|Posted on Friday, February 20, 2015 - 12:21 am: ||
Quoted below is this month's review of the 1190sx from Motorcycle Consumer News. They are a no-advertising magazine with far more accurate and honest reviews of motorcycles and related products than any other in my opinion. I highly recommend subscribing.
THE AMERICAN SPORTBIKE returns! Erik Buell Racing—EBR—now offers two competitively-priced, high-performance motorcycles in the form of the 1190RX superbike and this, the 1190SX naked. The result is a 166-hp assault on the naked class—but life is more than just spec sheets, as further reading will show…
Built in-house by EBR, the ET-V2’s (East Troy V-Twin) architecture is mostly carried over from the Buell days, when it was called the Helicon engine and was built by Rotax. At the time, the 1125cc motor was cutting edge, including F1-style finger follower valve actuation (now found on a variety of bikes), multiple counterbalancers, dry-sump lubrication and a clever Hydraulic Vacuum Assist slipper clutch unit.
For the 1190SX, this engine is pushed far, far beyond the 127 hp we tested back in 2008. Displacement grows to 1190cc thanks to forged 106mm pistons in a 67.5mm stroke. Plus, the SX is delivered in the same state of tune as its racier 1190RX brother. Compression is a sky-high 13.4:1, with forged steel con-rods built to EBR’s spec to handle the stress. All valves are titanium, and on the intake side, the cam lobes are slightly staggered to promote cylinder swirl, improving combustion. Since the EBR continues to store fuel in its frame, the entire fuel tank area is a huge airbox that mounts paired 61mm throttle bodies. The engine exhales through a midship-mounted muffler, but the increased output and tight emissions laws required the addition of the secondary silencer. Extra pipe or not, this thing is vocal, sounding like a highly-tuned Ducati as it burbles away at idle or roars at WFO.
The hot-rodding results in a stunning output of 166.07 hp @ 10,600 rpm, blowing away everything in the open naked class, including the 151.6 hp of the 110cc-larger KTM Super Duke R. Torque is a strong 87.6 lb.-ft. —only slightly less than the 93.2 lb.-ft. of the larger KTM—too. At the quarter-mile, the EBR fights against its tall gearing, but test rider Alex Frantz feathered the clutch perfectly to rocket the SX off the line, delivering a 10.08 sec. run at 137.2 mph, smoking the KTM (10.38 sec., 135.68 mph)—but not able to keep up with the short-geared thrust of the BMW S1000R and its 9.96 sec., 138.93 mph run. Nothing was able to keep the EBR in sight for top speed, though, roaring by at an insane radar-certified 170.02 mph!
Of course, there’s much more to riding than flashy specs, and that’s where the EBR falters. While the fuel injection response is good overall, low-rpm fueling is very poor, with the engine bucking and surging below 4000 revs. Steady-state throttle also seems to engage a distinct lean-burn mode to improve fuel economy—which works, delivering up to 39.9 mpg—but highway cruising entails noticeable hesitation and surging at smaller throttle openings. The power curve itself is also very cammy, with most of the power residing above 8000 rpm. Once you start chasing the high-rpm horsepower, you’ll run into harsh, buzzy vibration, too. And it runs hot, with the fans constantly clicking on to bathe the rider in hot air.
Finally, on top of the coarse engine behavior, the EBR makes do with a very basic traction control system, especially compared to other bikes in the class. The TCS is adjustable over 20 settings, but the system only uses a speed sensor on the rear wheel, unable to determine front tire speed. Thus, the system has to infer potential slide or wheelie events based on rate-of-change—or, to put it another way, it has to guess what’s going on. So even though the TCS’ intervention is quite smooth when engaged, the intervention point is often unpredictable, which saps rider confidence.
Clutch & Transmission
Even though the engine is a bit brutish, the transmission is a model citizen. All six ratios engage with a light click, although neutral can be a bit elusive when the bike is cold. Unlike the old belt-driven Buells, the EBR wears a drive chain, and still uses a chain roller to help control chain slap due to the EBR’s unusual swing-arm pivot position—it works as intended, even minimizing the low-rpm shudder from the big V-twin, but the roller is extremely noisy. Overall gearing is quite tall, too, which means you’ll need to slip the clutch constantly in dense traffic (or at the dragstrip).
