Thursday, 18 April 2013

Old Friends For Sale - Handing Over The Keys To The Buell XT

July 1st 2013 would have marked five years of Buell ownership, alas we did not quite reach that anniversary. For that matter a number of anniversaries were never reached over the last five years, but they are matters to be mused over somewhere else. Right now the focus is on my Buell Ulysses XB12XT and moving on from what has been an eventful journey.

There we are on a trip to John O'Groats
As I have spoken about here and on various Buell owner forums the initial break-in period for the XT and myself were not without their problems. As any Buell owner can attest to, warranty claims can pop-up. My first bump in the road was with an electrical issue that plagued the bike for the first several weeks of ownership, it was all finally tracked down to a short in the fuel pump. A tiny loose wire. Then there were other little issues like wheel bearings getting chewed up, which in the end were replaced with non-OEM parts and have never been an issue again. 

The same can be said about the exhaust on the XT. I went through three under warranty, the third breaking up along the various welds. Again this was replaced by a non-OEM part, this time the Torque Hammer from Twin Motorcycles, and once again I have had zero issues since. In fact the only items that never required any excessive care or attention were the Buell branded Hepco Becker luggage system. They have been fantastic, be it commuting or on camping trips lasting a couple of weeks. 

Other than those issues the rest of the time owning a Buell has been fantastic. Ever since I had heard of the brand and the clever engineering by Erik Buell they had been on my 'dream garage' wishlist. While the release of the original Ulysses got me seriously considering making the jump it was a combination of good and bad luck that landed me the XT in the garage. I had purchased a Kawasaki Er-6f in 2007 and had used for the daily commute and a few short trips around Ireland. Then the new for 2008 XT was announced, basically a Ulysses with a shorter seat height and touring accessories as standard. While I was obviously won over I was in no rush to change the very good motorcycle I now owned...that was until another road user took that decision for me and left my Er-6f rather worse for wear under their vehicle.


A test-ride on the XT, some insurance matters wrapped up and come July 2008 it was sitting in my garage. The handling of the XT is 'point and shoot', wherever you look she will go. Without even trying pegs and toe-sliders are touching down and there have been times when I have worried about the side cases! The engine has mountains of torque, and on the long twisty roads around Ireland you just spend all day rolling on and rolling off as the XT glides along like she is on rails. Don't get me wrong, there are no fancy electronics on the XT, no ABS or traction control. You hit that mandatory deposit of gravel right smack in the middle of your line and you shall feel the rear step-out a bit, but the grin on your face once you come out the other end has probably blinded oncoming traffic. 

While the XT handles all the twisties with ease and can cruise all day on the motorway when you need to cover ground its the top end that some might find wanting. For those quick overtakes, especially if you are new to Buell, they may need a bit more planning than on a in-line. That's about the only time the engine is not 'your friend', when filtering through city centres or engine braking on the approach to bends/stops, it's all effortless. 

Another thing to note is the construction. This thing is over-engineered. Every piece of metal seems oversized and substantial. There is no body-work per se, except for the bikini-fairing and airbox. Everything else is readily accessible and I have always found the Buell easy to work on, regular maintenance, checks and inspections are quickly done. The mechanicals have never been an issue for me on the XT and my dealer seems to be able to efficiently take care of the fork maintenance and more complex tasks that I am not comfortable taking on myself. Even tyre changes seem to take no time. 

Buell under Harley-Davidson's handling may be gone, but Erik Buell Racing was soon up and running and have brand new models coming later this year. Their website even lets you order parts for their older models. The first-stop for me though is Twin Motorcycles when I need something for the Buell. When I ordered the exhaust from them they called me up, talked me through everything and made sure everything was working smoothly. Can not fault them. They now have distributors across Europe and the USA, so owning a Buell should not really be an issue, note that Harley officially backs the brand until 2019.

Yet here I am, moving on from Buell ownership to something else. My main reasons are purely economic, driven by my wallet more than my heart. My current financial situation means not even my garage is safe from austerity cutbacks. Fuel costs are obviously the main issue. Having just done all the exhaust work last year I really did not expect this all to become an issue so soon. But it has and here I am. I have a short-list of what my next set of wheels will be, but that's another blog post. 


For now, it is with much remorse, I am handing over my keys to new ownership and I hope they have at least as many enjoyable miles on the XT that I have had. If you fancy having a look at her yourself you will find her in Bikeworld until someone collects those keys.

Peace and keep the rubber side down.
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