The name alone conjures up a bit of spirited lawlessness - always good fodder for a motorcycle outing - appropriately summing up the newest addition to Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, California. Some West Coast moto literati were invited out to lay down some of the first rubber on its virgin tarmac so we at Motorcycle Online decided to use the occasion to flog out a big twins comparison.
Horse Thief Mile is the pet project of Willow Springs' owner Bill Huth, who took the design of the track from a combination of corners he regularly rides on Highway 1 in Oregon and recreated them here for all to enjoy.
The course is comprised of eleven turns and, as the name suggests, is exactly one mile in length. Don't let the brevity of length predispose you to judgment. The track is generously wide and laid out over the undulating topography at the base of the hills that form the backdrop for Willow Springs Raceway.
Although relatively tight and with no real straightaway the diminutive circuit is an absolute gas to ride. The layout is such that you can get a good rhythm going and even though the top speed is going to be much slower than most tracks there's still the inherent rush of adrenaline that comes with pushing each section to your personal limit.
Also, because of the constant elevation changes, your ability to assess braking points becomes paramount. Downhills allow you to gain speed rapidly and force you to get on the binders earlier than expected. Conversely, uphill corners allow you to move your brake points deeper. Mentally, this continual juggle keeps you on your toes. By removing the sometimes spooky aspect of 150mph plus speeds inherent to race tracks, Horse Thief Mile's technical layout represents a unique training ground to concentrate on technique. Beginners new to track days and pros alike, will find something of value here.
"The test bikes that would be leaving behind the rubber were an eclectic threesome of V-twins; the new Buell XB 12R, BMW R1100S Randy Mamola Replika and the new Ducati Multistrada."
With regard to motorcycles, it doesn't get much broader or dissimilar than this. Or does it? All three bikes are un-conventional air-cooled twins and when you look at the lap times, they're all quite-close in outright performance. In addition to this threesome, let's toss-in 105 degrees of California desert summer sun, an unruly gang of journalists eager to put down their first footprints on a new track and the task of working-up a comparison between these bikes, over a day of raucous 20-minute sessions. The riders that would be leapfrogging from bike to bike were; Eric Bass (aka "EBass"), Sean Alexander (aka "Dirty"), Alfonse Palaima (aka "Fonzie"), and guest tester, Jeff Buchanan. This crew reflects a wide range of skill, as well as the diversity of riders common to the real world.
As the day's sessions progressed and we began taking turns trading between the three bikes we quickly answered the first and perhaps most basic question, "Which bike was fastest and why?" We were in agreement across the board on this one.
The Buell XB-12R gets top honors. Its motor pulls like a freight train right off the bottom and keeps on punching all the way through the powerband. You could practically leave the bike in third gear and run Horse Thief all day. The Buell allows you to come into a corner a gear high and just torque your way through. That low-end grunt was a huge advantage when corners exited into an uphill. We each also felt the Buell was the most sporty of the three bikes, the ergonomics making it the easiest to move around on and the most comfortable to hang off of in corners.
More than ample ground clearance with the XB helps build confidence when leaned over. The Buell feels planted and solid which is what you want on a track like this. The XB's brakes work well, and it seems to have less of that un-settling tendency to stand-up under trail braking, than our previous XB series test bikes had. You can run right up to the entrance of corners and slow the bike down with good predictability using a light two-fingered squeeze. However, slamming the bike down through the gears too quickly results in some wicked rear-end hop. Make sure the tach is at the lower end of the rev range, before downshifting for corners, or at least do a god job of rev-matching your downshifts.
We usually wear earplugs to muffle wind and exhaust noise, but with the Buell, we use them to squelch the odd sounds akin to churning broken glass and marbles coming from below. Seriously, the engine sounds like a Briggs and Stratton lawnmower with a dozen bolts loose. We also managed to find a few false-neutrals between gears during our time with the Buell. However, it certainly shifts better than what you'd expect from a Sportster based mill.
ROSAMOND, Calif. / August 15 / --
Featuring numerous elevation changes, tight turns, and scenic panoramic views, Willow Springs Raceway's new one-mile course, Horse Thief Mile, (AKA "The Mile"), was created to let drivers experience the physical and visual challenges of a winding mountain road.
