Buell Performance Academy

For a little while now, I’ve been on the market for an older Buell that needs re-vamping as a project to keep me busy. My other half has given full permission. However, finding knackered (possibly Cat-D) Buells needing love is like looking for rocking-horse sh!t.

Anyway - it’s my birthday at the end of June and my other half has bought me 6 hours with the Buell Performance Academy tomorrow at Mallory Park - riding the complete selection of Buells available in the UK around the track and taking the big Uly on an off-road bit.

Plus… a BSB rider (not sure who yet) is taking pillion rides around the circuit. I better take some spare underpants!

I’ll let you know how it goes… but I really can’t wait!

I went to the event on 11th May at Castle Combe and ended up buying a Ulysses a couple of weeks later. Have signed up for a BPA track day in July as well. How did you get on?

So……

I got up damn early and headed to Mallory Park circuit in Leicestershire. 8-8:30 am was registration. A few others were hanging around having breakfast. An equal mix of people turned up on bikes and in cars. Some had partners with them, others had come in groups. Generally, there was a good mix of old and young turning up to experience riding Buells and to get a gentle introduction to riding on a track and riding off-road.

After a group talk of what the morning would be like, it was time to suit up and start the events. We were divided into 4 groups of 8-10 people who would each take turns on the different events…

#1 – 20 minutes riding on the track. Various ex-racers (BSB, sidecar, motocross etc.) and ex-Police riders would be our guides. My group was 8 people, split into 3 groups (3-3-2). I climbed aboard an 1125CR (the new Buell café racer based on the 1125R with Rotax engine) and went out following a lead rider. This was a session to learn the track, get used to riding on a track (for many of us the first time) and generally pick up the pace. This was a good fun way start the morning! Mallory Park is pretty short, so very easy to learn - we used the whole length of the circuit, but without the bus stop chicane. The time went by very quickly, but the pace picked up during this time and it was good to really open up the Buell. If you’ve ridden Buells, you’ll know how lumpy the engines can be. The Rotax in these things is very good – but note the gearbox is still a Buell!! Although, in fairness, with a big v-twin it’s not like you have to change gear very often anyway.

#2 – Skills course. If you’ve been to the NEC bike show, you will have seen the Buell experience skills course (it’s near the wall-of-death and mini-motos). This is the same. Slow speed course, tight turns, see-saw, figures of eight. All on a Buell Lightening (XB9SX) with the smallest movement of bars in motorbike history – if you don’t lean the bike to make 5 mph turns, you won’t make the turn! Good fun and a real eye-opener to how good your slow speed skills are. Of the 8 people in my group, there were no “clean” rounds!

#3 – Road ride. A 20 minute trip out on a Buell of your choice. I chose a different model Lightening (XB12Ss), which is basically the model I am looking to get. A nice ride at a gentle pace. No speed limits broken and a gentle “get to know you” of Buells on the road.

#4 – Off road. In two groups of 4 (and riding the model bike I nearly bought 15 months ago – Ulysses XB12X), we followed an instructor around the outside of the circuit. Lots of gravel, steep grass inclines, bumpy grass and gravel patches, standing on foot-pegs at slow speeds on Buell’s answer to the BMW R1200GS. Great fun. Out of 8 in my group, 3 of us came off!! I was one of them – I have 2 cracked ribs to show for it, but didn’t really notice the pain until I went to take off my one-piece leathers about an hour later!! I’m a little pleased to say that one of the others who fell off was a journo from Fast Bikes magazine who was in my group of 8, so I didn’t show myself up too much.

#5 – Skills course again. Another chance to see if we’d improved from the first session on the course. Everyone had – basically because we’d got used to the bicycle-like lean that the Buells need to turn sharp corners.

#6 – Open 20 minutes on the track. Climbing on board a bike of your choice (I took the 1125R this time) for a track-day-style free for all. Excellent fun, including a bit of knee scraping at 80 mph round Gerard’s. F’ing brilliant!! The instructors/ex-racers will also ride in front of you if they think they can help improve your line and speed – very good of them and really helpful to improve your riding.

#7 – Pillion ride. Matt Llewellyn (ex-BSB rider) gets you on board a specially adapted 1125R. Upgraded shocks (to cope with 2 people) and a grab bar on the tank for the pillion to hold on to (to prevent Matt being squeezed to death). From the pit lane, you get an out-lap, a flying lap and an in-lap. This was lightening quick!! Where I was braking for corners, he was still accelerating. I have never pulled a brake that hard in my life! What an amazing experience.

So in conclusion – if you want to ride a few bikes, get a little track experience, improve some of your skills, try something new and not feel afraid to chuck an £8k bike down the tarmac with zero extra expense at all (no excess!) – all for £100… go to the Buell Academy and try it!

I am going to book myself on the off-road skills course next. Can’t wait!

Problem fixed. Ignore this post.

You obviously had a good time, sorry to hear about the ribs. We had a very similar day to you but there were no fast pillion rides at Castle Combe that I was aware of. I learnt an awful lot about cornering, its so much easier when you can just run off onto grass if you overcook it (rather than a wall/lampost/oncoming car etc). Something I found amazing :- it was very windy on the day, force 5/6 - something like that coming from the East which we really noticed when hanging around the paddock. But I didn’t even notice it when I was out on track on the 1125R. Hows that?

Really looking forward the the track day in July.