Speeding through a city’s arteries, few vehicles get your blood pumping like Buell’s 1125CR. With a futuristic design and a frame coddling a heart that bleeds Red, White and Blue, this American sportbike is unlike anything else on the road.
I step outside from a neighbourhood pub, only to notice an older gentleman poring over my motorcycle. Circling around, his gaze moves from side to side before fixating onto the large disc on the front wheel.
Upon my approach, he looks up at me, grinning ear-to-ear.
“Well mister, I’ve never seen anything quite like this in my life,” he says. “Where did this bike come from? Area 51?”
“It is quite otherworldly, isn’t it?,” I smile.
But before we can begin to chit-chat, he’s called into the pub by a friend. Cracking open the door, the grin on his face reappears. Before stepping inside, my new friend looks at me, with one more question:
“So, do you go by Mr. Wayne? Or just Bruce?”
And that’s Buell 1125CR ownership in a nutshell. Though the bike may stop, the fun doesn’t.
Today, ‘cafe racers’ have become the domain of hipsters, who’ve taken to ratted out Honda CB400’s and Suzuki XS400’s. But the 1125CR doesn't have time for PBR and ill-fitting jeans.
While parent Harley Davidson always looked to the past, Buell always preferred its own direction - often producing some oddball creations. In this case, the 1125CR is firmly entrenched in the future - one that seems a little dystopian. At home in back alleys and urban decay, the 2009 1125CR’s menacing appearance is almost prescient, channeling America’s frustration with the ‘Great Recession’ and further industrial decline.
The 1125CR’s polarizing looks begin with the two pods on either side of the bike. Though many people believe these to be intakes for the powertrain, they actually house radiators that cool 1125cc engine. From the side, they create the appearance of muscular haunches, ready to pounce forward.
The headlight fixture scowls beneath a tiny cowl, glaring ahead at oncoming traffic.
It all works very well, unless when viewed directly from the front, in which case the bike suffers a case of butterface. But eyes will quickly be drawn to the 1125CR’s other assets, including Buell’s unique ‘zero torsional load’ (ZTL) floating disc brake on the front wheel, a low-slung muffler and of course, the 1125cc engine wrapped by header pipes.
Holding everything together is a svelte, state-of-the-art aluminum ‘beam frame,’ which doubles as the 1125CR’s fuel tank. Yes, the fuel is in the frame, and the oil is in the swingarm. Science!
It’s all so ‘Hot Wheels’ and thus, you’ll be getting thumbs-ups from every boy, ages 5 and up. Park it at the gas station, and even Lambo owners will be rubbernecking.
The Naked Truth
As it bears the ‘cafe racer’ namesake, the 1125CR bares all its internals, eschewing fairings and plastics that are typical of many sportbikes like Kawasaki’s Ninja. The 1125CR is an unashamed member of the ‘Naked’ category, which is becoming increasingly popular. Ducati’s ‘Monster’ and Triumph’s ‘Triple’ models are well-known examples.
As the name goes, riders are left with little protection from the elements. The Buell 1125CR is no exception. In ‘Raincouver,’ riding the 1125CR in inclement weather all but guarantees that the rider will be drenched from head to toe. With a popular aftermarket ‘tail chop,’ water will also kick up behind the massive 180/55 rear tire. And without any front fairing, the rider gets to face the wind. Fortunately, the engine runs hot enough to add some warmth.
For anyone outside of a desert environment, expect the 1125CR to be garaged for at least a quarter of the year.
Unlike the rip-snorting Buell’s based on Harley Davidson’s V-Twins, the 1125CR is downright sophisticated. A collaboration with Austrian engine-manufacturer Rotax (owned by Bombardier Recreational Products), the 1125cc ‘Helicon’ V-Twin engine boasts 146HP and 82 ft-lbs of torque. Keeping the vibrations in check are three counterbalancing shafts.
The engine can rev high, but powers through the RPM range in a predictable manner, thanks to a deep well of torque that is on tap. Unlike previous Buell’s, the 1125 series features a six-speed gearbox, a welcome change from the brand’s previous reliance on clunkier, five-speed units. Buell also geared the bike down slightly compared to its track-oriented cousin, resulting in a better city riding experience.
It all adds up to a big smile when the lights turn green. In gentle hands, the 1125CR will scoot to 100km/h in under four seconds. It won’t outrun a Hayabusa or ZX-10, but it will take on just about everything else. The rush of power to the rear wheel is similar to that of a wooden roller coaster: smooth and sustained.
Steering the 1125CR is a smooth affair, regardless of whether you’re on the highway or the alleyway. Despite the use of ‘clubman’ style handlebars, the riding position is fairly neutral. Taking corners is always predictable and there’s never any sense of jitteriness that some other bikes are claimed to have.
This bike is at its best when negotiating gridlock and funneling between cars. Its flickable yet forgiving handling gives the rider the ability to skirt everything from potholes to pedestrians.
But if you’re hoping to skirt the oilman, there are better options than the 1125CR. In mixed riding, the bike typically averages 40 mpg. Stuck in the city? You’ll be stuck in the high-20’s. Naturally, 91 octane or higher is recommended.
Unlike BMW and Honda, Buell never set out to make motorcycles for everyone. They were driven to be different - it was even in their tagline. The 1125CR is emblematic of this philosophy, and it'd be the final steed out of the 'Pegasus Brand's' stable before the gates shut.
Fortunately, the 1125 series isn't in limbo. Erik Buell Racing continues to support these bikes with parts, some of which are improved. That’s important, because the 1125’s had their share of gremlins, including issues with charging stators and weepy clutches. Some cursory Googling will enlighten potential buyers.
Prices for these models are quite low, and they’re often babied by their doting Buell enthusiast owners. Only 3,100 were built.
If you don't mind being the centre of attention and are comfortable riding something that's a little harder to service, a used Buell 1125CR is a standout option.
Editor's Note: Jeremy Sally is a long time reader guest posting for us today. Our Roadmasters section is where we put reviews of vehicles that deserve a review, but that don't come to us in the traditional fashion of a manufacturer loan. -DD