Streetfighter Shootout

Buell XB12S :: MV Agusta Brutale S :: Apilia Tuono 1000 R

Page 3

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Da Winner: Buell XB-12S

Martin on the Buell XB-12S: It's got fuel in the frame, oil in the swingarm, rim-mounted brake rotors, and an under-slung exhaust with its own home-grown version of a power valve. It's got a revved up Sportster engine that shakes, runs hot, and is cooled by a fan that sounds like it came from an air boat when it cuts on (which is a lot). The throw from first to second gear is about a yard. The seating position is so far out over the front end that it's like riding a unicycle. It's a rollicking redneck of a motorcycle that's as funky and discombobulated as a hot southern belle working on a plug of Skoal. It's my favorite bike of the three. Yeah, yeah, I can already hear the Buell bashing nimrods out there firing up their dialups to light me up for proclaiming that the Buell wins this test hands-down. Get a life boys, and then we'll talk. Oh yeah, and Johnny B. you are once again a sage in my book. I don't know what came over me.

In a word, this bike is FUN!I have previously had the opportunity to take an extended test ride of an XB9R Thunderbolt and liked it a lot. The XB9 is a torquey little monster that turns so quick, that I would swear it steered from both ends. The only issues I had with the 9R Thunderbolt were radical ergonomics (very high and rearward pegs and very low clip on's) and lack of adequate power for extended sorties on the open road. The Lightning variants - XB9S and XB12S have much more upright and humane ergonomics. Even though the Lightning is small, like the Brutale, it does not require as much of a custom fit from the rider. To address the lack go power in the XB9, the motor on the XB12 is a standard displacement version of the 9's de-stroked fuel-injected air and oil-cooled, 45 degree V-Twin. The 12 is the same motor, that's been re-stroked from 3.125 inches back up to 3.812 inches for a total displacement of 1203cc. The throttle body diameter was upped to 49mm on the XB12 and a stiffer clutch spring and new drive belt are bolted on to handle the demands of the bigger engine. The primary drive ratio was lowered a little, but the gear ratios in the five-speed tranny remain unchanged between the two models.

This little bike rocks! It has the best visual flow, the easiest to read instruments, the easiest to loft front wheel, the best brakes and the most attitude. In a word, this bike is FUN! While not quite Michelangelo's David on wheels like the Brutale, or in possession of the low-flying F-104 Starfighter motif of the Tuono, the XB-12S rises to the front of the pack based on overall competence, uniqueness, and a throw-down demeanor. This is the only bike of the three I'd buy with my own money and once I bought it, I wouldn't change a thing. The only concern that I'd have, is that the hot running motor may potentially grenade on down the road, but I'll take my chances.

The Buell's very short wheelbase makes for a bike that changes direction lightning quick - almost before you think about it. Amazingly, it's not only quick steering, but also stable as all get out, though every corner in which I stuck it. The suspension is well sorted no matter what one of our outsized testers maintained (remember, bro, right hand = go).

Back when he was welding battleship hulls, Clint never imagined he'd ever ride a true "Rebel" motorcycle The only thing that takes a little getting used to, is the initially disconcerting feeling that you are riding way out on the nose cone of a low-flying missile, since there is essentially nothing in front of you to interrupt the scenery. It's yet another unique feature of a very unique bike. More than any other motorcycle I've ridden, you sit almost completely on top of the Buell rather than down in it. There is very little rise to the cowl that covers the air box in front of you. The instrument cluster sits unobtrusively behind a vestigial fairing low on the horizon. The fact that the instrument cluster is unobtrusive, however, does not mean that it is at all hard to read. In fact, this bike gets major kudos for having the most intuitive and easy to read instruments of the whole lot. The mirrors shake a little (but then again so does the whole bike), but about the only time things get really blurry is when you let out the clutch a little too fast and the flywheel reminds you that it's there by propelling the bike forward in a manner reminiscent of the Millennium Falcon jumping into hyperspace.

I was prepared to like the Buell, but not as much as I actually did, especially amongst what would seem to be overmatched company. However, the Buell excelled at everything I asked it to do. It is good on the freeway, good at quick direction changes, good in tight turns, stable in sweepers, stops on a dime, wheelies at the drop of a dime, and is a hooligan extraordinaire. I think the styling, color scheme and trim are all tremendous. Furthermore, it's far and away the biggest bang for the buck in this crowd. It's not well suited to be the only bike in your garage, but then again, neither are the others. I want one. -Martin

Buzz on the Buell XB-12S: I've ridden the old tube frame Buells and they always seemed like a kit bike although the old "manta ray" gas tank was cool. The new XB nails it on styling and in the details. There are no chinzy bits anywhere on this machine. Even the little things like brackets and clips and such are of the highest quality. The Buell feels purposeful and right the moment you swing a leg over it.

