(NGPZC and long) Re: does this make me a Bad Person?

bob.sims at us.army.mil bob.sims at us.army.mil
Fri May 11 03:40:36 PDT 2007

> Bob, what drew you to the Buell? I can't think of a single reason 
> I would 
> choose the Buell over similar bikes like the VStrom, Triumph 
> Tiger, BMW GS, 
> Aprilia Caponord, Ducati Multistrada or a KTM. 


Thanks for the insightful response.  I've thought a lot about this very question over the last two years, and you've given me a good excuse to start documenting my thoughts.  I apologize in advance for the length of this reply, as I am writing it for use in other forums or on my website as well.  Also, I don't mean to proselytize, although I probably sound that way.  More than anything, I want to record my own decision process.

First, allow me to offer some of my reasons of why I chose the Buell Ulysses over some of the similar offerings you listed, in rough order of priority:

1.  Low maintenance features (mainly: no chain, and self-adjusting valves!)
2.  "Out-of-the-box" comfort (finally, a bike designed for tall people, with a great OEM seat and riding position!)
3.  Truly innovative design features (mass centralization, low unsprung weight, frame rigidity -- through fuel-in-frame, oil-in-swingarm, rim-mounted brake disc, underslung exhaust, and more)
4.  Excellent performance (due to great power/weight ratio, plenty of fuel-injected engine power, and #3)
5.  Fanatical corporate customer support (although, less so from the US H-D dealer network)
6.  Superior components (particularly suspension and brakes)
7.  Inexpensive replacement parts (in spite of #6)
8.  Crash-resistant features (OEM frame pucks, very little plastic bodywork)
9.  Liberal dealer test ride policy (counts for a lot, IMHO)
10.  Sourced globally, but built locally (US), w/plenty of "character" (whatever that is), style, fun factor, and uniqueness (without being obscure)

Many of the points above are not obvious within Buell marketing literature, and require some research online or in magazine print to discern (especially #5).  Unfortunately, Buell suffers from many pre-conceived notions as a result of the H-D engine heritage, as well as from the early tube-frame days, when Buells were essentially pre-assembled kit bikes, only slightly removed from the H-D XR designs.

I readily admit having to overcome this unfair reputation myself, but actually examining and riding the Ulysses in person went a long way towards doing so.  As someone "raised" on Japanese motorcycles with inline engine configurations, it was very difficult to get past the whole 45-degree V-twin vibration thing.  However, I think I may have reached that sad state of maturity whereupon I've come to realize that there is much more to motorcycle performance than raw stats.

I am *very* deliberate, to a fault, about new vehicle purchases -- just ask my wife.  When I started thinking about a replacement for the GPZ several years ago, I essentially distilled three basic requirements for a new bike:

1.  Comfortable for a tall person (I'm 6'4"/193 cm with a 35"/89 cm inseam)
2.  Low maintenance features
3.  Readily hard luggage compatible

Sounds simple, but really, there are only two street-friendly bikes out there that generally meet this criteria:  the Buell Ulysses and the BMW R1200GS.  When I first left Germany in 2004, I had a lot of regrets about not bringing an R11xxGS back with me.  After living over here for a while, I felt like I'd figured out why they were so "over-engineered", and why they worked so well over a wide variety of riding conditions.  When BMW released the R1200GS, I told myself I'd get one as soon as I could afford it.

The Ulysses (2006 model released in 2005) was the first Buell that ever piqued any interest in me whatsoever -- still is, for the most part.  I first saw the Uly in a Cycle World cover story that Scaps sent me while I was languishing in Kuwait.  The more I found out about it, the more I thought it would be a better fit for me over the GS.  The breathtaking cost of ownership (service) for the BMW was, for me, probably more of a discentive than anything else.

I was able to swing a test ride here in Germany with a local dealer.  I liked it so much that I quit even thinking about the GS.  All of the niggling complaints about the bike that were common to most of the reviews and reports seemed so miniscule in light of the phenomenal performance and comfort.  Yes, the Ulysses vibrates some at idle because it is a 45 degree V-twin, but not necessarily in a bad or excessive way.  And off idle, man -- the bike's engine, handling, suspension, shifting, riding position, and brakes are all together just so very smooth and "liquid", it's phenomenal.  I also liked the self-adjusting belt drive rated for the life of the bike (!), self-adjusting hydraulic valve lifters, the fuel injection (no choke or esoteric starting procedure) the low and compact center of gravity, OEM 12v accessory power outlets, and the OEM hard luggage option.

In following the online Ulysses-friendly forums (primarily Badweatherbikers.com and the "Beasts" section of Advrider.com), it is intriguing to me how many converts the Ulysses is pulling to Buell from other makes who would otherwise *never* have bought a Buell -- particularly H-D, the Japanese Big Four, and BMW.

US-spec versions of both the Buell Ulysses and the BMW R1200GS are available through overseas military sales, which means I can purchase either tax free.  In reality, this advantage is not as great as the salespeople would like you to believe, as MSRP + delivery fees + overpriced extended warranty is almost always more than MSRP + sales tax.  Fortunately, I was able to find a great salesman at a different location who was more than willing to communicate and negotiate via email (daily or weekly over months), and he finally offered me a leftover orange 2006 delivered here to Germany for $1500 less than original MSRP, and even more savings over what other salesman had offered.

The lone BMW military sales representative in Germany didn't seem capable of returning emails in any time less than 90 days -- no kidding.  :-(

Finally, I can't say enough good things about Buell's worldwide insistence on a liberal test ride policy at their dealerships.  It allows potential customers to examine the bikes up close, and form (or change!) their own opinions about Buell motorcycles before they become financially invested.  Very few (if any) of the other manufacturers do this.  Heck, Buell even offers free gift giveaways as promotions to encourage test rides.  I know the test ride sealed the deal for me personally.

Standard disclaimers apply:  IMHO.  AFAIK.  YMMV.


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