Buell takes its new race-proven chassis and tweaks it for the streets.
-By Bill Heald
Motorcycle designer Erik Buell loves to do things differently, and he has yet to build a motorcycle that doesn’t have a unique styling signature you can spot a mile away. The 1125CR has been described as Buell’s twenty-first century interpretation of the classic café racer, but it looks like it has more Dark Knight than pub-crawler in its genes. What resembles bat wings on the front sides of the machine are actually shrouds for the radiators, and they ensure that this bike will never be mistaken for any other make of motorcycle.
The chassis is an interesting mix of innovative racing technology and tried-and-true horsepower; the Helicon engine is built by longtime engine builder Rotax in Austria and bolted into Buell’s unique frame. This stout engine is a liquid-cooled, 72-degree V-twin that belts out 146 horsepower at the crankshaft, and this year has redesigned fuel injectors, new O2 sensors, and upgraded engine spark and fuel-mapping software. These tweaks are designed to improve engine smoothness at lower RPM, but throttle response can still be a bit abrupt in heavy traffic, as the CR wants to burst through the pack and run free like an angry stallion. The exhaust is interesting: The two cylinders send their burned fuel residue to a huge collector/muffler at the bottom of the bike that was designed to both enhance power and centralize mass for better handling. A six-speed transmission is mated to a clean, efficient belt drive—a Buell exclusive in this class of motorcycle.
The engine is rigidly mounted to the backbone of this beast, as an integral part of what Buell calls the Intuitive Response Chassis. The heart of it is an aluminum frame that houses the bike’s 5.3-gallon fuel tank, and is tuned for both overall stiffness and mid-corner bump compliance. Steering is responsive to the point of being almost twitchy, and the riding position puts a lot of weight on your wrists, but the flat handlebars mean you’re still upright enough for heads-up city prowling. The fully adjustable suspension can be easily dialed in to the riding environment, be it a pothole-infested cityscape or smooth rural twisties. Braking chores are handled by Buell’s unusual ZTL2 single front perimeter disc, with an eight-piston caliper, and a more conventional single disc in back. They do the business just fine, although the rear could be a bit more responsive.
A slick instrument cluster has a large, centrally mounted tachometer with a digital speedometer and trip computer/diagnostic display below, and these instruments do more than look cool; they make for a very functional information center. The seat cowl gives the CR a solo look when you’re on your own, but is easily removed when the right passenger comes along. The 1125CR is a seriously stoked urban ride that’s fast, funky, and definitely a standout in the genre of street fighters.