Two Different Ways To Conquer The Road
Mail firstname.lastname@example.orgTouring motorcycles come in a wide variety of shapes, styles and displacements. Our loose definition is hard saddlebags (even if leather-covered) and a windshield. Many bikes offered as touring bikes are existing cruisers with some leather bags and a windshield bolted on. We constantly strive to bring you the best bikes in every issue; it just so happens that the big Harley-Davidson bikes are very popular and unequivocally the most customized.
With that said, this month we bring you two bikes that are a slight departure from our norm: a Buell XB12XT and a BMW R 1200 RT. Both come from the respective factories with hard bags and windshields as standard equipment. Before you ask where the BMW GS comparo is, those models don't come with the saddlebags without spending extra money. We hope to revisit the GS line in the future, pitting an outfitted GS with the more adventure-like Buell Ulysses XB12X.
Visually and ergonomically, these two bikes are quite distinct. The Buell's long, flat seat and upright riding position feel more dirt-bike inspired, while the BMW has a locked-in, contoured, sportbike-style cockpit. One sits more on top of the Uly rather than feeling like part of the machine, like on the Bimmer. It's not necessarily a negative observation, just that different riders have varying preferences. BMW's optional heated seat was very comfortable, gently cradling each of the vastly different physiques on staff. Although the seat locks the pilot into one general upright-forward riding position, it places the body in the ideal place to handle the large machine. Legs wrap perfectly and naturally against the side of the frame without any undue muscle input. Buell's hard, textured saddle allows the rider to move fore and aft, which is helpful on longer jaunts. Although the frame, with integrated fuel reservoir, is smooth and positioned well in relation to your legs, it gets extremely hot.
Much of the rear cylinder on the Buell Thunderstorm motor is obscured by the frame and bodywork. The rear header pipe exits behind the aluminum frame, emitting a considerable amount of heat that has nowhere to go. As a result, the right side of the frame gets extremely hot. On a 78-degree day, a 20-mile ride produced surface temps measuring 154 degrees. That sounds hot, and it sure felt it-roasting our inner thigh while riding and especially when sitting at a red light. The left side doesn't get nearly as warm; some sort of heat shield needs to be designed. The only other peeve about the bike was also heat-related: the cooling fan. After the motor was shut down, a fan came on to cool the rear cylinder area. This several-minute process occurred even after short rides when the temps were cool and the bike wasn't that hot. It was loud enough to drown out any sound from the running BMW as well as elicit numerous questions from bike enthusiasts and passersby as to what the din was.
Buell's top box adds to hauling capacity. It'll easily hold a full face helmet.
With that out of the way, we'd like to point out how competent the Buell is on the road. Manually adjustable suspension front and rear allows the rider to dial in the settings to compensate for weight and riding style. Reduced front suspension travel has solved the squishy feeling of the early Ulysses model. Gone is the nosedive following clamping down on the super-effective perimeter six-piston braking system. The bike felt stable at speed, with the short windscreen allowing enough air through without buffeting to remind you you're not in a car. Although the suspension eats up road irregularities, the bike gets sporty as quick as you want it to. The upright riding position and wide handlebar give good control and feedback to the rider.