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Join Date: October 31, 2002
Location: Singapore and Vienna, VA
August 30, 2005, 05:25 PM

The Ulysses Odyssey: Part 1

Understanding the Buell Ulysses XB12X is best served by forgetting everything you think you know about the Buell brand. A good start to this is to avoid looking at the ads and pictures that feature this new motorcycle: they don’t do it justice and, as re the ads, they're misleading.

My first look at the12X pix left me disappointed. It appeared, at first blush, to be a garden variety XB in dirt pose. Fortunately, I was able to get my mitts on one before that image jelled. The occasion was the just-concluded annual Harley-Davidson/Buell introduction of new models to the press. This year’s version was headquartered in Denver, but played out on the very entertaining roads that thread together the surrounding Rocky Mountains. Tuesday was Harley day, with Wednesday and Thursday devoted to Buells, in particular the Ulysses model.

All days started with a technical briefing at 7 a.m. followed by, beginning at 9 a.m., a full day of riding. In attendance were most of the bylines that you read on a regular basis. All are competent riders, with most being very fast. Throw in an equally quick group of Buell engineers and a serious candidate for the “No Fear” poster boy, Erik Buell, and you have the ingredients for a very entertaining riding day.

Dutiful scribe that I am, I did my homework and was well versed in the facts and figures that make up the Ulysses. None of which prepared me for my first look. This is a large motorcycle; large as in KTM Adventurer, BMW GS, your refrigerator. At 33 inches, its seat is at least three inches above that of any other XB model. Additionally, it—the seat¬-- is quite broad, causing your legs to splay out. Those of you who have been whining about the lack of an “adult sized” Buell can now--please--shut up. To sit flat-footed aboard Homer’s namesake you’ll need to be in the 6’2”-6’3” range. This meant that I had to find a set of training wheels if I wanted to appear as anything other than an MSF reject. Being a press intro veteran I know of a few tricks when it comes to having the type of day worth writing about. One of which is to arrive early. This gets you the hottest coffee, the best breakfast, a seat up front and, in this case, the only Ulysses on hand with the optional low seat, my “training wheels.” Lower by an inch-and-a-half, this seat allowed me to touch one foot to Mother Earth, as long as a butt cheek was slid off the saddle. OK, I was in business. .
Next up... The Walk-Around

Part 2: The Walk-Around
The Ulysses has a significant “presence,” demanding your attention like no other Buell since the S1. Certainly its size and somewhat strange look accounts for a major part of this. However, as you examine it, a certain aura of purpose shines through. This is not a poser… it’s the real deal. But as I probed about it my experiences with the previous XBs kept intruding with a nag of a thought that what I was looking at was a somewhat desperate, knee jerk reaction to find a viable market niche, ”presence” notwithstanding. The thought went something like, “Hey, how can last year’s Sportfighter/Streetfighter/Naked Hooligan be suddenly transmogrified into a trendy “adventure” bike?

Keeping a lid on that, I continued to poke and pick at the bike, with each new find eroding a bit of that thought. Some examples…

•The swingarm is a completely new unit that adds two inches to the previous bike’s 52-inch wheelbase, weighs a half a pound less, and is stronger. It also features a redesigned and repositioned oil dip stick. That latter item is a small thing, but if you service your XB regularly you know what a pain it is to get that oil cap off. And, knowing a bit about the mind of the Buell owner… No, you cannot retrofit this arm to your earlier XB.

• The frame is also a new unit, a bit wider, stronger, and with an additional 0.58 gallon gas capacity. This motor has always returned excellent gas mileage (I regularly see 60+ mpg) so 200 miles per tank should be easy (maybe 250 if you ride a bit on the conservative side). This extra capacity was achieved by eliminating the left side, cast in ram tube that feeds air to the throttle bodies on the pre-06 models. Air now is sucked in through a screen just aft of the gas cap. My two concerns re that were, 1) gas spillage and, 2) tank bag usage. No problem in either case according to Erik.