The hydraulically-actuated clutch itself is very good, with a wide engagement range, but lever effort is very high, cramping hands in traffic. It also features a pneumatically-assisted slipper unit powered by the vacuum created under engine braking. While not as precise as a mechanical ramp-type system, the EBR’s slipper clutch worked perfectly and definitely eased corner entry—an impressive feat for a powerful, high-compression bike.
Chassis & Suspension
Buells were infamous for their unusual chassis solutions and extreme geometry—a trend that continues unabated in the latest EBR. The slab-sided twin-spar aluminum frame also serves as the fuel tank, holding 4.5 gals. of premium unleaded, and is as stiff as you might imagine. Bolted to the front end is Showa’s awesome Big Piston front Fork, which uses enlarged internal damping pistons to slow down oil speeds—the result is smoother, plusher damping, especially when under load, and fantastic feedback. The fork is also notable for its very steep rake: 22.4°, or a good 2-3° sharper than nearly anything else on the market. This shallow rake, along with minimal trail (3.8") and a very short wheelbase (55.5"), gives extremely quick steering that makes changing direction effortless. Luckily, a standard steering damper maintains control of the aggressive set-up to prevent twitchiness—or full-blown tankslappers.
The rear of the bike is suspended by a fully-adjustable Showa linkage-less monoshock. Like the fork, it provided very smooth action, but its compression damping was a bit sharp over larger hits. Still, the Showa parts provide a very composed ride quality even on bumpy pavement, with exceptional front/rear balance. We added a bit of preload and compression to reduce some fork dive, but were otherwise quite pleased—despite the track-centric settings, the 1190SX offered great road feel and chassis control.
Wheels, Brakes & Tires
While the claimed benefits of reducing unsprung weight and allowing for a lighter front wheel are easy to understand, the perimeter rotor system has always suffered when compared to conventional units. Well, until now—the 386mm single rotor and its matching eight-piston caliper finally offer the feel, consistency and power we’ve come to expect from top-notch braking components. Huzzah! At the rear, a tiny 220mm disc is clamped by a two-piston caliper to provide racetrack-focused braking power, i.e., not very much. Unfortunately, the EBR does not come with ABS, not even as an option, but after a few attempts, we managed to record a 125.5' braking run from 60 mph, a decent result—but behind the KTM (117.05'), BMW (121.2') or even the Kawasaki Z1000 (122.2'). Blame the short wheelbase and the many resulting stoppies. The steep rake also led to some scary moments when the front tire locked up, too.
The 1190SX mounts a pair of unusual wheels, too. Thanks to the perimeter front rotor, the front wheel is very lightly constructed, as braking loads aren’t transferred via the spokes in such a design. Meanwhile, the rear wheel uses large, flat spokes to best handle the extreme torque output from the engine. Around each rim are Pirelli’s sweet Diablo Rosso Corsa tires, a multi-compound supersport tire designed for both street and track. With a 120/70ZR17 front and a huge 190/55ZR17 rear, grip was flawless during our testing. If we owned the bike, however, we would try a slightly rounder front tire option, which might perhaps settle the front end better during higher speed corner entries.
We like naked sportbikes because they provide top-spec performance with more humane riding positions. That remains true here, too, but the EBR 1190SX is a far cry from comfortable. A low, flat handlebar offers more rise than racy clip-ons, but there is still a very forward lean. The plank-like saddle is long and wide, which gives the rider room to move around, but it is padded in name only, and the edges are sharp enough to bruise your backside. It also slopes forward into the tank—making for a “crowded” ride for gentlemen racers. The footpegs are very high, cramping leg room. Finally, while the frame-cum-fuel tank provides a flat surface to grip the bike, it gets hot quick. The SX riding position works great for aggressive canyon riding, but it seems comfort was not high on the design sheet… likely hitting the list somewhere after paint colors and brand of turn signal.
