Buell Ulysses XB12XThis one was a bit different. In an article titled "Adventure Touring" in the October '06 issue, we tested the Ulysses XB12X from Buell. Take one part sport bike and one part dirt bike, mix well, and check out the results. In Buell's case, the Ulysses is designed to be 90-percent street bike and 10-percent dirt bike. It's not a dirt bike in the true sense of the word, but more of a bike designed to get off the asphalt and out on unpaved roads and packed surfaces. The bike is based around the heart and soul of Harley's philosophy: a really strong, torquey V-Twin designed to afford the rider the ability to roll on the throttle and accelerate with ease at almost any rpm range.
The Ulysses chassis construction consists of a lightweight, stiff frame that carries 4.4 gallons of fuel inside its members. This, along with a stiff aluminum swingarm that doubles as the bike's oil reservoir, helps keep weight low. Locating the exhaust under the bike as opposed to higher up on the side of the bike, the Ulysses is able to take full advantage of better balance and a lower center of gravity. Buell's ZTL (short for zero torsional load) braking system utilizes a 375mm stainless-steel front rotor mounted directly to the wheel's perimeter. When the six-piston caliper applies pressure, braking forces are transmitted directly to the outer portion of the wheel without transferring this energy through the wheel's hub or spokes. The rear brake utilizes a single-piston floating caliper and a more familiar 240mm stainless-steel one-piece rotor. Keeping the 54-inch-wheelbase bike off the ground is the job of Showa components in the front and rear. Allowing for 6.51 inches of suspension travel, the front employs a 43mm inverted frontend with adjustments for compression damping, rebound damping, and spring preload. Out back, the Ulysses employs the services of a coilover monoshock designed to give the bike 6.38 inches of travel. Buell worked closely with Dunlop to develop a pair of tires specifically for the Ulysses. The skins are designed with an aggressive open tread pattern to give the bike excellent traction on both paved and off-road environments. Tire sizes are 180/55R-17 out back and 120/70R-17 between the forks.
The Ulysses is powered by Buell's 1,203cc Thunderstorm V-Twin engine. The Thunderstorm engine is more than up to the task when it comes to quickly accelerating the motorcycle, without the need to constantly bang up and down through the gears. The engine's redline is set at 7,000 rpm, and the torque is strong through most of that range but really kicks in around 4,000 rpm.Cooling is provided by a combination of both air and oil, with assistance coming from a fan-cooled oil cooler mounted to the left downtube via a combination of a 49mm downdraft DDFI II fuel injection and Buell's zero-resistance airbox. For the exhaust system, the gasses are routed based on the position of an ECM-controlled valve designed to optimize torque and horsepower based on different riding conditions.
Other areas of the bike are decked out with new features, including a small and easily removable windshield that's designed to take the wind pressure off the rider's chest while still leaving the head and shoulders in the air. Taking storage and passenger needs to new heights, Buell engineers developed what they call a Triple Tail. The adjustable unit is designed to give the rider two options when carrying cargo. In the first position it is folded forward, occupying the space designed for a passenger. Once loaded, the weight of the stowed gear adds to the mass-centralization principle. Although the load is set high on the bike, it is much closer to the bike's center than it is when it's in the second position over the rear fender carrying gear. The third position is upright and acts as a passenger backrest.
Helping keep rocks, dirt, wind, and debris off both the bike and the rider, Buell utilizes a twin-fender setup in the front as well as the back. Up above on the wide handlebars is a pair of deflectors designed to keep both wind and debris off the rider's hands.
The XB12X is a tall bike; even with the optional lowered seat, it's all most riders can do to get one foot flat on the ground while on the bike. This takes some getting used to, especially on loose or uneven ground. Once you've gotten comfortable with this, everything else is a breeze.
The Showa suspension soaked up bumps with ease both on and off the road, and that, coupled with the Uniplanar Powertrain vibration-isolation system, made for an exceptionally smooth ride.
Considering that '06 was the first model year for the Ulysses, we think the company nailed it on the head. By jumping into a market it had never been in before, Buell took a bold step and succeeded. This bike works, and works well in a broad range of riding situations. There is no reason we can think of that would keep you from riding the Ulysses coast to coast on just about any road in between.