The XB-series production era of the Buell Lightning sport bike, which lasted from model years 2003 to 2009, never stood a chance. Although it had the advantage of manufacture by the iconic Harley-Davidson company via its Buell subsidiary, the XB-series Lightning was never as popular as its Harley counterparts due to its price inflated to compensate for a high production cost. For the 2004 model year, with only less than two years in production, Buell offered two models instead of one, in the attempt to bring more attention to the better-than-decent bike.
The 2004 Buell Lightning is split into two models: the XB9S and the XB9S. A variant of the XB9S called “Low XB9S” has a lower seat height and front suspension travel. Each model runs on a four-stroke V-twin (two-cylinder) engine: with two intake valves on each cylinder, a 10-to-1 compression ratio and a bore of 3.5 inches. The stroke is measured at 3.13 inches for the XB9S and 3.81 inches for the XB12S.
The engine on the XB9S version of the 2004 Buell Lightning produces 92 horsepower at 7,500 revolutions per minute (RPM) and 70 pound-feet (lb-ft) of torque at 5,500RPM. The one on the XB12 generates 103 horsepower at 6,800 RPM and 84 lb-ft of torque at 6,000 RPM. Each engine is paired with a five-speed manual transmission. For superior braking, Harley-Davidson includes disc brakes at the bike's pair of 17-inch aluminum wheels.
The models of the 2004 Buell Lightning are mainly named after respective engine displacements. The ""9"" in XB9S represents the model’s engine displacement of 984 cubic centimeters (cc). The XB12S has a larger engine displacement, at 1,203 cc.
Harley-Davison designed and promoted the 2004 Buell Lightning as a ""streetfighter"" sport bike, which would explain why it lacks a frame-covering shell (fairing). However, the vehicle has a spoiler and fenders. The frame itself is made of aluminum, which reduces the bike’s weight while still retaining a sturdy construction. Also included are guards for the drive shaft, engine, rear-wheel chain and the 3.7-gallon gas tank, among other components.
The seat on the 2004 Buell Lightning is designed as a one-piece vinyl seat, which is big enough to accommodate up to two people: the rider and a passenger. The seat is set at a height of 30.1 inches on all models apart from the Low XB9S, which has a seat height of 28.6 inches.
At the front of the 2004 Buell Lightning is a digital dashboard that consists of a clock, tachometer, trip odometer and speedometer. For increased visibility, the bike has halogen headlights and side mirrors.
Each 2004 Buell Lighting is around 76 inches long, 30 inches wide and up to 42 inches high, with a wheelbase of 52 inches. Dry weight is 385 lbs. for the XB9S model; the XB12S is 10 lbs. heavier. However, the XB9S, in turn, surpasses the XB12S in payload capacity: at 400 lbs. to 390 lbs. The gross vehicle weight rating, or GVWR, for each ‘04 Lightning is 850 lbs. The manufacturer's suggested retail price, or MSRP, for the bike is $9,195 for the XB9S and $10,995 for the XB12S.
When it was released, many people deemed the ‘04 Buell Lightning--like the entries before and after it--overpriced for its category. Still, looking beyond the comparatively hefty price tag, the ‘04 Lightning contains enough power and standard features to warrant a look or two. Plus, its stripped-down, aggressive look is a sizable bonus.