Buell... unique in so many ways

The Buell Firebolt XB12R defines the Sportfighter niche with a razor sharp track-proven chassis design propelled by huge American V-Twin torque.

The Firebolt features intuitive sportive ergonomics with low bars and high footrests for very low cornering angles. This motorcycle features an ultra short 1320mm wheelbase – the same as a typical 250GP bike – and a steep 21 degree steering head angle. The result is an agile yet stable motorcycle that is immensely exciting to ride.

The Firebolt XB12R, Buell’s premium sports motorcycle (until the 1125R arrives in 2008), is powered by the 1203cc Thunderstorm V-Twin engine and revs to 6,800 rpm.

In 2007 the revised design of the inner airbox cover increased airflow to the engine, without increasing intake noise.

Can you believe, after 2007, Buell Europe (which includes South Africa) won't be importing the Firebolt anymore. Pity, 'cos everyone I spoke to thought it was the best Buell ever, including me. All I can say is, the 1125R has a really big act to follow and I can't wait to ride one when they arrive early in 2008

you really can "own the corners" on a Buell

The Buell Philosophy is intended to meet a specific performance challenge, each Buell model is shaped by a single, guiding philosophy: To deliver superior performance with a premium placed on responsive power delivery and precise handling. “Because most riders don’t spend all of their riding time on the race track, we don’t design our street motorcycles exclusively for the track,” said Buell. “Rather, we design our motorcycles to satisfy the performance needs of demanding street riders. Some might be on the circuits at the weekends or on track days but others will just be riding for fun on public roads or might simply be commuting to work. Either way, we give them the ability to extract the most fun from every ride.”

Every Buell motorcycle is engineered with the three principles of the Buell “Trilogy of Technology”: 

Chassis Rigidity: Buell’s aluminium Intuitive Response Chassis (IRC), the front fork, rear swing arm and even the engine (as a stressed member of the chassis) are designed to contribute to unparalleled motorcycle stiffness. Limiting flex throughout the chassis results in an outstanding steering precision and enhances confidence and control for the rider. 

Mass Centralisation: The motorcycle’s centre of mass is located as low as possible and centralised within the chassis. For example, the muffler is located below the engine and between the wheels, rather than the high-and-aft position typical of most sportbikes. Fuel is carried within the hollow spars of the aluminium frame, rather than high on the motorcycle in a traditional fuel tank. For the same reason, the swingarm doubles as the engine oil reservoir. The result is a motorcycle that feels almost intuitively responsive to rider input.

Low Unsprung Weight: Minimising the weight of every component not supported by the motorcycle’s suspension helps the tyres stay in contact over changing road surfaces and reduces the rotational inertia of the wheels, cutting the gyroscopic effect and contributing to handling response.

on the road between Sabie and Graskop

A key design element is the Buell Zero Torsional Load (ZTL) front braking system, which mounts a single 375mm rotor near the wheel rim, gripped by a six-piston caliper. The large-diameter rotor provides exceptional stopping power without the weight of dual rotors and calipers. Because braking forces are transmitted directly from the rim to the rotor, torsional load acting on the rest of the wheel is virtually eliminated. This permits the use of a very lightweight front wheel that also helps reduce steering inertia.

Buell’s Instant Throttle Response system features an idler pulley that keeps the final drive belt tension constant, providing a direct connection between the throttle and the rear wheel. A Goodyear Hibrex final drive belt with Flexten Plus technology provides that strong link and is much lighter than a standard drive chain system. This makes another significant contribution to minimising unsprung weight. The drive belt also requires no scheduled service or replacement.

Buell understands that in most street-riding situations, abundant torque and a wide powerband are more functional than peak horsepower. With that idea in mind, Buell Thunderstorm V-Twin engines are designed to deliver loads of on-demand torque. Power – for darting through traffic or accelerating away from a corner – is always on tap. This 45-degree, air/oil/fan-cooled powertrain is also compact and narrow in profile, another contributor to mass centralisation. Buell DDFI II fuel injection delivers crisp throttle response in any riding situation. The Buell Uniplanar engine mounting system reduces vibration to the rider and enhances rigidity by incorporating the engine as a stressed member of the chassis.

the Firebolt in Eastern Transvaal

Buell Firebolt XB12R MY07 Technical Specification:
Engine: Type Air/oil/fan cooled, 4 stroke, 45 degree V-Twin
Displacement 1203 cc
Bore and Stroke 88.9 mm x 96.8 mm
Compression ratio 10.0:1
Valves OHV, two valves per cylinder
Valve adjustment Self adjusting
Fuel system 49 mm down draft DDFI II fuel injection
Intake Zero resistance air box

Exhaust Tuned, tri-pass resonance chamber with InterActive valve and mass-centralised mounting
Power 100 hp / 101.4 PS / 74.6 kW @ 6600 rpm (EU Standard EC95/1)
Torque 81 ft. lb / 110 Nm @ 6000 rpm (EU Standard EC95/1)
Lubrication Dry sump / 2.4 litres capacity
Oil filtration Screw-on disposable element
Chassis: Frame Aluminium frame with Uniplanar powertrain vibration isolation system, fuel in frame
Wheelbase 1320 mm
Rake 21°
Trail 83.8 mm
Front fork 43 mm Showa inverted fork with adjustable compression damping, rebound damping and spring preload
Rear shock Showa coil-over monoshock with remote, under-seat reservoir and adjustable compression & rebound damping and spring preload
Suspension Travel: Front wheel 120 mm, Rear wheel 129 mm
Front brake ZTL-type brake, 6-piston, fixed caliper, 375 mm single sided, inside out, stainless steel, floating rotor
Rear brake 240 mm stainless steel, single piston, floating caliper, fixed rotor
Front wheel 6-spoke ZTL cast, 3.5 in x 17 in
Rear wheel 6-spoke ZTL cast, 5.5 in x 17 in
Front tyre 120/70 ZR-17
Rear tyre 180/55 ZR-17
Lean Angle: Right 50°, Left 48°
Fuel capacity 14.5 litres
Gross vehicle weight rating 385 kg
Dry weight 179 kg
Load capacity 180 kg
Seat height 775 mm
Ground clearance 111 mm
Overall length 1935 mm
Overall width 715 mm
Transmission: Five-speed, helical gear
Clutch Wet, multiplate, compensated, reduced lever effort
Final drive Constant path, 14 mm pitch aramid reinforced Goodyear Hibrex belt with Flexten Plus technology.
Instruments: Electronic speedometer, tachometer, odometer; dual resettable tripmeter; high beam, neutral, oil, low fuel (plus, odometer shows distance travelled on reserve), turn signal and engine diagnostic indicator lamps; clock Electrical
Headlight Twin projector beam [H3] , 55-watt low beam, 55-watt high beam. Taillight 5/21 Watts
Colours: Midnight Black, Sunfire Yellow.
Warranty 24 months (unlimited mileage)

5-star bike parked outside the 3-star Graskop Hotel


Thanks to Mishka Muller and Peter Scott of Buell Johannesburg for the ride.

The Buell remains one of my favourite weapons of choice.