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Buell Lightning CityS XB9SX

2005-11-23 13:45

Brett Hamilton

Obviously taken by the tough-guy looks of Buell's latest urban brawler, the Lightning CityX XB9SX, a gold BMW M3 rolls up next to me at the traffic lights and gives the obvious stop-start jerk, challenging me to a duel.

It is easy to see why though. The bike's small dimensions, massive engine and sleek lines gives it the attitude of a Bulldog.

On the bike you have a minute light-blue dash with a tiny flyscreen sitting on top of two custom-look projector lights.

You almost have to reach behind you to get to the handlebars and the high seat pushes you forward. It feels extreme.

The lights get a cage to enhance its rugged looks and you also get wind deflectors over the handlebars. A very strange mix on paper, but it looks great in the flesh.

It looks extreme with its short front and a very stubby rear.

At the back you get a snazzy tapering frame with the seat petering out. Not the best seat for a pillion though. But, most Buell owners would ask, "What pillion?"

The huge block engine dominates the bike, and the exhaust outlets flows in an around and eventually joins up with the muffler that sits below the engine.

And, the tank and flyscreen is made from blue translucent plastic.

It takes the naked "streetfighter" look to a new extreme. You can literally see most of the bike's internal wiring and mechanics. Cool.

I am perched up high and tucked down low with a deafening rumble bubbling from the exhaust. If this bike was a person it would have a Clint Eastwood squint and a ?Go ahead make my day' tattoo.

The thing is, I don't have to ask myself if I feel lucky. On this bike, nothing is left to chance. Needless to say, we took it outside and I left the M3 standing in my dust. Punk.

Buell's press spiel says, "The bike offers performance that's especially suited to urban riding".

"This is a bike for the rider who loves to dodge traffic, power away from lights and utilise the incredible agility of a sports bike to charge through the asphalt jungle." Hey, that sounds like me!

So, they say that it is a streetfighter and it definitely has the brass knuckles to prove it.

One problem is the competition. In a street brawl this American might just fall short against the Japanese naked bikes. Not to mention its bigger brothers, the Buell Lightning XB12S and the Firebolt XB12R.

The 984cc, 45-degree V-twin thumps out 62kW and nearly 86Nm.

But, even with its grand prix chassis, the bike lacks power. I guess that is why Buell launched their 1200cc bikes last year. And it has to be said that this bike is the entry-level machine.

So, it might not be as good as the Kawasaki Z1000 or the Z750, and it might not have the hooligan reputation of the Suzuki Bandit, but this Buell is a little earthquake machine from hell.

It is little. Very little. Some might even find the tiny dimensions a problem.

It is difficult to describe the sound. Imagine a Harley-Davidson with the twist grip keeping the engine spinning at low revs. Now, imagine that engine revving at 12 000rpm. Sheer madness.

As I power off, the bike booms and claps as it leaves a trail of destruction.

The shockwaves are brilliant and I am sitting on the epicentre.

Yes, the Japanese might have better bikes if you want an all-round commuter, but the Buell is an assault vehicle that has heads turning kilometres away. It involves the rider by vibrating, and shaking, and screaming into your ear.

At first, sitting on this demon is very uncomfortable. You lean on your wrists and the vibrating engine shakes you to the bone.

Just sit more upright. Take the weight off your wrists and the Buell is actually a very accomplished commuter.

But, with such a sweet chassis beneath you, the last place you want to be with a Buell is stuck in a traffic jam. So, I ducked and dived through the traffic and headed for the hills.

It is frightening how good the chassis is. Miles ahead of the engine.

I found the limits of the engine before I even got close to finding the limits of the chassis.

In a tight bend I open up the gas and send the rear spinning just a bit. The bike battled to get upright, but all you do is lean a bit more and the bike happily follows.

When it comes to changing gears the bike is found lacking. The changes are very mechanical and not as smooth as with Japanese bikes.

This 'box would be much better on a cruiser as opposed to be fitted to an "urban assault vehicle".

For the techno fundis out there, the bike's fuel is kept in the frame and the oil reservoir is in the swingarm. This moves the bike's centre of gravity lower to the ground compared to the donor engine from the Harley Sportster.

The bike uses a Zero Torsional Load (ZTL) brake system up front. The brake disc is mounted on the rim allowing the wheel to be much lighter because the spokes do not have to absorb any braking forces.

It might only have one disc, but it hauls up like a punch in the gut. You also get an USD Showa fork up front and a shock at the rear.

The key to this bike's mental handling abilities is its mental dimensions.

The 1 320mm wheelbase is not revolutionary, but with a 21degree fork angle and a 83mm trail the bike carries 52 percent of its weight on the front wheel.

This gives it GP-style characteristics. Perfect for the streets.


This bike looks like a Bulldog, it goes like a Bloodhound, and the lack of power is about as irritating as a little Jack Russell.

Fact Sheet:

  • Engine: 984cc, Air/oil/fan cooled, 45-degree, V-twin.
  • Power: 62kW at 6 600rpm.
  • Torque: 85.6Nm at 5 600rpm.
  • Top speed: 220km/h.
  • Front Suspension: Fully-adjustable Showa shock.
  • Rear suspension: Fully-adjustable Showa shock.
  • Front Brake: ZTL type, 375mm floating disc, 6-piston calliper.
  • Rear Brake: 240mm, single calliper.
  • Drive: Five-speed, Belt drive.
  • Price: R79 000.

    Available: Give Harley-Davidson in Johannesburg a ring, they can also help any current Buell owners in Cape Town in terms of servicing of their bikes. Give them a call.


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