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2009 Buell 1125CR First Ride

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The avante-garde Buell 1125CR looks right at home in the city streets of Berlin.
The 2009 Buell 1125CR is powered by an 1125cc Helicon engine with a claimed 146 hp @ 9000 rpm.
Quirky, odd, unusual, silly. These are some of the words typically uttered by motorcyclists who have ridden a Buell Motorcycle. In fact, I've even muttered those adjectives after a ride on one of its sometimes eccentric and often peculiar motorcycles. Nevertheless, after riding the all-new 1125CR, those terms are about as accurate as Richard Nixon's interpretation of the Watergate Scandal.

That's right, Buell, the sole big-time producer of American-made sport motorcycles, has released a new mondo-power streetfighter, destined to become the new King of the Block. Part street brawler, part apex carver, the 1125CR is Buell's contemporary vision of a cafe racer.

Don't be fooled by those four numbers before the C and the R that represent its engine nomenclature. Although it shares the same liquid-cooled 1125cc Helicon engine that's in the 1125R sportbike, this is in fact a new machine. With a rigid aluminum chassis, high-end, 3-way adjustable Showa suspension on both ends, and a brick-sized 8-piston front brake caliper, this is a sport motorcycle designed for the rider that doesn't want to have to choose between the street and racetrack; because it can, and will, do both.

Without a doubt, the single factor that's going to draw riders to this machine is its wild styling. Buell terms it sinister and wicked, but to me, it's exactly what I've imagined my motorbike to look like if I was riding through the fiery gates in my after-life. Air scoops on either side look like they were copied off a MiG engineer's notebook, while at any angle the bike's profile appears as intense as your cage-fighting friend who's as likely to throw a head-butt as he is to shake someone's hand. Looking at the bike up close proves Buell's level of fit and finish has been significantly improved upon and is now comparable to other motorcycles within its class.

The Helicon 1125cc engine is extremely compact.
The Helicon 1125cc engine is extremely compact and benefits from three internal counter-balancers that keep vibes down.
Putting the bike in motion is an 1125cc V-Twin (built by renowned Austrian engine manufacturer Rotax to Buell specifications), that sports all the features a high-performance engine requires; liquid-cooling and 8-valve, DOHC architecture utilizing a Formula One-derived "finger follower" valve actuation system claimed to reduce friction and allow for faster valve open-and-closing time.

Internally the two pistons are separated by a narrow angle of 72-degrees and slide within a 103 x 67.50mm bore/stroke. Fuel-injection feeds two 61mm throttle bodies and the gas/air mixture is pummeled to a respectable 12.3:1 ratio inside the engine. Three internal counter-balancers help mitigate vibration generated by reciprocating inertia, while a dry sump engine oil lubrication system helps keep mechanical losses to a minimum.

Power is transferred to the rear wheel via a six-speed transmission that employs a Hydraulic Vacuum Assist (HVA) Slipper-Action clutch. A completely maintenance-free belt final drive complements the set-up. At first, a non-chain final drive seems quirky, but benefits like its absence of greasy-messiness and the fact that it never requires maintenance or adjustment quickly become apparent. Another plus is due to the constant tension on the final drive belt. There's never any kind of slack in the drivetrain, which in turn provides a smooth, direct acceleration response.

Harnessing all 146 horsepower is a thick aluminum frame that uses the engine as a stressed member. An equally beefy cast-aluminum swingarm mounts to a pivot point within the engine case. A 3-way adjustable (spring preload, compression, and rebound) Showa monoshock connects the swingarm and a forward pivot point on the engine case, while an equally adjustable inverted Showa 47mm fork handles front suspension duties.

Buell s proprietary ZTL2 front brake system works well on the track  but on the streets it feels vague.
Buell's proprietary ZTL2 front brake system works well on the track, but on the streets it feels vague.
Complementing the sturdy chassis is an equally heavy-duty 375mm front brake rotor and large 8-piston caliper. The rotor itself mounts directly to the wheel, while the caliper uses four-individual brake pads. Buell terms its setup, ZTL2 (Zero Torsion Load) technology, and it's designed to disperse energy loads more efficiently and is claimed to be lighter than conventional dual rotor/caliper applications. Out back a 240mm conventional rear braking disc is clamped down by a double-piston caliper that's integrated into the inner surface of the swingarm, thus eliminating the extra weight of an external caliper carrier piece.