• The dash/windscreen assembly is a very nicely designed, compact unit. It uses the same gage group (more on this later) but it’s topped by a bit of innovation: The opaque, body-colored piece is fixed, but the clear screen snaps in place, with one 4-inches taller being available as an option. There is an intentional gap between the fixed and removable pieces that serves to keep the underside clear of dust and reduce turbulence. I suspect that the aftermarket will jump on this, offering various colors and shapes to replace the snap-in part. Two of my ongoing niggles remain, however: the ignition switch is still on the left side… it belongs on top, and the clutch cable still does an artful job of obscuring the odometer.

• Look to the upper-left on the dash and you find a 10 amp/12 volt power outlet (there’s also one under the seat). Given the use this motorcycle intended use, these outlets will see constant duty powering up heated clothing, cell phones, GPS units, radar detectors and whatever else you might want to take along.

• By anyone’s standards the seat arrangement is world class with as much, if not more, room as any other motorcycle available. On Wednesday I logged 264 miles on the Ulysses with nary a complaint about comfort. The only reason I stopped at that distance was because I was already an hour late returning the bike. I’d gladly ride across the country on this motorcycle. Passenger accommodations are roomy and very secure. Adding to the security is the somewhat goofy-looking but highly practical “Triple Tail.” (RSS owners will recognize this blast from Erik’s past.) Laid forward it’s an instant luggage rack, flip it vertical and it’s your passenger’s backrest, and lay it backward and you’ve extended your carrying capacity. My first thought about the “Triple Tail” was that certain German engineers are now frantically trying to get around Buell’s patent. It’s a great idea adding enormous flexibility when packing for a trip. Also, it pivots about a grab handle assembly that is very strong and boxes in your passenger’s butt. Furthermore, underneath the passenger area are four bungee cord connection points. The only problem with all this is that you’ll probably end up carrying more than you need, just because you can.

Next; The Walk-Around continues

The Walk-Around continues

• The optional hard bags and trunk are superb units. I was not able to test them for capacity, but close scrutiny of their construction, mounting, etc., shows them to be among the best. As well they should be as they’re manufactured by Hepco-Becker, long famous in the luggage arena. Interestingly, as originally provided the luggage did not meet Buell’s waterproof and closure specs. Buell engineers worked with H-B on redesigns which, according to the engineers, have now been incorporated in that company’s standard production line products. As a further indication of how Buell went to the extremes to get this motorcycle spot on, the luggage was an integral part of the speed and handling testing. In the real world this means that Ulysses won’t do anything silly at speed due to the changed aero and load dynamics.

• Despite their appearance the wheels differ from those on the standard XBs (S,R,SX,SS,Cg) in that the rim area has been beefed up to handle off-road rigors. I don’t have the weight difference, but have been told that the 12X (Ulysses) wheels remain lighter than those of its competitors.

• The tires are Dunlop D616, and were developed specifically for this motorcycle. A recurring question to the engineers was why weren’t the Pirelli “Syncs” (as used on the CityX) used as they’ve proven to be an excellent multi-surface tire?* According to Erik, as good as the Syncs are, he wanted a more hybrid tire that that combined sportbike construction and compound with a tread design that, in essence, allowed peg scraping on the pavement with an open tread that worked off-road.

• The dual height, split front fender was designed to (front half) allow for wheel clearance under fork compression and (rear half) protect the motor from debris.

• The “Hybrex” drive belt is a new piece from Goodyear that was strenuously tested under extreme off-road conditions. The use of a belt off-road is hugely controversial with many riders having made up their mind in opposition before knowing any of the facts. Time will show which camp is correct, but the Buell engineers are supremely confident in the belt’s ability to survive whatever is thrown at it. There is, in fact, no suggested replacement interval. A similar tempest in a teapot brewed up when belt drive was first introduced on the Harley’s. Dire warnings were the norm, but belts have proven to be an excellent, lightweight, durable method of drive.

• The belt drive cover is a multi-piece unit ably protects the new drive belt from debris.

• The motor is essentially the same as found in other XB12s (1203cc / 103 HP at crank) but features a slightly different f.i. map to maximize low-speed efficiency. Internal and external gearing same as all XBs.