The Buell is so easy to ride fast in the twisties. The engine is quiet as a church mouse and the bike just tracks and sticks, you can lean it waaaay over and there is no drama whatsoever. The XB makes instant torque right off idle. With so much torque at such low revs, the Buell will wheelie standing still. It's just stupid fun to bump the front wheel in the air and you don't even have to clutch it up. Twist, wheelie, giggle. In the beginning, I kept banging off the rev limiter trying to keep up with Sean on the Aprilia. You have to remind yourself to run a gear taller than you think you should. The torque surge comes on strong at 2,000 RPM and catapults this little XB forward effortlessly.

The Buell is so easy to ride fast in the twisties. The engine is as quiet as a church mouse (this is a Harley?) and the chassis just tracks and sticks, you can lean it waaaay over and there is no drama whatsoever. I've read all the "stand up on the brakes" drivel and it never became an issue. Trust me MOFOs, your riding skills are much closer to mine and a lot farther from magazine hot shoes like Sean or Cycle World's Don Canet. -Buzz

George on the Buell XB-12S: This bike was an enigma for me. It was two bikes in one on this test. I really wanted to love this bike. Being a card-carrying member of the GPTB had me wanting the Buell to kick ass on the others. I had never ridden a Buell before, and was looking forward to wringing out this little hooligan. Looking at it in the MO garage, it just looks purposeful and high quality. Only the equipment necessary for forward motion is here, but nothing more. It's the proverbial engine and two wheels.

I was used to the longer throw of the shifter, so I never missed a shift, and the seating position was not as uncomfortable as I suspected it would be. It shakes a bit at idle, but the vibration at speed was only strong enough to know you had a motorcycle under you.The Sportster based mill looked mean, and ready. The first disappointment was when Sean started it in the parking lot. It sounded a lot like a weed whacker....with asthma. This was hardly the hooligan I'd imagined. I couldn't believe the bike sounded that lame at idle. This is practically a Harley, damn it, and I want some NOISE! Revving it up made it sound a bit better, but the Buell certainly needs big time help in the aural department. The next downer was the seat time I had on day one. I had ridden the other two bikes before I got on the Buell, and from the minute I got on the bike, nothing felt right. It was mostly some fast city streets with a freeway shot thrown in. To me, it seemed to wander and couldn't hold a line on the long, fast sweepers we were taking, and it felt very unstable. In chase mode, I was bouncing off the rev limiter in every gear, and I was just generally chafing at every contact of this bike and me. On a little freeway jaunt to Long Beach, I hit a sharp edged bump, and both feet flew off the pegs. By the time we stopped, I was telling everyone within earshot how much I disliked the Buell.

Some things that didn't suck, were the shifting and the riding position. I was used to the longer throw of the shifter, so I never missed a shift, and the seating position was not as uncomfortable as I suspected it would be. It shakes a bit at idle, but the vibration at speed was only strong enough to know you had a motorcycle under you.

Boys will be boys... So, by the time we reached Long Beach on day one, I wanted to hate this bike. "This thing sucks!" I snapped at Buzz. I calmed down a bit, and talked to the others about the Buell, and found out the little bugger really dislikes heavy guys with ham-fisted inputs. They advised slowing my inputs down, and giving it another chance on the mountain roads. Suddenly, on day two, the Buell started to come into its own, or did I come into my own? No matter. Out on the tight twisties and long sweepers, with a lighter input, and finally short shifting the beast, it started to handle, and ride, much better. It virtually disappears beneath the rider. The motor pulls from the bottom like no other here, and it ate up corners like a kid eats candy on Halloween. Nail the throttle at almost any speed and the front end gets light and the fun starts. The engine revs quickly for a big twin, and if you keep the shifter moving quickly, the Buell keeps pace with the others. It's the slowest bike here, but not by much. By the end of the second day, the Buell made me smile again. It seemed the more seat time I got, the better I liked it.