"I noticed there was nowhere to learn how to negotiate the twists you might encounter riding up a mountain course, so I decided to create a track that emulated a mountain highway," said the track's chief designer, Willow Springs Raceway owner Bill Huth.
"With its demanding sharp corners, sweeping crests, and 11 degree rises, Huth designed "The Mile" in consultation with racing veterans Keith Code, Rod Millen, and Eddie Lawson."
"The Mile is unique," said motorcycle cornering instructor and California Superbike School founder, Code. "It's probably got more elevation changes in its one mile than any other circuit around - and it's got an aspect of canyon riding that other tracks don't have. Because you find yourself riding into crested corners where you really can't see the other side, the course also presents some very good visual challenges. The only level section of the course is a 500 foot stretch at the start/finish line."
To ensure the course had the necessary elements to accommodate drivers on four wheels, Huth called upon champion off-road racer Rod Millen. Huth said one of Millen's major contributions was ensuring the course had a straight segment long enough to give drivers a sufficient passing opportunity.
"The Mile adds variety to the whole Willow Springs complex," said Millen. "It's a different type of course, demanding different skills of the rider or driver. I like that, because from a testing standpoint, you always like something new and challenging and demanding because it helps you develop a better machine."
Huth also obtained advice on the course layout from multi-time motorcycle champion-turned Cart racer Eddie Lawson. "On this track you can overdo the speed pretty easily and riders will learn that," said Huth. "Just like on a paved mountain road, you have to use judgment on how fast you can go."
Huth said The Mile will be used for all types of vehicle racing, but predicts the course will become best known as a place to learn how to control a bike or car on tight corners.
Huth said, despite the winding layout, there are sections of the track where riders can jump on the gas - if they're smart. "The third turn of The Mile was built to duplicate a turn located up on Highway 101 running along Oregon's Gold Coast. You'll go down into a dip and then swing around, but you can get on the gas just as hard as you want when you get near the bottom because the down-force won't let you slide away. It's a great turn," said Huth.
"I think The Mile is similar to a road rally course in that it winds, going up and down hills -- kind of an all-terrain road course," said track manager Stephanie Huth, who predicts the track will become a favorite with riding schools.
"The track is very scenic and photogenic, and we're purposely not allowing any garish signage," said manager Huth. "We'd like to establish The Mile as a place where magazine and film crews can come to shoot beautiful footage of vehicles and their drivers in action."
Willow Springs International Raceway
The universal second choice for track honors was, surprisingly, the Ducati. Now, taking a Multistrada out on a racetrack is a little like driving a Bentley through the drive-in at Burger King. You can do it, it just isn't really appropriate.
We would rather have used the Ducati Supersport 1000DS for this shootout, but alas the Multistrada was the only 1000cc air-cooled Ducati available at the time. That having been said, the Multistrada had wonderfully usable power, with a silky-smooth delivery. In the V-twin world, it's hard not to love the classic Desmo motor. Overall, the bike is tight as a drum and everything works with precision. It also has easily the best transmission and clutch in this group. Despite being an upright against the sportbike ergos of the others, the Multistrada was surprisingly fun to ride on the track.
Ground clearance was non-existent in right-handers as we demonstrated by taking turns mutilating the rock guard on the low-slung exhaust, grinding an array of holes in it, so that it looked like a piece of aluminum Swiss cheese by the end of the third session.
Remember, to be fair, the Ducati isn't intended for a racetrack. It is designed for and at home in real life situations; canyons, streets, and highways. I have a feeling the Multistrada may have delivered the biggest grins for our staff riders. Surprisingly, Jeff buchanan logged his fastest lap aboard the Ducati. They say transponders don't lie. That leaves (shall we say third place?) the BMW.
This is somewhat surprising, because it looks to be the most serious racer of the three. However, in a time of punchy, high revving motors and awe-inspiring rear-wheel power, the Motorrad engine is disappointingly sluggish, especially for track situations.