• Bits & Pieces
- helmet lock on left side
- frame pucks (different from those on other XBs)
- hand guards same as on CityX
- standard XB mirrors
- external compression and rebound damping on rear shock (That is, no need to remove seat)
- 43mm Showa forks with 6.51” of travel. Showa shock moves 6.38”.
- L.E.D. taillight, unique to Ulysses
- Ulysses-specific footpegs (rider & passenger)
- Dry weight: 425# , Load capacity: 452#, GVW: 950# (Info provided by Buell)

Next, Part 3 In the Saddle

Part 3 In the Saddle
The first ride on a new motorcycle can be likened to that first date; your mind conjures the pleasures and experiences yet to come. But, like that seminal event (ooh, there’s a Freudian slip!) reality usually has different plans. And so it is with motorcycles. More often than not, that “all new” whatever is simply a slight variation of a theme with the major differences being with the amount of smoke and mirrors attendant the event.

In the months leading to the intro of Ulysses I received quite a bit of data, a few pix, and… this was a surprise… a relatively subdued bit of hyperbole. In its place were knowing smiles, confident knowing smiles. Smiles that said, ”OK smartass, the worm is about to turn.”

After the initial tech briefing we were given route maps that took us out of Denver metro. Buell applies a somewhat subtle pecking order procedure with these events. As I indicated earlier, the riding competency of the attending journalist is high, certainly above that of the average street rider. But this does not mean that all of us posses the same skill levels. So, in order to keep testosterone at critical mass minus one, Buell splits us into groups of like abilities. (Note: Attendance is overwhelming male. As her publication has grown in stature Amy Holland of Friction Zone has become a regular attendee, however.). They don’t publicize this, but it’s obvious, and it makes sense. Stick the correspondent from Woman’s Wear Daily in with a Brian Catterson or a Steve Atlas and you have a recipe for a broken ego, if not a broken arm. It’s nothing Brian or Steve would do but, rather, the WWD rider’s attempt to prove his manhood by matching their pace. Bad idea. (No, WWD does not attend… just making a point.)

I usually find myself slotted in the fast-but-not-seriously-so group; position enough to assuage my ego needs AND keep me out of trouble (for the most part). Of course, this plan goes in the tank as soon as we’re out on the road. Riders will dog it or race to find others to crush or learn from. I have been crushed, and I have taught. Leaving from Denver’s Adams Mark Hotel none of this was on my mind. Instead, I was intent on not making an ass of myself at stoplights due to the high seat. I quickly devised a plan that was applied to approaching stops: a) Shift right butt cheek off saddle, b) adjust “glide path” so as to have right toe contact earth just as I stop. Given that my habit is to plant the left foot first, I had to retrain myself a bit. The worst scenario was to left foot it at a long light. If I wanted to click into neutral it meant that I had to push the bike upright, score a freefall arc to the right, and hope that my foot didn’t land in a hole.( You tall ones out there are wondering “WTF’s he talkin’ about?” Jose understands).

After more than a few sweaty minutes we—I was in a group with three others—found our way to the freeway. This is where the revelations began. Sitting up in the command position makes the Ulysses a traffic carver of nonpareil proportions. Couple that with its torque and you’ll find that heavy traffic becomes nothing more than a very fun cut-and-shoot game. Readily dispensing with the pesky cars we found ourselves on open freeway, an invitation to test—for serious journalistic reasons only—the, uh, speed capabilities. Prudence dictates a bit of reserve here, but believe me when I say that the competition has nothing on the Buell. More importantly, though, I was struck by how very stable this platform is, reminding me of the S2, a stability benchmark. Twenty-some miles down the freeway we came to where the real fun began, an off-ramp to a winding road. But first, we pulled over so two of the group could do a bit of suspension fiddling. I was happy with my set-up, but one complained that the front was wandering around a bit and the other, anticipating and upcoming dirt section, wanted to cut down on the front end dive.

