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Cool Buell Mods Fall Victim to Corporate Caprice

They say (who are “they” anyway?) that success in business has a lot to do with timing.

Larry Brinker and Rex Marsee can’t be blamed for their poor timing. Sometimes in business you need a crystal ball. Larry has over 40 years of automotive design background, and has even taught design in Italy. Rex has been involved in the motorcycle industry for more than 40 years (most notably in the design and sale of motorcycle clothing and luggage, such as tank bags) and has even taken a crack at creating his own custom motorcycle, now and then.

Admirers of Erik Buell (aren’t we all?), Larry and Rex set out to modify the Buell 1125R. You may recall that I tested the 1125R when it was introduced back in August of 2007. After riding the bike both on the street and at the Laguna Seca racetrack (only occasionally hanging off), I came away quite impressed. At that press intro, I spoke with one of the engine designers (a Rotax engineer) who told me that the v-twin in the Buell was “state-of-the-art” and even superior to the Ducati superbike motor of the era. The chassis was the usual brilliant combination of frame, suspension and braking à la Erik Buell.

Although a naked version of the 1125R would eventually be introduced (the 1125CR), Rex and Larry acquired this original model and set about modifying it. They expected the bike to be very popular (so did I), and a great platform for tuning and other custom parts. A great business model given the unforeseeability of H-D’s axe falling on the  brand a few years later. What you see here in the photos are the result of their efforts.

The thoroughness of their approach is evidenced by the fact that the bike was completely disassembled before the frame, wheels and other components were powder coated grey. The original fairing was replaced with a mini-variant together with a pair of small, vertically stacked headlights. Air scoops were fabricated to extend over both sides of the air intake and blend into the radiator scoops.

From the back, the huge stock plate, signal, and taillight bracket has been replaced by a single compact unit that fits into the original mounting location, becoming almost invisible from the side. The stock signals have been replaced by tiny models. The rear passenger pegs have been replaced by fabricated grab handles that double as tiedown locations.

The original café style bars were replaced with motocross bars, creating a much more comfortable riding position.

Not content with these cosmetic and functional changes to the bodywork and chassis, Larry and Rex decided to develop their own exhaust system with the help of Big Gun. The unit they developed is tucked in neatly, and does away with the need for a heat guard. This attractive unit posed considerable tuning challenges, however, but after modifying the intake and fuel injection mapping, the pair ultimately coaxed an additional 4 hp from the already efficient stocker, along with a beefier torque curve. The new exhaust also dropped a boat load of weight. In total, roughly 40 pounds were removed from the Buell 1125R.

I took a brief ride on this naked monster. It was nimble, and the weight reduction was evident. The fuel injection was rough, however, and the bike is definitely too loud for road use in its current state. I understand that there is an insert available for the exhaust, however, that can bring the decibels down to a more acceptable level.

If you have one of the Buell 1125s (R or CR), you might be interested in contacting Larry and Rex.  Depending on the volume of the demand, they might be willing to provide some of these parts for sale.  In any event, if you think you might like to buy something, or simply have a question, contact Rex directly, and take a look at their web site.

26 Comments

  1. Scott says:

    Yeah, those scoops will always be a polarizing design element… I have a feeling that the mini-fairing would look good on its own and maybe even just the scoops by themselves would look ok, but together the effect is not so good.

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  2. PN says:

    It still has those horrible radiator shrouds. They’re past geeky. Send in the Italian designers, please.

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  3. Dave says:

    The scoops are too much, especially on the naked version. It’d be a good aftermarket opportunity if someone figured out a less large/gaudy alternative, would think one could sell to ~50% of the owners out there. Otherwise, there are supposed to be great bikes.

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  4. Trent says:

    The main reason I never bought a Buell is because I couldn’t be sure the Harley dealership would look forward to treating my bike like they should when it came in for service. Now I have a mechanic who actually owns a Buell himself, but I have enough bikes in my garage already. I actually don’t mind the looks of the 1125R (unmodified). It’s different from other sportbikes, but that doesn’t make it ugly to me, just different.

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  5. Stone says:

    First…Dave, no one needs to Google FOD. Second…nothing is state of the art that comes from HD, even if the engine is a Rotax. Third…damn, that is an ugly bike.

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    • Devin says:

      1. The 1125 did not come from Harley, it came from Erik Buell.
      2. The motor is amazing, it is a rotax twin that puts out 146 HP and 90 Ft-lbs of torque. I own an 1125 CR, and I can tell you the bike is great.
      3. The bike in this article does look like s@@t, but the 1125 CR looks great.
      4. Rotax makes motors for KTM and Aprilia.
      5. STFU when you don’t know what you are talking about.
      6. Harley F’d Erik Buell, they would not let him design a full fairing bike because they did not want him to compete with the ‘jap’ bikes. Erik started to design the V-rod motor with Porsche, when Harley saw it had potential they took it over and made it heavy and f’d it up.
      7. Harley finally let Erik build the rotax motor that he wanted, but it couldn’t have more CC’s then the V-rod, the motor that was supposed to be Buells in the first place.
      8. Harley shut down Buell because the new CEO is a F$%#@$& A$$hole that hates sportbikes.
      9. Erik Buell started his own company and made the 1190RS, see the motor is an 1190 CC like it should have been on the 1125, if not for Harley.
      The 1190RS is an amazing sportbike that is kicking ass in racing.
      10. Erik is one of the best engineers in the business, and the fact that you dismiss this bike because of Harley is pathetic.
      This bike is not any part Harley, and in several reviews the fit and finish was rated better then Ducati and Aprilia. The 1125 has torque out the a$$ and it insane to drive around town.
      I have owned 7 motorcycles from different brands, and I can tell you the 1125 is by far the most fun.

