My Firebolt XB12R testride
Iíve had an abiding love the Firebolt since I first laid eyes on it, so itís with a fair bit of disappointment that I write this review.
Annapolis, MD Harley Davidson has a black XB12R Firebolt and it looked fantastic. The black paint is really set off by the gold anodized wheels and yellow windscreen, additionally, the fit and finish was also quite good. The visual excitement of the bike made me all the more eager to ride and the salesman (Dave Settle) was very polite, low pressure and accommodating.
All was well until he started the bike. At idle the Buell shakes like a paint shaker. Being only experienced with Japanese 4 cylinders, I was completely unprepared for the manner with which this bike convulsed on its kickstand; it bordered on the comical. Everything shook, the mirrors, the turn signals, the fairing, everything.
Undeterred, I threw a leg over and set out. The clutch pull is easily twice that of my CBR 600 F4 and it required a full extension of my XL hands to reach the clutch lever. However, torque is abundant so it easily pulled away from a stop. Accelerating away the engine pulled well but never stopped shaking. Even at higher revs the whole bike vibrated and could be felt distinctly through grips and foot pegs. It vibrated so much that it made me want to look for the slot to put the quarters in. While the gearbox was stiff (240 on the ODO) it was positive and not the least bit vague, though I did get the toe of my Sidi hung up on the shifter once on an upshift.
As I got it up to speed I took note the fine and stable cornering. It steering is light and delicate but not the least bit twitchy. It lays over with light pressure and mid corner corrections are easy and intuitive. The short wheelbase and quick steering made for a very flick-able bike, a bit more so than my CBR. Buell touts it handling and they arenít lying. Iíve read that it wants to stand up in mid corner braking, but I didnít experience this. However, since it wasnít mine I didnít ride 10/10ths.
The bike is fast and very torque-y but it redlines at 6000rpm and ran out of breath before that. It absolutely lacked the high rpm rush of inline 4, but downshifting was almost completely optional. Ultimately it felt a bit slower than my CBR. To my ears the bike sounded positively agricultural and that was exceedingly disappointing. Iíve read about the sound of a v twin and the soul of a v twin. Maybe so, but its lost on me. Adding to the aural let-down was the fan that cools the rear cylinder; it sounded like an old 486 PC
The front brake is really outstanding. It was smooth, firm and easily modulated. However, the rear brake was just the opposite, vague, soft and hard to reach.
It wasnít until I got back on my Honda that the faults of Buell were put into sharp focus. The feel of my Honda is so light, delicate and refined that it seems, (at least for me) Buell has long way to go. But if the ever ditch that stupid Harley mill, Iíll be back.