This “pit stop” allowed one of the very fastest riders to join us. Egos, reputations and relationships are at stake here so, hence forth, you’ll not get any more names from me. With everything adjusted to personal spec, we headed off down the paved winder. The pace was immediately very quick, but cut short when an approaching BMW (car) driver frantically flashed his lights. Hauling things down in a hurry, we turned the corner only to find the expected Ford sedan and its ominous light bar. No problem; we waved as we passed at a sedate 30mph. After putting a few turns between him and us the pace picked up again. Not crazy fast, but certainly very quick. This was particularly good for me as I’ve this thing about tires I’m unfamiliar with; it usually takes me a long time to work up to speed. I tentatively inch things up, wanting to find my “edge” without going over it. There was nothing tentative about this group, so unless I wanted to suffer the averted looks at the lunch break that would brand me as the day’s whuus, I needed to keep pace. It was exhilarating and revealing. The Ulysses flat rails, and the Dunlop D616s live up to the hype. I was amazed. Third in line, I was jonesin’ on this to the point where I nicked a peg on a fast left-hand sweeper. Two emotions immediately collided, 1) Damn, this bike rocks! and 2) Shite mon, I’m going w-a-a-y to fast for these roads and my abilities! As luck would have, just as I pussed out and backed off we came to the turn-off to the first dirt section.
Next:In the Saddle continues…Down ‘n Dirty

In the Saddle continues… Down ‘n Dirty

Buell marketing has, in my opinion shot itself in the foot with this motorcycle. True, it’s a BB rather than a bullet, but its “Own every corner” campaign does the Ulysses a big disservice. As soon as that tag line broke ground any number of people let their mouths run wild. Taking the tag literally, the derisive ones quoted chapter and verse as to why the Buell wouldn’t work in everything from a north woods mudfest to Dakar and, of course, they were correct. The Ulysses is not a dirt bike, per se. No sane person is going to run the Rubicon, enter a moto-X, slog a mud trail, or practice their nac-nacs on this motorcycle. Forget the ads. With that nonsense out of the way, let me pick up my narrative…

My dirt skills are so rusty as to be non-existent. So, the turn from pavement to fire road tensed me up like a sold-out beer vendor at a Sturgis campground. Given that the route was laid out in a rental car tells you that these sections were not all that rough. All were fire road quality with either powdery dirt, gravel, or a mix of both as a surface, with major ruts or mud non-existent. Still, it caused me some initial puckers… which made the Ulysses look bad. I was so tense that my rigid arms were feeding all sorts of wrong messages to the front end. This situation went on for about a mile before I could talk myself into relaxing. As I did, performance improved commensurately.

Loosening my arms and sliding back a bit in the saddle allowed the front end to work properly. I worked my straight speed up to the 60-65mph range, with the bike tracking straight and true. Gravel ruts and dust bowls were handled nicely, particularly when I geared up. My corner speeds were woefully slow, but fast enough to see that the chassis would keep me from harm, e.g., meeting with the Gods of Highside.
As I started to relax I found that great fun could be had by dropping the hammer in the last third of the turn. This initiated a satisfying power slide that, as long as I stayed in it, life was good. Back out—as with any bike—and you risk a highside.

A ways into the woods there was a 15% down grade. Old habits took over and I stood up on the pegs to shift weight down and back. This action pointed up an ergonomic issue; the bars were too low, biasing my body too far forward. Without doubt the seat-peg-bar relationship is one of the most comfortable for the street that I have ever ridden, not so when you need to stand. This situation would be even worse for a tall rider. Fortunately, the handlebars are the standard Buell units, meaning replacement bars are a cinch. However, higher bars would disturb the excellent seated comfort. This points up the problem with a horse of many colors; you’re not going to get it to properly match every situation. Oddly, to my mind, the foot pegs are angled downward quite significantly. On the street, this helps with shifting, but when standing, you need to hook a heel on the peg to keep from sliding forward. Given that many motorcycle boots do not have a stepped heel this could be a problem, particularly in the wet as the pegs are not ventilated and use multiple “bumps” for grip.

As I mentioned, I was riding with four others. This dirt section separated us with the two fastest disappearing in a cloud of dust after the first turn, and the other two slightly behind me… not because I was faster, but to allow the dust to settle. Several miles in, I came upon one of the fast guys, an editor of a popular magazine that many of you read. He’s a great guy and a very quick ex-roadracer. He was also down. Hard. His track in the gravel told the tail of a long slide that ended badly, slamming him to the ground on that dreaded high side. The Ulysses was ridable, and he rode it out, but his ribs will need attention.

