Bike Reviews

Bike reviews

Buell M2

Some bikes defy all attempts at classification and the Buell M2 Cyclone is definitely one of them. Very much an acquired taste with its strange styling and Harley-Davidson 1200 Sportster engine, this is still a great backroads blaster. An old fashioned motorbike.

As the M2, and most of the current Buell range are being phased out, now that the radical new Firebolt is available, insidebikes took a last chance to sample the quirky charm of the Cyclone.

I like V-twins, for one simple reason; torque.

There´s something very practical, and very addictive about motorbikes that pull from low down the rev range, and therefore make life that bit easier for the rider. That´s probably why there always have been V-twin powered bikes from way back in the pioneer days, to the start of the 21st century.

Today´s twins cover all bases, from 170mph rocketships like the Aprilia Mille, to chugging Kawasaki Vulcans, with plenty of retro models inbetween. But I´ll wager a crisp white fiver that those pioneer Edwardian motorcyclists would soon find themselves at home on a Buell M2, more than any other modern V-twin.

In many ways, the M2 Cyclone is a successor to classic machines like the J.A.P. twins, the Brough-Superiors, or the Vincent Lightning, featuring quirky suspension, low volume production, striking styling and the feel of a bike created by one man´s vision, rather than a marketing manager´s niche-plugging sales plan. Where the comparison falls down is on pure top speed performance, because the M2 is slower than its current rivals, unlike the class-leading Brough or Vincent machines of days gone by.


So what would a time-travelling, plus-four wearing motorcyclist from 1910 find appealing about the M2?

For a start, there´s the riding position. It´s so sensible and comfortable, with wide, flat handlebars, a soft saddle, and that huge gas tank giving you a handy leaning space, should you feel the urge to break the ludicrous speed limits on the open roads in this septic isle.

Next, and most obvious, is the quaint old engine. Restricted by the huge airbox and ugly exhaust silencer, to meet emissions and noise regulations, the Buell feels a bit sedate, compared to bikes like the Cagiva Raptor, or the Monster S4. It also shakes a bit through the handlebars, especially at tickover.

But things smooth out at cruising speeds, in the 60-90mph range, which is where the bike feels happiest. Our chum from 1910 would be in danger of losing his cufflinks at such speeds of course, but the Buell is fast enough for riders who just want a bike to potter about the back roads on at weekends. Above 90mph, the windblast is pretty fearsome, but if your licence has got some points on it already, this could be a good thing.

If you do feel the need for more speed, once de-restricted with a replacement air filter and exhaust pipe, plus some dyno time, the M2 would probably be capable of 140mph plus, with seriously quick acceleration. I know, because I was once totally blown off by a Just Harleys Buell at York Dragway, a few years ago. These twins can really go very fast, if that´s what you want.


But there are other reasons why an Edwardian Rocker would like an M2.

After years of indifferent quality, the Buell M2 now looks well made. No bits fell off during the week long road test, a feat that couldn´t be guaranteed a few years ago with any Buell test bike. The important pieces of engineering, like the frame, the suspension, the engine etc all look like they have had some attention to detail, some care, during their assembly.

The Showa forks for example are immense, seemingly machined from solid aluminium billet and carry the bike well into the corners, never diving, or waggling from side-to-side. The ride is set on the firm side, with the underslung monoshock also giving more feedback from the road than you would expect. In truth, the Buell is a potentially sporty machine, so if you feel like liberating some horsepower, then the chassis can cope with that.

The chassis overall is very short, but very stiff, and fairly slow-steering in its response. It could feel strange to many riders of modern Japanese bikes, especially at low speeds on roundabouts for example, but the trade-off is uncanny stability at speed for such a compact bike, the M2 feels right at home on the M2, M3 etc, even if the rider would rather be on a twistier road.


With the Firebolt´s arrival finishing off production of the M2, few now remain in UK Harley dealerships, as brand new, or demo models. But this rarity should keep re-sale values strong as the M2 deserves to become a bit of a cult machine.

True, this isn´t the fastest V-twin retro in its class, nor the most comfortable. In fact I´d say the Cagiva Raptor (soon to be badged a Gilera) has both those titles. But the Cagiva isn´t as well finished as the Buell, nor as comfortable to ride at steady backroads speeds. The Buell also has the usefully low maintenance belt drive, rather than conventional chain, to make everyday life that bit easier.

In the end, if your motorcycling lifestyle is truly retro, as in fairly slow speeds, lots of sunny Sunday meandering rides, and a craving for that X factor “character” in your bikes, then the Buell fits the bill perfectly. It´s the sort of bike that Vincent would have eventually got around to making at some point, had they stayed in business; a quirky, slightly `techie´ motorbike, aimed at individuals, rather than those who must have the latest two-wheeled fashion accessory.

Whenever you stop on an M2, you´ll get attention and questions, from bikers and baffled car drivers alike. Some people even admire its strange styling and want to look inside the giant airbox – god knows why. If the saying that `life is different on a Harley ‘ is true, then it can sometimes lurch into X-Files territory aboard a Buell.

For me, the Buell M2 remains a little too much of a throwback to the age of steam to open my wallet up. I prefer something like the Ducati S4 Monster – very cool, great exhaust noise and handles beautifully – but I can see why the M2 has its fans. This is the best Buell I´ve ridden so far, which suggests that Harley are getting their act together with this brand at long last. Bring on the Firebolt Cyclone.

Get Buell bike insurance for the  Buell M2.

Vital Statistics
Engine Air cooled 60-degree V-twin, 4 valve, four stroke
cc 1203
Claimed power (bhp) 70bhp @ 7,250rpm
Compression ratio 10:1
Transmission Five speed
Motorcycle parts
Frame Tubular, chrome-moly type
Front suspension Showa 45mm telescopic forks, multi adjustable pre-load and damping.
Steering head angle 24.5 degrees
Rear suspension Uniplanar Monoshock, adjustable pre-load and rebound damping
Front brakes Single 340mm disc, with six piston caliper
Rear brake Single 230mm disc, single piston caliper
Wheelbase 1397 mm
Top speed 120mph (est)
Fuel capacity 18.9 litres
Buying Info
Ceased Production 2002
Current price £6500

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