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cb500 vs. Buell XBR

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trevor machine
the 900
the 900

Posts : 1186

cb500 vs. Buell XBR

Post by trevor machine on Sun 16 Jul 2017, 8:57 am

T'other night me and a good mate went over to Squires (classics night). I ride with him quite a bit and it's always enjoy it. Very smooth, always brisk-to-spirited, sees everything half an hour before anyone else, has responded appropriately and with minimum fuss and input. THAT kind of biker.

So, after a bit of a blast homeward we turn off near Selby and he pulls over at the side of the road and dismounts. I thought he'd broken down - it is a Buell after all. Razz  But no - he just walked over to me and pointed at his bike. I got it. A swap. Ooh!! I normally give him a thanks but no thanks because I know how much he loves his XB, and I worry something untoward will happen.

But at that moment it felt right and without further ado, off we set. He promptly razzed passed me...on my bike! Didn't seem right somehow - so I gave chase. Well, it's a long straight towards North Duffield - but with a definite but fast right-hander just by the car-wash place. One of those bends that looks worse than it is - mainly because the council have posted black and white chevrons there. In fact, you can carry 70 through it quite easily. Which of course, we tend to.

So, using the Buell's ample torque, I squirt ahead down the straight and start to prep for the bend. And I'm into it. No problems - except the bike carries on going straight, with a quite monstrous amount of reluctance to do otherwise. Oi!! Buell-face - howsabout going around this bloody corner, ya squat, weird looking yank freak?!? Not quite sure how I managed it actually - oodles of engine breaking helped though. In mitigation, I didn't give my mate the satisfaction of showing him the anchor bulb, mid-corner. I know him well enough to picture his one eye-brow raised look of mild derision at such shortcomings.

Now, the funny thing about the Buell is its shape. Its shape and its looks. Its shape, its looks and its handling. Okay, there's not really any unfunny thing about it. From fuel-in-frame to oil-in-swing-arm, and foot-and-a-half front brake rotor, it's a right old odd-bod. Its air-cooled 1200-ish v-twin weighs as much as a large fridge-freezer, yet has been somehow suspended in a quite wonderfully conceived chassis (which specs say creates a bike weighing 178kg - a familiar figure to us lot at cb500club.net, but one that seems wildly, risibly optimistic for the Buell btw).

The following 15 miles were a little more restrained as I wrestled with the bike's bizarre gear-box and interesting handling. It doesn't vibrate so much as shake. At idle, and low speed, there's basically just a continuous shuddering. The mirrors are for decorative purposes only - not because vibes obscure what they're reflecting (although they do), but due to the fact that they're located about a foot below eye-level. Couldn't live like that, me sen. But hey.

Anyway - dat gearbox. Wow. It's really soggy on the down-shift, and because the bike rarely seems to rev anywhere else other than about 2-3k, you can never suss out quite what gear you're in. Could be second, could be sixth. In fact, it might not even have six gears. 

Meanwhile, changing up requires a match-fit big toe and some decently developed calf muscles. Pity the rider with gout. Again, it's not immediately apparent why the Buell actually *has* gears. Its engine note never seems to change, and it doesn't appear that bothered what cog is in play at any one time. So you let instinct hold sway, and work on the assumption that short-ish shifting is probably what this somewhat oxymoronic small behemoth desires.

The reward for all this weirdness is goodly surges of torque - which become quite moreish. However, and unlike the 500, you can't just "think" the bike through bends. Nor can you even ask politely. It prefers to be told. I concluded that, unlike our Honda, it's not overly bright. Okay, you don't have to draw pictures for it - but you do need to provide clear, concise instructions.

Then again, we're on a small, light machine - and used to just happily bullying it all day every day. Almost anything else would seem demanding and reluctant. So, in absolute terms, the Buell is probably easy to ride - its wheel-base is very short, after all. But to me, it inevitably felt unwieldy and somewhat cumbersome.

Ergos-wise it's not dissimilar to the 500. Seat-to-peg is a bit compressed, but clearance is very generous. The saddle is soft and comfy, and quite broad of beam I thought. Slightly lower bars but nowt too wristy, and perhaps a bit taller - yet still flat-footable.

Summarily, an interesting beastie - and one I'd like more time on. Not entirely sure I could actually live with it though.

