2006 Buell Ulysses XB12x

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2006 Buell Ulysses XB12x
RCR Buell Ulysses Thumb.jpg
NOT A CAR Details
Make Buell
Model Ulysses XB12x
Year 2006
Owner Mike P.
Episode Details
Episode Link Watch
Season The In-Between Days
Air Date November 2, 2015
Credits Joe

Buell is the motorcycle world's AMC. This machine is from an alternate history America, like the Pontiac Fiero.


This is a Buell Ulysses XB12. And it's a failure.
INTRO SONG by THE ROMAN (To the tune of 'America' by Simon and Garfunkel)
Hey have you heard,
Of a bike,
That is called,
The Ulysses?
To talk about Buell is to talk about the tragedy of death. Buell is a motorcycle company, that failed. It's an American failure. What-what is a Buell? It is a Harley Davidson in most respects. Erik Buell, for those of you who know motorcycles, you've heard this story a number of times. But this is a car show, and some people don't know the story of Buell. And it's a weird thing about cars. Because some people really like cars, but they don't care about motorcycles. But Buell is a company worth talking about and it's a company worth remembering for what it tried to do, and what it tried to do, is inject a bit of sophistication into the Harley engine. Harley Davidson, what is Harley Davidson? It's the most purest version of American exceptionalism rolling around in two wheels, forget Hemi Cudas. Harleys. Even the name is perfect.

Erik Buell was a racer, who started building sports bikes using Sportster engines. The advantage of using that, if tuned correctly, the pushrod Harley Davidson 1200 CC V-Twin engine, makes tons of torque at low end. And that does have racing applications, if put in a proper frame. So what Buell did was made very good frames that just happened to use a big lopey American engine. And later, Harley Davidson liked the idea, and throughout the 80s and 90s and early 2000s, Eric was allowed to run his own division of Harley Davidson. I know it's much more complicated than that, but we're keeping it simple for a simple review. So what you have here is a Harley Davidson, that handles. Buell's handle well. 

Now. This is the Ulysses. This is supposed to be, a contender for, the BMW GS 1200. Doesn't really work. Buells, while they're very good handling bikes, don't stand up to abuse. To neglect. Lots of plastic on these things, and you can't build an off road plastic bike, so. What this bike really is, is a tourer wearing the makeup of a dual sport. Yes, there are people who take these off road, but, bear in mind a lot of these little plastic bits are just for show. Buell is for someone who wants to ride a Harley, but also has some very progressive opinions about gun control. A Buell is for someone who wants a Harley, but is also in favor of stricter bullying laws. A Buell is for a motorcycle rider who would like to ride a Harley, but rather would wear synthetic material instead of leather. A Buell is for a guy who wants to ride a Harley, but also likes full face helmets. A Buell is for someone who doesn't believe in starting sentences with "As an American, I." 

A Buell is for someone who wants a Harley Davidson, but also wants to commute every day and not worry about banging it up. As evidenced, by this rear tire. I apologize, neither the owner or myself realized that the rear tire was worn down to the cords, but that's how it is when you commute on your bike every day. Man, motorcycle tires really wear themselves out in the back. They're not like car tires, they'll last- I mean, if you ride a lot, they'll last, a season maybe two. And you can just wear those things, you can square them right off, heck I did it. Although that is a badge of pride for people who ride all the time, wearing a tire right down to the cords. There's no shame in squaring off a tire, you get your mileage out, and you get your hours in.

Every time I get on a Buell, I often wonder why I never bought one of these things. They're a joy to turn over, a little bit scary when you feel a big bike like this lean all the way over. But, your weight, from the big Harley derived engine, is down low. So, this is a touring bike that wants to lean over all the time, and it does it wonderfully. The only thing that lets you down is, you get so much torque and so much pull, right from about 3000 RPM, you think it's just gonna go, and then you get up to five and its nothing. Just-you just get "WRRRRRRRRRR-Ehhhhhhhhh-uhhhhhhhhhhh". There's also very very good brakes. 

One of the weird things about Buell's, particularly about the Ulysses, oh the Lightning is even weirder. Or the Thunderbolt, Ugh. Is that they have short short rakes. You get on a Harley, they have longer rakes, know-OK, rake is how far the forks stick out. You see those old ones from the 70s that-they had huge rakes so that front tire's way in front of ya? Sport bikes, and you look at-you-it's almost getting close to like GT bikes, it-that-they're, way way, and by GT bikes I mean race bikes, like AMA racers. (Which Buell did participate in.) When you have a short rake, those forks are almost pointed straight down. It's an-unnnh, tight tight bike, and all it wants to do-you hardly need much to turn-you think and this thing turns over. And you've got the wide handlebars, with the bark busters on it, (unintelligible), I know they're plastic. Buell's also have some very odd engineering, they store their oil in the swing arm, and the fuel is in the. Two big frame rails that go on either side. That, uh, that tank in front of ya isn't a tank, no, your fuel's in the rails, on either side.

I want to like the Buell. I-I want to like it, but I can understand, why it went under. And it really has nothing to do with the build quality, ehh, some of the ones in the 80s were weird, but the company was getting started. The problem with Buell, is that, they never embraced, their American heritage. And I say this with sincerity, if you're going to build an American motorcycle, you have to wave the flag. High and strong and big, and Buell never did. They were trying to make a very sophisticated motorcycle, a Libertarian motorcycle, they didn't feel the need, to parade patriotism around. But, if you want to sell a bike, you have to make it damn obvious where this bike is coming from. I mean, look at Japanese bikes, we like them because they're Japanese, because they're not American, we-we want to wonder what it's like to be over there. So you get on a Katana, I mean, how patronizing is that? We named a bike after a sword. But people bought 'em, that's why people buy Harley's, they did-they put it right-Who else could call a bike A FAT BOY? DYNA GLIDE. V-ROD. (In an effeminate voice) Soft Tail! 883 IRON. ROAD KING. ELECTRA GLIDE. What does Buell call this? The Ulysses. An Irish novel. Good one, Stream of Conciseness, it's pretty easy to understand once you get it. But, getting it's a bit hard. And I'm aware what Stephen Fry said about it, "You can't teach Ulysses to high school kids, because it's a novel about nothing." And this is a bike about nothing. It looks like it goes off road, but it doesn't. It is a Harley, but it isn't. It's an American, but it doesn't say it is. (Except for here.)

I wish Buell stuck around though, but it's one of these things that I like in my head, and I don't know if I'd ever put money behind it. The Blast was fun, I didn't own one, but I rode it, I loved the Blast. The Thunderbolt was great, the 1125CR was a joy. But, if I want an American motorcycle, I want to eat a double cheeseburger, and just indulge in nationalism, and the Buell's don't do that. Like the Pontiac Fiero, Buell's are from an alternate America, and when Buell finally was closed, when the company shut down, they went back to their dimension they came from. I dunno, call Rick, maybe he can find a portal for us to go check it out. Later. 
Don't let your Buells grow up to be Harleys.
This makes tons of torque, and it has decent specs.
But, it's lean like the dildo, from Masters of Sex.

Hey have you heard,
Of a bike,
That is called,
The Ulysses?

I rode the last one,
And now we're gold.
It's got a nice engine,
But it's not about anything,
I love, American failures.