Buell Firebolt XB9R — Motorbikes Reviews, News & Advice — bikepoint.com.au

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Buell Firebolt XB9R

Buell Firebolt XB9R 2002)

Can an air-cooled, pushrod, V-twin be considered a state-of-the-art Buell reckons its Firebolt can

not often a whizbang new sportsbike is with a claimed horsepower lower than the model superseding.

And when the claimed is over 25 percent more on the old than the new kid on the block, you’ve start asking questions! Buell have designed its vaunted XB9R Firebolt for rather than punters.

Is go to match the show? Can a two-valve, pushrod powerplant be a serious in a modern-day sportsbike? Are the Buell serious with a 7500rpm rev — a zone when sportsbikes are just getting their stride?

You betcha are.

Second place in the Daytona Pro Thunder event a Ducati) proves it. And a particularly large jungle cat at the recent Firebolt launch on the Gold confirms it.

Mess with a on anything other than a straight road and you could end up well and truly mauled!


This was one new motorcycle I was looking forward to sampling, since AMCN featured details of the XB9R Firebolt in Vol 51 No 1 in July last year.

all, the last time I something with a 21-degree and 83mm of trail it was laden vegies in my local Safeway. you, the loaded shopping probably weighed more the Firebolt’s claimed 175kg, and had a wheelbase to boot.

The XB9R is a tiny 1320mm axle to axle — a 55cm shorter than my Crikey, if you fall in love one you could take it to bed, it under the doona, and no-one know.

That minuteness aroused my inquisitiveness — I be able to fit on the damn thing?


My chance for Firebolt came on Queensland’s Gold and a thorough sampling it was too. was a full ‘trackday’ at the Holden Training Centre at Norwell, by a half-day of BattleTrax in the Seaworld (see accompanying panel), a road ride into the around Canungra and Mount More than enough to put the through its paces.

The Norwell is a very tight and somewhat venue, with plenty of braking and second-gear corners, and a sweeping back ‘straight’ really a continuous lefthand that requires decently-sized to take flat out — when the bumps have the footpeg and undercarriage digging out of tarmac. Well, at least on the M2 Cyclones and X1s that were in attendance.

The XB9R however had no concerns, as it has clearance to spare. I got to hang up at all, even my, errr, slightly porky compressing the suspension more so some of the flyweight testers in (although the Buell technicians adjusted each bike’s to suit each rider’s kg a nice touch).


The day’s fang at also put to rest any concerns the XB9R’s straightline stability I never experienced a single And the same went for the following road ride.

If someone had me that beforehand about a with 21-degree rake and trail, I would have in the men in the white coats.

Where dimensions really came to the was on the BattleTrax course, and although I manage an official timed run on the (my timed runs were all on a I have no doubt that the was the nimblest bike on offer.

I did get a of practice laps in on the Firebolt to the timed sessions commencing, and easy to understand why the fastest of the morning were set by riders on

And it’s not just the nimbleness important in BattleTrax. Throttle clutch feel and brake are just as important — all points of the XB9R.


Speaking of brakes, that front rotor will get some looks at the local I’m not fully sold on all theories as to why it’s supposed to be (hey, when I see one on Valentino’s or Troy’s 998R I’ll to believe. ), but it’s certainly no than a traditional set-up.

I can’t see how you can reduce unsprung and reduce gyroscopic effect by a bigger rotor on the outside of the wheel. However, it looks and performs no worse than a single or twin disc so who am I to argue.

In fact can’t anyone outbraking me at Norwell, with my additional ballast, and I Bracksy was the only one who stopped in the Seaworld carpark. Err, his bike did at least.


My aforementioned excess Christmas pud a total negative though, as it in handy for comparative purposes. You in most of my Norwell sessions I up on the track with old sparring Martin Hone, who at some lighter had a distinct advantage in the stakes.

If I rode my knackers off and ‘baulk’ tactics I could A-grader Marty off for a few laps, but he’d snuck by there was no way I haul him back in. Well, when he ran wide at the hairpin a of times, eh Marty!

He would pull a couple of bike on me on to the back ‘straight’ each courtesy of that 22kg discrepancy.

But things surprisingly around when I was Buell X1 Despite the extra 25kg of the X1 the XB9R (or 47kg if you add me to the equation as the greater power and torque of the model’s 1200cc Sportster helped keep Marty at even if I had less cornering and nimbleness to play with. I I was taking up more of the track as on the X1, so it made it harder for Marty to a gap to get by.


So yes, Marty as my yardstick, I lapped faster on the X1 than I did on the XB9R, he concurs with. Strange but And I guess that leaves me a perplexed, as I would’ve thought the new should’ve made mincemeat out of the X1 on a tight track like

Buell Firebolt XB9R

The Firebolt has better suspension, a chassis, greater cornering grippier rubber and better the latter also helped by the lighter weight. It is a far better package than the X1 it is replacing.

One factor to the confusing laptimes may been the different gearing of the two as I have to admit to hitting the hard-action 7500rpm revlimiter a of times when looking for drive on to the back straight. was too high, but second a tad low, me to run out of revs too soon.

Mind when the next cog slotted in over 7K on the dial, it was enough for the end to get light and give a quick through the bars as the XB9R


The road ride was of the same, with the Firebolt’s observed at Norwell also to the fore in the Gold Coast — manoeuvrability, nimbleness and of use.

That latter is an extremely important one, as the isn’t an intimidating motorcycle to — either fast or The chassis holds no nasty at ‘go to …’ speeds, the quick 250GP-like stats, yet the is one that allows congested usage without copious or cog swapping. And its a far smoother powerplant the old 1200 Sporty-sourced donk.

I found the Firebolt more on the open road to play the gearbox (a far smoother shifter that of the X1) and keep the engine say between 4000-7000rpm. But then, also like another 20

However, it is a 1000cc V-twin, so you can and keep things below for a more relaxed ride if your chosen demeanour.

One the road ride did amplify was the of room offered on such a bike for someone with a frame, and the rational riding for such a small and sporty I certainly wasn’t cramped.


Despite two days of the most usage possible, I’m having trouble working out the XB9R fits in the marketplace. that’s a good thing, as it up the potential market.

It’s not an competitor for Ducati’s desmo-quattro of 998 sportsbikes, nor is it a challenger for the Japanese rocketships, despite being in price category.

No, at $17,995 I the Firebolt goes up against like Aprilia’s $18,975 BMW’s $17,820 R1100 S, own $18,299 X1, Ducati’s $16,495 and perhaps the $18,495 S4 Monster, and $15,995 Speed Triple.

again, the XB9R may well be in a of its own. Not many bikes can get on the at Daytona one day, and fang your local Seaworld the next.

It’s been a time since we’ve such an innovative motorcycle.

Ken Wootton

Photos: Barry and KW

Published. Monday, 29 April

Buell Firebolt XB9R

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