      • Stone says:

        O snap. Put me in my place Devin. Surely a bike as wonderful as you describe would have sold like hotcakes. O wait, I guess they didn’t, the evil corporate demi-gods at HD cast a spell and persuaded folks not to purchase the Buell line up. Hey…let’s leave it at this…you like your bike, great. I am working on my tenth one myself.

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        • Devin says:

          Stone,

          They were selling well toward the end.
          The CR came out in 09, and it looked much better, I will give you that the R does not look good.
          Keith Waddell was brought in as the new harley CEO, and he hates sport bikes, did you notice he shut down Buell and sold MV agusta right when he joined Harley? You can’t tell me that MV’s look bad?
          The only reason Harley shut down Buell and didn’t sell them, is because harley wanted all of the patents that Erik Buell had created for the sportster.
          Waddell was quoted as saying “who would anyone buy a sportbike, I just don’t see the point”. He had it out for Buell and MV from the beginning.
          And this is my 6th bike, I came from a BMW k1200r, a more expensive bike, and enjoy the Buell much more.
          Buell’s Quality and Engineering are both top notch, and Motorcycle USA gave Buell the best ratings on fit and finish, better then Ducati and Aprilia.
          Why don’t you do your research before you badmouth Buell.

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        • Zack says:

          “Yeah, those scoops will always be a polarizing design element…” Truth

          They sold pretty well in the Denver area, I bought the first one in Colorado. I was supposed to be second, but the other guy hated the scoops and backed out.
          I’ve ridden mine in all sorts of weather, taken 2 – 3000+ mile trips, even got a couple of pretty quick laps at Road America.

          I have owned several Harleys, a couple of old Real Indians, Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, Triumph, and Husqvarna motorcycles and my 1125R is hands down my favorite.
          The power and handling are stunning.

          I have thanked Erik personally and he responded by signing the bike…
          On the airbox, it reads “Happy Birthday Zack, Erik Buell”.

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  6. Mr.Mike says:

    Now I know what would happen if a Cylon mated with a Vacuum cleaner.

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  7. Pete says:

    Should have called it the 1125 SC-oops. you know what they say about bikes with big scoops… actually i don’t but that thing is ugly, I’m hating cause my stupid DVR didn’t record the Jerez MotoGP

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  8. Z1 says:

    What a stupid-looking piece of garbage. They deserve to go under. And, no, they were not a victim of “Corporate Caprice”…they are a victim of their own poor decisions.

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  9. Gabe says:

    Dirck, what happens when you remove the air scoops? What’s underneath?

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  10. Norm G. says:

    throw some on some header wrap and lose the harrier “thrust vectoring” scoops and i’m in.

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  11. Kit Halsted says:

    Is it just me, or is pointing the tail pipe directly at the rear tire not the brightest idea anyone’s ever had?

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    • Dirck Edge says:

      It’s just you…and the pipe exit doesn’t point at the tire in any event (not necessarily clear from the photos, although you ought to be able to tell from the top photo).

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  12. JR says:

    I still find it strange that Harley was unable to incorporate all of Buell into and under the same production facility to save money, and at least keep producing the Lightning models. Anyone who has owned the Buell XB Lightning knows what I’m talking about. They are compact and light weight, easy to maintain and lots of fun to ride. I will always remember my first test ride on a 2003 XB9, and my later purchase of a 2004 Buell XB12S Lightning that I drove to work etc.

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  13. Doc says:

    The scoops remind me of the air intakes on an F-15. I don’t care for stacked headlights, regardless of brand. The exhaust looks good though. It may not be the best looking bike out there but it’s not that bad. That tail section is better than 95% of the sportbikes out there. And I can think of some current and non-current rides that make this look like a masterpiece.

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  14. T. Rollie says:

    should have bought an 1125 when they were available new for $5,000 a while back at the HD dealer in Raleigh. Oh well.

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  15. ABQ says:

    It’s about the ride, guys. No matter what your bike looks like, you can’t see it while you are riding it. I appreciate that they chose to change out the cafe bars for some real handel bars. It makes any bike easier to ride in real world situations.

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  16. Reinhart says:

    Wow. I didn’t think it was possible to make the 1125 any uglier! Gentlemen, you have proved my wrong!

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  17. Denny says:

    Looks kind like… angry turkey to me. Why peple of such renome would not take on whole fresh uproach from ground up? And why only “hyperbike” should be platform for succesful styling creation?

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  18. Dave Kent says:

    Those scoops look like you’d want to do a “FOD walkdown” on your driveway before you fire it up. Google it.

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  19. Big Papa says:

    Makes those ugly scoops even uglier. I like the pipes though…

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  20. RRocket says:

    Not sure that it improves anything in the looks department….

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