Magpul Ronin: Buell 1125R of the future

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Dissatisfied not only with the disappointing reality of the Buell 1125R, but also the company’s untimely death, Colorado-based Magpul has taken matters into its own hands and evolved the superbike into the visually stunning, pared-to-the-bone motorcycle they always knew it could be. The Magpul Ronin eliminates the 1125R’s bodywork and front end, replacing them with a girder set up and an integrated subframe, tailpiece and airbox cover. The changes aren’t just visual, but are designed to improve the steering and drop 50lbs from the wet weight too.

“We liked what Erik Buell was doing – thinking outside of convention
– but he was so function driven in his design that it left a lot to be
desired from an industrial design standpoint,” says Michael Mayberry one
of Magpul’s co-owners.

But what business does Magpul, a firearms accessory manufacturer, have talking
about and making motorcycles? “We’re a design and manufacturing house,
not just a gun company.”

 They’re also motorcyclists, Michael and others
at the company were really excited when they heard Buell would finally
build a water-cooled superbike, but disappointed when it looked and
worked the way it did. Cut to last year and Grady Barfoot from Project M85 entered the picture. They shared a similar
opinion on Buell and, when the company shut its doors, an opportunity
presented itself. Magpul purchased a bunch of brand new 1125Rs at wholesale, then Grady and the company’s engineers started tinkering. 

The most obvious alteration is the linkage fork and its front-mounted
radiator. Not only were the stock side-mounted radiators hideously ugly,
but they were also inefficient, requiring airflow to bend 90 degrees to
both enter and exit. The new radiator is considerably smaller, yet
far more efficient at cooling as it’s now directly opposed to airflow
and free from the radiant heat of the engine. Mounting it on the fork
does turn it into unsprung weight, which isn’t an ideal engineering
solution, but the location of the 1125R’s front suspension in relation
to the engine leaves no room for a traditional radiator mounted on the
front of the engine.

Due to the nature of girder forks, unsprung weight is almost always going to increase in comparison to telescopic items, there’s simply more mass below the spring, and this affects the Ronin too. Even with the addition of the radiator, the entire front end weighs the same as the stock setup and Magpul says they’ve experimented with radiator placement both on and off the forks and there was virtually no effect to the dynamics.   

The girder does brings mechanical benefits that overcome the negative of increased unsprung weight, the design increases the 
leverage ratio acting on the setup’s suspension component: a Penske
monoshock. That eliminates stiction, leading to a smoother action.
Magpul has also taken the opportunity to add 13mm of trail to the fork,
which otherwise follows stock geometry. That brings the front end geometry in line with current sportsbike convention, improving steering feel.

Magpul_Ronin_Parts.jpgThe radiator hoses pass between the girders and under the steering stem,
but have been positioned so as not to affect the steering.

“We wanted to eliminate everything that was up and in front of the
rider’s view,” says Michael of the new cockpit. On top of all this is a
new cast aluminum handlebar and steering yoke with a dinky Motogadget
speedometer and the ignition integrated into it. Michael bemoans the
loss of the tachometer, but is looking at integrating race-style LED
indicators to replace it. The cast aluminum handlebars can be easily
replaced with any 1 1/8″ tapered bars to alter the riding position, but
we like how well these items are integrated in the overall look of the
front end.

Since the 1125R uses a fuel-in-frame design, the “tank” is actually a
carbon fiber airbox cover that now includes two ram-air intakes on its
leading edges. These have been repositioned from in front of the engine,
improving both looks and the volume of air flowed. A small tubular
steel subframe supports the hand-stitched seat and cast aluminum tail
piece. Magpul claims the new airbox cover, subframe and tailpiece are
largely responsible for the Ronin’s weight savings.

The effect created by the new bodywork works in conjunction with the
rearward-pointing triangle of the frame and swingarm to radically direct
the visual emphasis of the Ronin forward to the massive girder fork.
The 146bhp Rotax v-twin — unaltered – is also exposed and combines with
the angularity of the body and frame to create a look that evokes
mechanical function to replace the Buell’s downright awkwardness.