Our first thoughts after pulling away on the 1190SX were unkind comparisons to Ducati’s 1098—another big, cranky, cammy supersport twin. But once we spun the engine up to redline, the opinion was more along the lines of Bayliss’ 1098 Superbike! Once you get used to riding around the low-rpm stumbles, the EBR is quite good, and the power is stellar. The TC isn’t perfect, but it provides a reasonable safety blanket when exploring the rarefied air above 8000 rpm, too. The chassis is more than up to the task of controlling the prodigious output, and on open, sweeping roads, the combination of big power plus excellent grip makes the rider feel invincible. Braking power is great, and the sporty ergonomics put you in an ideal position to attack corners.
The problem is that once you get off the “good” roads and head back to real life, the cantankerous EBR is far less endearing, with its hot, grumbling engine, hard saddle and generally uncivilized behavior. Meanwhile, the KTM 1290 Super Duke R is still smooth, refined and perfectly controllable.
Instruments & Controls
The 1190SX shows its track heritage with plenty of micro-adjustable control points at the levers and pedals. Switchgear is basic, but the dash is cutting edge. Built on a CAN-bus backbone, the full-color TFT dash is bright and shows plenty of data, including fault codes, track times, TC settings and the usual array of idiot lights. Systems are easily accessed and adjusted using crystal-clear menus, and we love that messages are displayed clearly in real English, such as “COLD ENGINE” or “LOW OIL.” Our only real complaint is that the gear position sensor is software driven, not mechanical, which means it can’t tell what gear you are in when the clutch is disengaged—a minor gripe at best.
Attention to Detail
The 1190SX is a spartan machine, so there’s not a whole lot to refine. The bodywork is notable for using color-impregnated molds, for durability and reduced weight, but it does feel a bit “Fisher Price.” The headlight is a super-bright LED unit, and the mirrors are just wide enough to be useful in traffic. The whole machine seems put together nicely, even if it shakes itself silly when chugging under 4000 rpm. It’s not as visually distinctive as the angular KTM, but the EBR looks as nice as the bug-eyed BMW, in any case.
PHOTOS BY DAVE SEARLE
Value & Conclusion
It comes to this: the EBR 1190SX is a powerful naked sportbike that offers amazing levels of performance. And it has the plus of flying the American flag proudly. But it’s not as refined or as sophisticated as its competition from Austria, Germany or Italy. Furthermore, at $16,995, it’s only four dollars cheaper than the KTM 1290, and over $2000 more than the BMW S1000R or Aprilia Tuono V4R. The 1190SX is a fantastic effort from the revived American brand, nipping at the heels of the established stars—but those same rivals have nothing to fear, either.
1. Even compared to the tall and narrow KTM 1290, the EBR 1190SX is svelte. Wet weight is a light 445 lbs., and mass is well centralized around the dense core of the compact V-twin. The beefy frame rails also make for good lower body grip, but the compact chassis cramps legs—and engine heat is a constant companion.
2. Despite the tangle of exhaust plumbing, the SX gives a very angry bark. And no wonder, as it produces 166 hp from 1190cc. Power is crowded at the top-end, and low-rpm delivery is lurch-tastic, but overall fueling is quite good, and once you learn to ride around its minor foibles, it is stunning.
3. The EBR’s TFT dash is very clear and quite clever. Functions are easily identified and adjusted, as are messages such as the one shown. Just be aware, the speedo is slightly pessimistic, so watch your speed carefully around LEOs...
4. Comfort was never a huge priority with the older Buells, and it definitely isn’t on the EBR. Shown in profile, the seat offers less than a half-inch of padding, and the edge of the seat pan is sharp enough to slice fruit.
5. Erik Buell’s favored perimeter rotor brake system continues to be refined, and on the SX, it finally delivers excellent power and feel. Unfortunately, there is no option for ABS on the eight-piston caliper, and the big rotor is prone to squeaking when hot. Despite the brake system being very good, braking numbers suffered, as the tight wheelbase made the bike quite prone to stoppies. PHOTOS BY BRUCE STEEVER
I really liked the 1125CR, the last of the old Buells to see the light of day before Harley pulled the plug. This 1190SX is the direct descendant of that machine, with advances in chassis tech, reliability and more power than you could ever justify for a naked machine. There’s a lot to like here.
