Buell has made some peculiar choices in the past. The company designed a wide range of sport bikes and then rather oddly chose to power them with1200cc pushrod Harley Sportster engines. Odd because this is not exactly a state of the art “sport motah”!
Anyway, last year, Harley bought out the Buell company, leaving us to speculate where it might go with the new-found money and additional expertise. It seemed like a perfect avenue for Harley to expand beyond their traditional cruiser market into the sport bike market, without upsetting the purists. The speculation of a long anticipated Buell with a 1000cc VR motor (Harley’s liquid cooled racing engine) seemed to be the next logical step.
Enter the ‘Blast’ (as in “What a blast”, “That blasted Blast has blasted past at last and rather fast, blast” or “Oh blast, I’ve killed again”), which is the latest addition to the Buell family.
But wait, there’s only one cylinder. It’s only 492 cc, has two pushrod operated valves, is air cooled and pumps out a mere 34hp at the crank. This is not a VR inspired racer by any means.
|Yes, that is the exhaust pipe!|
But then Buell are the first to admit this. In fact, they seem to have adopted a completely opposite philosophy by using the Buell badge to introduce an entry level bike aimed at attracting new riders to the sport. Harley have always rather arrogantly claimed that the other manufacturers make entry level bikes for Harleys, but now it seems they want to make one of their own (albeit through Buell).
So what makes the Blast entry level? For starters, there are two seat heights available. This is achieved through two separate seats (the preferred one to be stipulated at ordering) and allows for either 699 mm or 648 mm – for the more vertically challenge among us.
Weight has been kept down to 163.3 Kg (360 lbs) which puts it a tad below Suzuki’s GS500E at 168Kgs.
Maintenance friendly features include: hydraulic valve lifters (never need adjusting), automatic choke, and a non adjustable final drive belt. Non adjustable? By mounting the swing arm pivot on the same axis as the engine output shaft (swingarm mounts directly onto the engine), there is no additional belt loading as the swingarm … well, swings! Conventional designs (where the swingarm is mounted behind the output shaft), cause the belt to tension as it swings through its arc, induced by the normal suspension movement. Buell reckon that by eliminating this loading, the belt will last until its suggested replacement interval without need of any adjustment. Neat idea!
Oh yeah, and Buell says that the body panels are of the molded-in colour type. I presume that means the plastic is coloured and that’s why they go on to say that it resists dents, chips and any scratches that can be easily buffed out. I guess this makes it learner friendly, although I still think an old GS 400 twin painted matte black with a brush is still the most learner friendly machine when it comes to taking abuse (and matte black paint is cheap and readily available at all hardware stores to boot).
|Five spoke front wheel carries single disc.|
But I digress, what about the frame I hear you say? It’s a steel backbone construction type. There, happy? It also uses the Buell Uniplanar engine mounting system to cut down on vibes, which could be handy because there’s no mention of an engine balancer. And harking back to the days of the old British bikes, the oil is carried in the frame, presumably in the spine part, making this a dry sump engine.
Other points of interest include a traditional rear monoshock location (as opposed to the under engine location found on all other Buells), five spoke 16″ cast aluminum alloy wheels, fitted with Dunlop K330 tires and a horn that is also used on the VW Beetle. It’s true – although it’s tuned to a high note of 335 Htz, as opposed to the Beetle’s 400 Htz. Do you care? No.
So, that’s all the beef we have. Whether or not the Blast will catch on is yet to be seen. Buell says the Blast will be ‘competitively priced’ and give an estimated Canadian price of “less than $7,000”. That’s a chunk higher than Suzuki’s learner friendly GS500E at $5,499 but in the same area as Kawasaki’s EX500 (at $6,749). Just how much under $7,000 will be announced in the next few days.
Air-cooled OHV four-stroke single
40mm Keihin carburetor
Five-speed, belt final drive
single 320 mm disc with two-piston floating caliper
single 220 mm disc with single-piston caliper
699 mm (standard), 648 mm (low profile)
163.3 kg (claimed)