First Ride on a
Buell Ulysses XB12X
A 1600 Mile Dual-Sport Pashnit Experience

Page I .:. Page II .:. Page III

Pashnit about Motorcycles
Aprilia Tuono 1000
Buell Ulysses XB12X
Buying a Ducati Motorcycle
Triumph Speed Triple
Military Ural Gear Up
Moto-Guzzi V11 Lemans
Sidecar Motorcycles
Suzuki DRZ400 Motard
Suzuki Hayabusa
Sport-Touring Busa
Speed Triple Street Fighter


...Continued from Page 2



I felt it my solemn duty to attempt to put this much vaunted suspension through its paces. And try as I might I could not reach a level of commitment that had any success in upsetting the suspension. Shod with fully adjustable Showa upside down forks and on the left side behold a remote rear preload adjuster connected to the coil over single shock placed under the seat for easy adjustments on the go.

Maybe it illustrates that you don't have to know how it works, only that it works very well. The Showa forks actually had me aiming at pot holes to try and upset the suspension, even bottom out the fork possibly. Each time the Buell simply floated right over everything. It was another bright spot for this motorcycle, and so essential to the success of a new model. While I could live with the embarrassing cooling fan, the suspension just has to work in a world-class manner, especially one with off-road capabilities. The pic at right also may give you a glimpse of that ground clearance- 6.5 inches.


Besides the world-class suspension, another shining bright spot was the newly designed belt drive. Maybe the validation is you don't even know it's there. Only later do you realize, hey no chain lash, no worn cush drives, no stretchy chains or worn sprockets to replace, this belt drive works amazingly well. As you roll on the power or roll off, there's never a bobble or gap in the power delivery. It's almost as if the motor and rear wheel are one, rather than two separate pieces fighting each other.

To test my theory, I found myself a straight section of road and started jerkily blipping the throttle, abruptly rolling the gas on and off. Sure enough, not a bit of play. Now understand on your usual chain driven motorcycle you can't do that sort of thing. Your bike turns itself into a wild bronco bucking protesting such uncouth treatment of said drive system.

To get such a result, the Ulysses is shod with a brand new belt designed by none other than the good folks over at Goodyear. Deemed the Hibrex Belt and made of rubber/aramid composite, it's basically Kevlar, as in that stuff they make bullet proof vests with.

Belt drives have come a long way since the days of your great-grandfather. This one is said to be so strong and so durable, it never needs replacing, or even adjustment for that matter. No flex fatigue, no stretch, ample resistance to shock, hell I think if they probably made the Six-Million Dollar Man out of this stuff.

Now combine an off-road capable bike with belt drive and what do you have? Well a couple question marks for starters since every off-road bike I know of uses a chain or shaft drive. Yet, Erik Buell believes in his product, so much so during testing they routinely threw in steel balls, rocks, and a couple tree branches into the belt drive just to see what would happen. Okay, so I made that last one up, but you get the point. Also revised is a new chain guard to protect all this fancy-schmancy belt stuff. About the only glimpse of the belt you get is on the rear sprocket and the adjustment tensioner pulley which resides beside your right foot.



Bikes aren't meant to be parked in a corner of the garage- they're designed to be ridden. And maybe the true test of a bike is commuting in rush hour traffic, after all, regardless of how fun a bike may be in the twisties, you also may want to use it as a daily driver. I got to spend considerable time in rush hour traffic and did my hour-long freeway commute to work several times with the bike. Lane splitting was a breeze, even with the Hepco-Becker hard bags. That tall upright seating position and wide bars made easy work of navigating between the lanes of traffic at will. (Yes, we can legally split lanes here in California- one of the perks.)

However, actually getting stuck in stopped traffic was another matter. The verdict was quite simple. As long as the revs stayed above 2000 rpm, it was all good. However as previously mentioned about the vibration of the bike, while in stop-and-go traffic between 1000 (which is what the idle is set at) to 2000 rpm, the bike shook enough to unseat me.

One particular time after a 12 hour day in the saddle, the Ulysses and I were not friends. While indeed the clutch pull is light and easy, plus I'd even gotten used to the taller seat, the bike shook and vibrated so much, I finally had to stop, and stand beside the bike left boot flat on the pavement to raise my backside off that seat.

Meanwhile, traffic inched along and the bike shook and shimmied below me. Rolling along at a couple miles an hour for 20 some miles at 1500 rpm just didn't work (did I mention it was raining?) and I was quite relieved to get through all the traffic promising myself never to take that route along Lake Tahoe again during weekend traffic.


As for that rain, it was the cloud burst sort. You know the kind- sunny over there, cloudy over yonder and above. raining. Quite heavy at times I might add. There really was nothing to do but ride through it sans rain suit. There's not much to hide behind on the Ulysses, although with minor rain, my hands did quite well behind the hand guards, but as soon as the rain increased in intensity, didn't work as well. The other thing I was quite pleased about was the bike always felt planted and well balanced on the wet pavement.