But in chasing the power, the SX loses a lot of refinement and driveability—characteristics that the KTM 1290 Super Duke R has in spades. The EBR isn’t so crude that it hurts the ride, but the KTM’s (or Aprilia’s, or BMW’s) sophisticated rider aids make going fast so easy it becomes a giggle. And when it’s time to cruise home, the competitors offer enough comfort and refinement to serve as willing light-duty tourers, too.
The hard-edged EBR is looking for a rider who wants the craziest amount of power in the class and is willing to sacrifice creature comforts to get it. But the biggest compromise needed to purchase the 1190SX is an ability to wrap yourself in an American flag and ignore the competition. Other options in the naked class are better, cheaper, or both. —Bruce Steever
My first thought, as I took off on one of my favorite twisty roads aboard the EBR, is that it felt like a 1200cc pocket bike. The machine is so short, it pegs so high, its rake so steep and its trail so short (Erik Buell never could resist giving large displacement four-stroke road bikes the chassis geometry of lightweight two-stroke roadracers), that it’s constantly eager to change directions, and despite the steering damper, it doesn’t have a neutral steering feel, needing small inputs all the way through corners. Even though it actually puts more power to the rear wheel than a KTM 1290 Super Duke R, its need for attention is so distracting that I couldn’t get comfortable just trying to aim it and pull the trigger over familiar roads. It might be great on a race track, but that’s not where I ordinarily ride.
Although the thin seat isn’t as uncomfortable as it looks, the intensity of the riding experience was enough that it was tiring in fairly short order anyway.
I’m not sure any EBR will ever be a general purpose motorcycle.
|Posted on Friday, February 20, 2015 - 07:19 am: ||
Wow .. thats the most negative review i have read on the EBR.
|Posted on Friday, February 20, 2015 - 10:32 am: ||
I take most of these reviews with a grain of salt, they are mostly subjective because of the testers taste and or prejudices towards design preferences vary. I have ridden the KTM 1290, EBR 1190SX, and the Aprilia Tuono. The KTM is a really nice machine and in my opinion the only advantage of the KTM over the EBR is comfort (lower peg position), as far as engine, performance and handling the EBR was hands down winner for me. The Tuono is a awesome machine but I would never buy one. Don't like I4 engines so the BMW is out, only other naked I would consider would be the MV Agusta Brutale 800RR. So my opinions are subjective also, I say go ride them and make your own decision. The EBR 1190sx is a HOOT to ride!!
|Posted on Friday, February 20, 2015 - 10:58 am: ||
A friend who subscribes to MCN sent me a link to the article which included a video review. The video review came across as very positive.
Regarding the semi-negative points raised in the article, if you don't like them, seats, handlebars, pegs, and gearing are easily changed.
|Posted on Friday, February 20, 2015 - 11:04 am: ||
Just for the record, Dave Searle also said that a Suzuki Savage was a better bike than a Buell Blast.
How can anyone claim to be objective about an emotional item like a motorcycle?
|Posted on Friday, February 20, 2015 - 11:21 am: ||
I think when you ride a different one every day, you lose most of the emotional connection. Then it becomes easier to evalute each objectively. At least that's what Wilt Chamberlain says.
|Posted on Friday, February 20, 2015 - 11:52 am: ||
"I think when you ride a different one every day, you lose most of the emotional connection."
I concur 100%. If you ride an EBR there is a very good chance you will buy one
|Posted on Friday, February 20, 2015 - 12:39 pm: ||
I started to answer this last night, but thought better of it. On some of the things he is just wrong. Having now sat on one for six hours in a day (stopped for gas), the seat is great, riding position is good especially when the wind holds you up. Last night I said he should hit the gym. Perhaps his butt wouldn't be so tired and his hands wouldn't be too weak. Maybe just me, but are most of the reviewers a bunch of nancy boys? I feel like I am listening to the butler tell me how to steep tea.
