Buell Firebolt XB12R regeneration at mono motorcycles, Chichester.
Undertaking a major regeneration or restoration project can be a mammoth task. When a Buell Firebolt XB12R owner approached mono motorcycles back in April 2018, we were intrigued by the prospect of helping this man regenerate his beloved machine. This is the story of the Buell Firebolt XB12R regeneration project at mono motorcycles.
“The Buell XB12R Firebolt is a real Frankenstein’s monster of a motorcycle – but it works. Ancient Harley-Davidson engine mated to a stubby, innovative, high-tech aluminium frame with lots of well thought out touches makes a superb, nimble sports bike. The Buell XB12R may not be the fastest thing in a straight line but awesome in corners and stacks of fun.” https://www.motorcyclenews.com/bike-reviews/buell/xb12r-firebolt/2003/
When mono motorcycles first received the enquiry regarding the Buell Firebolt XB12R, it was to assess her engine issues. The first thing we were told by her owner, was that the Buell had not been ridden for five years. The Buell’s owner had identified a considerable rumbling sound emitting from the engine five years previously & had put her away, always with a view to one day bringing her back to life.
Upon receipt to mono motorcycles, it was agreed that the engine would be stripped to ascertain what was causing the issues. While up on the ramp, Daniel Morris of mono motorcycles started her up & her 1200cc engine raged & roared. However, alongside the typical Buell growl, was a very concerning sound, which we could only describe as a bag of hammers being dragged along the ground repeatedly! The Buell was swiftly turned off & the engine strip down began.
To entirely strip a motorcycle & her engine you should always allow at least 1 – 2 days, dependant on the make & model of the motorcycle. The Buell, with it’s unique build configuration, presented her own issues in the dismantling process. The Buell Firebolt XB12R has her fuel in the frame & her oil in the swing arm. Although the Buell builders made it relatively easy to drop the back wheel out, to gain access to anything in the engine, the entire engine has to be dropped out of the Buell. This, as you can imagine, is no mean feat.
Once the engine was removed from the frame & the casings removed; the process of elimination began. The clutch was assessed initially & appeared to be intact & there was no damage identified. It was noted that the rumbling sound was therefore coming from the inside of the engine. Once the crank case was removed, it was here that we found the real reason for rumbling sound. All of the bearings were damaged or destroyed & therefore the crank needed a complete overhaul. We also took the decision to replace all of the gear box bearings while the engine was apart.
Once the engine was dismantled & mono motorcycles had ascertained the cause of the engine issues, the customer was contacted & an estimate given on the rebuild costs.
When estimating for a regeneration or full restoration, it must always be taken into consideration that as a motorcycle is taken apart & put back together again; it can throw metaphorical spanners in the works along the way. It is is with this in mind, that when we estimated for the regeneration of the Buell & we advised our customer that the costs were merely an estimate & we could not foresee if there would be any additional import costs, parts costs, delays on parts or any other issues which could arise during the regeneration process.
If you are considering a regeneration or full restoration, always bare in mind that estimated costs will most likely rise & therefore these should be budgeted for.
Once our customer had agreed to the estimated costs, we commenced the process of regeneration.
The first part of the process was to get the crank fully overhauled. mono motorcycles during our searches for relevant suppliers, came across Twinmotorcycles in the Netherlands who are Buell experts. Once we had agreed what processes we needed, the crank was boxed up & shipped out in early July 2018.
While the crank was at Twinmotorcycles, we set about ensuring we had the other essential components for the regeneration. As Buell is a sportsbike originally built by Eric Buell in association with Harley Davidson, we were lucky that Guildford Harley were able to assist in tracking down some of the more rare components. To help us along the way, Guildford Harley send us complete schematics of all the major working parts of the Buell. This helped hugely with identifying the correct part numbers & ordering the correct parts.
One of the greatest challenges with a full regeneration of a motorcycle is time. As a company we are as we have mentioned before, reliant on our national & international suppliers lead times & availability. Although some may prefer routing around in Ebay for hour on end to find the very best deals on parts, when you are running a business, every hour is money. If customers prefer to supply their own parts, we are more than happy to accept these into the workshop, of course with the proviso that we are not then responsible for the sourcing process.
With regards to a full regeneration process, there is also a vast amount of administration time, something which is not always considered . Seeking out the most effective suppliers, purchasing components, chasing orders, raising invoices & paying for parts; is only a mere snapshot into the complex machine that is required to ensure a full regeneration can be completed.
As mentioned we are reliant on our suppliers lead times & availability. Therefore, when the crank had still not returned from the Netherlands in the 2-3 lead time, we began to grow concerned. Sadly, through a series of events at Twinmotorcycles beyond their control, there was a delay. This meant, that from sending the crank to Twinmotorcycles & it’s return; an entire calendar month had passed, with the crank being received back to mono motorcycles on August 14th 2018. However, once the crank was returned, we knew we could then start the regeneration process.
Putting the Buell engine back together was a relatively straight forward procedure for Daniel Morris, as he has rebuilt many many engines in his 35 years as a vehicle technician/motorcycle technician.
Upon commencing the engine rebuild, we identified that more bearings were needed. We needed to ensure that the drive belt was fitted & that it was a genuine Buell item, as requested by our customer. The Buell’s battery was replaced with a heavy duty model, to account for the load the engine puts out. We then found that the front brake was stuck on, something we could not have been able to test prior to the rebuild, as we were unable to ride her.
On August the 29th we finally managed to start her up & it appeared she was very happy at having her insides so lovingly cared for, as her 1200cc engine produced a guttural sound which reverberated around the workshop.
Having never been able to ride her when she first came to the mono motorcycles workshop, we were now reliant on our knowledge based on our research about the engine & the Buell range & the information our customer had given us, as to her behaviour with the engine rebuilt.
Once mono motorcycles had the engine running, Daniel Morris then started to prep her for the MOT. It was only during this process that it was discovered that her RH handle bar was bent, meaning the handle bars hit the tank on lock. This being an MOT failure, had to be replaced. Daniel, having had the chance to finally ride the Buell, also identified that the rear shock absorber was completely inactive, making the riding harsh & uncomfortable. A second hand shock absorber was sourced quickly & this was replaced, transforming the riding.
MOT day arrived & sadly she didn’t make it through. What we could not see with the naked eye, was that the rear brake disc had small fractures throughout & was therefore deemed to have “dangerous defects” We then had to advise our customer, who by this point was itching to get the Buell back on the road, that she had failed the MOT. By this point we were in to the second week of September 2018.
However, not to be deterred, our faithful & resilient customer agreed for us to replace the disc & get her through the MOT, which we are happy to say, she did.
The Buell Firebolt XB12R was ridden away from the workshop on Saturday 22nd September, with her very happy & relieved owner.
We have advised the customer that the Buell will need an oil change at 500 miles, due to the extensive rebuilding of the engine, to which he has agreed. In addition, we are also mindful of minor adjustments which will undoubtedly be needed going forward due to the extent of the works undertaken to the Buell.
We have had the Buell in the mono motorcycles workshop since April 2018 & she has gone through some dramatic & traumatic changes in that time. However, at the end of this process, we have managed to regenerate a motorcycle which has sentimental value to her owner & we feel honoured to have been able to help this very passionate man rekindle his relationship with his beloved machine.
Written by Katy Mason for and on behalf of mono motorcycles.