Many consider the Ulysses a good enough motorcycle which would provide confidence on and off the road, but us, here at TopSpeed like to call it the absolute American Adventure Sport motorcycle. It is an awesome performer when you hit the streets on it, but if the planned shortcut takes you through unpaved roads or even woods, there’s no worry. It will perform excellent and show us once again that the Thunderstorm engine is versatility itself.
For 2008, Buell delivers an absolutely great traveler’s bike fitted with fully adjustable Premium Showa front and rear suspension. Comfort was the aiming point so the rear spring preload is adjustable, making the passenger more comfortable and willing to stay longer on the bike. Ground clearance is 6.75 inches and suspension travels is 6.5 inches front and 6.4 inches rear, but these numbers won’t affect much of the road characteristics because the low center of mass will have the bike easily controllable. The only thing for a rider remaining to do is to get the best out of the mighty 103 HP Buell Firestorm 1203cc V-Twin engine.
Buell first introduced the Ulysses in 2006. The bike was practically an XB with long travel suspension and longer frame and swingarm. It stands as Buell’s idea of an Adventure Sport motorcycle, but the engine couldn’t have been other than the 45-degree Thunderstorm V-Twin.
It offered a comfortable riding position due to the seat, handlebars and footpegs arrangement so it was built around the rider. The frame’s fuel capacity was and still is 4.40 gallons.
Stylistically, the first introduction isn’t different at all from the 2008 version. 2006 colors were Midnight Black and Barricade Orange.
In 2007 the Ulysses was only available in Barricade Orange with Magnesium Tone wheels.
New for 2008 is the thrust blue body work.
Adventure bikes are usually more off-road oriented, pretty much like the KTM 990 Adventure. The Austrian’s idea on a versatile motorcycle consists in the ability of going not only on unpaved surfaces, but through the desert if you will. For 2008, the bike receives even more displacement, an electronic fuel injection, regulated catalytic converter and an ABS System so the Buell is in for some fierce competition when not on the streets. Engine is a 999cc twin cylinder, 4-stroke, V 75 degree.
You will also find it in that situation when you have it put up against the BMW R 1200 GS Adventure. The Germans have a similar looking motorcycle which is also ready to carry you across the continents and it will also prove competitive on paved streets. The difference between it and the rest of the bikes in this off-road fight is the 105 HP 1170cc air and oil cooled Boxed Twin. Everybody going for a trip around the world will most likely be seen on the BMW R 1200 GS Adventure.
Probably its most appropriate competitor, given to the fact that it is more familiar with the streets than with the off-road, is the Ducati Multistrada 1100. A sport bike which is capable of proving its point both on and off the road, the V-Twin powered ride offers incredible comfort, something that makes it ideal for day-long rides on all kinds of roads, especially paved ones.
Usually, people like to buy motorcycles that are not strange looking and supposedly unattractive and some will think that the Ulysses finds itself in that category. But I don’t agree! I simply consider the Ulysses the future of American Adventure motorcycles (and not only; take a look at the R 1200 GS Adventure), a machine with an affinity for the streets, something that reflects on its design too.
First thing are the wheels. They look like being taken right off the Lightning models as they feature 17” and road rubber. Between them, the under-the-motor-exhaust and the 45 degree V-Twin motor itself also remind us of the all-street bikes, but they also make the Ulysses look imposing and ready to leave the competition behind.
The front end is dominated by the headlights (covered with a grill), the small fairing and the windshield which makes things easier on the rider when covering ground at high speeds. Handlebars are highly positioned and feature hand guards having the purpose of protecting the rider’s hands from wind chill (highway) and debris (off-road).
The frame holds the gas so the bike’s wideness is justified. Comfort is offered by the spacious seat which together with the handlebars and footpegs offers a great riding position, ideal for twisty roads and, why not, off-road incursions.
This makes me jump on it again, but let’s see what were the results the first time I did so.
Before I start, I must say that the Buell Ulysses XB12X is pretty hard to be mounted if you’re a medium-sized person, not to mention the shorties. It will also be a difficult bike to hold in position given to the fact that only tall riders will flat-foot the ground and feel completely secure and confident at stop signs or when you simply stop to rest and enjoy the view.
If you consider yourself suitable for the 6.75 inches ground clearance and the 31.80 inches high seat, than you’re in for an amazing ride that will take you from the city, through the highways, and all the way down the middle of nowhere.
When I first got on the Buell we were in the city so I had the opportunity to watch this master perform in a hostile environment for him, considering its dimensions and the fact that it is built for pure riding enjoyment, something you can’t talk about when it comes to the cities these days.
It is a good thing though that the engine pulls smoothly from down low (even under 2000 RPM) and you will be the first to catch the next stop sign (that is if you are not riding along sports bikes).
Handling it in the city isn’t that annoying as the bike is very responsive and although not that sharp handling, given to its 23.5 degrees rake, it can be easily thrown from lane to lane.