This combined with a few too many extra pounds on the old girl don't lend themselves kindly to a supposed "race replica." The long wheelbase results in wonderful stability but the tight turns of Horse Thief don't accommodate it. The BMW is a workout to jump from side to side on and had us sweating by the third lap. By the end of each session, we were still trying to find somewhere to plant our feet and knees so they wouldn't hang up on cylinders or passenger footrest brackets. Handling is superb, but you get a lingering suspicion in corners that those expensive and vulnerable cylinder heads are just waiting to touch down as costly outriggers. Sean and Jeff had a few "moments" with the anti-lock brakes on the BMW. That unnatural, arbitrary feel is the last thing you need when slamming down from speed into a corner, only to have the brakes do their own thing. Don't get us wrong, the anti-lock brakesare fantastic in most street situations. But on the track you need consistent response and feel lap after lap. We were caught out by the brakes, once because they felt like they'd gone away and a couple times because they unexpectedly grabbed hard, when trail-braking. After that, the seemingly independent minded servo brakes, saw us tentatively trail braking, with thoughts of tucked front ends and scraping up that beautiful blue paint and Randy Mamola's signature.
"The Buell's aggressive layout with regard to handlebars, pegs, seat will pretty much negate any long distance touring, unless you're comfortable with the typical race replica ergos."
For street practicability we all agreed that the Ducati's seat would be a bit hard on the bum for long hauls. Also, its design pushes you forward and has your groin constantly getting friendly with the tank and it's hard to look cool at red lights while un-wedging your jeans from your crotch. The Ducati is much better suited to a day of exploring on lengthy twisting, turning canyons and back roads, but it held its own pretty damn good and got the nod above the BMW for power delivery. Much of that is attributed to its excellent motor and by far the best transmission of the three. The Buell's aggressive layout with regard to handlebars, pegs, seat will pretty much negate any long distance touring, unless you're comfortable with the typical race replica ergos.
Page2When parked at the Burger Barn however, it's another story. This Buell is a looker! Mean and nasty. As for street practicality, it is, after all, a Harley and manages to keep up the reputation and weep little mysterious drops of oil from the cases. Also, forget about ever being able to make out anything in the rear view mirrors due to excessive vibration at low rpm, around town. The mirrors are clear and vibrations are well damped at highway speeds though.
"After all the laps and the somewhat harsh evaluations listed above, we were asked which bike we would choose overall. To each his own. And to that end, choosing a bike for all-around use, each bike came away as somebody's little darling."
The BMW is the looker of the three but on the track, it doesn't quite live up to the race claim of its name, and by the same token, its riding position means you'll need to stretch out every so often when churning out miles on the street. This is a shame, because most boxer twins are great sport tourers. Now, perhaps the most surprising bit of all.
Eric Bass chose the BMW RS1100S Randy Mamola Replika, forgiving its sluggish low-end for what you get out of the motor on top. Eric is an art lover and the BMW tantalizes with extremely clean, bold lines.
If Sean Alexander, fastest man on the track, had to choose, he would put the Buell XB12R in his garage. He thinks it's the fastest and most fun bike with the fewest compromises.
Fonzie, MO's Photographer + all around handy computer guy, graphics guru and handyman, diligently sat out the track sessions to capture our track comparison on film, rode the bikes in everyday street situations and came away with the nod going to the Ducati Multistrada. Comfort and the best of the three over a mixed bag of riding conditions made it the most attractive.
Jeff B picks the Ducati, hands-down. Saying: What it does (provide a comfortable, fun, good handling, well-engineered kick in the pants), it does better than the others. The engine, transmission, brakes and ergos are top notch.
