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Buell XB12R FIREBOLT Sports Motorbike Review

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Buell XB12R Firebolt motorcycle review - Riding
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MCN overall verdict rating is 4

The Buell XB12R Firebolt is a real Frankenstein’s monster of a motorcycle – but it works. Ancient Harley-Davidson engine mated to a stubby, innovative, high-tech aluminium frame with lots of well thought out touches makes a superb, nimble sports bike. The Buell XB12R may not be the fastest thing in a straight line but awesome in corners and stacks of fun.

 

Engine

MCN rating rating is 4
Owners' rating rating is 4

Yes the Buell XB12R Firebolt engine's crude and lumpy. But that’s part of its charm. Nothing could be further than the in-line fours the Japanese power their sports motorcycles with. This 1203cc air cooled, narrow angle V-twin is an old-school charmer with plenty of brawny torque. The refinement’s not there or the manic top end power but it’s immensely satisfying to use and it digs in and drives out of corners superbly.

Ride and Handling

MCN rating rating is 3
Owners' rating rating is 4.5

As a sports bike or even a track day tool, the Buell XB12R Firebolt’s handling works. Steering’s so rapid you look and the motorcycle turns. But it manages this without being unstable too – testament that Buell’s innovations work. On the road it can be a handful. Instant power, fast steering and firm suspension make it a committed rather than relaxed ride.

Equipment

MCN rating rating is 2
Owners' rating rating is 3.5

The latest sports motorcycles are pretty well equipped – the Buell XB12R Firebolt is somewhat behind. There’s a couple of bungee hooks on the rear seat until, basic clocks and not much else. Being part of Harley-Davidson there’s a big range of extras from carbon parts to performance exhausts and air filters. Compare and buy parts for the Firebolt in the MCN Shop.

 

Buell XB12R Firebolt (2003-2007)

Detail Value
Engine size 1203 cc
Power 100 bhp
Top speed 155 mph
Insurance group 16 of 17
  MCN ratings Owners' ratings
Overall rating is 4 rating is 4
Engine rating is 4 rating is 4
Ride & Handling rating is 3 rating is 4.5
Equipment rating is 2 rating is 3.5
Quality & Reliability rating is 2 rating is 4
Value rating is 3 rating is 4

Quality and Reliability

MCN rating rating is 2
Owners' rating rating is 4

Always a Buell bugbear, although they claim issues have been sorted out. Older bikes had major problems, newer ones only seem to have minor niggles. The finish on some parts chucks in the towel at the first sign of winter and electrical glitches are not unheard of. No match for Honda.

Value

MCN rating rating is 3
Owners' rating rating is 4

The Buell XB12R Firebolt's price is competitive compared to other litre sports bikes – but not good next to the 600s which have similar / better performance. It’s on par with other character machines like the Tuono and Speed Triple. Running costs are moderate including depreciation as long as you don’t rack up too many miles. Find a Buell XB12R  for sale.

Insurance

Insurance group: 16 of 17

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Model History

2003: Buel XB12R Firebolt launched.

Other Versions

Buell XB9R Firebolt: Near identical but with a 984cc engine. Ran from 2002-04.

Specifications

Top speed 155 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 11.43 secs
Max power 100 bhp
Max torque 81 ft-lb
Weight 175 kg
Seat height 775 mm
Fuel capacity 14 litres
Average fuel consumption 42 mpg
Tank range 125 miles
Annual road tax
Insurance group 16 of 17
Engine size 1203 cc
Engine specification 4v V-twin, 5 gears
Frame Aluminium twin spar
Front suspension adjustment Preload, rebound, compression
Rear suspension adjustment Preload, rebound, compression
Front brakes 375mm disc
Rear brake 240mm disc
Front tyre size 120/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 180/55 x 17

Owners' Overall Rating rating is 4(13 reviews)

  • Great bike but buy used. I paid 50% of new 2 years later with 1475 miles on it.

    svjohn39

    Average rating rating is 4

    Show Details

    Overall
    Ride and Handling
    Equipment
    Quality and Reliabilty
    Value
    Engine

    Loads of torque and engine sounds nice. It took me about 300 miles to get used to the short wheelbase but now I love it and ride it everywhere. Previous Buell was an XB9S and it really lacked the oomph I wanted, XB12R solved that, now I just need some decent tires, stock suck. Strengths: Torque, looks. Weaknesses: Gas mileage.

