Buell XB9SX

Specs at a glance:

Capacity: 984cc

Length: 1924mm
Wheelbase: 1320mm
Dry weight: 179kg
Seat height: 780mm
Tank capacity: 14 litres

Colours Clear Blue

Price: £ 5949 otr




cross in the City (but grinning)

Words and Pictures: Simon Bradley

Buell CityXRegular readers may remember that we had rather a high opinion of the Buell Lightning XB12S when we tested it earlier this year. It was, in fact, one of the most entertaining and characterful bikes we had ever encountered. You may also remember that a couple of weeks ago we ran a short news item about the new CityX and what a laugh it looked as though it would be.

Well now we've tested one. And we were mistaken only in that we underestimated just how much fun it would be.

Buell are now only importing the Firebolt and Lightning as 1200s, so if you want the 900 motor you'll have to come here for it. But that's not a bad thing, believe me. The 900, while obviously lacking some of the outright grunt of its larger brother, is a sweeter motor, revving more freely and, I suspect, more likely to respond well to a few judicious tweaks. But as it comes, 84bhp at something just above tickover is still plenty. More on that in a minute, though. For now lets just take in the looks.

The Buell Lightning is not, it's fair to say, a very pretty motorbike. Characterful, yes. Attractive even. But not pretty. And the CityX takes that characterful attractiveness, takes away a little of the prettiness and adds something else. That something else is attitude. Something the original was hardly short of in the first place. So your basic Lightning gets satin black wheels. The lower bodywork, such as there is, is black as well. The city is a filthy dirty place and the amount of road crud that gets thrown up makes non-glossy black a Good Thing. But while we're on wheels, the tyres get a slightly higher, rounder profile with the fitment of Pirelli Scorpions - the first time the Italian company has supplied OE tyres to Buell or Harley Davidson. The tread pattern is great for clearing water and handling the irregularities you can reasonably expect around town, while the higher profile makes the ride a little more plush. Cast alloy brackets lower the pegs a little while the seat is slightly more padded to make the seat to peg distance more comfortable at the expense of making the whole bike a little taller. And the (black, of course) bars are higher and wider with a meaty cross-brace in Supermoto style. Brushguards are hardy necessary in town but do a great job of protecting the digits from marauding transit van mirrors as well as keeping them warmer as the windblast gets neatly deflected.

Buell CityXBut the real icing on the cake is the clear bodywork which can only be described as sheer genius. You'll either like it or hate it, though I didn't find anyone who thought it anything other than fantastic, but whatever the opinion you'll never be ignored. The roo bars on the lights are a bit over the top, but again given the overall eccentricity of the CityX they're hardly out of place at all.

Leaving the Buell parked up guaranteed attention. Riding it was even better. There are those who believe that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it's a duck. Well, this quacks like a Harley, changes gear like a Harley and handles, stops and goes like something entirely different. I may not be sure what that means it should be, but I can certainly tell you what it is.

Fantastic fun.

Around town the CityX is nigh on unbeatable. The high bars give stacks of leverage, the turning circle is good and tight, the brakes are phenomenal and the whole plot is skinny enough to get through most gaps. But it gets better. The noise and sheer bloody mindedness seem to conspire to shout "GET OUT OF THE DAMN' WAY!" with sufficient authority that the CityX is one of the quickest cross town bikes I have ever ridden. Add the proper exhaust rather than the rather emasculated standard one and pop a pair of HID bulbs in to get a really bright, slightly blue light and you'd never, ever get stuck in traffic. And when the traffic gets really, really bad you can go cross country if necessary. I was looking for a photo location and found something slightly different. But in spite of being as accomplished an off road rider as the average spaniel, I found the CityX to be patient, understanding and easy to pick up when I dropped it. That last part is a joke - we managed to remain upright and the Buell did a great job of making it as easy as possible for me.

As far as the basic necessities are concerned, the Buell has them covered. The mirrors are there and, when not vibrating the world into a blur are actually quite good. The horn is OK - an important thing for town riding - though I'd add the ambience of the Buell kit exhaust to make really sure they hear you coming while the clocks are clear enough most of the time and nice to look at as well. Switchgear is impeccable in positioning and layout.

Buell CityXBad things? Sure, the gearbox is still the same as before. But it's something you ride around and get used to. And in fairness, it may not be the slickest box ever, or the fastest, but I didn't miss a single gear in three weeks riding every day. If you get out of town and start to really press on then you'll feel the tread blocks walking a bit. Not a problem but a little unsettling. So if you're going to do that a lot then may I respectfully point you at the Lightning? But if I had to find a single real fault it is the mirrors. They are quite clear at speed but in town they're all but unusable through vibration. May not be a big deal but it's a little trying sometimes. Oh, and the shorty rear cheesegrater pretending to be a mudguard means that when it rains you get a wet back. And if you're carrying a rucksack it gets jetwashed from the bottom. And leaks.

But those are all outweighed by the sheer feelgood factor of this bike, allied to the fact that it is astonishingly practical and spectacularly good value to boot. Practicality comes with excellent fuel consumption, bullet proof engine and nice things like steel mudguards you can strap luggage onto. There's a pillion seat, too, but you'd have to be really, really good friends. Best strap your bag there instead - it stays drier too.

And the feelgood part?

Every time I rode this bike I grinned. Then smiled. And then laughed out loud. It is a fantastic, exuberant eccentric piece of everyday usable fun. And that alone makes it worthy of being considered one of the finest bikes I have ever ridden. And, of course, there's the small matter of the price. A very small matter indeed. It's a steal.

STOP PRESS If you fancy a bit of a hybrid, you can fit any or all of the modifications (except the bodywork) to, for example, your 1200 Lightning... Now that would be mental. When you do it, could I have a go?

Buell CityX

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