The Ronin is currently a functional prototype and Magpul’s first toe in
motorcycle waters. If enough interest can be drummed up, the Ronin will
be produced in limited numbers. They won’t say how large a production
run could be feasible, but they have “about 25″ 1125Rs on hand and could
potentially convert customer bikes too. If that
happens and if it goes well, the company has discussed spinning of a
new brand specifically dedicated to motorcycles. Magpul doesn’t see
itself becoming a provider of aftermarket parts, but rather a motorcycle
maker. What we could be seeing here is the genesis of a new American
motorcycle company.


  • Ben Part

    • Casey

      When I look at this bike; I want my soul back

  • Gary

    I like the minimalism, but the fron end doesn’t work for me. I guess radiators always cause problems with ‘naked’ bikes.

    I think the coolest thing about this is it gets away from the idea that a custom has to be stretched out and more complex than the starter bike rather than simpler and truly “chopped”.

    Hopefully Erik Buell can come back in some form and Magpul can continue to use bikes that fit so well with what they’re trying to do. This bike with the new 1190RR motor would be something to ride.

    How cool would it be if EB could get back up and running and a whole new class of customs could be based on his bikes rather than the big V-Twin cruisers that currently define the custom market?

  • Ben @ EV

    I love the look of this bike but that front fork looks almost vertical, wouldn’t that make using the front brake a little dicey?

    • Grant Ray

      Ben, I think you’re looking at it wrong. The line you’re looking for is invisible. It’s like connect-the-dots. Draw an imaginary line from the steering neck to the front axle, and viola, traditional rake and trail appear.

      • Wes Siler

        I just re-discovered this vid of the Magpul FMG-9 machinegun-in-a-box and it definitely deserves sharing:

      • Grady Barfoot

        Correct, the angle of the fork legs has no relation to rake or trail. Compared to the stock Buell, rake has slightly increased and trail has increased by 13mm. The geometry is less aggressive than the standard Buell and more in line with current conventional sportbikes. Also this system is designed to mimic the axle path of the Buell’s stock fork, which allows it to feel very natural to any rider that is used to telescopic forks.

  • Mark D.

    Always nice to see something different! It looks a little ungainly to my eyes, and those are some extreme rack-trail dimensions, but kudos for thinking outside the box! My world for Buell’s take on a Street Triple, with a sweet water-cooled v-twin, and Made-in-America credentials!

  • Ben

    I’m not sure how you can criticize the looks of the stock radiator system and throw in this monster. The functional criticisms? Sure. But looks, subjective as they might be, are not a strong suit on that front end.

  • Glenn

    Oogly, and adding trail slow and adds weight to steering.

  • will

    Rarely are aftermarket reworks so professionally done. The strikingly ugly 1125R renewed.

    <3 +1

  • Lemur Pilot

    I see the future of law enforcement, fast mean bikes and crazy weapons all in one. We’re screwed.

  • Woody

    Is the rear sprocket on the 1125R usually that huge or is this the “STUNTA SPECIAL”?

    • Cody

      The rear sprocket is larger, because the donor bike for this project is a 1125 CR. The CR has 10% final lower gearing, the sprocket is the dead giveaway.

      • Mike

        Actually the size of the rear pully is an illusion. It has stock R gearing with a stock R pully (not CR). I think it just looks bigger because of the smaller subframe.

  • 2ndderivative

    “Pared to the bone”, not “paired”.

    The bike looks…unique.

  • rockstarartist

    Wes, I sent you a tip about this motorcycle when it was first unveiled at the last Shot Show about a month or so ago. Why the delay?

    • Wes Siler

      Ah, must have missed that one.

  • monkeyfumi

    It still has that crappy front brake.

  • Pamberjack

    There’s something very wrong with the angle of the front end in profile view. Looks like a bike that’s been involved in a front-end collision. No thanks.

  • Steven Westhuizen

    makes me weeky at the knees and weepy at the eyes at the loss of potential that HD missed then and that Ronin have regained now – and I’m not even American.

  • james

    I don’t always like heavy looking bikes, but this bike has a military special ops feel. I know radiators up high don’t make sense but like the first water cooled YZ’s and the Tecate 250, it gives a bike a grill, like a 1969 Dodge Charger. I would be afraid that I might turn into a big douche if I owned one though. I’ll stick with my Rokon Trail Breaker.

  • Beale

    Um, doesn’t that radiator position result in the rider being bathed in hot air?

