45° V-Twin, four stroke, pushrod
actuated overhead valve.
hydraulic self-adjusting lifters,
2 valve per cylinder.
1203 cc / 73 cu in
Bore x Stroke
88.9 x 96.8 mm
Free breathing, 2-into-1 Buell Interactive exhaust system
Ø49 mm downdraft DDFI II fuel injection
86.9 kW / 103 hp @ 6800 rpm
114 Nm / 11.6 kgf-m / 84 ft-lbs @ 6000 rpm
Aluminium frame with Uniplanar™ Powertrain
vibration isolation system
83 mm / 3.3"
Showa Ø41 mm inverted forks
compression damping, rebound damping and spring preload adjustable
Front Wheel Travel
120 mm / 4.7"
Showa coil-over monoshock, remote underseat
reservoir and adjustable compression damping, rebound damping and spring
preload, 127mm wheel travel
Rear Wheel Travel
127 mm / 5.0"
ZTL type brake, 6 piston, fixed caliper, Ø375
mm single-sided, inside out, stainless steel, floating rotor
Single Ø240 mm disc, 1 piston
3.50 x 17"
5.50 x 17"
mm / 75.7"
768 mm / 30.2"
1092 mm / 43.0"
1320 mm / 52.0"
127 mm / 5.0"
775 mm / 30.5"
179 kg / 395 lbs
14 L / 3.7 US gal
Average Fuel Consumption
5.6 L/100 km / 17.9 km/L / 42 US mpg
Standing ¼ Mile
11.4 sec, 182 km/h / 113 mph
249 km/h / 155 mph
Midnight black, Yellow
I consider myself one of the fortunate journalists
that get to test new motorcycles all year round, primarily because of my
geographical location – Florida, the sun capital of the world – or should I say,
the bike capital of the United States. But, like most of us, I’m not privileged
enough to live on a canyon road or near the surroundings that resemble the
environment for which some of these sportbikes were created for – that long,
winding road that in a word is motorcycle “nirvana.”
For years I rooted for the concept of an American-made sportbike, but after
testing some Buell products a few years ago and listening to the constant
complaints about quality and service, I sort of put that idea on hold until a
few weeks ago, when I finally got to test Buell’s new XB12R for the first time.
And boy was I surprised, for this new model mates the intuitive handling and
innovative technology of the original Firebolt XB9R with a torque-monster engine
- a new 1203cc lightweight 45 degree, air/fan and oil-cooled fuel-injected
V-Twin rated at 103 peak horsepower and 84 ft. lbs. of tire-twisting torque. Its
entire displacement boost comes through an increase in stroke, from 3.125 inches
to 3.812 inches with a compression ratio of 10:1.
Torque comes from the big cylinders, of course, but the linearity of the
powerband is due to the fact that this new engine comes equipped with Buell
InterActive Exhaust, thus broadening its torque band by way of an electronic
actuator that activates a butterfly valve in the muffler to adjust back-pressure
by alternating between two exhaust gas flow paths. The engine computer monitors
engine speed and throttle position while activating the valve to optimize torque
and horsepower for the riding condition. The valve opens at low rpm for the best
flow, and then closes in the midrange for optimum torque before opening again at
high rpm. As part of the system, header pipe diameter is increased from 1.50
inches to 1.75 inches. The intake throttle body diameter is increased from 45mm
to 49mm, and a stiffer clutch spring and new Aramid reinforced Hibrex drive belt
are fitted to handle the torque demands of the 1203cc engine. The primary drive
ratio is lowered from 1.68:1 to 1.50:1. Gear ratios in the five-speed
transmission remain unchanged.
The rigid aluminum frame is a light-weight, multi-functional structure that
serves as a solid foundation for the bike as well as a support for the
3.7-gallon fuel tank. Using the frame to carry fuel significantly lowers the
center of gravity and reduces the moment of inertia, both of which improve the
bike's reaction to rider input. Mass centralization and a low center of gravity
are further enhanced by locating the muffler below the Firebolt’s engine. A
massive aluminum swingarm doubles as the engine oil reservoir, and is supported
by an adjustable Showa shock absorber.
The Buell Zero Torsional Load front brake system feeds braking forces from a
six-piston caliper through a 375mm inside-out rotor mounted near the wheel rim
to virtually eliminate torsional loads to the front wheel. This permits the use
of a light-weight, six-spoke cast aluminum wheel that significantly reduces
unsprung weight and steering inertia. The front end is suspended by a fully
adjustable 41mm Showa inverted fork.
It surely feels like the best sportbike ever built by Buell; definitely the
smoothest drivetrain I’ve experienced on a sportbike, with not a hint of
abruptness many other injected bikes have when re-applying the throttle coming
out of corners. Simply put, one that will satisfy the needs of most sport
riders, and it’s not just the peak horsepower, but the ground-pounding,
mid-range torque you can command to accelerate almost instantly in any given
situation. I felt comfortable all the time I was riding -- my average 5’7” body
wasn’t too crumpled up, and the close-coupled riding position on the new
Firebolt didn’t force too much pressure on my wrists, although it might be
different for taller riders, who might get cramped from the high pegs that offer
plenty of ground clearance.
At speeds of up to 80 mph, it’s a smooth cruise, as the engine turns at just
3800 rpm thanks to a taller primary drive ratio than fitted to the XB9s, but
when you go past that 80 mark, vibration becomes an issue and could get
intrusive, eventually numbing the rider’s hands. Despite the vibration-isolating
engine mounts, vibration sneaks through the solid-mounted clip-on handlebars and
the firm seat; a skinny butt will get sore after more than an hour in the
There are two colors to choose from; either the Racing Red color that I tested,
or Midnight Black. The bike features a Graphite Grey frame and swingarm,
black-and-amber tail and airbox graphics, magnesium-toned clutch and cam covers,
and a wild amber windscreen. The cast aluminum wheels receive an exclusive,
high-gloss translucent paint process that produces a beautiful amber color with
natural variations and depth. The perforated seat cover completes the premium
Though a terrific bike, I would like to see a few changes made or at least
addressed -- the unfinished (non-glossy) inner fairing panels look inexpensive,
the bar control housing and the plastic turn signal switch looks and feels
tacky, the clutch cable rubbed against the plastic lower fairing, and the
yellow-tinted windscreen causes the yellow fuel light to appear illuminated in
There’s plenty to like about the XB12R, starting with the fact that they have
totally abandoned the barrel-type key and separate fork lock of previous models
in favor of a regular slot key and integrated fork lock. The analog instruments
with two tripmeters and a clock are easy to read, and one of my favorites are
the wheels with thin spokes and that translucent amber color that glows in
I say this bike is worth considering for many reasons, but at $10,995 with the
new two-year unlimited warranty (unlike one-year coverage for models prior to
2003), plus the comfort and dynamics, and the uniqueness of riding this proud
American bike, makes it worth every penny. And if you ever felt the power was
not cutting it for you, there are always plenty of aftermarket parts for the
engine to make it DYNOMITE.
All in all, this new Buell XB12R Firebolt is one to think about, for it not only
gives you plenty of fun riding, but you’ll look plenty good while riding it!
Source Greg Sanchez
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