2005 Buell Motorcycle Models

The Buell Motorcycle Company is on a roll, and the new City-X streetfighter will roll into the hearts of hooligans everywhere. By Art Friedman

Buell Motorcycle Company takes a new tack for 2005 with a head-turning streetfighter dubbed the XB9SX Lightning City-X ("City-Cross"). Based on the rigid, responsive XB Lightning with the same devotion to mass centralization and minimal unsprung weight, the City-X sports a gritty urban style set by a translucent blue bodywork in the airbox cover and flyscreen, cross-braced off-road-style handlebar with handguards, dual headlights with faux stone guards, perforated blue rear fender and blacked out wheels, chin fairing and front fender.

Essentially, the City-X is a new look dropped on the existing XB9R Lightning, with a more upright riding position to give a better view of the urban landscape and potential threats. The ultra-responsive handling and broad powerband of the Thunderstorm 984cc engine make the bike an ideal weapon for urban warfare, as we discovered in about four hours in the "Skyline" seat. The responsive steering come from the City-X's close-coupled 52-inch wheelbase, 21-degree steering-head angle and brief 85mm of front-wheel trail. The engine claims 92 horsepower and 70 pound-feet of torque. Both 984cc Buells will be $8695 in 2005.

Like the other XB models, the City-X carries its fuel (3.7 gallons) in the frame, so the translucent "tank" cover actually shrouds the airbox, which is visible through it. The see-through bodywork was an idea planted decades ago when Erik Buell was shooting one of his first bikes in a studio and did a double-exposure with the bodywork on and off, giving a a transparent style to the image. He finally created a vehicle to exploit with the idea.

Journalists, being the give-me-more sorts of folks we are, immediately asked about a transparent airbox so you could look down into the fuel-injector throats and watch the throttles opening. We were told that legal types thought that might be too much of a distraction. Several also were pondering where you might put lights under the transparent panels to make them glow at night.

I spent about three or four hours riding the City-X at the Buell/Harley introduction and have to say that it immediately became my favorite Buell. The moderated ergos made a favorable impression, increasing my comfort significantly. I liked the sit-up riding position a lot in traffic, and the engine isolating mounts kept everything ecept the mirrors (which blurred a bit on the highway) perfectly smooth. However, I did wish for a flatter saddle, since the stocker became a bit of a butt-wedge after a while.

All the sporting response of other Buells is there, and despite its purportedly urban role, the components are all first class. The bike is also something of an eye magnet. I spent a lot of time fielding questions about what it was. The details, especially the translucent bodywork (all of which can apparently be bolted to older bikes), got a lot of people pretty excited. I look forward to riding it some more.

The other extension to the Buell Lightning series is the Lightning XB12Scg, which is basically a 2004 XB12S with a cut-down seat and slightly shortened suspension, although Buell says cornering clearance has not been compromised. It's 28.6-inch saddle altitude is reportedly two inches lower than the XB12S. That bike gets a new 43mm Showa fork to increase rigidity up front, but the Scg, with its shortened suspension, was deemed good to go with 41mm stanchion size used last year.

The fully adjustable 43mm Showa fork also makes its way to the Firebolts, which also wear Dunlop 208s this year, which though slightly heavier (which irks Erik Buell), are stickier, stiffer, more stable and more durable. The 900 Firebolt gets one-piece throttle body from the 1200, a change that helps it meet California emissions standards without a catalyst. Buell also says that air-cooling the negine is vital in this regard.

The Blast returns in standard and low-seat versions for 2005. Buell has had a strong year, especially in Europe (despite weakening sales for other companies there) and anticipates continued growth in 2005.

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