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I’ve had an abiding love the Firebolt since I first laid eyes on it, so it’s 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 aren’t lying. I’ve read that it wants to stand up in mid corner braking, but I didn’t experience this. However, since it wasn’t mine I didn’t 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. I’ve 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 wasn’t 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, I’ll be back.
 

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I was the same with the Lightning… Till I took the test ride. I love the styling but it’s mechanical shortfalls were very hard to ignore… I told the salesman to call me when it got the new engine mounts that the rest of the HD line got this year, a 6 speed, and a liquid cooled engine…
 

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At least you gave it a shot. As for your sales man Dave is a very good guy to deal with and if you ever decide to buy one you are very lucky to have a good salesman that close to you.
 

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Was the test ride on a brand new bike? And how long did you ride?
The reasoon I ask is that My good riding buddy just bought a new 12 firebolt. I rode it the first day he got it. I can tell a pretty significant difference in the power before and after break in. also it sees to take a min to warm up and does not like to run cold. I think the vibration is a bit harsh but im coming off an I4 as well. I was pretty impressed with it. I wasn't expecting much as you were, but i think buell has come a long way with it. I agree with the clutch pull being to hard as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
BikesRToyz said:
Was the test ride on a brand new bike? And how long did you ride?
The reasoon I ask is that My good riding buddy just bought a new 12 firebolt. I rode it the first day he got it. I can tell a pretty significant difference in the power before and after break in. also it sees to take a min to warm up and does not like to run cold. I think the vibration is a bit harsh but im coming off an I4 as well. I was pretty impressed with it. I wasn't expecting much as you were, but i think buell has come a long way with it. I agree with the clutch pull being to hard as well.
The bike had about 700miles on it IIRC. It was a warm August day and I rode for about 20-30 minutes.

I’ve kept my Honda, but I still find myself going over to the Buell web site to look at the Firebolt. It’s such a great looking motorcycle. As great, well made and reliable as my CBR is, it’s sort of Generic Sportbike. The Buell is definitely not that
 

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im glad I read these reviews! I was thinking or STILL am gonna go check the Buells out on Sat. I have been wanting a firebolt 900, but for 1,500 more I think Ill look into the 1200. I dont get one thin...I have rode a Harley before and I have seen that the engine vibrates like hell in neutral, but as you pick up RPM it seems to "stand still", is this not true for the Firebolt? Oh and I have a '95 CBR right now, and I find myself thinking about the Buell alot even after I got check out the new CBR's and Kawi's
 
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