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Buell XB9S - Notes from a Quick Spin

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' at netrider.net.au started by Loz, Nov 2, 2005.

  1. Hangin' about at the Kinglake Bakery yesterday with all the Tassie Gems crew, I got chatting with a lone feller called Jim who was standing beside a parked XB9S.

    Wouldn't you know it, it was a hire bike from Garner's - "Every minute it's sitting here is a waste of money mate. Want to take her for a spin?" Shit yeah, I'd been drooling over Buells for months, with their provocatively short wheelbases, Harley engines and reportedly wicked handling. I was on that thing like a fly on a horse's ringpiece.

    So I thought I'd share my thoughts on it as somebody who's never ridden a Buell or H-D before.

    Riding position wasn't too much different from the Hornbag, it's pretty upright and I'd imagine comfy over distance. It is however clearly made for smaller people than myself, I can imagine dropping 25 kilos and slotting very nicely into the alotted space - but packing my current arse baggage into the scooped seat I felt like I'd prefer a bit more booty room. Either that or a shoehorn.

    Firing the big twin up is quite an experience. The underbelly exhaust throbs out that familiar "potato potato" song, and the whole damn thing vibrates uncontrollably beneath you, sending a pleasing thrill up through your lollybags and feeling for all the world like a massage chair. The nut massage made me grin and giggle like a schoolgirl, although I was well aware that if I owned one of these animals I'd very quickly have to get a suitable nasty tough-guy face together or risk having the bike confiscated by angry, bearded Buell representatives.

    A twist of the throttle yields a satisfying roar that attracts glances from people as far as 50 metres down the street. I'm sure I saw a young girl melting with desire, but that could have been a result of my own muscular form and nothing to do with the bike.

    So far, so good.

    Then, clutch in and slot it down into first. At least, on a Honda you'd slot it down into first. The Harley gearbox felt like soup from the first kick and only the absence of neutral light made me aware I'd found a cog.

    The clutch likewise was a strange affair. It was a little difficult to work out when it was engaging apart from by the forward motion - as opposed to my japanese rocket which gives you a lot of bite feedback through the fingers.

    Heading off up the road I swam up through the gears to find that upchanging wasn't much better, no satisfying click feeling to tell you the gear had engaged... In fact no feeling at all through the foot lever. Same again with the clutch - more than once I thought the clutch was fully engaged only to release the lever and punt the bike forward into a mini-wheelie. I'm sure it's something you'd get used to.

    I did try in the brief moments I spent with the Buell to enjoy the bike's vaunted cornering abilities, but the damn thing turns so quickly that I hardly got to lean it over at all. Here comes a nice 40k bend at 110... whoops, where did it go?

    I'd put it down to the super-short wheelbase and the fact that the front wheel is all but behind you as you ride it, with a sharp steering head angle to boot. Turn-in is instant, and corners I was setting myself up to enjoy a good lean on disappeared much too quickly for my liking.

    God knows how fast you'd have to go, or how tight the twists, before you could feel like you were working this bike. Which I guess poses an interesting question... Is it a fun bike to ride if it makes cornering *too* easy? I'm sure a longer ride would have answered that.

    The engine was jolly fun despite how disconnected I felt from it through the liquid gearbox. At most speeds you could use pretty much any gear anyway, and it got up such a gallop on its low-down torquey punch that sticking to speed limits was an exercise in concentration. It's hard to hear the difference between 60 and 80 when the engine's only farting out a bang every 30 metres!

    It was all good, strong punchy torque and I could see myself getting used to the lack of mild top-end shoulder-lengthening I enjoy on the 4-banger Hornet.

    The midget wheelbase did throw up another issue worth mentioning as well - the Buell would start sniffing tarmac at the lightest touch of the front brake lever. A more pronounced tug would no doubt send the arse end merrily up in the air like one of those dogs that's never learned to pee properly, but I'm buggered if I'm going to start pulling my poorly controlled stoppies on somebody else's bike right in front of him. The instructors at HART, they're a different matter altogether.