At the lunch stop, and at day’s end, continual tales were told of riders in full lock slides, side-by-side racing and other antics reserved for those that really know what they’re doing in the dirt. As impressive as that might be, the success of the Ulysses off-road will depend upon how riders with average skills adapt to it. My limited experience showed it to be a competent fire road motorcycle that will take you to that campground or fishing spot in comfort while hauling everything you could conceivably need, plus a passenger. It’s not a competition motorcycle. Were you to ride more dirt than tarmac, a change of tires might be in order, The Dunlops work quite well, but the lack of side knobs, for example, and the compromise tred design will hold you back when things get muddy. Also, most every rider mentioned the relatively small steering lock-to-lock arc… the same as the street bikes. This can be a serious issue in the dirt for a fast rider. When you’re out there on the edge, sawing at the bars, reduced lock is a no-no.

The Ulysses does not own every corner, but it holds a secure lease on the dirt ones as long as you know what you're riding and don't go challenging any would-be Carmichaels.

The end of this dirt section revealed one of the Ulysses strongest assets, its ability on marginal roads. These are roads that, unfortunately, we’re seeing more and more of in this county. They’re paved, but often broken up, cracked, laced with “tar snakes,” feature pot holes and are dusted with all manner of road crap. Folks, the Ulysses absolutely kicks ass on these roads. With this bike you are going to run down, through, and over all models of highly vaunted sportbikes. And you’re going to do it all while laughing.

Forgot something…..

Two things are always brought up when this Buell and dirt are mentioned in the same sentence: the front brake rotor and the underslung muffler. The short answer to this vulnerability issue is that the motorcycle is really not suited to be where the terrain would offer damage. Of the two, the brake rotor would be the most vulnerable if you’re threading rocks. The muffler, on the other hand, is, in effect, a skid plate. It is stoutly made and located, but it would also require that if you’re jumping logs… and the torque allows this, easily…you have the technique down pat.

Next: Part 4 Heresy!

Next: Part 4 Heresy!

We all know what it takes to have a great handling motorcycle. It’s obvious. We watch Nicky, Eric, Miguel and hundreds of other thread the track needles with ultimate precision. Our garages hold race bikes and track bikes upon which we’ve lavished hundreds (thousands?) of dollars worth of suspension improvements. Then we go ride our favorite road and some guys on a GS, or Multistrada or Tiger eats our lunch. What’s going on here?

My first bout with this bit of heresy happened when I purchased a Multistrada early this year. It was a compromise purchase in that I felt I was giving up a bit of “pure” handling so as to cart stuff around on longer trips. I loved the Buell CityX, but it—or any recent Buell--is hardly a pack mule. I looked at, and rode, a BMW GS, Triumph Tiger, Suzuki V-Strom (both sizes), the KTM Adventurer, and the Ducati Multistrada. I purchased the Ducati for several different reasons, but the primary one was its handling. Living in the mountains, I place a premium on a motorcycle’s ability to get around a turn as quickly as possible. For years I’ve thumped my roads (occasionally they’ve thumped back) on all manner of Buell. There are two sections that I use as my “training route,” each specific in length. I time myself on these sections, with the fastest on each being aboard a CityX. Within a month of owning the Multistrada I beat both times. Quite simply, the reason behind this is that on the Ducati I spend more of the time moving forward (rather than sideways) and with both wheels on the ground. Why? Long travel suspension.

Longer travel suspension (generally 6” to 7” vs. 4” to 5” in the front) is more compliant in that its internals have a greater distance over which they can absorb an irregularity in the highway. This results in the wheels staying in contact with the road more of the time thus keeping your line and, with the rear, driving you forward. On less than perfect roads, long travel suspension can excel over a highly refined, very expensive sportbike. That is putting it very, very simply, but it serves to illustrate the point.

The downside to these suspension is that, under heavy braking, the front dives, changing your steering geometry… sometimes rapidly. The second issue, in the past, has been flex; the long front forks could get a little spindly.