I wanted to love this bike again, but wait. All was not perfect. I could still upset the chassis pretty easily, and I think I was just overwhelming the suspension. Taking a visual sag test, told me the bike certainly was not set up for me. I'm not sure if I could have gotten things to work better. I would have liked to play with suspension settings a bit, but alas, my time was up, and I may have to find more seat time on a Buell to satisfy my curiosity. I found out Buell is an acquired taste, much like a Guinness, or single malt scotch. They both are different and a bit harsh at first, but down a few more and all is well. I think the reason the Buells have such a bad reputation, is the rider just doesn't get enough time to understand how this bike works. It is certainly the best "Sportster" I ever rode. My opinion on day one was drastically different from day two. It was a tale of two bikes. If the Buell had the suspension setup that I needed, and an exhaust can that was capable of making the right noises, I might have rated it first. But it didn't, and I didn't. -George

Sean on the Buell XB-12S: Here boy! ::whistle:: come on boy! Aw! That's a good boy! Man this is a great bike I tell you. It feels like the world's biggest/fastest Schwinn Stingray. When you ride the Buell after the other bikes, it is amazing how smooth and easy the bike is to hustle. It's true that it doesn't want to rev past 6,750RPM and it's true that the gearbox is somewhat "agricultural", but the bike just plain "works" when you are deliberate with your shifts and you remember to make them before the rev limiter.

Buzz decided to test Sean's reflexes, so he parked his Brutale like a bicycle in the Editor's bike rack. That big Harley lump between the modern frame rails does shake the bike like a can of paint, but as soon as the revs rise above idle, the shaking mysteriously vanishes and the engine becomes every bit as smooth as more "modern" designs. The XB-12's fuel injection allows for smooth and linear power delivery, though the bike does stumble and cough on occasion when blipping the throttle from idle. Overall though, I'd say the tiny chassis and giant engine are a good match. Together, they provide a lively, responsive and most importantly a "fun" package to use on city streets and twisty backroads. Things aren't too shabby on the open road either, since the bike is quite stable and the riding position allows the rider to sit in a relaxed yet effective position. My only complaint for extended straight-line droning would be that the pegs fold your legs tightly under the seat, just like a full-on supersport.

Parking lot maneuvers and quick direction changes are a joy on this bike, thanks to a stiff and responsive chassis, coupled to an upright riding position and wide bars. The Buell gives its rider the impression of surfing over the asphalt, thanks to the fact that you can't actually see the bike underneath you. The bottom of a tall rider's line of sight falls immediately in front on the front tire and the total impression is like riding on a highly maneuverable magic carpet. The Tuono begs you to ride it, based on its good times hooligan coolness, while the Buell begs you to ride it for its friendly nature, effortless handling and general hop-on-and-go accessibility. If I had a multi bike quiver, I suspect the XB-12S would be the bike I choose for my around-town and tight canyon rides. -Sean

In Closing

According to the Votes, the Buell wins, followed by the Tuono and the MV. IF the Tuono hadn't suffered from an under-damped suspension and a wonky rear tire, it would have won, but not by as much as we first suspected. Even with a healthy Tuono, the outstanding XB-12S would have been nipping at its heels throughout this test. The MV on the other hand seems to be aimed at hard-core stunters and hooligans. However, "real" hooligans tend to ride ragged-out second hand GSX-Rs and CBRs, because they can't afford exotic Italian bikes. Looks like the MV is destined to be a garage ornament for the rich and famous.

Stay Tuned, for part two of Lifestyles of the Naked and Irresponsible, where we look foreward to pitting the victorious Buell XB-12S against the new Triumph 1050 Speed Triple and the ever practical Yamaha FZ-1. Triumph says the 1050s should be available in the spring.


Aprilia Tuono R Buell XB12S MV Agusta Brutale S
Liquid-cooled 60° DOHC V-twin four valves per cylinder

Air / oil / fan-cooled, 4-stroke, 1203 cc 45° Pushrod V-Twin

Liquid-cooled DOHC 16 Valve per cylinder Inline Four
Horse Power
118.27HP @ 9,000RPM

88.43HP @ 7,000RPM

107.19HP @ 10,750RPM
74.07LbFt @ 6,750RPM

72.08LbFt @ 5,750RPM

51.66LbFt @ 10,750RPM
$ 11,999

$ 10,495

$ 13,995



View all VideosPHOTOS & VIDEOS

Get in your Inbox