    • Mike

      Glad you like it. Surprisingly, little if any of the heat coming from the radiator reaches the rider. Having ridden both this bike and the stock R quite a bit, I can honestly say that the cockpit stays noticeably cooler on the Ronin. The fuel frame also stays cooler which was an unexpected surprise.

  • The Grudz

    Goddamn! That’s got to be one of best looking radiators I’ve ever seen! That whip is hot! As Beale pointed out, so may the rider be as well. But hell with it. That’s a fantastic take two on the 1125R.

  • Tony

    That bike looks great!!
    European in style with a great engine !

    My only problem is with the weight on the front girder suspension. Unsprung weight is the mantra these days and this I would have thought goes in the opposite direction.

    But looks wise the front end very aggresive.

    That frame is so nice too (stock i know) but someone must continue what Buell started.

    • Wes Siler

      Well, a slight increase in unsprung weight is just the nature of the beast when it comes to girders. They make up for it with an increase leverage ratio working the springs and dampers.

  • DoubleTapper

    Huh? Where are the weapons? This is really frustrating, I ride a Yamaha 1997 XTZ660 Tenere and have no place to mount my M4! I was hoping Magpul would help me out with this. Maybe an upgrade…

    Here’s my bike-

    If anyone has any ideas for me on how to mount my M4, please let me know!

    DoubleTapper, blogging on Guns Politics Defense from Israel

  • damien

    that’s some serious mad max shit. i like it.

  • Travis

    The radiator and front forks are just a bit too much for me… the rest of the bike is hot though!

  • Carlos

    Where can I get one of these? (no engine needed plz!)


  • Marshall Haas

    Function through form, my favorite

  • KRT

    “What we could be seeing here is the genesis of a new American motorcycle company. “

    Should read this:
    “What we ARE seeing here is a fake product accompanying a report consisting of same bullshit that companies have pulled for decades to attract a new demographic to their current brand. No new brand or motorcycle will ever be sold.”

  • Jason
  • HG

    Re: Imitation…flattery, theft or coincidence?

    The Confederate Wraith

  • HG
  • john


  • Richard

    Re: Imitation…flattery, theft or coincidence?


  • pdub

    Contrary to the motoluddites I think this thing looks great. Quite an improvement over the almost measures of the donor bike. Some people don’t like girder front ends or somehow they just look wrong. like it doesn’t work right. As pointed out girder FE’s are not new and no one’s ripping anyone off unless we’re talking about whomever invented the girder FE (google it yourself, I’m not interested). A+ to Magpul. That’s the kind of American imagination and engineering that should be encouraged.

  • pdub

    Anyone all crossed up about a firearms manufacturer getting into motos should not that Magpul are not alone and have some nice predecessors:
    Royal Enfield>Royal Small Arms/Enfield
    BSA> Birmingham Small Arms

    Magpul make peerless firearms furniture and components, all engineered ingeniously, almost faultlessly reliable, and a joy to use. If they made a motorcycle and applied their same standards there I would give then a good hard look and maybe more of my money.

  • American-V magazine

    D’awww … and there was me thinking no-one else had spotted the Confederate Wraith front end.

    Visually challenging but a much better solution with no stiction and constant geometry under braking and varying suspension demands – you can bounce up and down on the sucker and the wheels don’t have to move to take up the reduction in wheelbase caused by telescopic forks compressing. And the CF blades on the Confederate’s girders are lighter than the pinch bolts that would hold a pair of tele legs in the triple trees.

    If someone could focus on making them look more acceptable without gaining any weight, and combine them with ZTL brakes – check out – and the unsprung weight debate is over.

  • Brian

    This isn’t half bad, and by that I mean….nice work! It’s different and minimalistic….get rid of those radiators and you’ve got a knockout!

  • Steve F

    That is so evil looking, but I do wonder if the bike feels hot with radiator in the front…

  • Isaac

    I really like this machine. It is very techno industrial looking. I hope a kit comes out. If it does; I may buy an 1125R just to build this.

  • LiveTransfers

    When it comes down to it I think Alec Baldwin said it best in the Glenn-Garry movie. A.I.D.A attention, interest, decision and action. I’ll spare you guys the full speech where he cusses everyone out.