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.
“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
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