(Message edited by ljm on February 20, 2015)
|Posted on Friday, February 20, 2015 - 12:55 pm: ||
I think when you ride a different one every day, you lose most of the emotional connection. Then it becomes easier to evaluate each objectively. At least that's what Wilt Chamberlain says.
|Posted on Friday, February 20, 2015 - 04:15 pm: ||
Are the tester's comments on the motor bucking and surging at lower RPMs accurate?
|Posted on Friday, February 20, 2015 - 04:32 pm: ||
Are the tester's comments on the motor bucking and surging at lower RPMs accurate?
From my test ride of the RX and SX, I'd say kinda yes. You can tell the EPA has a stranglehold on it, nothing a Race ECM won't fix. Same that can be said about many other bikes. My 1125R felt the same with the stock fueling, and now with a Race ECM is now smooth down to idle.
|Posted on Friday, February 20, 2015 - 05:34 pm: ||
It's nature of v engine too. Ever try to cruise a Ducati under 4k RPM. Shakes worse than Harley.
|Posted on Saturday, February 21, 2015 - 01:45 pm: ||
I thought it was a very accurate and honest review. The best I have read yet honestly. Seems like just about every other review has been written by someone eating out of someone else's pocket.
V twins shake. So do 4 cylinders. Its all in the design. If you are concerned about how much an engine shakes than you are looking in the wrong class of bike. Same goes for comfort. The bad thing about the EBR's publicity is that people keep trying to put it into classes that it is not. It is a toy. It is a feral race machine with a title and tag. It has a raw angry soul, the one thing that I appreciate most about this bike. That is something that the other bikes cannot offer. A machine with charisma.
This is not a bike for the masses. This is a bike for a motorcyclist.
Go EBR woo!
|Posted on Saturday, February 21, 2015 - 02:44 pm: ||
Lets see him give an "honest review" about Honda, BMW, Kaw....etc.... they have much deeper pockets.
|Posted on Sunday, February 22, 2015 - 12:50 am: ||
Their reviews are honest. In recent memory they have poorly reviewed the BMW K1600 series (clutch), basically trashed Yamaha's FZ-09, disliked the handling of the Indian Scout (Polaris has a lot of money too), and levied many other criticisms against products from all manufacturers. I suggested subscribing because they accept no paid advertising. Granted, if they consistently pan someone's products they would probably not get to test their stuff for long. Other than Ural, they haven't done that because they haven't had to.
This review is not bad. It just seems bad if you as a reader are used to the thinly-veiled ads posing as reviews in mainstream publications. Assumptions that all motorcycle reviews are similarly tainted is based in ignorance.
|Posted on Sunday, February 22, 2015 - 08:58 am: ||
Motorcycle consumer news is 100% supported by its subscribers and has no advertising, so they are completely unbiased.
|Posted on Sunday, February 22, 2015 - 09:29 am: ||
"V twins shake. So do 4 cylinders. Its all in the design. If you are concerned about how much an engine shakes than you are looking in the wrong class of bike. Same goes for comfort. The bad thing about the EBR's publicity is that people keep trying to put it into classes that it is not. It is a toy. It is a feral race machine with a title and tag. It has a raw angry soul, the one thing that I appreciate most about this bike. That is something that the other bikes cannot offer. A machine with charisma.
This is not a bike for the masses. This is a bike for a motorcyclist."
This quote should be in EBR's advertising. Maybe even in the owner's manual.
|Posted on Sunday, February 22, 2015 - 10:13 am: ||
Motorcycle consumer news is 100% supported by its subscribers and has no advertising
so they are completely unbiased.
Not true. We are all biased. We can try and be aware of and compensate for our biases, and some of us can do it better than others, but we will always like the things we like and not like the things we don't like and that information will always leak out in the things we say, do, and write.
Which is fine.
We should, as a society, stop pretending to be unbiased, and try to be transparently biased.
|Posted on Sunday, February 22, 2015 - 10:31 am: ||
Well said, Reepi.
As I posted earlier, the video review at MCN seems to have a significantly more positive tone, such as this statement:
Even compared to the 1300cc KTM that we liked so much, this blows it out of the water.