The Buell Ulysses has 6.51-inches of front suspension travel, and 6.38-inches at the rear. This is 1.72-inches and 1.32-inches more, respectively, than the CityX. The result, however, is far greater than those couple of inches might imply. I have never ridden a stock street Buell with what I would call a refined suspension. I believe the XB series to be excellent handling motorcycles, but they all have harshness to them that cracks, ripples, expansion joints, and the like, fully exploit. Not so with the Ulysses.

My Multistrada is the “S” model. This means that it’s fitted with Ohlins, front and rear, the gold standard of suspension. I will not know for certain until I can get a Ulysses on my test sections but my experience in Colorado leads me to believe that the suspension performance of the Big U is very comparable to that of the Ducati.

After that initial dirt section we hit the pavement again, and then another section of dirt. By early afternoon most riders had aced the official route and were freelancing the spectacular roads to the north and west of Denver. Most were in groups of two, sometimes three. We’d—I hooked up with one rider-- be strafing along a winding road when zip! zip! a brace of Buells would slingshot off a turn, and pass going in the opposite direction, our closing speeds too scary to think about. The more I rode, the more impressed I became with the Ulysses. All day, all 265 miles worth, it never gave me a scary moment. Dirt and gravel in the turns were always a concern, but it was easy steer to the clear path and, if the rear did slip, it stepped right back in when clean pavement was hit. “Real world” is an overused phrase, and it’s been co-opted by television, but I can’t think of a better term when it comes to the roads and highways most of us travel. They’re not race tracks. They’re often dirty and not necessarily designed to offer maximum run-off. That is why these strange, hybrid motorcycles are beginning to appear. They’re not marketing gambits, they’re fully functional, highly practical motorcycles that are a supreme gas to ride.

There is, though, a slightly altered technique to riding these motorcycles very quickly. Recall that I mentioned the geometry changes under hard braking. Race bikes with their suspensions tuned for a specific surface, i.e. smooth, can generate tremendous amounts of braking force, hauling the bike down very quickly from triple digit speeds to those required of a first gear “bus stop” turn. These two-wheeled scalpels certainly experience front end compression, but no where near that of a street bike. In order to gain the benefits of long travel suspension you have to forgo some of the extreme braking action that you effect with your XB12R of Ninja. This isn’t something you do consciously, by the way. What happens is that these complaint suspensions allow you to carry more speed through a rough pavement turn. So while many hypercycles will get to that rough turn first, the Ulysses, and the like, will carry more speed through it.

One of the benefits of this suspension showed up later in the day. Lusting after fast turns and challenging rides we sought out the road to Mt. Evans. Topping out at 14,264 feet the route to the summit is “America’s highest paved automobile road,” and one scary sumbitch if you’re the least acrophobic. It’s two lanes with no guard rails. The top portion has a posted speed limit of 15mph. The Idaho Springs to Echo Lake leg is a spectacularly good motorcycle road. From Echo Lake you follow a no-center-line two lane to the summit. Coming back down from the summit we were pushing things a bit when we came to an area of highway that has seen a bit of earth movement, a bit like paved whoop-de-dos. On a standard street motorcycle our speed would have been too great, binding the suspension and, at the very least, giving us a good ass-slapping with the seat. The Ulysses soaked it up and never missed a beat.

And that "spindly" down side to long travel suspension? A non-issue. Couple the very stout 43mm fork legs with the Ulysses' FEA-designed chassis and flex disappears from your dictionary.