The riding position gives you a bird's eye view of traffic ahead yet you can get down to business in the canyons if you like and hang onto the back end of many a GSXR. In my opinion we unfairly put this bike on a track and it came out none the worse for wear. Actually, it performed quite well. And assuming my transponder was working properly, it just goes to show, you can't judge a book by its cover.
|BMW R1100S Replika||Buell XB12R||Ducati Multistrada|
|Sean - 1:11.8||Sean - 1:10.2||Sean - 1:11.4|
|84.2Hp. @ 8,100rpm||89.8Hp. @ 6,700rpm||81.95Hp. @ 7,900rpm|
|Torque||61.9LbFt. @ 6,200rpm.||72.6LbFt. @ 5,750rpm.||61.3LbFt. @ 4,900rpm.|
|Claimed Dry Weight||485 lbs.||395 lbs.||441 lbs.|
|Overall Width||28.2 in.||28.2 in..||27.9 in.|
|Overall Length||85.8 in.||76.2||83.9 in.|
two-spark, 180 degree Boxer-twin, 4 valves per cylinder, cam-in-head valve actuation.
air/oil/fan-cooled, 45 degree V-twin, 2 valves per cylinder, pushrod valve actuation.
|992cc air-cooled, 90|
degree V-twin, 2 valves per cylinder, Desmodromic valve actuation.
|Bore x Stroke||99.0 x 70.5 mm||88.90 x 96.82 mm||94 x 71.5 mm|
|Rake||N/A||21 degrees||24 degrees|
|Brakes||Front BMW EVO, 4-piston calipers with dual 12.6-in. (320-mm) diameter rotors. Rear Single 11.2-in. (285-mm) diameter rotor with twin-piston caliper.||Front ZTL type brake, 6-piston, fixed caliper, 375 mm single-sided. Rear 240 mm stainless steel, single piston, floating caliper, fixed rotor.||Front brake 2x320 mm discs, 4-piston calipers. Rear brake 245 mm disc, 2-piston caliper.|
|Tires||Front tire 120/70ZR-17 tubeless. Rear tire 170/60ZR-17 tubeless.||Front Tire Dunlop D207FY 120/70 ZR-17 Rear Tire Dunlop D207FU 180/55 ZR-17.||Front tire 120/70 ZR 17. Rear tire 180/55 ZR 17.|
|Wheels||Front wheel 3.50 x 17 cast alloy. Rear wheel 5.00 x 17 cast alloy. 5.50 x 17 cast alloy on Boxer Cup Edition.||Front 6-spoke, ZTL™, cast aluminum; 3.5X17"; Translucent Amber Rear 6-spoke, cast aluminum; 5.5X17"; Translucent Amber.||Front wheel New 6-spoke design in light alloy 3.50x17. Rear wheel 5-spoke light alloy 5.50x17.|
|Fuel tank capacity||4.7 US gal Including 1.0-gallon reserve.||3.7 US gal. Including 0.7-gallon reserve.||5.3 US gal.|
|Color||Pacific Blue, Alpine White||Race Red, Midnight Black||Two Tone Grey, Black, Red, Metalic Grey|
|BMW R1100S Replika||Buell XB12R||Ducati Multistrada|
In-depth Q&A with the MO Staff
1.) What is Horse Thief Mile, and how does it relate to real-world roads?
Sean A: A winding ribbon of asphalt laid over a freshly cut serpentine dirt trail in the foothills above Willow Springs Raceway. Horse Thief Mile doesn't have any "real" straights, just curving sections of track connecting sharper corners. I don't see a direct correlation with "real" roads, because it is obviously a race track. I suppose it is tighter than average and has some blind corners which makes it a lot closer to Latigo Canyon than your average racetrack, but it isn't going to be mistaken for anything other than a racetrack.
Jeff B: Horse Thief mimics the feel of a typical back canyon run. There are no real straights and multiple elevation changes. Speeds are lower than most racetracks. Braking becomes crucial because of the added momentum of coming down a hill into corners, a good test of brake points and bike control. The track was designed to simulate a traditional canyon piece of road and they've succeeded.
"I found it to be a very unique track that will probably attract riders simply for the fact that there is nothing else quite like it." EBass: I found it to be a very unique track that will probably attract riders simply for the fact that there is nothing else quite like it. Relentlessly action packed with technically challenging elements such as constant elevation changes and visually concealed surprises such as the ninety degree kink at the end of the sweeper, or the second "hidden apex" that pinches off a decreasing radius bender. An excellent training ground for the would-be canyon carver who will undoubtedly be called upon to respond rapidly and assuredly without much information on what lies immediately ahead. Don't bring your liter bike here. You really only need three gears and to be honest, two would do just fine (and did on the Buell). With no straightaway to provide tension release (much like the aforementioned canyon) the intensity level remains relentlessly high both physically and mentally. The 115 degree temperatures don't help much either. I'm sure when the weather cools down that the infamous Willow Springs windstorms will make that decreasing radius nail-biter even more of an adventure as well. Honestly, at the end of our 20 minute sessions, I was toast, and I wasn't even pushing that hard! But a load of fun for sure.