To experience the 1125CR in its element, we were fortunate enough to travel all the way to Berlin, Germany where we got a chance to ride America's newest creation on the racetrack, as well as the not-so-mean-anymore streets of the former Eastern Bloc.

Swing your leg over the new 1125CR, and you'll be surprised by how small it feels between your legs. Pick it up off the side stand and you notice that its 375-pound claimed dry weight feels low and centered. Reach forward to the thick clubman-style handlebars, and your torso is pitched forward, close to the front wheel. An equally aggressive set of high-mounted footpegs push your knees into the carved recess of the matte-black frame and pseudo fuel tank. Worry not though. If you're not feeling the cafe racer vibe, Buell offers an upright handlebar accessory option which takes a good deal of pressure off your wrists and literally transform's the 1125CR's cockpit into that of a true streetfighter, making extended time in the saddle far more comfortable.

Despite its appearance and the gas cap sitting atop its pseudo fuel cell, that Buell-logo emblazed thing-a-ma-bobber isn't actually for fuel. Instead the 1125CR utilizes Buell's fuel in the frame system, while the traditionally-located fuel tank actually houses a ram-air equipped 12-liter pressurized airbox.

MotorcycleUSA s Adam Waheed glides through a right-hander aboard the newest track weapon from Buell.
Beull took riders to Spreewaldring Motodrom for some tire-shredding fun aboard its newest track weapon.
Turn the key, thumb the starter button and the big V-Twin comes to life without hesitation. At idle, there's no mistaking this bike from anything coming out of Japan. There is still a fair amount of engine vibration, but unlike other air-cooled Buell motorcycles, you don't feel like it's going to rattle itself apart. The sound bellowing out of the low-slung exhaust is just the right amount to draw some wanted attention, yet even at wide-open throttle its tune doesn't reach annoying levels. 

Accelerating from pitlane at the recently erected Spreewaldring Motodrom reveals a generally well-mannered, rev-happy engine. Below 4000 rpm the engine feels a bit snatchy, like it's running lean; but as soon as that 4k threshold is surpassed, the engine comes online, building rpm's voraciously-- akin to our favorite Italian performance Twin. Power wheelies in the first two gears are pretty much mandatory and can even be mustered in third with a bit of finesse. This type of foolish enjoyment is made possible by the dead-flat torque spread throughout its 10,500 rpm rev range. Winding out the engine to redline exposes a visceral acceleration experience that can become addictive. Yet the engine is also fit to be short-shifted through its plump mid-range. And despite what your senses lead you to believe, around the track, the key to going fast is to just grab another gear and ride the wave of asphalt-grabbing torque.

As previously mentioned, below 4000 rpm the carburetion seems to be a bit off, which compromises low-speed throttle response, but get the engine zinging past that mark and jetting feels spot-on. In fact, the combination of the well-sorted fuel mapping and direct response from the belt final drive make accelerating feel almost instantaneous at speed.

Hooligan fun on the 1125CR is best served on one wheel.
Hooligan fun on the 1125CR is best served on one wheel.
Navigating Spreewaldring's 1.7-mile track puts a real emphasis on a motorcycle's ability to change directions quickly. And similar to other Buell motorcycles we've tested in the past, the 1125CR requires very little input to get it pointed in the right path. Better yet, its cat-like agility doesn't sacrifice its stability at speed-- even without a steering damper. Even a top speed 156-mph blast (GPS confirmed) on Germany's infamous Autobahn barely did anything to upset the chassis. Impressive.

Although the surface at our new favorite German racetrack was about as smooth as my neighborhood bowling alley, the 1125R's chassis delivers loads of feel through the control surfaces. In fact there was so much feedback delivered through Pirelli's racetrack-spec Corsa III rubber that not only was it possible, but highly desirable to spin-up the rear tire through one of Spreewaldring's fast right-hand third gear sweepers. Another plus was the wide range of adjustment available from the suspension. In the morning we began the day with a softer suspension setting, but as track temperatures increased and we started picking up the pace, the bike began to move around a bit too much. And while it was quite entertaining riding around in that fashion it was also a bit sketchy. Regaining its composure, however, was as simple as dialing in additional preload and compression. It's that simple.