Next: Part 5 The Motor (…and yes, I will get around to a bit of a compare)

Next: Part 5 The Motor (…and yes, I will get around to a bit of a compare)

The motor (otherwise known as “the lump”) has been a Buell hot button for years. Personally, once the XB motor debuted, it was a non-issue for me. Certainly there are faster bikes, but I’ve never been able to use all the power, all the time anyway, so I’ve always believed it to be more of a “teeny weenie” thing (to quote a female friend) than a valid problem. Yet the call for 120hp at the rear wheel, OHC and water cooling continues. Fight the good fight, gentlemen, but leave the Ulysses out of it. The XB12 motor has found a home. I’ve mentioned several times in this forum my preference for the 984cc XB9 motor. This, because it’s smoother, the vibration goes away at around 2K rpm rather than 3K. Nestled in the Ulysses chassis the XB12’s level of vibration is only noticeable by its absence. The only time there’s any significant vibration is at idle. I asked if tuning out the shakes was a design parameter, but was told, “No.” Apparently it results from the damping effect of the new bits and pieces. So be it, I like it. Given where we were, most of our riding was done at altitudes over 7,000 feet, with the aforementioned 14, 264-foot summit, and a couple of 12,000-foot passes thrown in for good measure. The motor never missed a beat, stumbled, coughed or embarrassed itself. Buell claims a top speed of 135mph. I’ll go so far as to say they’re not far off…remember the altitude… and at the upper speeds the ride is as smooth and stable as you’d want. Do not dismiss this motor out of hand; it’s just been waiting for the right chassis, which it has now found.

Next: Part 6 The Niggles

Part 6 The Niggles

The Buell XB12X Ulysses is not a perfect motorcycle but, as has been the case in recent years, it is a significant advance over what has come before it. I enjoyed myself so much aboard this motorcycle that I had to get away from it in order to think of items I’d change. There’s a caveat here, of course: One day and 265 miles does not make for a comprehensive test or evaluation.

My biggest area of “complaint” is the gauge pack. Currently, it uses the same unit as all the other XBs.
It deserves better. Specifically;

• Place the odometer and at least one of the two trip meters on continual display at the top of the pack
• Ditto the clock.
• Some sort of charging system monitor
• A gas gauge.. electronic is OK, I just want one that will continually tell me my gas status

• Grippier footpegs
• Possibly a hydraulic clutch… anything to get that clutch cable out of sight.
• The shifting assembly is very vulnerable if you ride in tight, rocky areas.

This is actually a bit embarrassing… I can’t think of any other complaints

Next: Part 7 A highly subjective comparison

aaah yes, the transmission

Both the Harley and Buell tech sessions heavily touted their respective new transmissions (a 6-speeded in the Dynas) and reduced clutch pull. The changes center around the switch to “dog rings” to effect shifts and the use of helical, rather than straight-cut gears. The net effect is,yes, they do shift smoother, and the clutch pull is a bit less. I don’t believe, though, that I’d equate their shifting ease with the best of the Japanese bikes. The transmission worked fine in the Ulysses with nary a missed shift.

Next: Part 7 A highly subjective comparison

This is the part where I open myself to ridicule, physical abuse, and possibly banishment from any number of drinking establishments.

This “adventure” niche is still evolving with its membership a fluid thing dependant upon whom you’re speaking with. To my mind, members-in-good-standing include:

• BMW GS1200
• KTM 950 Adventure
• Triumph Tiger
• Ducati Multistrada “S”
• Suzuki V-Strom 1000
• Buell Ulysses

I have ridden all of these models and, as I mentioned, own the Ducati. Were I purchasing a motorcycle today the choice would be between the Ducati and the Buell.

- I admire the BMW, but it is just too damn heavy and certainly not as “flickable” as my two favorites.
- The KTM is probably the most dirt-worthy of the group, thus sacrificing highway ability
- Triumph’s Tiger does nothing for me in any area
- The Suzuki is competent, but only in an average way

I know, that’s hardly a thorough review, but my saddle time in each is limited. However, the fact that I didn’t buy one of them speaks for itself. To you, of course, that’s irrelevant.

On the other hand, I have 5,000 miles worth of experience with the Ducati Multistrada “S.” This qualifies me to draw a couple of conclusions, as subjective as they might be. To do this, I’ve somewhat arbitrarily created categories for comparison:

While neither bike fits the visual mold of a traditional sportbike they are, in reality, more sporting—because of their versatility—than any other category of motorcycles. Between the two, I give the sport edge to the Ducati, but just barely… and my thoughts may change when I get them side-by-side. This because it’s a more “flickable” bike despite weighing 16 more pounds (441 vs. 425) and with a three inch longer wheelbase. Contributing to this is a narrower saddle and the fact that it, the motorcycle itself, fits me better.

