Monday, 9 June 2008

Test Ride: Buell Ulysses XB12XT


I was lucky enough to get a test ride on the new Buell Ulysses XB12XT recently thanks to the nice guys at Dublin Harley Davidson, so I thought it only right to give a brief opinion of what I thought.

First though I must admit that I have always liked the Buell motorcycles, but due to their very focused streetfighter styling they were never high on practicality. This being mainly down to my requirement to be able to carry a full hard case luggage system. That all changed when the original Ulysses XB12X was released in 2005. Not long after I managed to get on the original Ulysses but found it too tall for me, even with the low-seat option I found myself unsteady on it.

Fast forward to 2008 and the original XB12X has had a few modifications but also the release of the pure road focused XB12XT. Essentially an Ulysses which is shorter and styled slightly different changing more from adventure bike to sport touring machine, complete with heated grips, hand guards, 2 power outlets, full luggage system, triple tale system, tall screen and of course the lower seat height.

Being so interested in the bike I made a point of calling into Dublin Harley Davidson and was allowed to take their demo model out for a spin. Due to the heavy traffic I could not really push her, but on the plus side I got to get a feel for her in the sort of everyday conditions I would be facing. When I went out and turned on the motorcycle and heard the sound from that machine I new I was going to enjoy the ride.

Here are a few items I noted from the ride:

1 - Inside of right leg, you feel a fair bit of heat from the engine. This is most noticeable when stopped or slow moving, but I never felt uncomfortable. Then again pillions on my Er-6f have commented that they feel like there right foot is on fire sometimes due to the exhaust gases.

2 - Vibes are strong. My first experience on a big (1000+) V-twin. Personally I loved it! Sounded great, looked great and felt great. Once moving and up to around 4000rpm the vibes were barely noticeable. If this is an issue then you could try to keep the engine rpm high.

3 - Front brake is strong! The unusual Buell ZTL (Zero Torsional Load) disc brake proved its worth when just 10mins into my test ride on the motorway and a guy crossed 2 lanes of traffic without looking and then straight at me. I was doing 120kph (75mph) and she scrubbed off speed no problem. The back brake I really did not get a feel for. I tried it in slow moving traffic but you need to apply a good bit of force, some more experience with it would probably help.

4 - Engine is rated at 94bhp. If performance is an issue then maybe that could be a problem for more aggressive road riders, personally I just want the torque. I would be happy with a smaller engine but I do a good bit of two-up loaded with luggage. 5 gears but the engine was so easy to use, after over 2 years on Jap multi's this was a huge change! Barely shifted, just roll-on/roll-off with the throttle.

5 - Switchgear and dash are basic for the price of the bike, but tells you everything you need to know. Coming from experience, I never trust most gauges anyway and taking a minute to check visually is no big deal for most. I prefer it like this, while the 25th anniversary plaque is pretty cool.

6 - Seat allowed me to touch the ground. I have a 29.5' inside leg. Now it was either 2 feet on the balls of my feet or one foot flat on the ground. My commute involves a good bit of time stuck in 'stop & go' city traffic so seat height always a big issue. While I almost always have hard cases so filtering/lane splitting generally not an option. The seat felt comfortable and gave loads of room to move around, important for those long trips. While the pillion seat looked like the biggest I have had on a bike, while they have the added benefit of a backrest.

Like all Buells, where the fuel-tank should be is actually an air-box while the fuel is kept in the frame, hence its substantial appearance. You also get the belt drive which should mean low maintenance. Also the oil is kept in the swing-arm, again helping to explain its appearance.

All-in-all, I really enjoyed this bike and would happily admit to putting it on top of my wish-list. Most sport-tourers push you into a racing position that my back can not handle for long. So 'sit-up' positions suit me perfect together with those wide handle bars that allowed for very quick changes of direction. Everything in this package ticks all my boxes together with a motorcycle with loads of character. This is worth a serious look if you want a interesting, road focused motorcycle.

The RRP is €14,950 and service costs are €275 every 7,000KM according to the salesman with the first service being free (that usually being at the end of your run-in period).

Keep the rubber side down