When it comes time to scrub-off speed, the CR is up for the challenge. There's quite a bit of engine braking to help slow things down and the vacuum-actuated slipper action clutch works flawlessly, completely eliminating rear wheel chatter. When you initially touch the brake lever, there isn't a whole lot of braking bite or feel, but pull a little deeper and soon you're rewarded with progressive amounts of rear wheel in the air power and a surprising level of feel. On the street the brakes feel vague as you don't have a lot of opportunity to grab the necessary amount of lever for them to work. But on the track it's a different story. You can trail-brake really deep through corner apex with the brake lever gently pulsating back and forth--feeding you information about the delicate relationship between rubber and asphalt. Again, Buell's wise OE tire choice really allows the rider to extort a high-level of performance from this bike as it sits bone stock.

While its rigid chassis lends itself well on a smooth  fast racetrack  on the often bumpy  cobblestone-laden roadways the entire bike - especially the rear end feels way too stiff.
While its rigid chassis lends itself well on a smooth, fast racetrack, on the often bumpy, cobblestone-laden roadways the entire bike - especially the rear end, feels way too stiff.
Riding through Germany's beautiful autumn countryside revealed perhaps the only real flaw in the 1125CR's relatively impregnable armor. While its rigid chassis lends itself well on a smooth, fast racetrack, on the often bumpy, cobblestone-laden roadways the entire bike--especially the rear end feels way too stiff. Even removing most of the preload from the rear shock did next to nothing to reduce harshness. On the contrary, the bike's seat is one of the most comfortable I've ever sampled on a sportbike, but due to the rough riding rear suspension its advantages are almost canceled out.

In spite of using a shorter final drive (compared to the 1125R), cruising down the road at 62 mph reads only 4000 rpm in top gear. At or below that engine speed the cockpit gets a little buzzy, but above that magic rpm mark things smooth out pretty quick. Looking down at the sharp Italian-made Magneti Marelli instrument display provides you with an assortment of data headlined by the easy-to-read swept analog tachometer. Directly below there's a small multi-function LCD display that includes a bevy of electronics: an integrated shift light, digital speedo, odometer, dual trip meters, lap timer (records up to 99 lap times), ambient air temperature, coolant temperature, gear indicator, average and instant fuel consumption, miles to next service display, low fuel (plus miles traveled on reserve), high beam, neutral, turn signals, and clock. Also standard is a four-digit pin enabled security system with an integrated ignition immobilizer.

Buell 1125CRs as far as the eye can see.
A bevy of Buell 1125CRs were fueled and ready for all the abuse we could muster.
Two buttons on the upper-right control all of the functions, and toggling through them is pretty much a no-brainer. For the most part, the instruments are easy to read at a glance, however, we wish the gear indicator, clock, and trip meter were larger as they weren't as easy to read when in motion.

You'd assume that since the 1125CR lacks a traditional fairing or windscreen that wind buffeting at speed would be bothersome, but this couldn't be farther from the truth. On the racetrack, I didn't even notice that it lacked a traditional fairing. Even when we did our top speed Autobahn run, I was able to mold my body to the bike and duck behind the miniscule fly-screen in such that a way that I didn't feel like was going to get peeled off the bike.

So is the new 1125CR for me? Would you find one parked in my garage? Absolutely. While there are still some peculiar traits like the 1980s-sourced handlebar switchgear and the front brakes that you have to mash on to get the brake feel your after, overall the 1125CR is a complete package whose faults are few and far between. The 1125CR is finally an example of a well-made American motorcycle that can finally compete with the best coming out of England, Italy, or even Japan. 

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Technical Specifications
2009 Buell 1125CR
2009 Buell 1125CR
Engine: 1125cc Helicon V-Twin, DOHC, 8-valves
Bore x Stroke: 103 x 67.5mm
Compression Ratio: 12.3:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel-injection
Horsepower: 146 hp @ 9000 rpm (claimed)
Torque: 82 lb-ft @ 8200 rpm (claimed)
Transmission: 6-speed
Clutch: Wet, HVA slipper-action w/ hydraulic actuation
Front Suspension: 47mm Showa fork with adjustable compression damping, rebound damping and spring preload; 4.72-in. travel
Rear Suspension: Showa monoshock with adjustable compression damping, rebound damping and spring preload; 5-in. travel
Tires: Pirelli Diablo Corsa III 120/70R17, 180/55R17 Dry Weight: 375 lbs (claimed)
Wheelbase: 54.5 in. Rake: 21 deg. Trail: 84mm
Seat Height: 30.5 in.
Fuel Tank Size: 5.3 gal.
MSRP: $11,695 Colors: Midnight Black; Racing Red

