I recently acquired two more Buells, which makes a total of three.

I originally got the 2003 XB9R Firebolt for $400 from someone also named Matt who works at Sandia Laboratories as a facility manager.

Initially, it seemed as if it might not be that big a deal to get back on the road.

It has no title, but the previous owner assured me it was not stolen; the story he told me was that he bought it on a payment plan from a person who works at KUMMSC, but ultimately the person he bought it from could not produce the title. It was in pieces when I got it, but the engine is completely assembled (except for a couple of inspection covers).

I discovered that it does indeed have a race ECM, in addition to the race exhaust. And there is a spare, probably stock, ECM besides.

Getting it running probably wouldn’t take too much work, but despite Matt’s promises to get me several additional pieces to the bike (namely, a set of keys), he has all but disappeared. He has not answered any texts I have sent him asking for the rest of the parts, and when I call it goes straight to voice mail (and his voice mail box is full). My only other options are to camp out at his house or try to track him down through Sandia, neither of which I really want to do.

Anyway, I looked into what it would cost to replace various bits of the XB9R. It needs a set of tires and a battery at minimum. I was looking at probably between $500 and $1000 to get it on the road, with a bonded title. I decided it probably wasn’t worthwhile, and was going to sell the XB9R as a parts bike to someone in Las Cruces for $800.

But then, just before I did, someone from Albuquerque who was willing to trade me a 2004 XB12R Firebolt for my 2009 Kawasaki Versys 650 contacted me, and we did the trade. The XB12R isn’t perfect, but is in much better shape than the XB9R. And except for the drivetrain, the 9R is basically a collection of spares for the 12R (and even for the 1125R).

In fact, I have already used some of the 9R’s parts: I swapped its rear turn signals onto the 12R, and its mirrors onto the 1125R. I also replaced the 12R’s shifter linkage from some of the parts on the 9R, which resulted in much tighter shifting.

I love the way the 12R sounds, and how much torque it has. It has fast become my favorite bike. What a different experience it is from riding the Ninja, which comparatively feels as if it has almost no torque. Accelerating ten MPH on the 12R is almost instantaneous in any gear. On the Ninja, it actually takes time.

Shortly after I got the 12R, a 2008 1125R had been on the Albuquerque Craigslist for several weeks. I initially was uninterested, since the 1125R is as different a bike from the 12R as the 12R is from the Ninja: the 1125R shares some of the same components as the 12R, such as the tail fairing and wheels, but it has a hydraulic, slipper clutch; it’s water-cooled and it’s not a Sportster-based engine (it’s a Rotax DOHC 4 valve per cylinder that requires periodic valve adjustments) — but it has probably 50 more HP than the 12R does (with its race ECM and Dean Adams RT-3 exhaust) and handles even better than the 12R.

However, the 1125R idles at 1500 RPM and is just loud as hell. It doesn’t have the 12R’s “potato” idle sound — it sounds more like a Ducati. It’s a thoroughly modern sport bike, whereas the 12R is a hybrid of modern sport bike and old tech souped-up Sportster.