Buell Ulysses XB12X
Ringleader: Aaron Frank
Average Fuel Mileage: 38.3 mpg
Accessories & Modifications: None yet, but the accessory hard-case luggage, Quest on-board GPS navigation system and tall windscreen are on order.
After four years on all things sportbike while editing our sister publication Super Streetbike, I made it a point to look beyond racer replicas when it came time to pick a new long-term tester here at Motorcyclist. A surge of home-state pride had me eyeballing Buell's lineup, where my orbs landed on the American sportbike-cum-adventure-tourer Ulysses XB12X. An honest-to-goodness handlebar? Mirrors that actually work? A saddle not designed by the Guantanamo Bay Department of Ergonomics? Yes, please, and in Barricade Orange.
I had just one riding day between taking delivery and meeting this deadline, a day spent in the company of the Wisconsin Sportriders. The WiSpr crew was characteristically cruel when I showed up Sunday morning sans-GSX-R750, on a bike they unfairly dubbed "Uglysses S. Buell." But they quieted down once they saw how much air the XB12X gets when bermed off a raised median, or later when the grab rail was used to tug an out-of-gas ZX-10R rider to the nearest station. If nothing else, the tall, torquey twin makes a great tow truck.
In a gaggle of Gixxers, the Ulysses was way over its head. With just 84 horsepower from the 1203cc, air/oil/fan-cooled Thunderstorm V-twin, it isn't overwhelmingly fast, and the combination of big front brake, soft fork and block-pattern Pirelli Scorpion Sync tires put the "adventure" in "adventure touring" on southwestern Wisconsin's fast-and-flowing county highways.
So I peeled off from the group just beyond Baraboo and went my own way-which is when I learned to stop worrying and love the Buell. Dial the speeds down a few clicks and everything suddenly makes sense. Moving more slowly, I ventured beyond the lettered county highways onto the beat-down, one-lane farm roads that crisscross Wisconsin's Driftless area. In these environs, the Uly rocked. The extra suspension travel devoured bottomless potholes, the tall stance let me see around and over every obstacle on the unfamiliar roads, and the high, wide bar allowed me to lever effortlessly around anything animal, vegetable or mineral that popped up in my path. But best of all was the torque-rich motor: Overworked at open-class speeds, here it never needed shifting. Just roll in and out of the throttle for immediate forward motion, instantly lofting the front wheel over the slightest rise for endless smiles. Buell just might have built the ultimate back-back-road bike.
Ducati Multistrada 1000 Ds
Average Fuel Mileage: 37 mpg
Accessories & Modifications: Ducati Performance mirrors
Talk about your random chain of events... One day while out testing the Ducati Multistrada 1100 and Triumph Tiger 1050 for this month's comparison test, Barry Burke had a little, um, incident. You can't really call it a crash, because while he was riding a bike, he wasn't riding the bike that got wadded-in fact, no one was. To hear Barry tell it (and it was funnier when he was telling it), he was pulling out into the road on the Triumph when its saddlebag clonked the Ducati, which tipped over and slid headlong down a hillside.
That broke one of the Ducati's mirrors and scratched its fairing, right-side saddlebag and the day's photo shoot. Fortunately, we had our long-term Multistrada 1000 from which to steal a replacement mirror. And even more fortuitously, we already had a set of Ducati Performance mirrors in-house, which we promptly installed on our long-termer.
Mind you, there's nothing really wrong with the stock mirrors. People are the problem. Riders who don't know the mirror glass moves independent of the housing tend to grab the whole thing and force it one way or another, after which it rattles loose on its stalk. That probably wouldn't happen on a private party's bike, because he'd be the only one who rode it. But here at the magazine bikes get passed around like joints at a Grateful Dead concert, so the mirrors get broken.
Because the Multi's mirrors incorporate the front turn signals, installing them entails more than merely tightening the nuts-there's also a bit of wiring to be run and some connectors to be connected. The DP mirrors are conventional in that the glass and housing move as a unit, but their appearance is anything but conventional thanks to their shiny black finish and tapered, aerodynamic contour. The rearward view is bigger and better, too. Mind you at $139.60 apiece they ain't cheap. If Barry knocks over this Multistrada, he's gonna be testing for ATV Rider.