Buell XB12S - To an uneducated non-rider, many bikes can look the same. The “inspired” can usually spot a Harley, but can’t tell it from a Japanese cruiser. Same goes for Sportbikes. The XB series from Buell makes it a lot easier for this lot, as it is about as subtle as a flaming brick through a window. Yep, the Buell XBs certainly does it differently and have a 1200cc for 2004.
The XB12S is a variation on the Previous years XB9S with larger capacity through a longer stroke. This all-Buell built engine cranks out bucket-loads of torque, with even more arm-ripping power than before, 103hp and 84ft lbs to be exact! Other unique features remain similar to last year’s model such as the colossal rim-mounted brakes, exhaust on the underside and the fuel/oil compartment within the frame.
We’ve heard a lot of propaganda about this bike and spent long hours looking at the photos, so it was time to see whether the bite was as potent as the bark.
Before we get into the good stuff, we have to have to get the whinge out of the way. Not so important, but always in your face is that Tonka/Marvel comics-inspired dash. We love the bike, but the dash is friggin terrible.
Simple as that. Ok, so let’s take the subjectivity out of it - it still sucks because it’s hard to read the bloody thing - especially since the numbers are surrounded by dull silver paint which shines in your face with the sun overhead. Comparatively, the XB12R, it had a vast improvement in the dash area which will hopefully be carried over onto the S model. The crap controls overall were something all three of us noticed straight up. Have a play with the indicator, very notchy, fiddly and poor quality.
What had us stumped is the rest of the Buell XB12S was flawless. They do the job though, and if you never look at them, you might even forget over time. One thing I will say is that the night illumination gave it an extra star and the dash didn’t seem so bad.....aah yes, the flattering cover of darkness. The rest of the bike is stunning. The RED/GOLD/SILVER/BLACK combination is great, and a head-turner out on the road.
The Buell has a soundly engineered platform with great use of quality materials, including magnesium everywhere you look. Despite being very compact, the Buell gives a very solid impression with chunky components and powerful angles.
Aiming for the hooligan/streetfighter market, Buell did a good job, and we reckon you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more visually striking bike than this straight out of the box. This image is taken further through the deep sound of the engine and the random shaking of the bike at idle.
XB12S comfort and seating
Perched upon the saddle, the Buell XB12S seat is quite high off the road and gives a good view in a very upright position. You can hardly see any of the Buell at all when sitting down. If you’re used to a cruiser and seeing a tank, dash and wheel upfront, this is quite a change. Being so short, the Buell completely disappears once aboard.
Speaking of the seat, we enquired a few times beforehand if you can stick someone on the back of it - we only got funny looks. Not so! – The pillion seat on the XB12S does a surprisingly good job. Sure, you might not have even noticed it was there, but magically makes quite a comfy perch. The slant keeps the passenger on rather than sliding off typical flat seats. Mind you; the passenger ends up being close, so make sure you are on splendid terms!. It may not match a good touring saddle, but as mentioned – surprisingly good.
The mirrors are not entirely useless, but pretty close to it. While they are wide enough not to be looking at your arms, the buzz from the engine makes them challenging to read. Turn your head just to be sure.
Buell XB12S Performance
Start her up and pull away….slowly if you don’t want your arms yanked out of the sockets. Sounds good in theory but Buell made sure all starts will be fast by whacking on a monster of a clutch lever. Not so big in size, but stiff as a bastard. Combine this with the gut-wrenching torque has you slingshotting from every green light. The power comes on instantly, so there is no slouching on this ride unless you want to be chasing it down the main road. This Buell XB12S is a brute and pulls hard all the way to the red.
Speaking of red, there is not much range in the revs as a sports bike rider are used to, but the torque makes up for the low revving engine. Being so flexible in power, you can ride through regular speed roads just by winding the throttle on and off - forgetting about the gearbox altogether.
Pulling out of corners and up hills, we reckon you could keep up with most of the back roads or the track. The big twin inherently has some vibes to let you know it is still there, but only shakes noticeable at idle and high revs. No numb hands that we could remember. The sound of the thundering Buell seemed to get better as it warmed up but still has some of the harsh engine noise of an older HD-Sportster. Not a big issue though, and if you put a racing pipe on it, you will be sure not to hear a bloody thing!
The fully adjustable 41mm Showa inverted forks gave an exceptional ride quality and didn’t seem overly stiff even though the bike has such a short wheelbase. Riders with heavier steering on their bikes will find the Buell to be a little twitchy at higher speeds and might consider a steering damper to feel at home.
The massive surge of low-down grunt delivered by the Buell has you regularly lifting the front wheel by accident and doesn’t take long to realise that “XB” is short for “Awesome wheelie machine”. Once discovered, it’s damn addictive as pretty darn easy too. If you love wheelies, this is your bike.
The Brakes are massive and without a doubt, look the part. The single radially-mounted front disc brake combined with high-quality braided brake lines work magnificently.
The brakes had plenty of initial bite and feedback from the lever. They are probably among the best standard brakes we’ve tested. Easily comparable to the impressive ABS brakes on the BMW Rockster. Not a surprise then, that it is a favoured stunt bike. Buell has pulled it together with this series with a high-quality product that looks great, goes well and has a quality finish.
Comparatively the earlier Buells look a bit prehistoric. Being a streetfighter, the Buell XB12S is expected to have some rougher edges – not flaws as such, but a bit like the character of a mad dog.
Buell XB12S Verdict
Being a streetfighter, the Buell XB12S is expected to have some rougher edges – not flaws as such, but a bit like the character of a mad dog. Looking for a Harmony of a humming engine and silk? This is probably not your bike. If, on the other hand, you are: a bit on the wild side, love adrenalin, need a workout while riding, fancy attention and causing chaos. – Call Harley today, and they will hook you up.
The Buell XB12S is a bike with plenty of charisma and is a great alternative that spices up the market.
Photos & Review by George Ihring @ RoadCarver Thanks to Blacktown Harley (02 9621 7776), IRPR and the staff at HD distribution for supplying this bike.