Buell, Uly & I

Almost 1 month and 1 service later it is time for the first blog all about owning and living with my Buell Ulysses XB12XT. Her provisional pet name is 'Uly' as I can not think up anything else appropriate!

First off this period has been all about breaking in the engine. This would sound like a pretty straight forward aspect of ownership but on the web you will find opinions ranging from 'change the oil every chance you get' to 'ride her like you stole it & let the next owner worry about the engine'. In the end I simply went by the recommendations in the owners manual, they refer to the section as 'break-in rules' which sums up their importance and I sum-up as follows:

- 1st 80km, keep the engine below 4000rpm and ride like you are on your test with the instructor on your ass! No lugging, no high revs in low rpm's and so on. Treat her softly!

- Next 800km, vary the engine speed and change gears as often as possible. Essentially keep off the motorways, take the long way home and enjoy getting to know your new bike. Keep the engine below 5000rpm.

- This is a big V-twin, air-cooled engine. No fancy cooling technology here other then a few pieces of plastic to direct the air to the engine. So warm-up is important. Turn on the engine, put on your helmet and gloves, jump on, get comfy and set off at a nice leisurely pace for the & try not to open the throttle more then half way for the first few km's. What helps me with this is reminding myself that the vast majority of accidents take place within 5 mins of home! So chill and enjoy.

- Two other obvious things are that the brakes and tires are brand new! New tires usually take the best part of 100km to wear in otherwise the first bend you get to could be a sore lesson. Same with the brakes, except they take about 300km so no hard braking or their life is severely shortened.

With all that in mind the 1st 880km were still tremendous fun. Those first 80km were scrubbed off by taking the long way home. Within a week I had covered over 600km...3 weeks later and I have 2000km on the clock and 1st service out of the way which was due at 1600km and free (free as in you paid for it when you bought the bike!). The next service is due to 8000km and I believe it will cost approx €275.

The only things of note leading up to the first service was that I topped up the oil twice (150ml x 2), but that is fairly normal for these types of engines. I used the H-D brand of oil, got one free from the dealer and I picked up another after my service (€7.99) even though there is plenty left in the first, but I like keeping spares handy. The clutch is less 'progressive' after the service, she only seems to really bite in the last 1/4 of letting it out which is the same as the demo bike I tried, not sure if this is standard across all models or just a signature of the mechanic. Also fuel range went from 200km before the reserve light coming on to 240km. So that works out at approx 6.8l per 100km to 5.7L per 100km OR 41.5mpg to 50mpg (UK gallon). That does not include the reserve that most seem to estimate at 40km-56km though I have only dipped 20km into it.

My one issue is has been with the cases, on the back of them are 4 rubber bungs which have a habit of sliding out of position as you take the case off. If one were not paying attention you could easily lose one. Though this is not a very big problem, just one of those little things you notice from ownership. The screen is very effective, OK I am only 165cm (5' 4") but I can happily say it will need no alterations. No buffeting or unexpected noise has been experienced.

The riding position is very comfortable and the seat seems to be a vast area to move around in meaning that when you start feeling uncomfortable you can just shift around a bit. The pillion seat feels so far back I swear you forget someone is there. My partner loves the backrest and does not know how she did without one. She has even confessed to snoozing back there! I have suggested tying her in place with some bungie cords to make sure she does not fall off...she insists she only snoozed the once. Her opinion on this matters as when she sat on the back on the Triumph Sprint ST she said immediately that is was uncomfortable & wanted to get off.

Riding a Buell is different, at first I did not get it and had not tuned my brain into how the bike handles. All that changed when I took her out for a shopping trip one weekend and on the way home I got caught in a down-pour, so my brain switched to wet-weather mode and all of a sudden the bike seemed to go from big cruiser to big sportsbike! You see I started setting up the corners before I got to them, all braking and gear selection done because slowing down while leaned over in the wet is not an option. The bike just flew through the bends, twisty roads were demolished as if they were chicanes in the dry. I could not believe what I had been missing.

The next day I went out in the dry and coming that night came to my favorite roundabout only to have my toe-slider scrape along the ground! 10 years of riding and I am on a fully laden 'adventure' tourer and my toe-slider is scraping along the tarmac. At first I was slightly worried and just started thinking, "lets just pick you up girl"...once up I was thinking "Yeehaw" in my best cowboy voice. Though I have not repeated that it has really had my eyes opened to the bikes abilities and potential.

What else? Sweaty glove syndrome! I have never had a 'summer glove', I always buy waterproof gloves since rain is as common as air here in Ireland. Now I want a pair as the hand deflectors really do make a huge difference in all weather. During hot sunny rides taking off the gloves are one thing, getting them back on is a 5min job as the lining has shifted and needs to coaxed back into position. I complain now, but come the winter I will probably be singing their praises. I even tried out the heated grips, think holding onto a copper pipe leading to a radiator in your house...that was on setting one (of two). Pete (the dealer) had warned me that they are either warm or hot!

The torque from the engine is amazing! I admit that this bike is no faster then my previous bike (Kawasaki er-6f/ninja 650r) but I never red-lined that and I am not a naturally fast rider. No, I want usable power from the word go and once you hit 2500rpm you already have 85% of the bikes torque going through that fat rear tire. Does not matter if I am on my own or loaded up with pillion and luggage, she just does everything I want while being completely unfazed. Easy, relaxed and completely predictable. No sudden jump between gears or fancy engine electronic systems kicking in. In fact I do not think I have seem her go over 5,000rpm! At 120km on the motorway she is just over 4,000rpm and chugging away.

The bike is also a tremendous draw! In the last 3 weeks every time I have parked up somewhere someone has come over to have a chat with me, biker and passer-by alike. The funny thing is the all seem to know about Buells, the fuel in frame and all the rest of it...they just do not know anyone with one. Hopefully with all my commuting I will raise some awareness of the brand, though I should see if I can set up some sort of referral commission from Dublin Harley-Davidson (if you are reading this you know who I am lads!).

Right then, as this blog is published I will be just finishing up a tour with my partner around some of the Irish coast. The proposed route is below which is liable to change, so if you saw a red Buell Ulysses XB12XT pass through your town during the week of July 28th - August 1st, two-up and with 3 hard cases then it was probably us. Hopefully this will be a test run for something bigger next year!

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I will try to keep you fully updated with how things progress with Buell, Uly & I and hopefully there are many adventures on the horizon. The only additions I am seriously considering is fitting some motolights for the winter and I am also debating if it would be possible to fit the Ulysses XB12X front fender set-up to the XB12XT as I believe it would be much more effective on this Irish roads. Especially were I live as mud seems to be a constant all year round. I will keep you all appraised.

As always, try to keep the rubber side down!

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