And my mate's opinion on the 500? On the sly I reckon he's been getting a bit more curious, because lately I've been giving almost as good as I get. His repeated suggestions to trade up have become fewer and further between, as I've finally sussed out how to wring the goodness from the 500, and (more importantly), to feel how happy it is to glide into and through corners.

Anyway, he spoke well of its handling, brakes and ergos. Didn't have a load of love for its revy ways, its bar tingles and its noise ("a bit wearing"). But most of all, could get why I liked the 500 - I.e. using all of a bike being its own reward, ditto riding a bike that's happy to give everything its got. It's the opposite of the comparatively lazy, low-revving Buell, obviously. Yet as we know, cheering the underdog is often more fun than watching the favourite romp home!

Ok, last word now - I promise. I was surprised to find myself getting off the Buell and *not* wanting a bigger bike. I thought a fairly decent taste of easily accessed power would show me what I was missing. And although it did, I didn't honestly feel like the 500 was the obvious weakling. It might be slow up to seventy, and not have a great deal to offer after that, but it makes up for it with predictable, decent handling - and that's what I prioritise over straight line speed. Every time. Okay - apart from maybe when overtaking. ; - ) OTOH these limitations do mean we develop a good sense of timing - plus better forward observation and planning, all of which a smaller bike demands when trying to get passed the traffic.
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Crash- Elmit
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Running out of unique names

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Location : Rothwell, Nr Kettering

Re: cb500 vs. Buell XBR

Post by Crash- Elmit on Sun 16 Jul 2017, 11:37 am

HA HA!

As always a brilliant write up I love your sense of humour, maybe you should do write ups for MCN or some other bike related mag/paper
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trevor machine
the 900
the 900

Posts : 1186

Re: cb500 vs. Buell XBR

Post by trevor machine on Sun 16 Jul 2017, 5:37 pm

Cheers C-E - but I think I might be a bit too objective. A lot of these journalists seem too willing to deem everything they ride as the best bike ever built. Us sceptics tend to think they can't all be the best, though. ; - )
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wornsprokets
the 900
the 900

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Location : dublin

Re: cb500 vs. Buell XBR

Post by wornsprokets on Sun 16 Jul 2017, 5:52 pm

Mcn is s--t these days i dont think theres many reading it now.. trevor be too good for them...majority of bike mags arent either...
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Beresford
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the 900

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Location : not that far from Kirkistown

Re: cb500 vs. Buell XBR

Post by Beresford on Sun 16 Jul 2017, 6:51 pm

The Buell having fuel in frame and oil in swing arm seems like a great idea until you consider the likely outcome of even a mild drop. If the frame or swing arm is cracked or punctured ???????????
It usually means a write off.
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Jameshambleton
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Location : Bedale, North Yorkshire

Re: cb500 vs. Buell XBR

Post by Jameshambleton on Sun 16 Jul 2017, 10:21 pm

Sounds like a good bit of fun, even though I personally hate lazy engines. You had me worried about that corner though...  You need to ride my cb500 as I have a very good suspicion that it'll be very different to most Wink
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trevor machine
the 900
the 900

Posts : 1186

Re: cb500 vs. Buell XBR

Post by trevor machine on Tue 18 Jul 2017, 6:18 am

wornsprokets wrote:Mcn is s--t these days i dont think theres many reading it now

Agreed - it's tedious and sycophantic.
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trevor machine
the 900
the 900

Posts : 1186

Re: cb500 vs. Buell XBR

Post by trevor machine on Tue 18 Jul 2017, 6:22 am

Beresford wrote:The Buell having fuel in frame and oil in swing arm seems like a great idea until you consider the likely outcome of even a mild drop. If the frame or swing arm is cracked or punctured ???????????
It usually means a write off.

Yes - and what's more, I wasn't even particularly aware of the 'lower centre of gravity' that this unique distribution of mass is supposed to create. scratch
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trevor machine
the 900
the 900

Posts : 1186

Re: cb500 vs. Buell XBR

Post by trevor machine on Tue 18 Jul 2017, 6:26 am

Jameshambleton wrote: I personally hate lazy engines.

I can kind of see how they might be pleasant for touring, but day-to-day and for 99% of the riding I do, I want the added involvement that I seem to get from a revvier lump.

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