View Full Version : Any Buell riders?

April 23, 2006, 11:45
Lately I have been considering getting a Buell Ulysses XB12X. Does anyone have one? Rode one? Is all the hype about it's capabilities true? Roorda in Thunder Press wet his pants over it. What about the rider position on that TALL baby? I'm old school (low and leaning back). A test ride is needed I know, but I'm looking for some real world input.

J. Armstrong
April 23, 2006, 13:10
I can't comment directly about the Ulysses because I haven't ridden one - in fact I CAN'T ride one with that stratosheric saddle height !!! The whole adventure/touring genre is a bit out of my area of interest anyway, which isn't to say that you shouldn't go for it if it does trip your personal trigger !!! All the reviews on the bike have been very good, it seems.
I can comment on Buells in general, as I have been riding a 2002 M2 Cyclone for 4 years now, and I have been surprised and pleased with the bike. These earlier tube framed Buells have had a spotty reputation for quality control, but mine has been absolutely trounle free in 14k miles. An acquaintance with an identical 2001 M2 has had some probs, which seems to reinforce the feeling that the last of these bikes were finally sorted out, and the newer "fuel in frame" Buells seem to be very well made and reliable.
The new bikes have a greatly improved trans, but they are still a bit "clunky" compared to the Jap and Italian stuff. The clutch remains pretty abominable - not unuseable, but tough if you ae prone to carpal tunnel syndrome !! There are kits to improve this, although I have not tried one - really ought to.The belt drive is really nice - quiet and pretty much maintenance free - I'm a convert to it !! Mine has no oil leaks, starts easily, seems pretty unbreakable as long as you remember the redline on a long stroke mill like this. I expected horrible vibration, but have not found that to be the case at all. Not electric motor smooth, but not at all unpleasant. No internal storage at all on my bike, and no tool kit either - dumb and stupid !
Most of my riding is "sporting" - when I'm really serious ( or "off the charts", if you prefer !!) I usually ride an Aprilia. However, I think the Buells are seriously underrated and there are dang few riders who can take serious advantage of the differences between a Buell and , say, a GSX-R. ( A bit of an exaggeration, perhaps, but I have won a few bets by picking a) a REALLY tight course and b) riders who are not as "good" as me - which also means I get whooped regularly by competent riders on Honda 50s :( )
Point being, I do like the Buells in general. And you are quite right in saying a test ride is in order. Hopefully the dealer will let you take one long enough for a good assessment of the bike. I'd be very interested in your thoughts on the bike when you do !!!!

April 23, 2006, 19:59
The Buells seem like they are starting to sort themselves out into a decent sporting cycle. They are still held back by some of the technelogical "features" of the big 45-degree twin design -namly the clutch as J. Armstrong has elaborated on. They have tons of torque though, which makes riding fun. That is why I love the V-4 Honda sport-tourers over the I-4 designs of the typical Jap Steel.

There are some problems with the Buells that will be problematic for a while. They are still low-production so aftermarket goodies are not as available as they are for the mainstream HD stuff or the Japanese bikes. It's not a big deal unless you want to upgrade the suspension and the cheapest rear shock you can find is over 2 grand :skull: ouch!

And those abominable muffler-abortions. What is up with that? I just can't abide with that at all. Blech.

The fuel in the frame deal is pretty cool though. Neat idea. Jap bikes have done the oil in the frame idea (and maybe some HD's too) but fuel, what a strange idea. Maybe it will catch on in the Jap bikes someday. That will be a real turn around.

Even though I've been pretty hard on HD at times, some of the bikes don't look that bad. It doesn't matter what you ride, just get out and ride that thing. Don't be a pussy and spend all the time polishing the chrome and pretending to be a bad-ass biker.


Jim :fal: FALunga

Oh, and don't be a twat. Wave back to some of your brothers on the road for chrisake. Unless, of course, you are too afraid to take that left hand off of the bars...