Fonzie: It's a yet-to-be-named track. The latest project by Bill Huth - owner of Willow Springs Raceway Park. Designed to be most like actual street riding with blind curves, descending radius turns, and non-stop elevation changes. With hardly a straight-away, this hillside track is meant to emulate the canyon roads of Oregon and anywhere else you can find a twisty road - less the on coming traffic! The track does need some cleaning up for it to bring on a full scale race. However, the brand new asphalt is breaking up in spots so it does add more "street" realism to the course.
2.) Which bike was fastest on this racetrack? Why?
Sean A: Buell XB 12R. The Buell was the fastest, because it had the lightest weight, coupled with the best ground clearance and the most mid range thrust. The Buell felt solid and planted, giving more confidence everywhere, which translated into higher entry and exit speeds. Since Horse Thief is ALL entries and exits, the Buell was easily the fastest bike.
Jeff B: Buell XB 12R. It had the most usable power and its torque was a huge advantage in getting going out of tight corners, especially when an uphill followed. Top end felt the fastest with the Buell as well. Also, its design as a laid out sportbike made getting off the bike easier. I found a neutral between each gear at some point and several times from 2nd down into 1st, coming up empty handed into a corner, scary. Jap bikes have made us all very sloppy. (Later, after further analysis of the transponder data, we found out that Jeff actually went slightly faster on the Ducati than he did on the Buell. The following is a copy of his email to us, after we informed him of his correct lap-times.)
From: Jeff Buchanan
To: MO Staff
Well now, that's very interesting; fastest on the Duc! And that's with slowing down for right handers, because the pipe guard was making such a raspy, grating noise when it dragged on the ground.
I suppose I'm inclined to change my vote now, based on the stopwatch. I chose the Buell because it gave me the impression I was hauling whereas the Duc had me thinking I was tip-toeing around the track. So, as the President does with immunity all the time, I'm going to change my vote and go with the Ducati as best all around.
P.S. Are you sure the transponder guys were keeping accurate track of us -- maybe you're actually looking at Sean's results, instead of mine? He was hauling on the Duc.
EBass: Definitely the Buell. My time on this bike was taken on my first (extremely tentative) session but I went out on a fourth un-timed session later and surely smoked my earlier times. It needs to be taken into consideration that this was a very peculiar track that did not allow power or acceleration to enter into the equation much, if at all. The Buell had plenty of low end torque to get out of the corners and leaned better than the other two. Good ergos for hopping around from side to side. I did get a little handlebar jiggle under hard braking conditions after passing another rider. I'm not sure what the rationale is for leaving a steering damper off of a bike with such steep geometry, but I suppose Erik Buell must have his reasons. I also had the rear end go a little squirrelly on me when downshifting into a turn so you need to be at the bottom of the tach before throwing it into first. Speaking of shifting, the tranny feels like it was lubricated with Bazooka Bubble Gum. The gyroscopic force on the front wheel due to the wide diameter disc brakes makes it feel like it's made of granite at high speed, but on the tight track it gave it just enough stability. If it sounds like I'm complaining a lot, I don't mean to. The Buell was definitely the fastest bike for this track, and a fun bike with a few kinks to work out .
Fonzie: From my POV - behind the lens - it appeared that the Buell was the fastest, paired with Sean on top of it. Jeff is also a fast rider, but that's not important here.
3.) At the track, why was #2 second? How did it handle? What did it need in order to hang with #1?