Another factor is the Ohlins suspension. As good as the Buell’s is—and it’s damn good—I still go with the Ohlins. Were I comparing the standard Multistrada to the Buell, the Buell would win this category.

Buell wins this round because the torque peak hits harder, sooner, making the Buell a stormer out of a corner. Listed horsepower (crank) is greater with the Buell (103 vs. 84). Don’t sell the Ducati L-Twin short. It’s a 2-valve spinner that’s very satisfying to ride. Plus, I love the idea of desmodromic valve actuation.

Clutch and transmission
Buell again, by virtue of the fact that the Ducati clutch sucks. At speed the Duc’s dry clutch works beautifully. Around town though, engaging it smoothly takes paying attention. It is the single most irritating aspect of the Multistrada.

Another real virtue of the Buell is its belt tensioner; it eliminates most all drive train snatch

Uh… Buell again. Its large seat, innovative “Triple Tale” and superb bags win the day.

I’m sensing a trend here… Buell. The chain is a pain on the Ducati, as is its 6,000 service interval. The Buell XB motor has proven to be very reliable, tolerant of neglect and, of course, the belt drive needs no attention.

For me, the Ducati comes out on top. Its two-inch lower and narrower seat makes touching the ground a whole lot easier. At the same time, once moving, I give a slight edge to the Buell due to a better handlebar position.

Next: A final thought

A final thought.

Six-thousand words later I finally get around to making my point:

Sir, your new Buell “S3” is ready for you. The only difference is that it’s faster, it handles better, it’s more comfortable, it’s reliable, it’s cheaper and it sits within spittin’ distance of the top of the rankings in this category. Enjoy

Written by Reg Kittrelle

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August 30, 2005, 07:50 PM

damn bro, can you give me the cliffs version of that report...too much to read, very little time.
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August 30, 2005, 08:32 PM

it seems that after 2002 models, Buell is doing nothing wrong.
the design and marketing teams are definetly giving their niche of the market what they want.
I doubted what Eric was doing, but the more compliments I read on Buells in the eurpean magazines the more i recognize that is why he owns a comapny and i just talk about it.

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October 17, 2005, 12:23 PM

Originally Posted by buell2001b
it seems that after 2002 models, Buell is doing nothing wrong.the design and marketing teams are definetly giving their niche of the market what they want.
I doubted what Eric was doing, but the more compliments I read on Buells in the eurpean magazines the more i recognize that is why he owns a comapny and i just talk about it.
I wouldn't go that far. Recent write ups on the Ulysses have been good. I was at Buell dealership (Roanoke) this weekend.

Before I go on, I was there getting some rattle can paint. Found out they stopped making it. Now good ole h-d is selling it for three times the normal price. Gotta love h-d. Hope the stock price is doing well today.

Sat on it. It’s different and I like the idea. Wonder if they will let me do an off-road demo ride?

+Tall 2-tone seat

-Did I mention heavy?
-How much $$$$?
-What will shake off first?

For that type of money I’d get a KTM or BMW for proven off-road use.
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October 17, 2005, 01:01 PM

Nice write up, unfourtunately the 12X does nothing for me.

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October 17, 2005, 11:30 PM

Originally Posted by Nudist
Nice write up, unfourtunately the 12X does nothing for me.

I second that, it's a cool concept taken to design and dealership floor but I think there are other bikes out there in the same market that are designed better for the stated purpose. I have no experience with any of them, just going by what I have read. But I guess if you worship Buell bikes it's not a bad option at all.
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October 18, 2005, 06:47 AM

Forgot to mention. The guy said they were selling faster than the City x. That's surprising to me.
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October 18, 2005, 12:08 PM

Originally Posted by nunyadambusiness
Forgot to mention. The guy said they were selling faster than the City x. That's surprising to me.
well a lot of white collar people are buying the Ulyses so for them the price is not bad comparing to the multistrada or bmw.
i like the bike but its designed for tall guys. if you are 6' or taller it defenetly works. i tilt over on it

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