This text was initially printed within the June-July 1999 situation of Cycle World’s Large Twin Journal.
While you consider touring bikes, you possible consider two-wheeled Winnebagos gliding alongside the interstates on cruise management, their passengers lounging in plush seats whereas their on-board stereos blare the whole lot from Tchaikovsky to Shania Twain. Or when you’re the extra pragmatic sort, perhaps you conjure pictures of big land yachts with sufficient cupboard space for Imelda Marcos’ complete shoe assortment.
However not all touring is performed on the flat blandlands of I-One thing-or-other aboard half-ton monsterbikes. There are riders preferring touring in a way more lean-and-mean, performance-oriented mode, eschewing the straight and large for the twisty and slim.
Outfitted with its factory-designed sport-touring tools, the Buell S3 is the recent ticket for such riders.
However first, we have to get our terminology straight. Till this yr, the S3 Buell (in addition to the S2 earlier than it) was additionally accessible in a separate S3T (or S2T) mannequin, which was the exact same bike geared up with the manufacturing unit’s personal sport-touring —increased handlebars, removable saddlebags (both large or slim) and fairing lowers. However beginning with the ’99 mannequin yr, there now not is a separate S3T model. As an alternative, Buell is providing a Construct-To-Order program (see “Roll Your Personal,” pg. 44) that enables patrons to have their bikes custom-tailored proper on the manufacturing unit. They’ll choose from a menu of choices that embody bodywork coloration, body coloration, wheel sort and coloration, handlebar model and touring tools. So, despite the fact that an official T-model is now not within the lineup, the person objects nonetheless can be found individually, which means that patrons can now order their S3s geared up with any or the entire sport-touring accouterments.
We wished to check an S3 whereas we have been on the East Coast for Daytona Bike Week, so we ordered up one with the entire aforementioned tools already put in. We picked up the bike in Daytona Seaside, loaded our gear into the large-capacity baggage and headed out on a 1300-mile loop up into and thru the hills of southern Georgia.
Although the brand new S3 appears to be like very like final yr’s mannequin, the ’99 has undergone some severe revisions. One of many extra dramatic is the swap from a carburetor to Dynamic Digital Gasoline Injection. DDFI incorporates a suggestions loop within the exhaust system in order that—in contrast to the less-sophisticated injection on the Large Twins—the system can robotically modify the combination if the engine is modified. The motor is essentially a 1200 Sportster meeting with the hot-rodded “Thunderstorm” heads that Buell debuted a few years in the past on the S1 White Lightning. The engine nestles in a redesigned body that now has a four-point mounting system as a substitute of three; it additionally routes the exhaust header pipes contained in the body to stop the rider’s proper leg from getting toasted.
Different new-for-’99 options embody the cast-aluminum swingarm from the X1 mannequin, and a wider vary of adjustment on the one, under-engine shock and upside-down entrance fork. The seat now has a brand new form and foam padding, and the saddlebag latches are improved for higher ease of operation.
Talking of the saddlebags, we have been solely about 10 miles north of Daytona on our journey when the mom of all rainstorms hit. We braved the downpour for a couple of minutes, however we’re speaking about a type of tropical frog-stranglers; so, we retreated to a roadside rest-area toilet till the storm blew over. However whereas we have been underneath a shelter, the bike was not; it languished in a digital sea of water for nearly two hours. We’re glad to report that the saddlebags maintained their watertight integrity completely, leaving our underwear and cameras clear and dry.
The luggage even have new fashioned foam liners which might be an enormous enchancment over the earlier mushy nylon liners. The outdated baggage have been all the time getting caught within the latches and lid, making the straightforward act of closing the bag a profanity-laced affair. The brand new liners are mushy sufficient to break down predictably, but inflexible sufficient to face upright. Says Doug Manternach, design engineer for Buell touring equipment, “The whole saddlebag isn’t meant to come back off the bike if you get to the resort. The bag stays on the bike, and also you pull out the liner and take it with you. That manner, you don’t observe in all of the rainwater and filth that is perhaps on the outside of the baggage.” Based mostly on our expertise, we have now to say that the system works properly. Ought to you have to take away the baggage altogether, the process is fast and easy. We had the large-capacity baggage on our S3, and whereas they gained’t carry the children’ swing set, you may get a full-face helmet in every bag or, with even handed packing, sufficient garments and stuff for a week-long knockabout.