"To hang with the Buell, the Multistrada would need stiffer springs, firmer damping and a more tightly tucked exhaust header." Sean A: The Ducati felt light and feathery. Unfortunately, it also felt vague and had terrible ground clearance issues with the exhaust heat shield on the right side. Even when hanging off far enough to drag my foot, shin and knee (see photos), the bike quickly made mincemeat out of the aluminum shield. But, the Multi Strada had far and away the best gearbox and brakes of these three bikes. You'd think that the upright ergos and tall/wide bars would give you the leverage to fling it around super motard like, but the long -soft suspension, caused the bike to get a little nervous when ridden aggressively. To hang with the Buell, the Multistrada would need stiffer springs, firmer damping and a more tightly tucked exhaust header. I believe THAT bike is called a Ducati Supersport 1000DS, I wish we could have gotten one for this test.
Jeff B: Believe it or not, I'd take the Ducati Multistrada 2nd. It has good power and great handling, even as an upright bike not really intended for track use. This must be a great bike on the street and in the canyons. The Ducati just isn't designed for any serious lean angle as we found out by mutilating the exhaust guard in right hand turns. I would be interested in comparing lap times against the Buell, for all I know I matched it on the Ducati. (After checking the timing computer, it turns out he actually WAS slightly faster on the Ducati.)
EBass: BMW R 1100S Replika. Although bulk and lack of torque just killed it coming out of the corners, its stability and smoothness in the turns was comforting on such a wicked course. The tranny was also a dream after coming down off the Buell. Unlike Sean and Jeff, I didn't have any problems with the brakes biting on me, but I had spent quite a bit of time on the bike prior to track day and they were on it for literally the first time. They do come on fast and hard but I was used to it. What did drive me nuts was the vibration in the bars. My hands were literally losing feeling by the end of my session. I would say that this was the wrong track for a big bike but the Beemer might have been more fun elsewhere.
4.) At the track, why was #3 mediocre, how did it handle, and what did it need in order to hang with the other two?
Sean A: BMW. The word "Truck" came immediately to mind, as soon as I exited pit lane on the BMW. The bike feels easily 200Lbs heavier than the Buell or Ducati. It also feels about a foot too long. Of course this makes the bike stable and on the street, it should inspire confidence. But, at a tight racetrack like this, there was no getting away from the feeling of managing a lot of weight and the thoughts of what would happen if it got away from you. The EVO ABS brakes are powerful, and I loved them on the K-1200GT, but on a bike with racetrack pretense, they make about as much sense as a screen door on a submarine. Here's a hint: "Racer's want to control the brake force themselves." The servo assisted BMW would go from light application to major WOAH! in about 0.1mm of lever travel. In a straight line this is not a big deal, but trail-braking the thing into a corner, had visions of tucked fronts dancing in my head. To hang with the Buell, the BMW would need +20HP, -100Lbs, another inch or two of ground clearance and a set of standard brakes.
Jeff B: BMW. The R 1100S just didn't blow my skirt up the way I thought it would, especially given its racer good looks. The BMW motor is too sluggish for me to feel anything other than slow on. Handling is superb, but you always have a lingering suspicion those expensive cylinder heads are just waiting to touch down as costly outriggers. The anti-lock brakes caught me out twice and I ran wide because I got spooked by the unnatural responses coming through the bike.
EBass: Ducati. The Duc was just cracking me up. It's not often that I hear things scraping when I ride, but I felt like I was ice skating on that bike. Just cruising along shifting back and forth from one foot to the other to the sound of screech, screech, screech. The seat height was so tall that my legs felt almost straight as I carved away at what was left of the pegs, brake lever, and heat shield after Sean was done literally "carving" the racetrack with them. At first, the bike felt utterly awkward but I settled into it fairly quickly and just had fun. The acceleration and braking were good, but sharp lean angles were strictly prohibited. I'm sure the tires had plenty more to give, but it just wasn't going to happen without losing some parts.
5.) Which bike did you like best on the street, why? What did it do "Average" What, if anything "Sucked" about it?
