ending up on the right side of the track on the exit of Turn 6, swing the bike over to the other side without letting off the gas, preparing to dive into Turn 7, a fast right-hander taken under acceleration in third gear. While really pushing it through this section, we notice the increased amount of front-end stability courtesy of the steering head cups which alter rake from 21 to 22-degrees.
Now it’s time to motor down another hill, termed Hurry Downs. Hitting the rev-limiter signals it’s time to brake, downshift into second gear, trail lightly on the brakes (this corner can be a bit slick, too) and hustle through Turn 8.
Steer the bike across the track and pass underneath the Johnsonville Bridge. Short shift into third gear and then dive into a long right-hand downhill arching turn, appropriately named, the Carousel. Here a considerable amount of time is spent on the right edge of the tires, so it’s important the bike not only stays planted but delivers enough feedback through the handlebars thereby allowing the rider to rail the corner as hard as possible. And the level of feedback delivered via the Ohlins-equipped fork is simply astounding. Where the stock set-up wistfully glides over pavement, the Ohlins units forces you to feel every crack, bump and pavement ripple, allowing the bike to be ridden hard and extort near maximum performance from the tires.
Barreling through the Carousel be sure to hold and inside line and gently work the throttle as the exit nears. Having a clear view of the exit, bring the bike in tight, close to the red-yellow curbing which serves as apex point, hit that, then dial in full throttle and let the bike drift wide before bringing it back over and setting up for Turn 11.
Previously known as the Kink, Turn 11 was modified a few years ago for safety reasons. In its previous configuration, the bend would be taken on the gas in third or fourth gear, depending on the bike. A solid concrete wall broke your fall if something were to go wrong and, unfortunately, quite often it did, thus the need for the revised chicane.
And despite what some say, it’s actually a fun section. Yet another hard braking section requires the rider to trail the binders heavily all the way to the apex of the entrance. The 1mm thicker perimeter-mounted ZTL2 brake disc, kit racing brake pads, and superbike-spec master cylinder deliver a superb amount of power as well as braking sensation. And when paired with its Ohlins-equipped front fork, all the ingredients are there to aggressively load the front tire into the turn.
As soon as you enter the chicane, it’s time to pickup the bike and swing it over, clip the curbing then pick up the throttle as hard as possible. Here the Ohlins TTX shock keeps the rear end from squatting too much, yet it allows the rear tire to dig into the pavement like a oversized paddle tire in sand and shoot you forward into RA’s second forested straightaway. It’s incredible how good this motorcycle gets off the corner. Yet even with all of this traction, there isn’t a hint of headshake.
While in stock form the 1125R’s engine is no slouch, the race pipes and updated fuel and ignition maps make for more robust mid-range power. From as low as 6000 revs, “Steamroller” pulls much harder and it just gets stronger as revs increase. However, reaching its rev ceiling it doesn’t have the same rush of power one might expect given how stout its mid-range is.
It feels like you’re in a blurred green time warp when clicking into third, fourth and then fifth gear zooming toward Canada Corner. Reaching the brake marker, pull back on the front lever, while rapidly downshifting into second gear. Buell’s Hydraulic Vacuum Assisted (HVA) back-torque limiting slipper clutch works perfectly here and is a carbon-copy of the one found in Danny Eslick’s No. 9 racebike.
Back on the power, run the bike all the way to the curbing while pointing it to the right edge of the track just before Turn 13. The bike smoothly turns to the right under full power, then as the corner nears steer the bike and nail the apex. Dial in full throttle without actually seeing where you’re going and the bike runs out over top of this small hill and into the final corner and start of RA’s final straightaway.
Turn 14 could be one of the trickiest corners on the track yet it’s my personal favorite. You can go ridiculously deep into the turn, so it’s important to stay on the gas until the last possible second – still turning while transitioning from gas to brake. Get into the front brake lever, grab a downshift and feel the rear end of the bike coming around. Continue to trail the front brake, but don’t go crazy as keeping corner speed is vital to maximizing drive onto the straight. Get on the gas as early as possible and Steamroller drifts outside as you put your head down in anticipation for a 20-second blast through the gears.
Imagine being in a blurred green time warp, that’s how you could describe zooming down one of Road America’s forested straightaway’s on Buell’s 1125R sportbike.
And that, my friends, is a lap around Road America aboard Danny Eslick’s RMR Buell 1125R Daytona SportBike.
Probably one of the coolest things about this RMR 1125R is every single part on the machine is available from Buell. So anyone can turn their Buell 1125R sportbike in to a full factory racer, no joke. Even better, the prices aren’t ridiculously out of line. In fact, including the cost of the bike you can build one of your own for under $25,000. And that’s the real deal – the same bike that factory-supported riders Eslick and Barnes pilot in DSB.
Given how solid of a platform Buell has in the base 1125R, it’s hardly a surprise just how good the RMR 1125R is. Not only does it deliver much sharper performance, it does so without sacrificing one of the 1125R’s most important hallmarks—ease of use. Simply put, this is one of the most user-friendly racing motorcycles we’ve ever ridden.