GS Replacement by Buell!! - Long


Well-known member
UKGSer Subscriber
Nov 5, 2007
Reaction score
Lincs, England
Yesterday I had the opportunity of taking the recently introduced Buell XB12XT Ulysses out for a few hours, supplied by St Leger Harley-Davidson in Doncaster.

This is the "lowered" touring version of the original Ulysses, which comes complete with topbox and panniers (SW-Moto), heated grips and a normal front guard rather than the GS beak type of the standard Ulysses.

The first surprise was during hand-over when the sales guy started the engine. This thing vibrates! And I mean vibrates! The front rubber mounted indicators were literally a blur. Buell have lowered the XT considerably from the X as it's now just an easy leg-over to climb on and both feet are flat on the floor (I'm 5' 10"). The seat is quite comfy, slightly firm but not a plank, and the riding position is upright with bars within easy reach.

Once you get passed 3000rpm the engine smoothes out and you can just about ride it in any gear at any speed with plenty of torque, but letting it drop below 3k and those heavy vibes return to spoil the ride.

All the media about the XT shows a tall screen, but the bike supplied had just a very low screen, probably about 6" tall that gave no benefit or protection at all. In fact dropping onto the M18 shorting after leaving the dealership showed that 70-75 is about the most that is practical. As the headlight shroud and this small screen is as the protection available it became a very buffeting ride along the motorway and I was glad of respite when we (SO accompanied) took the sliproad onto some better riding roads.
I would speculate that you would get very wet if it rained with this bike.

Onto some back roads and the Buell proved light and stable. Handling is very good and the bike can be flicked about quite easily. Luckily the engine supplies enough torque to allow a lazy attitude regarding gear selection as the gearbox, although quiet and reasonably smooth needs a real kick to change up or down, and finding neutral is not the easiest of things.

One thing all the testers (real tossers ie. journalists) rave about is the front brake. That massive disc that's fitted to the wheel rim rather than the hub. What a disappointment! It takes a real good pull on the lever (2-up remember) to slow the XT down and a couple of oops in town traffic nearly occured. The rear brake is there, it works but with no feel at all.

Buell need to think seriously about this product. If they want to grab a part of the adventure touring market, (and by that I mean touring on an off-road look-a-like, a GS, V-Strom, Varadero, Capanord, etc.), they need to look at the competition.

Firstly, it's the most unsophisticated engine I've come across in a lot of years (43 years riding). Compared to previously owned V-twins (Varadero, Tuono, SV1000) the vibration at standstill, which is embarrassing, and the heavy vibes through the footpegs and frame are unacceptable in 2008. H-D poseurs may accept it as part of their chosen “lifestyle” when riding to meet the “good ol’ boys” at the local coffee shop, but one might say unkindly that they are probably as unsophisticated as the engine they choose to use. The heat from the engine onto your calves is uncomfortable especially in town and those vibes! Half way through our ride the off-side mirror shook itself loose and flapped in the breeze for the last 50 miles!

Secondly, touring. Yes we all know that you can tour on anything, R1 to Honda Step-thru, but most of us don’t. We choose specifically a bike to do the intended task. So 17 litres fuel capacity is another question mark and no fuel gauge. So is the advised “20 miles after the fuel light comes on”. When I looked surprised at such a low reserve the salesman stated that it’s not very often you’re more than 20 miles from fuel. When I said “Try France on a Sunday!” he said “But you’re not going to France are you?” Enough said.
The lack of a decent screen is another major negative for a touring machine.
Did I mention those vibes?

It’s just not going to make it. Apart from the GS1200, it’s the most expensive in the class at around £8,500. It’s got nothing really going for it apart from the handling. Lots of techno-innovation, fuel in frame, oil in swing arm, belt drive, but it simply just doesn’t do what it says on the packet, tour.

Of the other v-twin tourers, the Varadero is probably the best for long-term ownership. Smooth engine, 200+ fuel range, decent build quality and above all that boring Honda reliability and yours for under £7K.
Any pics of the beast?
I did a test ride last year. I'm surprised you didn't mention the switchgear, which appears to come out of a cracker.

I wasn't impressed with the engine, found the torque quite disappointing compared to the drive you get from the GS. Good handling. Unfortunately for me, the bike vibrated at the resonant frequency of my head causing huge discomfort with earplugs in - it was quieter with them out.

+ they depreciate like bastards, and cost a fortune to service (even compared to the GS) - the 10k service includes fork oil change which costs.
I think Buell are crossing their fingers and hoping that people will buy it. I have never seen a Buell do well compared to other bikes, even the much-vaunted 1125R come a resounding last when pitted against comparable V2 twin sports bikes.
Still the Americans like them and that is probably what really counts.

Top Bottom