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bullgi   July 28, 2012 11:31 AM
I got mine beginning of April. Made already 3000km on it. Was a bit afraid from this monster, (got previously Honda CB 1300F) because i was not expecting to lift the front wheel at the touch of the trottle on my green first trafick light. It take some use to it, but now i love to ride the CR. The only downside is that i start to drive in highly lllegal speeds...
Shinytoys   May 9, 2012 08:07 AM
I'm taking delivery of mine tomorrow...
dmorel44   March 7, 2012 10:23 PM
Why dont you crybababies who love chinese junk just try and keep your comments to yourself? Those of us, who realize what it means to be "made in USA" this bike is AWESOME!! I AM a H-D technician, and a "BUELL" Tech. and I have always had a hoot on all of their bikes, even the little "Blast". This last 1125 cr is absolutely the beast of the crowd, and it will handle your typical r6 type "punk bikes" that are everywhere. Get them on a racetrack, and The Buell doesent even need slicks to blow any of em out in the corners, especially the HI SPEED corners. So, if you are a "yellow mans country" lover, please, keep it to yourself, you have already cost this country all of our manufactering already, so SHUT UP, or GET OUT!!
sandmacker   March 8, 2011 12:36 AM
I've been looking hard and long on what my next bike will be .From the Bmw RR 1000 ,Aprillias, and so on .I'm sure we all do it. But what to buy? I have found that the power of the superbikes is simply too much for the road.I have a K2 GSXR and rarely do I take it above 10K RPM. Is it a great bike? absolutely. I came to realise I wanted a more street orientated bike that had loads of torque, and great handling, whilst being affordable to keep .Though the weight wasn't entirely a factor, I still wanted the bike to be light,yet more importantly,the way it comes together as a package. What I affectionately call "Keepers". My TRX is one (don't laugh till you tried one!lol) , and after looking at the 1125R or CR, it seems to tick all the boxes.It has the individuality of a MV , inovative engineering , and above all affordable and a hoot to ride. Looks? I kind of like the function over form appearance and the price is excellent compared to the likes of Ducati, Aprillia,Triumph and BMW.So far , I'd have to say this is the bike

Dave -09 xb12ss  October 6, 2010 06:39 PM
I own a 09 Buell xb12ss now and like it alot but I probably would'nt buy another Buell.
torrezo -bad news.  August 27, 2010 04:54 PM
hey every body. i bought my 1125cr and its a great ride great power great handling. what you all should do is find a harley shop which has a technician who knows exactly how to work on the buell "1125" models! you know why!?!?! because the 1125 models DO NOT have a harley designed motor. they have a motor designed by CAN-AM. when i took it in to get its recalls they f**ked it up fixed it and then it had a major charging problem. now they have no choice but to give me an xr1200. so goodluck with all your 1125cr's.
Nev -Nazty  May 1, 2010 03:22 AM
Pick my cr up next week cant wait
Ron F -Buell 1125CR - 97' S1 Lightning  December 27, 2009 05:26 PM
Tested 2 1125's. Loved them both. My Buell S1 was excellent. Gas mileage was 50+. I'll get one of the 1125CR's and change the handlebars to supermoto style. I'm 60 and want to be upright.
Rob -awsome bike  December 20, 2009 12:52 PM
Bought mine just before the snow started flying in southeast Wisconsin. It is torture storing the bike over winter. The folks at Uke's HD/Buell were great. Cant wait for warmer weather to ride again. My wife is even beginning to warm up to it. Maybe I should have told her about it before bringing it home... nah!
Ian -bird catchers  November 16, 2009 06:22 PM
"Affliction Drowning Denim" (...) The fairings look like parts of a vacuum cleaner, or repurposed luggage.
Dan -1125cr  November 8, 2009 08:46 PM
I can't wait to get mine. I rode one its wild
Wayne -buell  October 31, 2009 09:18 PM
My 1125CR is awesome.. I've owned and ridin a lot of bikes and this ones pegs the fun meter better hands down.
BIKENUT -JUST PURCHASED  October 28, 2009 02:02 AM

jim jones -fuel-injection  October 15, 2009 01:19 PM
its fuel-injected not caurberated. Carburetion also means electronic fueling same thing.
Daniel -Carburated?  September 22, 2009 08:04 PM
This article says the bike is carburated...can that be correct? It's 2009 and this sucker makes 14Xhp.

