For 26 years, Buell motorcycles have inspired love or loathing. Announcements of the brand's demise back in October were especially painful for those who genuinely loved it. The only good news for Buell fans comes in the form of plummeting prices on any remaining new ones. As we were going to press, you could pick up an '09 1125CR for about $6000-nearly half off the original $11,695 asking price. Like buying a new Saturn, Buell ownership comes with potential parts and service challenges down the road, but parent company Harley-Davidson isn't going anywhere, and has pledged to provide parts and warranty support. It's also a lot easier to forgive or fix a few flaws with an extra $5000 in your pocket.
Buell recalled 140 '09 models to replace the rear cylinder's cam-chain tensioner guide before it shed enough plastic bits to clog the oil-pump screen and potentially seize the engine, so rule that out first. Any Café Racer suffers from abrupt throttle response in first and second gear on a tight road. Otherwise, the ignition/injection wrinkles that came with the Rotax-built twin in first-year 1125Rs-hard starting, dismal fuel mileage, excess heat and rough running at low revs-have been ironed out of the CR. Power is plentiful between 6000 rpm and the redline at 10,500, and thanks to lower overall gearing than the fully faired R, easier to use on the street.
The compact ergonomic equation can turn into a pain if you're tall, and wind protection is ... well, there isn't any. Aside from some buzz through the seat and pegs at high revs, the 72-degree V-twin is surprisingly smooth. And as with most Buell products, handling can be something of an acquired taste. Racer-like steering geometry and a short wheelbase make steering ultra-quick, even a bit nervous unless your inputs are smooth. So relax. The single six-piston front caliper and perimeter rotor are a bit short on initial bite, but stop the CR plenty quickly with a determined squeeze. Stock suspension can be a bit harsh over rough pavement, especially the shock, but wick it up on a nicely maintained back road and the last Buell is hard to fault. If that liquid-cooled Austrian engine makes you nervous, there are screaming deals to be had on models powered by the good, old, air-cooled, American Harley-Davidson Sportster twin. We've seen leftover XB12R Firebolts advertised for less than $5000.
Regardless of how you feel about Erik Buell or his motor-cycles, their disappearance from the motorcycling landscape is sad. If you're so inclined, take what consolation you can from owning a spanky-new Buell for less than you'd pay for another insipid used bike.
Avant-garde American engineering at fire-sale prices.
Quirky handling and potentially scarce parts/service over time.
Dealers unwilling or unable to support you in the future.
Still not for everybody, but hard to pass up if you find one at the right price.
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