    Bringing the rear brake into play seemed to settle the suspension balance okay, and given the blink-and-you're-through cornering, the nosedive might be less of a problem to an experienced Ferris Bueller - but I'll admit it gave me the willies and stopped me from testing the power of the single-sided, rim mounted front disc.

    My final word would have to be on the exhaust sound. It's all-encompassing. It's violently, unapologetically, obnoxiously loud. I lost three fillings and was starkly reminded my body is 98% water. It's as loud as a Peter Allen shirt but it calls America home. I actually felt self-conscious about how loud it was.

    But this is a hooligan bike - and hooligans care not for the pedestrians, road users and shocked barnyard beasts they aurally **** as they bellow their way through the countryside. And I'd put my own embarrassment down to the fact that I guess, deep down, I'm just not enough of a bad man to enjoy this Yankee mastiff the way it was meant to be.

    So... My fascination with these bikes can now be put to rest. Buell's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

    Thanks to "Jim" for the ride!

  2. Loz you are a classic :D

    I'm sitting here laughing my arse off...you should submit some reviews to bag mags...i'd buy every issue :)
  3. Was Garry (of big sheep fame) there for the ride? He's going to luv you, and I think you 2 will be the best of mates in Tassie come bed picking time :)
  4. Thanks Cad... There's an idea, how good would it be to write for a bike mag? The Aussie ones are pretty conservative though, it'd be more fun to write for a UK one. Then again, you have to be a ball-tearing, whooping, hollering maniac to write for a UK mag. Thanks for the kind words, glad you got a giggle.

    Mouth: Who's Garry? And I'll be picking the bed furthest away from ANYONE of "big sheep fame," thanks very much.
  5. Great write-up !! :D :D

    You WILL find out ...

    Bwahahahaaa, as if that'd make a diff.... :LOL: :LOL:
  6. Great ride review, Loz, better than some of the manufacturer-controlled crud that our local magazines churn out! (Ever notice that every bike is the best ever when it's new, and rubbish once it's a year old???)
    Keep cadging rides and writing them up, mate, top stuff!!!
  7. And they say Heminway is dead.
  8. That was fantastic, keep up the good work Loz!
  9. Most enjoyable read Loz - I was having a perve at one last Sunday on the Shire Ride - Interesting Beasts to say the least :D
  10. IIRC, AMCN's Mark Bracks pulled an involuntary stoppie and nailed himself to the bitumen a few years back at a Buell press launch.

    He copped multiple fractures and months of piss-taking as a result, so I guess discretion's the better part of valour till you get to know the bike.

    Great write-up, BTW Loz!
  11. Cheers guys! Yeah an interesting and odd machine, quite different to how I'd expected it to feel.

    Viva la difference, I can understand how somebody who'd ridden one of those for a while might call a Honda 'clinical.'

    Now, I just have to blag a ride on every other bike in the world...
  12. Great write up . The 1200 is a different beast to live with than the nine , but could still the same in many ways .

    I am off to New Zealand for 5 weeks on mine and will let you know what it was like to live on one.
  13. Cheers Loz, cool write-up. I've always been interested in these bikes :)

    I hear they've improved the gearbox and increased the wheel-base for 2006 as well!
  14. A close friend of mine has got one of these (XBR9 firbolt). He loves it as a ride, but hates it as a practicle bike.

    It leeks oil like a seave and overheats badly.

    It's his main transport. I get the impression he'd buy a BMW or similar if he could do it again. Maybe.

    We are going to do a bike swap soon so I'll jump in with the big O sometime in the future.
  15. What a super excellent write up, best thing I've read in awhile! :)
  16. That was a great read.
  17. That was a great read. Forget to mention that a friend went for a ride on one of these and actually said he now wasn't going to buy one because the gearbox was too notchy and hard to engage... lol

    Different soup mix churning around in that one hey? ..haha
  18. "Spoon!"




  19. Great story Loz.

    I have always wondered about the Buell, some people really seem to love them. But just looking at them (I think they look great btw) I am not sure I could live with one. I guess I just like my Honda's too much.

    Again great read mate !