Buell’s bolt of lightning – Buell Xb12 News
MY long-standing admiration for Buells dates back to way before my recent outing on one. For years they’ve been the most technically interesting bikes around.
Take the Lightning XB12. This muscle-bound naked bike takes Harley-Davidson’s torque-laden Sportster 83bhp, air-cooled V-twin engine, and wraps it up in a super-lightweight chassis with a wheelbase so short it defies belief.
The aluminium twin-spar frame doubles up as the petrol tank, while the oil is stored in the swingarm. It also gets an unconventional rim-mounted front brake disc squeezed by a six-pot caliper, while the exhaust is positioned underneath the bike with the mouth sticking out from the bottom left.
This contributes to the bike’s very low centre of gravity. And somewhat unsurprisingly, today’s MotoGP bikes have adopted similar exhaust systems, as have Yamaha’s R6 and Suzuki’s latest range of GSX-Rs. Talk about being ahead of its time!
The Lightning’s steering geometry is the steepest, sharpest of any production sports bike – yet it still manages to be super-stable. I know this because I finally got a Lightning ride this week – the first Buell I’ve ever swung a leg over. And it felt almost like handling a two-stroke chassis powered by a monster engine.
The XB12 looks so small and short you forget the sheer capacity of the 1,200cc motor, until you twist the grip to be greeted by a baseball-bat punch of smooth power that continues its strong surge all the way to the redline.
The fuel injection picks up smoothly and instantly, and with just 179kg to haul around, the engine feels surprisingly nifty for such an old H-D lump. The Lightning feels devastatingly agile, scything its way through heavy London traffic like aВ bolt of lightning.
The intoxicating mix of grunt and agility makes a great hooligan tool of the Lightning – no wonder some of the world’s wildest stuntmen, including Christian Pfeiffer, ride Buells!
In my hunt for open roads, I soon hit the twisties of the Surrey countryside where I float effortlessly from one corner to the next. I manage just over 135mph on a straight piece of privateВ runway. Although as with all naked bikes, your neck muscles don’t really agree with speeds much beyond 90mph.
Good quality Showa suspension is soft enough to soak up the potholes, yet firm enough for me not to cry out loud for a sports bra. The brakes work a treat, feeding acres of power and progression back to the rider. The Buell’s rim-mounted discs offer several advantages over conventional brakes, including much greater leverage over the wheel centre.
The Lightning is probably the smallest big production bike your money can buy. But it still manages to feel spacious and comfortable, with an imposing, upright riding position. At 5’6′, I’ve no problems placing both feet on the ground.
For the more vertically challenged, Buell has produced the Lightning XB12Scg. This version gets an inch of foam carved from the seat and another inch or so pinched from the suspension, giving it a seat height of just 726mm. This also further lowers the Lightning’s centre of gravity, hence the ‘cg’ in the name.
And it’s even more nimble as a result.
The Buell Lightning is a highly original motorcycle with outstanding performance and mean looks. Whether you like the transparent tank that exposes the inner workings of your motorcycle is a question of taste; it’s certainly different. And at just ВЈ7,745, the Lightning’s a steal.
No wonder so many Buells appear to be dominating the big city streets these days.
Buell Lightning XB12
MaxВ speed: 135mph
Power: 82.8bhp @7,000rpm
Engine: 1,203cc, 4-valve, air-cooled 45В° V-twin, fuel-injected
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