Buell Motorcycles, an American motorcycle manufacturer founded by former racer and Harley-Davidson research-and-development staffer Eric Buell, began introducing racing bikes to the market 1982. Harley-Davidson acquired a minority interest in the company in 1993 and bought a controlling share five years later. At the end of 2009, in response to the global recession, Harley-Davidson shut the Buell subsidiary down, effectively putting an end to the unique motorcycle company’s sport-oriented line. In 2002 Buell introduced its first aluminum-frame motorcycle, the Firebolt XB9R, which remained in production through 2004. The company debuted its sibling, the Firebolt XB12R, a naked bike, in 2003. The 2009 Firebolt XB12R model was a carryover.
The Firebolt used a somewhat modified Harley-Davidson Sportster 1203cc, air-and-oil-cooled, V-twin four-stroke engine, which produces 103 horsepower at 6800 RPMs and plenty of torque. The engine has a pushrod valve configuration and fuel injection. Its five-speed manual transmission works with a wet multi-plate clutch, a chain primary drive and a belt final drive. A Showa inverted fork with adjustable preload and rebound damping and a twin-sided swing arm – which contains the engine’s oil – with a single spring preload adjustable shock and rebound damping offer an overall firm suspension. Buell upgraded the Firebolt’s brakes this model year, giving it the same four-pad and eight-piston front brake used on its racing bike, the 1125R.
The naked bike, which weighs just 395 pounds dry, gets high marks for ease of handling and responsive steering. The overall design puts the weight low in the chassis, which makes the bike feel lighter than it is. Its aluminum frame was one of the innovative ways Buell dealt with weight distribution: it acts as the fuel tank, too. The bike has up-to-date digital instrumentation too – complete with a clock, fuel warning light, speedometer, odometer, and tachometer.
Dozens of options were available for the Firebolt XB12R, ranging from heated hand grips to an assortment of seats, alternative footrests for driver and passenger, and tinted or clear windshields.