The bike I own is of the high-horsepower sort, and so rain requires a very gentle throttle hand as to not spin the rear tire. However, on the Buell with that smooth belt drive- that thought never entered my mind. I wasn't comfortable enough to lean the bike too much, but that would come with time for any owner as the miles rack up and familiarity with the bike in wet conditions became more familiar.


"My mother doesn't approve." I have this friend and that's his favorite saying. While it's quickly evident the Buells of yesteryear are long relegated to being museum pieces, the latest models are the product of 10 plus years of testing, refinement and Erik Buell's imagination. The one attribute that's gone untouched is the wee bit of badness left in the ole Buell. This thing can be just plain naughty.

Any 425 lb (dry) machine with 84 ft lbs of torque may have a slight built-in problem. The Buell Ulysses suffers from this much vaunted affliction. It can happen in parking lots, deserted back stretches of highway, and freeway on ramps. Despite Erik Buell's best efforts to cure the problem by extending the wheel base of the Buell by 2 inches, this ailment still afflicts the Ulysses. It has something to do with keeping the front wheel on the ground. Try as I may, I couldn't seem to cure this machine of its affliction. So in turn, I simply caved, gave into my need for squiddly giggles and popped the front wheel up at will, wherever it seemed fitting. It was great fun, and a crowning moment to experiencing the Ulysses in all its glory.


Now let's talk corners, try as I may, as mentioned I could not unsettle the bike. The handling was just fantastic. The cliche of 'cornered like it was on rails' came to mind. It became somewhat of a quest, a child-like tantrum as the days progressed. Finally I made my way up one of the twistiest roads in the entire state. I braked late, I hammered through the 5 speed gearbox, I ran the revs right at red-line.



To no avail, I still could not upset the Showa suspension in mid-corner. The Buell with its ample travel of 6.5 inches just floated over the bumps. I was thoroughly impressed with the ability of the suspension to handle twisties. It's true what they say about Buell motorcycles- the adage that Erik Buell has built his empire upon a singular premise of low-slung, well balanced weight distribution. All intended to create a corner carving machine.

The proof came with the more corners I carved up. The Ulysses was one of the most fun bikes I've ever ridden in the tight stuff. Keep the revs at the sweet spot, pick the right gear and being mindful with that narrow torquey powerband equals grins and giggles the entire time.


I also made it my mission to find the bumpiest road within reach. Sure enough, the Ulysses never missed a beat. It got to be so fun, I started steering for potholes. Foiled again, the Buell just floated right over them. Blast. Hmm, let's check out this super bumpy goat trail of a road, the Buell blasted right over it. I came up on a car in front of me which bumped & shuttered along afraid of its own shadow. Ha! Puny humans, the Buell Ulysses knows no boundary. At the first chance, I dropped it down a gear, grabbed a fist full of 1203cc Sportster motor, and floated on past. The front wheel was also floating a wee bit as in off the ground.

Still not quite satisfied, I made another beeline to the bumpiest ruttiest goat trail I know of. A road that technically is paved, yet easily claims the title 'Pariah of Highway Funds', a road so bumpy and long forgotten, I make a point to avoid it. Sure enough, the Ulysses never came unsettled. On my normal sport bike with its stiff suspension, that would have been so bumpy, I would have rattled a few teeth loose.


Speaking of off-pavement or lack thereof, you were wondering about that also? The Ulysses media machine is quick to point out this is not a dirt bike. Rather this is an adventure touring machine that's been set up for the occasional fire trail or gravel road. Although I can attest that you'd best keep the bike out of deep sand unless you know what you're doing. When a nearby pine-tree studded hilltop looked particularly enticing, I found myself with both boots on the ground gingerly easing this 500 pound machine back to the main road. Ah, maybe next time.

One hundred miles later the pavement ended. I pressed on through gravel ranch roads not exactly sure how long before I'd hit pavement. On my normal bike, it'd be 10 mph counting dollar signs leaving my wallet if I were to drop my fully-faired bike. The Ulysses on the other hand eats gravel for breakfast and dirt of lunch. There I was sailing merrily along barely feeling the heavily rippled surface. It was all beginning to come together.

The one thing I did wonder about was crash bars. Sure, you've got that frame puck, but do they exist as an aftermarket option? They simply aren't mentioned on the Buell website yet any motorcyclists worth their salt and having off-road intentions- fire roads for example, is probably wondering the same thing. Haven't found anything yet, but will add it here if I come across something (or one of you lets me know).


The day was long, the miles stretched on, and I rode past 13, then 14 hours on the bike. My thoughts began to drift and I found myself looking back a few years to a little ride I did on up to Alaska . It was a 10,000 mile journey over the course of a month on my Yamaha Venture that brought me within spittin' distance of the Arctic Circle , but also traversed hundreds of miles of gravel roads. Back then, I didn't know any better. It was a simple time, I just left and headed northward armed only with a road atlas of North America .

