Broiled on a Buell

Great test ride on an ’08 XB12S ends in pain

After several months without a go-fast machine, I found myself in a particular mood one fine spring day. I’ve come to know this mood as the “must reach high speed quickly or risk flailing around for months mood.” I’ve found when I’ve tried to ignore the mood I end up…well, flailing around aimlessly, unable to enjoy riding. On the other hand, I’ve also found it’s easily cured by a 15 or 20 minute ride on a sporting motorcycle.

As luck would have it, Buell happened to be running a promotion–test ride a motorcycle, get a free gear lock. Perfect. I needed a gear lock (especially a free one) and I needed to get past the mood. I figured I’d go help some poor salesman make his quota and get free stuff–a win for all concerned.

Being an adventure-riding kinda guy now I was sorely tempted to go test the Ulysses as I think it could be among the short list of perfect bikes for me and is definitely on the VERY long list of very good bikes I’d really enjoy riding. Since I was in THE MOOD, though, I decided to go for something a little sportier. The salesman told me I could sample anything on the floor, so I chose an ’08 XB12S (I’ve always had a thing for naked/streetfighter style bikes).

This particular XB was red with a translucent “tank” (the gas is in the frame) and fly screen. Watching it idle, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. “The bike obviously has character,” I thought watching it shake like a washing machine on spin cycle. The salesman assured me it would smooth out once I got out on the road, so I threw a leg over it, pulled on the rest of my gear, folded my legs up onto the higher-than-I’m-currently-used-to-and-slightly-painful-now-that-I’m-over-35 pegs and rode cautiously out of the parking lot. At 10-15 mph, the bike was still shaking pretty good, but I wasn’t noticing it as much as my attention shifted to steering clear of the cars and other bikes around me. I managed to p!ss off a Harley rider before even getting very far from the dealership. Apparently he thought I was too far over in the lane, so he decided to cut on the inside of me (which meant he was riding up the street on the wrong side). At least I was having fun.

A traffic light and a turn later, I was already out of town and starting to get a real feel for the bike beneath me. And I liked what I felt (the pain hadn’t caught up with me yet). The XB12S is light and easy to steer with lots of low-down grunt that makes shifting totally optional and allowed me to focus on other parts of the bike–like getting the mirrors into proper position so I could see the Honda CBR creeping up on me. For a minute, I thought about listening to the devil on my left shoulder telling me to whack the throttle open and have some fun. Instead, I let the angel on my right shoulder talk me into pulling the XB over and waving the CBR past.

I found the XB to be a fine sporting companion with lots of engine, a decent riding position and good brakes. The suspension was compliant, soaking up bumps and keeping the chassis stable–even when leaned over. The longer I was in the saddle, though, the more I became aware of the heat on my right inner thigh. It wasn’t particularly hot that day (maybe 85 with low humidity), so I tried to ignore it–unsuccessfully. I took the XB out on the highway and ran for 5 minutes at 65 with no difference–it actually seemed to be getting worse. I found myself wondering whether it ever gets warm where Buells are made. “Surely this can’t be normal,” I thought. By the time I got back to the dealship it was all I could do to get the bike on its sidestand before jumping off. When I mentioned it to the salesman, he sort of grinned and quietly said, “that’s why I tried to get you to ride the 1125cr (which I did a week or so later).”

When I got home later that day, I hopped on the internet and did some searching. Sure enough, this is a known problem with several home-made remedies that help take care of some (but not all) of the heat. A pity really, because otherwise, I really dug the XB. Right now, though, I’m just happy I’m already finished having kids.