"As previously mentioned, below 4000 rpm the carburetion seems to be a bit off, which compromises low-speed throttle response, but get the engine zinging past that mark and jetting feels spot-on."
nike -up keep  September 4, 2009 12:39 PM
for those who already have bought from buell before, hows the maintance on the bikes? Do they have a lot of problems or are they long lasting bikes?
michael_motorcycle -test drive  June 18, 2009 04:56 PM
it goes good with my chapped hands! junk....
Natewb63 -1125CR  May 29, 2009 10:55 AM
Just bought one ...Awesome, Quick of of the line ......Definitely a looker
Natewb63 -1125CR  May 29, 2009 10:55 AM
Just bought one ...Awesome, Quick of of the line ......Definitely a looker
Jamie -Hope it's better than the XB12  May 15, 2009 12:15 PM
Test rode the XB12 a few years back. Worst bike I've ever ridden....shuddered, fan came on the whole time as it practically overheated all the time.....and no power. Hope this one is better but can't believe the price. 12.5K for this thing? That's CBR1100RR territory....which is light years ahead. I don't how Buell stays in business.
kevin -1125cr  May 9, 2009 10:04 AM
I have been riding for over 29 years, had just about every brand out there. This is by far the best bike I have ever owed. Please take a test ride on one, you owe it to yourself. As for the looks who wants to ride a "cookie cutter" bike anyway?
Adam -love/hate  April 24, 2009 08:08 AM
I am trying really hard to love this bike... but the air scoops looks really out of place on this bike. I know aerodynamics play a large part in the design but what makes these "streefighter" cafe design so popular is their minimalist design... way too much fiberglass is being used... Suggestions... redesign the radiator configurations so no scoops are required... I'd love to see what a triumpth headlight would look like on this bike...
Smitty -Love it or hate it  April 24, 2009 07:47 AM
these bikes just scream buell style disliked the CR version at first but its built on me but its a love it or hate it thing beautiful cheaper bike though
jim CR -UGLY  April 17, 2009 04:09 AM
UGLY UGLY UGLY check cb1000r thast beautifull
"SpeedySteve" -Testdrive april 09  April 6, 2009 01:30 PM
I drove it by the local H-D dealer and i'm in love! The old firebold's are not that quick as this engine from Austria (read Aprilia) I join an competition to win one, so wish me luke!! The clubmanhandlebars are not nice, Buel sells a better stear like one a Aprilia Tuono
MotoCrazed -all the bang  February 10, 2009 05:22 PM
All the bang of the Ducati steetfighter without the high price very cool.
Mike -Price  January 27, 2009 10:48 AM
The prices of bikes is just getting ridiculous. I am sorry but I had one and they are not comfortable at all to ride
Johnnysunami1967 -"Saw it at a dealer mid 08, bought one the day after"  December 23, 2008 11:03 AM
I disliked the "styling" ques in the brochure...but when I saw it in person, I fell in love and had to have it. Has to be one of the best super bike/street fighter out there! No flaws in quality and engineering...Once you "learn" how to ride it, it's like an extension of your body...Take one for a test ride at a Buell test day and I promise you, you will buy one...Everything they said about this bike in this article is dead on!
Cap -1125CR  December 7, 2008 07:17 PM
Love it in black -- with those radiator air scoops it looks like the next Batcycle.
Ken -LOVE it! Except....  November 15, 2008 09:31 PM
I LOVE Buells and am glad to see this liquid cooled. I find the styling of this bike awesome....except the "bird-catcher" air scoops. Please, Buell, lose those, ridiculously large, air scoops (or offer "no scoop" kit)!!
indylinux -Very Cool  November 12, 2008 02:08 PM
Very Cool!
Jim -Typo  November 10, 2008 09:34 PM
In the last paragraph, 'your' should be 'you're'.
Ukraine -R-1  November 4, 2008 01:35 AM
Cool Cool Cool