But once you leave the city barriers behind and head towards the highway, you will immediately feel the Buell Thunderstorm 1203 V-Twin engine change its behavior and leave you with an open mouth. The engine’s mid-range is very impressive and shifting the five speeds of the helical gear is the easiest thing.
Top end rush is also pure fun and in fifth gear I managed to raise the speedometer’s needle up to 120 mph while approaching the naked aerodynamic riding position which introduced me to the small and efficient windscreen. This unit offers great wind protection, making the Ulysses perfect to be ridden fast all the way where the road ends and the dust begins being started.
The bike has long travel Showa suspensions which would have the bumps soaked up in an instant so despite the 17” wheels the off-road package is there. I don’t consider the Ulysses an alternative to Dakar bikes, but simply a machine that doesn’t like to stop having fun simply because the pavement ends.
But if it does need to stop, it relies on the ZTL-type front brake featuring 6-pistons and a 375 mm disc. This system offers enough stopping power to have the Ulysses willing to do a wheelie even when you’re riding with a passenger on your back. That is why I always recommend stopping using both brakes. In this case, the second braking system is a single-piston applied on 240 mm disc. It will make braking feel well more secure and the passenger won’t be praying for his life.
It becomes a truly competitive bike when it comes to its price. Offered for an MSRP of $11,495, compared with $14,598 (KTM 990 Adventure), 16,600 (BMW R 1200 GS Adventure) and $13,995, and not being miles away from these bikes, the Ulysses is the most advantageous choice you could do.
You can have it painted Thrust Blue, Barricade Orange or Midnight Black and the price would be the same, not to mention the satisfaction with which the Buell comes guaranteed. It seems that America starts making a point when it comes to Adventure Sport bikes, but we’re still waiting for the Japanese and European reactions.
Engine and Transmission
Engine: Air/oil/fan-cooled, 4-stroke, 45 degree V-Twin
Valve Train: OHV, two valves per cylinder, self-adjusting
Bore x Stroke: 3.50 in. x 3.81 in. (88.90 mm x 96.82mm)
Displacement: 73.40 cu. in. (1203cc)
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Fuel Delivery: 49 mm down draft DDFI |||| fuel injection
Intake: Zero-resistance airbox
Exhaust: Tuned, tri-pass resonance chamber with InterActive valve and mass-centralized
Torque: 84 ft. lbs. @ 6000 rpm (113.90 NM @ 6000 rpm)
Horsepower: 103 hp @ 6800 rpm
Starting: 1.2 kW electric with solenoid shift starter motor engagement
Lubrication: Dry sump
Oil Capacity: 2.50 qts. (2.37 L)
Oil Filtration: Screw-on disposable element
Primary Drive: Chain, 1.5:1 (57/38) ratio
Final Drive: Constant path, 14 mm pitch aramid-reinforced Goodyear Hibrex belt with
Flexterr Plus technology, 2.407:1 (65/27) ratio
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate, compensated
Transmission: 5-speed, helical gear
Chassis and Dimensions
Frame: Aluminum frame with Uniplanar powertrain vibration isolation system, fuel in frame
Front Fork: 47mm Showa inverted forks with rearward offset axle, adjustable compression damping, rebound damping and spring preload
Rear Shock: Showa coil-over monoshock with remote, under-seat reservoir and adjustable compression damping, rebound damping and spring preload
Front Wheel: Reinforced XB-type 6-spoke, ZTL cast aluminum, 3.50 in. x 17 in. Magnesium Tone Powdercoat.
Rear Wheel: Reinforced XB-type 6-spoke, cast aluminum, 5.50 in x 17 in. Magnesium Tone Powdercoat
Front Brakes: ZTL-type brake, 6-piston, fixed caliper, 375 mm single-sided, inside-out, stainless steel, floating rotor.
Rear Brakes: Single-piston, floating caliper; 240 mm stainless steel, fixed rotor
Front Wheel Suspension Travel: 6.51 in. (165.35 mm)
Rear Wheel Suspension Travel: 6.38 in. (162.05 mm)
Overall Length: 85 in. (2159 mm)
Overall Width: 35.10 in. (891.54 mm)
Seat Height: 31.80 in. (807.72 mm)
Ground Clearance: 6.75 in. (171.45 mm)
Rake: 23.5 degrees
Fork Angle: 22.0 degrees
Soft Contact, Right: 39 degrees
Soft Contact, Left: 39 degrees
Hard Contact, Right: 43 degrees
Hard Contact, Left: 40 degrees
Trail: 4.80 in. (121.92 mm)
Wheelbase: 54.10 in. (1374.14 mm)
Front Tire: 120/70 ZR-17
Rear Tire: 180/55 ZR-17
Fuel Capacity: 4.4 gal. (16.66 L)
Reserve Fuel Capacity: 0.83 gal. (3.14 L)
Fuel Economy: 48/65 mpg (4.90/3.62 L/100 km)
Reserve Fuel Capacity: 0.83 gal. (3.14 L)
Dry Weight: 425 lbs. (192.78 kg)
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating: 950 lbs. (430.91 kg)
Load Capacity: 455 lbs. (206.38 kg)