If I had to do it all over again, this would be the bike. I could picture myself riding along on the Buell through the miles of stunted scrub forests, through the days of rain I experienced, and even exploring further into the Alaskan Wilderness which I was unable to do at the time. If I had to do it all over again- this would be the bike!


The Buell sounds different, it looks different, it is different- completely unique in this class of motorcycle. Sure it's a relative newcomer and Buell will continue to refine the bike over the next few years, but it still has something to offer all the other comparable bikes in this class can't. It catches the eye, it makes you do double take - what is that? A Buell? I didn't know Buell made an off-road capable motorcycle was a comment I received several times. Well they do now and Buell is quick to recognize this growing market segment as riders continue to seek new thrills and new ways to explore the world around them.

The odometer read 00005 miles. Five days later, the bike was returned with 1600 miles on the clock to the surprised look of the technician at McGuires Harley Davidson. I did mention I wasn't just going to ride it around the block, I said with a grin. Highway, twisties, goat trails, bumps, gravel, a 21 hour day in the saddle- it was all making sense now.

So maybe the reason why you are going to buy this bike is because you want something different, because the word 'universal' is a forgotten archaic term. While there are several motorcycles in this particular class of adventure sport-touring, some more expensive like the BMW GS, and some less like the Suzuki V-Strom, the Ulysses stands alone among all those motorcycles. It doesn't necessarily jump higher, go faster, or pull better wheelies, instead it has character, soul. Something different to offer you. It's not cookie cutter. In fact, it's a world apart. It's a Buell.


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Special thanks to McGuires Harley Davidson which supplied the Buell Ulysses XB12X used in this Road Test.


Exploring the Sacramento River Delta - Click to learn more!

Click to read the abridged version
of this article in Friction Zone Magazine


Additional Info & Links

AdvRider Discussion thread

McGuires Harley Davidson - 925-945-6500

Buell Ulysses Specifications  

Tech Specs: Buell Ulysses XB12X


1203cc vee twin 4-stroke. 2 valve OHC, forced air cooled. 5-speed transmission with Kevlar belt final drive. Digital fuel injection with 49mm throttle bodies, and Buell InterActive exhaust.

100bhp @ 6600rpm
110Nm @ 6000rpm

Aluminium frame with Uniplanar powertrain vibration isolation system, Showa upside down forks and Showa rear suspension, both with compression, rebound and preload adjustment. ZTF front brake with single 6 piston caliper on a 375mm disc. Single 240mm rear disc with floating caliper.

1203cc vee twin 4-stroke. 2 valve OHC, forced air cooled. 5-speed transmission with Kevlar belt final drive. Digital fuel injection with 49mm throttle bodies, and Buell InterActive exhaust.

100bhp @ 6600rpm
110Nm @ 6000rpm

Aluminium frame with Uniplanar powertrain vibration isolation system, Showa upside down forks and Showa rear suspension, both with compression, rebound and preload adjustment. ZTF front brake with single 6 piston caliper on a 375mm disc. Single 240mm rear disc with floating caliper.

* Type: 1203cc air/oil/fan-cooled four-stroke 45 degree V-Twin
* Displacement: 1203cc(73.4ci)
* Bore and Stroke: 88.9mm X 96.82mm (3.50 in. X 3.812 in.)
* Fuel System: 49mm downdraft DDR II fuel injection
* Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
* MPG: 50 urban / 65 hwy

* Transmission: 5-speed
* Final Drive: belt

* Front: ZTL type brake, 6-piston, fixed caliper, 375 mm single-sided, inside out, stainless steel, floating rotor
* Rear: 240 mm stainless steel, single piston, floating caliper, fixed rotor

* Front: 43 mm Showa inverted fork with adjustable compression damping, rebound damping and spring preload
* Rear: Showa fully adjustable (compression damping, rebound damping and spring preload), coil-over monoshock with remote reservoir and remote spring preload adjuster

Wheels and Tires:
* Front: Reinforced XB-type 6-spoke wheel, ZTL, cast aluminum; 3.5X17"; Magnesium Tone with Dunlop D616F 120/70R-17 tire
* Rear: Reinforced XB-type 6-spoke wheel, cast aluminum; 5.5X17"; Magnesium Tone with Dunlop D616 180/55R-17 tire

* Length: 85 in.
* Seat Height: 33.1 in.
* Rake and Trail: 22 degrees / 4.8 in.
* Wheelbase: 54.4 in.
* Weight: 425 lbs. dry
* Fuel Capacity: 4.4 gals.

* Colors: Barricade Orange , Midnight Black
* Price: $11,495
* Saddlebags & Top Case: $995
* GPS System: $700
* Warranty: 24 months (unlimited mileage)