J. Armstrong
April 23, 2006, 20:14
Falunga , +1 back atcha !
Good point about the mufflers. That Jap bikes are starting to use the low centralized muffler, which has some advantages. They are heavy, though, but aftermartket stuff is available in several styles - I just replaced the big heavy muffler with a Vance & Hines slipon. There are 2 into 1 side pipes available for some models. Interestingly, the Ulysses muffler is claimed to be sturdy enough to serve as a skid plate, at least for moderate use. Dang things are heavy enough that I believe that claim.
I just called a friend of mine who bought an XB12 late last year - he claims the clutches on the newer Buells are considerably better than mine, but still heavier than most of their contemporaries. He also reports no problems, although he has only about 6 - 7 k on his.
Like Falunga, I have never been a Harley fan, so the Buell really surprised me when it proved to be both fun and reliable. As Jim said, you need to learn to use all that bottomend torque rather than screamin' horses, but that should be a big plus for the Ulysses' intended use.

April 23, 2006, 20:59
Buell’s Ulysses is a sportbike for adventure-tourists

by Bill Wood

“We don’t do these things to be odd,” says Erik Buell. “We do them because they make a difference.”

Buell, founder and chief technical officer for the motorcycle brand that bears his name, knows something about odd. This is a guy who decided in the ’80s that what the motorcycle world really needed was a sportbike with an air-cooled, push-rod, 45-degree V-twin Harley Sportster engine.

So when he specifically makes reference to the word “odd” when introducing a new motorcycle to the press, you can bet it will be pretty quirky.

And the latest Buell—the Ulysses—certainly is.

But it’s also a whole lot more.

Buell calls the new Ulysses an “adventure sportbike,” which gives you some idea of the category-busting aspirations the company has for the new machine.

On paper, anyway, it’s very similar to the bikes in the Firebolt and Lightning lines that Buell has introduced over the past three years. There’s the same 1,203cc V-twin “Thunderstorm” engine, derived from parent company Harley-Davidson; the same massive aluminum frame that doubles as a fuel tank; and the same, updated swingarm that serves as the oil reservoir. The muffler is still a big can under the engine, and the 17-inch front wheel still has Buell’s unique “inside-out” disc brake.

What’s new for the Ulysses? For starters, the suspension, with fully adjustable Showa components, offers about 6˝ inches of travel at both ends, up from 5 on the Firebolt and Lightning lines. Then there’s the 23.5-degree steering-head angle, which would be sportbike tight in anybody else’s line, but actually has 2˝ degrees more rake than the Firebolt and the original Lightning. Finally, there’s the seat height, which at 33.1 inches loaded down (about 35 inches unladen), is considerably higher than anything else in the line.

Those changes are designed to transform the basic Buell formula from its roots as a sportbike/streetfighter into a machine aimed right at the heart of the burgeoning adventure-touring category.

And the amazing thing is that the changes work.

The Ulysses slots into the adventure-touring market between the BMW R1200GS, the Suzuki V-Strom and the Triumph Tiger on the touring end, and the KTM 950 Adventure on the dirtbike end. In many respects, it’s most like Ducati’s Multistrada, except that the Italian company doesn’t claim any dirt capability for its machine.

Erik says the Ulysses is targeted at riders who will use their machines on pavement 90 percent of the time and on dirt roads about 10 percent of the time. A press-intro ride in the back country of the Colorado Rockies gave me a chance to test both halves of the equation.

On the road, the Ulysses benefits from the added inches to the wheelbase and seat height. Taller riders have felt cramped on the company’s previous models, but the Ulysses feels roomy in comparison. The bars are wide and comfortably placed, while the footpegs no longer require a severe knee bend. The downside, of course, is that dirtbike-like seat height (shorter riders will be able to get a lowered seat).

The extra room also pays dividends in the handling. With its ultra-tight 52-inch wheelbase, the Firebolt turns right now—but it has some handling traits that not everyone loves. The extra fork rake on the Ulysses seems to have eliminated the Firebolt’s tendency to stand up under braking in a turn, while the wider handlebar still makes the new bike easy to flick into a corner.