As for a way the fairing lowers protected us from the rain, properly, they have been designed for rain that you may truly trip in. The monsoon we encountered was too intense to trip in safely, so we are able to solely say that the lowers do a fairly good job of routing wind across the legs and would most likely hold a average rain away out of your decrease physique.
After the solar reappeared, we continued north for some time on the dreaded interstate, the one street accessible that might get us the place we needed to be by dusk. The S3 was designed by Erik Buell and his employees to be an agile canyon-killer, so its virtues are wasted on lengthy, straight roads. That is most assuredly not a touring bike that once in a while might be ridden sportily; it’s mainly a sportbike that, on the proper roads, acquits itself handsomely whereas protecting lengthy distances, even with all of the added tools put in.
On the interstate, the S3 motors together with bored aplomb, however after a few hours of droning in a straight line at a continuing pace, the rider begins squirming round, making an attempt to fend off numbbutt. Buell’s distinctive Uniplanar rubber-mount system for the motor, nevertheless, is very efficient in maintaining engine vibration away from the rider, a welcome attribute on the rectilinear chunk.
Finally, we have been in a position to peel off onto a backroad and enterprise into the inexperienced, rolling countryside of south Georgia, placing the S3 sport-tourer smack-dab in its aspect. We don’t know the way a lot you prefer to lean within the corners, however the S3 chassis is race-bred and the Sportster motor very slim, so aggressive riders can toss this child over a looong manner. We at Large Twin don’t allege to be knee-dragging streetracers, a job we go away to the Ninjabike struggleriors at our sister journal, Cycle World; however we are able to say that the absolutely geared up S3 is ready to maintain its personal with the perfect sport-touring bikes on this planet—and that’s a very quick crowd.
A few of that sport functionality stems from the Thunderstorm motor, a torque monster that cranks out a claimed 101 ponies. Mix that with the comparatively quick (55-inch) wheelbase, and whacking open the throttle in first gear produces an instantaneous, enormous wheelie. The simple-to-access torque additionally makes for giant enjoyable on tight twisties with out fixed gear-shifting. At any engine pace above two grand, the Thunderstorm motor pulls like a freight prepare all the best way to redline. And it whoas pretty much as good because it goes, too. The S3 will, as Invoice Cosby as soon as proudly mentioned of his new sneakers, cease on a dime and provide you with 5 cents change. The massive, six-piston, single-disc entrance brake was designed for roadracing, thus affords all of the fade-free stopping energy even essentially the most aggressive sport rider would ever want, not to mention a less-rambunctious rider on a sport-tour.
Now let’s speak consolation. Sportbikes are notoriously inhospitable long-distance runners; the standard sport-riding place makes for cramped legs, drained wrists and aching shoulders. However the S3—with its slim motor permitting decrease footpegs, and the non-compulsory increased bars offering a more-upright driving place—is much extra nice than we had anticipated. Our 6-foot-2, 260-pound tester has the chance to trip different sportbikes, however he typically declines as a result of none of them supply sufficient front room. The touring-equipped S3, nevertheless, match him properly, a lot in order that he by no means felt cramped or squeezed throughout his three-day ramble.
Neither did he really feel beat-up. The shock and fork have been supple sufficient to isolate him from a lot of the punishment dealt by bumps and thumps within the pavement, but taut sufficient to stifle any tendency to wallow within the quick sweepers. However don’t be misled; the trip is not at all mushy and luxurious; this isn’t an Electra Glide, in spite of everything. Fairly, the S3’s trip is agency sufficient to inspire loads of rider confidence however compliant sufficient to not be abusive.
Buell additionally has made regular and substantial enhancements within the construct high quality of its bikes. This newest incarnation of Erik’s dream acts and feels of a chunk, with a concord of intent that appeared missing in earlier fashions. For us, that unity of function impressed such an affirmation within the bike’s sturdiness that we might have continued our trip all the best way to, say, Alaska—and achieve this with full conviction that the S3 would make it there intact. The bike by no means rattled, clattered or sprung a leak, and no elements have been left forsaken on the crimson Georgia clay.
So, what’s the underside line? Properly, in sport-touring conditions, each element of the factory-equipped S3 is as much as the duty. It’s a effective companion when the roads are curvy and the tempo is fast, and the torquey, fuel-injected Thunderstorm motor is a delight anythe place and on a regular basis, from startup to modify off. The S3 is even a effective selection as an all-around bike, a flexible machine that may function a devoted each day commuter, a enjoyable weekend playbike or virtually something in between. Nope, this positively shouldn’t be pricey outdated Dad’s touring bike.