Sean A: Buell. Most nimble, most comfortable (for me), easiest to ride, best looking, nice and narrow for lane splitting, does fantastic wheelies! Average? Fuel range was just OK, Mirrors are quite good, not the best, but very usable when the bike isn't sitting at idle. OK comfort when two-up but a little cramped, with the passenger leaning a little too far forward. What sucked? The Buell had massive amounts of detonation, when the weather was hot and the bike was ridden hard, while running CA's 91 octane pump gas. On a hot day, the rear cylinder and exhaust header give off enough heat to cook the inside of my right thigh, while puttering around town, or stuck in traffic.
"Ducati. Power, comfort, handling. Best suited for street riding in general. What more could you ask for?"Jeff B: Ducati. Power, comfort, handling. Best suited for street riding in general. What more could you ask for? Average? Can't really think of anything. Sucked? The seat may get a little stiff on the bum on long rides. One session on the track couldn't really simulate any distance but I'd assume that's going to be the complaint.
Fonzie: Ducati. Handled the road surface better and had a loose / quicker turning response at low city speeds. Highway grooves are taken with stride and a bit less bump to the rear end. What's average? They're all different and making it hard to say. What Sucked? I guess if not being able to smoothly cruise the freeway at 90+ speeds is a sucking point - this bike sucked. Seriously, it did feel like a dirt bike with the higher seat and curved bars, but I didn't think that that sucked about it.
6.) Which bike did you like second best on the street? What, if anything, did it do "Better" than the others? What did it do that's just about "Average" here? What sucked about it on the street?
Sean A: Ducati. It has a commanding view of traffic, is roomy for riding two-up and easily has the best gearbox of the bunch. What's average about the Ducati? Well, the handling is nice and light, but there is a little too much flex and play in the chassis and soft suspension. Let me tell you what sucks about this Ducati: The mirrors are trash, they're small and awkwardly shaped. Like the mirrors on the 999, they have a very limited range of motion and don't stay aimed once adjusted. Ergos are a little funky, seat feels a little too low, bars a little too high with a bend that causes an awkward reach to the grips. My arms got tired fairly quickly when commuting on the Duc. The seat is angled a little too much, so you always feel like you are trying to slide into the tank, BUT the seat has a very grippy cover which makes your jeans stay behind, while you slide foreward, causing quite the serious wedgie.
Jeff B: BMW. Actually, for everyday street use I'd go against my earlier statement (track) and list the BMW Replika as my second favorite street bike. I would have to believe it's a lot more appropriate on the street, than it was on a racetrack. The BMW engineering is hard to question. The bike works well as a handler and has good brakes. The anti-lock system on the track was a bit disconcerting but would be nice for everyday traffic situations. Average? Once again, that powerplant. The sluggish response in a time of raspy 600cc's is hard to acquire a taste for. Sucked? Too many frame/body protrusions to get caught on.
Fonzie: Buell. It has to be the XB12R for the gusto! What it did best was launch off the line with that additional horsepower. Surely the best of the bikes for speed and torque and visibly the fastest during our testing. What's average about the Buell in this comparo, nothing average here. The only thing that "sucked" about the Buell, was that I got to ride this one the least. The other writers liked it too much to let it go!
7.) Overall, which bike would you pick for all-around street and track use?
Sean A: No doubt Buell XB-12R. It's a kick in the pants to ride and aside from heat issues, it works really nice in the real world too.
Jeff B: Ducati. Of the three bikes, I'd take the Multistrada. It does what it does best. It's comfortable, fast and fun.
EBass: BMW. I've gotta give my nod to the Beemer. It's slow and bulky off the line, but smooth and stable with an even and consistent powerband once up to speed. ABS is always welcome on my brake calipers. Also comfortable for longer trips (with the exception of the buzzy bars and high-pegs) and with an ample pillion underneath the tailpiece should a passenger care to tag along. As sinfully ugly as I consider the Rockster to be, the Replika is that gorgeous. A visual delicacy. Not a canyon carver, but for my style of riding, it'd be my pick of the litter.
Fonzie: Ducati. Having ridden these three bikes on the street/freeway only, I would pick the Ducati Multistrada. It's easy to turn and takes the road surface like a champ.
"Ducati. Of the three bikes, I'd take the Multistrada. It does what it does best. It's comfortable, fast and fun."
8.) Overall, what is your second pick good for, and what does it suck at?