    28 July 2006

  • A good fun urban street bike. That handles and then some, and the torque is sooo much fun. :)

    KWAK6ftRider

    Cambridge , UK

    Average rating rating is 4.5

    Show Details

    Overall
    Ride and Handling
    Equipment
    Quality and Reliabilty
    Value
    Engine

    I won this bike as a result of a competion I entered through this site. At first I was seriously considering selling it, especially as it is so small and at 6'6" and 1** Kg I am not exactly a small person. When I first rode it, I was even more unsure about keeping it. This was mainly due the the extreme handling characteristics. It just didn't seam stable in bends, and I didn't feel very comfortable in the brakes as it felt like my weight was entirly over the front wheel. I decided I was going to finish off the bedding in period before making a decsion, as I was keen to know if the power band that was just starting to appear at the running in revs carried on much further. BTW the running in is a nightmare 1000 miles of it! I am so glad I did. Over the thousand mile bedding in, I learned to trust the brakes, they are a lot better than they initially seamed, but you do need to use a slight ammount of rear to stabilise the bike. I also learned how the bike liked to be turned. Strengths: * Very good at turning * so much torque * great sound * big grins every time I get off! Weaknesses: * A little bit of vibrations, they especially make rear mirrors useless. * low tank range about 95 miles.

    05 June 2006

  • To try one may be expensive!!!

    batman907

    Average rating rating is 4.5

    Show Details

    Overall
    Ride and Handling
    Equipment
    Quality and Reliabilty
    Value
    Engine

    Had no intention of buying one at all, rode the xb9r thought nice, needs more oomph though. Test rode xb12r firebolt 'cos bored, off work for day, bought it 3 days later. Strengths: Torque, oomph, makes me laugh like a nutter! Weaknesses: Don't know yet, not heard anything though...

    07 May 2006

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madfatjake

madfatjakesays

buell tyres

well svjohn39 my original corsa's really gave up at 7,500 miles so i fitted some pirrelli angels in the hope that i get more tyre life as the bike is ridden as a commuter and a fun bike, so far they have done 2,500 miles and are still looking good and they work in the wet. Not as sticky obviously but if you are riding on the street do you really notice?

27 August 2009 14:22

madfatjake

madfatjakesays

buell xb12r missing 20mph

Not sure where you got 155 from but mine is bouncing off the rev limiter at 135 admitedly I haven't had it chipped and I am still running with the baffles in on the remus can i have fitted but even if I made the mods I can't see it giving me 20mph, having said that I wouldn't change my buell for anything except maybe a 1125r when they have it fully sorted. Even then I may just have to keep the Firebolt just because it is what it is a modern classic.

14 August 2009 20:49

flash 1

flash 1says

firebolt

bought my xb12r new and loved it as soon as i sat on it, not easy to ride slow especially with the sports exhaust but what a sound when you crank it up, sounds like a mad dog barking. but it does run out of steam at 140. mind you its great around mallory.

19 July 2009 17:07

Kev_C

Kev_Csays

Grin factor

I bought an XB12R after getting fed up with my thunderace. The yamaha was good, but it did everything with very little effort. It went fast, and turned, but with no 'character'. The Buell turns, and how!!! More grunt than a pig on steriods, and you wont stop smiling. I have had no issues with electrics, or winter corrosion. The bike is 11000 miles young, and doesn't use a drop of oil between changes. Even riding hard, the bike doesn't drop below 50mpg!!! Well worth taking one for a test ride, even just for the entertainment :D

17 May 2007 15:38

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