Buell rolls out the dual sport Ulysses XB12X — latimes.com

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Buell Ulysses XB12X

Buell rolls out the dual sport Ulysses XB12X

By Susan Carpenter

April 9, 2008

In bringing the newest Ulysses to market, Erik Buell has lived quite the odyssey — from farm boy to Superbike racer to Harley-Davidson engineer to Buell Motorcycle Co. founder, chairman and chief technical officer.

It’s been 25 years since Buell’s name first doubled as a marque, and in that time his company has birthed 22 different motorcycles. Some, including the long-standing Blast beginner’s bike, have been hits. Others, such as the X1 streetfighter were misses.

Its latest, the Ulysses XB12XT, falls somewhere in between.

As the name suggests, a T is the only difference between the new Ulysses and the Ulysses XB12X, upon which it is based. Buell’s new adventure sport tourer is a go-the-distance model for riders who aren’t likely to brave gravel. Geared up with 32 gallons of luggage space and an on-street tire and suspension package that would rather rear up and neigh than ride over a log, the new Ulysses is a dual sport without dirt as its destination.

It’s also a bike that isn’t quite as epic as its engineers probably hoped. It isn’t a Greek tragedy, but it’s a little bit off in a bunch of different ways, and that distracts from the big picture of what this bike is for: indulging itinerant tendencies and penchants for stunning views.

The Ulysses tourer employs Buell’s usual trilogy of technology: mass centralization, low unsprung weight and chassis rigidity. The fuel is stored in the frame, the brake rotors are mounted directly to the rims and the motor bears at least some of the burdens of the frame as a stressed member.


Like all of Buell’s XB platform bikes, the XB12XT is powered by a 45-degree V-twin Thunderstorm engine that creates enough power and torque to inspire a dopey grin. And, like many V-twins, it vibrates. The 1,203 cc XB12XT vibes through the handlebars from 1,000 to 3,500 rpm and, more unusually, via the foot pegs from about 4,000 rpm.

The slight handlebar shimmy wasn’t an issue since most of my riding was at 3,500 rpm or higher, but the foot pegs are angled slightly downward toward the front, causing my feet to jiggle forward until my boots were resting on their middles. I had to make a conscious effort to rest my toes on the pegs at higher rpm, otherwise they’d slide forward. Eventually, I just decided to cruise whenever possible at about 3,700 rpm.

I also experienced a sizzling right hamstring issue. That surprised me since, like all Buell bikes, the exhaust is underslung.

Additionally, I had an issue with the luggage, which was spacious — but also bulbous and ugly. On the plus side, the Ulysses tourer provides some nice comforts, such as heated grips, a knob to adjust the rear spring preload and a windscreen that’s 4 inches taller than that of its on- and off-road older brother, the XB12X.

The seat is also broader and lower than it was in 2006, when the first Ulysses was introduced. What started as a 33.1-inch saddle has consistently drawn complaints and, as a result, was lowered each year. It is now a reasonable 30.7 inches from the ground, allowing shorter-legged riders to reach the pavement but also Daddy Long Legs to remain comfortable, since the distance from seat to foot pegs is the same as it was with the taller seat.

So, Buell’s silver-anniversary addition to its lineup isn’t perfect. But the company’s longevity probably buys it the chance to eventually get things right.

2008 Buell Ulysses XB12XT

Base price: $12,995

Powertrain: Air/oil/fan-cooled, fuel-injected, four-stroke, 45-degree V-twin, OHV, two valves per cylinder, 5-speed

Displacement: 1,203 cc

Maximum torque: 84 pound-feet at 6,000 rpm

Maximum horsepower: 103 at 6,800 rpm

Seat height: 30.7 inches

Buell Ulysses XB12X

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