ALBANY VINTAGE & CLASSIC MOTORCYCLE CLUB

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February 2017 Club News

Denmark | Old Pix | Buell | Salt | Cosy| Oldest | Membership | Calendar

Why the Buell?

By Arthur Barrot

ARTHUR thought the magazine could start getting a little bit more technical so how about a series on why members chose their particular bike(s). Great idea! He’s started the ball rolling with an article about his Buell. The idea being that there would be lots of interesting things members have discovered about their bikes or bikes in general that could be shared.

Now have a read of what he’s written and see if you can come up with a story on your bike. It can be as long or as short as you like, but whatever it is I’m sure other members will find it interesting.

Buell in left profile.

So, why the Buell?

  1. You don’t see many of them around.
  2. It’s a v-twin.
  3. It’s black.
  4. It has one large round headlight (like real a motorcycle).
  5. It makes fabulous music.
  6. It will never be superseded by a next model (because there wasn’t one) so any further refinement is up to me. That’s what sheds are for isn’t it?

It's a 2002 M2 Cyclone. I don’t know what the M2 bit means but a 1200cc Harley Davidson Sportster motor forms the ‘motor’ part of a Buell motorcycle of that vintage. The fact that the motor has various Buell and Harley performance enhancements probably accounts for the ‘Cyclone’ bit. They claimed 93.5 hp and 113 Nm compared to the 58.5 hp and 87 Nm of a standard 2002 Sportster S. The M2 was the basic Buell at the time.

When I was ready for a new (second hand) ride I tried several bikes but in the end I decided that I didn’t want computers, fuel injection, oxygen sensors, radiators, fairings and plastic covers that are needed to hide ugly motors. I do my own maintenance and didn’t fancy hours of removing stuff before the most basic work such as an oil change could be done. Even simple cleaning is a nightmare when you have to wriggle around bodywork, multiple pipes and hoses and electrical gubbins.

Oil changes are easy – especially the motor oil. There’s a spin-on oil filter right at the front and a drain hose from the separate oil tank low on the left side. Simple and quick. Valve clearances? Keep the oil clean and fresh and the hydraulic tappets take care of them.

Only a flat twin BMW or a Moto Guzzi make it easier to check two spark plugs. The iridium sparkplugs usually look like they’ll last forever – but I have changed them once anyway.

Fuel system? What fuel ‘system’? There aren’t fuel injectors, oxygen sensors, catalytic converters, a fuel pump and a computer. Instead the Buell has one carburettor and delivers the fuel to it using the most dependable and powerful force in the universe – gravity. There is even a ‘choke’ knob to pull and a fuel tap to turn on and off. The fuel tank (21 litres) is a sort of plastic so rust won’t ever be a problem.

Buell in right profile.

Why doesn’t every motorcycle have belt drive? No mess, no noise, less weight and since I set it comfortably slack some years ago it hasn’t needed adjustment. Just for something to do I occasionally sprinkle some talcum powder on it because that’s supposed to please it.

The Buell is a 1200 Harley Sportster at heart but one that goes, turns and stops like a modern Sportster would if Harley themselves had developed it as a truly sporting model.

Because it is a Sportster at heart it has a Harley gearbox and there is an art to getting those slick gear changes that riders of modern bikes take for granted. You can get a sense of accomplishment out of riding a Buell well.

Because the Buell is a Harley at heart I expected it to shake. Erik Buell’s rubber mounting system doesn’t mean a smooth lack of character; the bike pulsates at idle. Get a few revs up and it smooths out beautifully. At 110 kph it’s idling along at just over 3000 rpm and is into its considerable torque yet it has a distinct power band waiting like an afterburner. I have yet to ride a bike that feels as relaxed and alive. I still don’t understand how such a basic, archaic design can have so much performance combined with such meagre fuel consumption.

Because the Buell is a Harley at heart, there will never be any shortage of original or after-market (and often improved) mechanicals. If it ever became a bent and sorry wreck the most difficult parts to rectify or replace would be the plastic bits.

The one huge front disc with a powerful six-piston calliper is really all it needs – which is just as well as the original Buell rear brake is feeble. I have fitted a fabulous four piston Harrison Billet rear caliper. It and its mounting bracket came from the UK via the former proprietor of Harrison Billet who now lives in Cowaramup. The Buell world is a small one.

Surprisingly, a Ventura rack and sport bag were available so that carrying a cut lunch, a small Thermos and waterproofs etc. on club runs is easy. The tie-down loops under the seat make carrying a seatbag of simple weekend touring stuff possible. The very comfortable seat and riding position help.

My Buell came with lighter after-market Performance Machine wheels (so that I’d have things to polish), a Mikuni flat slide pumper carburettor, an after-market ignition module, a K&N air filter and an embarrassingly loud Staintune ‘muffler’. I think these additions would have improved the performance but without trying a standard M2, I’ll never really know. Does anyone know where I can get an original M2 Buell muffler to try?

The only real bother I’ve had with it is dealing with the oil fumes and condensation drool from the rocker box breathers. That stuff was originally recycled (for emission reasons) by Buell through a humungous air filter housing. Nobody keeps the original air filter system and Erik Buell himself admitted to not bothering to improve its looks because he knew that the gigantic ‘Helmholtz Volume Power System’ would be the first thing thrown away.

The breather I’ve designed doesn’t dribble gunk out of the after-market air filter housing. It recycles the oil fumes and allows me to drain off the H2O condensation (that all motors produce) separately. I should patent the system but since it is a limited market and merely involves some PVC bits, some brass fittings, a stainless steel scrub bud and various lengths of tubing it’s hardly beyond the abilities of the average enthusiast. Not having that huge air chamber means I can hear the motor breathing.

The speedometer was ridiculously optimistic – a GPS showed that a claimed 130 kph was actually 111 kph. A ‘Speedo Healer’ fixed that. Since I adjusted the clutch according to the (fabulous) Buell workshop manual, finding neutral at a stop is easier. I wouldn’t choose the Buell for putting around town – it’s an open road machine.

Owning a Buell is one way to have a Harley without having to have a tattoo and I like the idea of being thought of as a Buelligan. Owning a Buell also allows me to occasionally make my Harley joke: They were going to make Harleys out of concrete but they discovered that cast iron was heavier!

I’ll never own a Brough or a Vincent, or a Vee Two Alchemy or (gasp!) a Britten but they are bikes that are the product of singular dedication and genius. The Buell is as close as I’m likely to get to that kind of genius. Like those others, it is a V-Twin that has frame, braking and suspension ideas that break from convention and make you wonder why and then why not.

The general advice when choosing a bike that might attain classic status is to go for the first or the last of its kind. The 2002 M2 Cyclone was the simplest Buell and the last of the full tube frame ‘tubular’ Buells (geddit?). The later Buells with the Harley motor tried to be even more innovative and eventually became reliant on fuel injection, computers, cooling fans, air ducts and fairings. Then Buell dropped the Harley motor and became liquid cooled. Not what I was looking for.

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