In fact, the road handling in twisties is outstanding. The 17-inch wheels come mounted with Dunlop D616 tires developed specifically for this bike. Buell says the tires were developed from Dunlop’s supersport D208 line, and they stick great on pavement, delivering handling that can almost be compared to Supermoto machines—cockroach quick and very controllable.

On straight stretches, there’s a good level of comfort from the thick, flat seat (finally, a comfortable seat on a Buell!) and upright riding position. The load-carrying capabilities are enhanced by the innovative “Triple Tail,” a paddle-shaped rear appendage that pivots to form a base for carrying luggage on the passenger seat, a back rest for a passenger, or a luggage rack off the back of the bike.

And if you get serious about seeing what’s a few states away, Buell will sell you a pair of quality saddlebags and a top trunk made by Germany’s Hepco-Becker for $995 ($700 for the saddlebags only).

So what happens when you take the Ulysses off the pavement? It’s no dirtbike, but it’ll get you through. On the downside are the wide tires, which don’t track through dirt the way narrower, taller tires would. And the 17-inch front has a tendency to drop into washboard bumps, rather than float over them.

Also holding it back off-road is the sportbike-like turning radius, which stifles its ability to make tight maneuvers.

On the other hand, the Ulysses has some real advantages over the competition in dirt outings. The narrow V-twin engine and the compact dimensions make it much more manageable in low-traction situations, and the motor puts out the kind of low-end torque that lets you plug through or spin up the rear—your choice.

But the Ulysses, like other bikes in the class, shouldn’t be judged on its ability to handle any one set of conditions. These machines are supposed to be capable of doing it all, and that’s where the Ulysses really shines.

Bikes that can do this much this well open up lots of possibilities, from riding to work to traversing the globe. With entries from BMW, Suzuki, Triumph, KTM, Ducati and such dark-horse candidates as Kawasaki’s budget KLR650, a rider thinking of doing any of that now has plenty of choices.

If “adventure sportbike” describes your mix of riding, Buell’s Ulysses could be just what you’re after.—Bill Wood

© 2005, American Motorcyclist Association

April 24, 2006, 12:17
I rode a Sportster in the '80's. Time spent cleaning to riding was about 1/100. There are tons of roads at the end of the blacktop that it just couldn't handle. I have always been one to want to head to the hills for some R&R and get away from civilization. Posing at the tavern is BORING. I have considered a dual sport, but the trade off is lack of power, long distance comfort and gear hauling ability on the road. The Ulysses sounds like a step in the right direction, especially with the bagger option that is claimed to not affect handling when full. And that fugly muffler is designed to be a skidplate. I don't want to offroad motocross, just have the ability to travel the thousands of miles of state and federal forest backroads around here with some gear. All my buds having mid life crises are getting HD rode bikes. Been there and done that. I'm looking for some "new school" adventure.

Falunga, you're a funny guy-I always "waved" at other Harleys, never at twats..:p

April 24, 2006, 12:26
You don't need a dual-sport to ride off the pavement. Gravel roads and dirt paths never scared me although I do tend to slow way down when the greasy mud/wet puddles show up with street tires.

I can run down a gravel curvy road on my VFR800 just as fast as I can with my XR650L or my old Yamaha IT200. Street tires work well on gravel wet or dry and anything short of severe washboard ripples and potholes are soaked up fine with road-bike suspension althoug if you have lots of attachements like CB, Radio or fuzz-busters be careful as the bumps will shake them off.

It's not hard to pitch the rear end of a sportbike (much less a longer harley) sideways on a nice gravel road and use the throttle to modulate the turn. Keep your feet on the pegs though unless you have moto-X boots or you might end up breaking a toe or two on the washboards. You shouldn't need to drag a foot unless you are going SUPER fast. 50MPH sweepers with the rear end hanging out 30-45 degrees is nothing if you know what you are doing.

Jim :fal: FALunga

I wave at twats all the time! But they never wave back...