Sean A: Ducati. The Multistrada would be perfect for two-up sport (adventure) touring, with the addition of some suspension work and a re-contoured seat. As delivered though, the stock seat has a funny angle, that grips your jeans while your body slides forward, causing the mother of all wedgies.
Jeff B: Buell. More than adequate on the track. Motor is fun. But wear earplugs otherwise you'll swear the engine and tranny are full of marbles and coming apart beneath you. Seriously. It sounds like a Briggs and Stratton lawnmower with a few bolts loose. What does it "suck" at? Long hauls.
EBass: Buell. A better bike for an aggressive rider. Very torquey and flickable. A great bike in tight slow turns. But just too quirky for my taste. Very cool looking when parked or in motion, the thing looks and feels like it's going to explode any second at idle with the turn signals flapping around like they're about to fly off. Surprisingly rideable for longer distances and less idiosyncratic once up to speed, it's just too demanding of my concentration in managing all of its little Buell-isms.
Fonzie: Buell. I like it for the color and accelleration! It's like a bullet from a gun. Riding position takes a moment to lock into, with its sporty ergos and very short wheelbase.
9.) Overall, what is your third pick good for, and what does it suck at?
Sean A: BMW. Un-comfortable on the street and none-too-rapid on the racetrack, the R-1100S is best left to those who want a showpiece to look pretty in their garage or living room. I think the Rockster would be just as fast on the track and WAY more comfortable on the street.
Jeff B: BMW. Sorry, the thing looks bitchin. But I just couldn't get the thing going and my feet and ankles seemed to hang up on every piece of hardware. The BMW had me sweating by lap three and my body felt like it'd been through the gym. I have new respect for the people who are racing the Boxer Cup. It must be a workout.
EBass: Ducati. In my opinion, this bike was designed for a particular terrain, that being poorly conditioned country roads. It's probably great for that, and if you live somewhere with a preponderance of those sorts of routes you should run out and buy one post haste. Otherwise, it's just too tall. I mean dirt bike, gimme a ladder tall. The seat is hard as, well a Ducati seat, and the bike is neither well suited to long straight freeway miles, nor super aggressive cornering.
Sean A: #1 In this group the Buell stands out as the most fun motorcycle with the fewest compromises and the highest performance. It is well behaved, nimble and surprisingly comfortable. #2 The Ducati has a lot of potential but suffers from a disjointed feeling and ergos that could use a little fine tuning. #3The BMW brings up the rear, with an extra 100Lbs, mis-sorted ergos, buzzy grips on the freeway, mediocre performance and a steep price.
Jeff B: #1 Ducati. Looks, comfort, engine/tranny. It's new. Perhaps the most practical bike of the three for everyday riding/commuting and could actually make you climax in the canyons. You could chase GSXRs all day long in the canyons then put bags on it and take off up the coast. #2 Buell. Kind of racy. Sounds cool. Plenty of pull with the motor. Vibration would probably get old, trying to hang onto the bars for long stretches and never being able to make out a single object in the mirror. Front brake is awesome, could probably throw you over the bars if you weren't careful. That HD motor is just too antiquated to get very excited about. #3 The BMW isn't as comfortable as I would have expected from first impression. Great looks. Who knows? Maybe with some getting used to I might actually learn to love it. But from my one track session I was looking forward to the next bike. Please note that Arthur Coldwells, Publisher of Robb Report Motorcycling rode the BMW and has decided to buy one. So what the hell do I know?
Fonzie: #1 Ducati. Having only ridden these bikes locally, I would have to suggest giving the Multistrada a second look. I read that a lot of you dislike the look of the fairing, but it's the best of three for a mixed bag of riding conditions. The ability to take some luggage and a second rider is good. The upright riding position is good for the long road trip, but then again the Buell and BMW both would get you there faster, so... #2 The Buell would be pick of the litter, if I needed speed all the time. Built to deliver, the XB12R gives more torque and power than the other bikes. #3 The BMW Replika wins the prize for looking the fastest, but drops out of the race when put up against the Buell on the racetrack, or the Ducati on the streets of LA.