BUELL X1 LIGHTNING (1998-2002) Review

Published: 23 November 2006

"Still an acquired taste"

Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Riding

"Still an acquired taste"

  • At a glance
  • 1203cc  -  95 bhp
  • 40 mpg  -  130 miles range
  • Medium seat height (749mm)

Overall Rating 3 out of 5

The Buell X1 Lightning evolved from the M2 Cyclone and features the same short wheelbase chassis, with Showa suspension on the early run base models, then WP kit on the later X1 Lightning, and souped up White Lightning variant. With more grunt than the M2 the X1 feels like more fun and the build quality improved somewhat as time went by, but the Buell X1 Lightning is still an acquired taste.

Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5

The early base model Buell X1 Lightnings with their Showa suspension are generally better for mainstream road riders than the models featuring the more solid WP kit, although the Dutch suspension looks trick. There's no ifs or buts, the Buell bikes give you a firm ride and you can feel exactly what's going on with the road surface. If you develop confidence, you can corner reasonably quickly on the X1.

Engine 3 out of 5

The Buell X1 Lightning has plenty of lowdown grunt and the novelty of fuel injection as opposed to carbs on earlier Buells, but the injection doesn't work that well at low rpm, which is where the motor is definitely happiest. That's a damn shame, as are the other build quality issues which affect the X1 model.

Build Quality & Reliability 3 out of 5

The Buell X1 Lightning demonstrated that Buell were listening to their customers - and critics - and trying damn hard to improve matters. But it still features details like a battery exposed to the elements under the seat, a crude transmission and a glitchy fuel injection system. The dashboard and switchgear never looked they belonged on a motorcycle costing £7500 new either.

Value & Running Costs 2 out of 5

If you really want a Buell X1 Lightning, there are a few around, and thankfully most owners seem to be willing to spend cash on solving some of the reliability and performance issues which affected the X1 from new. A `kitted' X1 can feel like a totally different animal from the factory model, so if you can find something well tweaked, good luck. Otherwise, one to avoid. Find a Buell X1 Lightning for sale.

Insurance group: 15 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.

Equipment 3 out of 5

The Buell X1 Lightning has nicer body parts than the Buells that preceded it, plus fuel injection replacing carbs. Traditional white faced clocks, belt drive and an exhaust the size of an space shuttle booster rocket, complete the Buell X1's mean `n' hungry looks, but using the same brakes, sub-frame and wheels as the older M2 model smacks of cost-cutting a little bit. Compare and buy parts for the Buell Lightning in the MCN Shop.

Owners' Reviews

7 owners have reviewed their BUELL X1 LIGHTNING (1998-2002) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

We’re currently improving the way this section works, which means we’ve had to suspend the submission of new owners’ reviews for a short period. Please check back soon.

Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 2.1 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 2.1 out of 5
Engine 2.6 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 2 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 2.1 out of 5
Equipment 2 out of 5
4 out of 5

Amazed!

26 February 2011 by anderl

After reading these reviews I feel the need to redress the balance. I am absolutely amazed by the experiences of some of the people who have commented on the X1, having bought mine new in 99 I have only had one problem. The problem I had centred... Read more around the fuel injection, and a problem with detonation under load, and in particular when the bike got very hot. This was investigated by the dealer that I bought the bike from and could not be solved by them, I contacted Buell UK and they collected my bike leaving a replacement until mine was fixed. I got the bike back a month later, problem solved and never surfaced again, this was the last problem I have had in all the years of ownership.The X1 has character by the truck load and is a joy to own and ride, bags of torque and the fantastic noise never cease to bring a smile to my face. I have been riding for 20 years and owned 12 bikes in that time, the Buell is the one that I just cant part with, I have ridden many others in that time, and friends have tried to tempt me away but the Buell is staying. When I first rode the X1 I was bitten, I had tried the Monster, Bandit and all the other alternatives around at the time but nothing came close to the experience. I have it serviced religiously and ensure that it well maintained, I had the exhaust changed for a Vance and Hines when I first bought it and it was worth it for the noise alone. It is not a refined bike, it spits, pops and vibrates like a jack-hammer, but that is part of the appeal for me, it is not a sanitised soulless sewing machine! If you want a bike that will quietly whisk you from place to place don't buy one, if you want a raw visceral old school bike you will not be disappointed.

Overall Rating 4 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 4 out of 5
Equipment 3 out of 5
5 out of 5

Buy one now!!!

31 October 2009 by nallac

what an absolute blast of a bike to ride, grumpy,vibrates like a biatch shakes bolts loose.....i love it. Sure has a lot more character than any other bike i've owned. Wish i bought one years ago. Read more

Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 5 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5
1 out of 5

Collector Bike

31 May 2009 by EHoen

Same as the S1 the old Buell's are collector bikes and can fetch quite a good price. Reason for that is the limited production numbers of those. However they are certainly no bikes to ride everyday as the reliability is zero. These bikes are good to... Read more drive to ride-outs, shows etc. as they need a service after every ride to not break down. If you need a day by day bike you need a newer XB model. They are also more fun to ride as they handle a million times better.

Overall Rating 1 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 1 out of 5
Engine 1 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 1 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 1 out of 5
Equipment 1 out of 5
1 out of 5

Sad but true

30 April 2009 by ThomasD

I work as a mechanic for HD/Buell and drive an X1 for nearly 10 years now. I can only conform the other reviews this is a bike for people who like to fiddle with it. I am in the lucky position to know these bikes in and out and apart from bodywork... Read more parts and the frame I cannot think of a part which I did not need to replace on my X1. I now have build a custom chopper from it as it was getting ridiculous to fix it up after every ride. There are not many HD Dealers and only 2 Independent specialists who know how to repair them so you can imagine it will be costly. Also soon some parts for those bikes will not be produced anymore and it will be difficult and expansive to get hold of them. From my experience working for Buell I know how unreliable these bikes are and you need for certain a good breakdown cover. The XB series is much better in all points and tons of more fun to ride. The XB's are also 1000 times more reliable as the tuber bikes. It is said but true and apart you want to build a custom bike or you are a mechanic like myself you have to buy an XB from 2004 onwards.

Overall Rating 1 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 1 out of 5
Engine 1 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 1 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 1 out of 5
Equipment 1 out of 5
1 out of 5

You have to be absolutely mad with a lot of money

29 April 2009 by svens

If you have to much money to burn and another bike to ride buy one. Surely they are cheap to buy and insure but you will have to work 2 hour on it for every 2 hours you ride it. Don't let yourself distract by some online forums who praise that pile... Read more of metal c*** those are people who spend hundreds of hours fixing it so they would never say frankly hoe bad it is. The engines usually give up before 10000 miles. So if you want something to work on than buy one but if you want a bike to actually ride you have to buy one of the newer XB models.

Overall Rating 1 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 1 out of 5
Engine 1 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 1 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 1 out of 5
Equipment 1 out of 5
1 out of 5

Hands of get a XB

28 April 2009 by TomRider

Unless you want to spend more time fixing it or spend even more money getting it fixed buy a XB12S. The old Tubers are absolute rubbish, sure there are some nice looking fighters out there but for normal riders they are just a no no! I rode one for 2... Read more years from new and I never had a bike which was more at the dealer garage than mine. I had my breakdown cover cancelled and could not find any insure who would give me one for an X1 or S1 that says a lot about the reliability of those old Tubers. My one had a fatal engine blow after 5650mls on a nice bendy road nearly killing me! I am now riding an XB12S for 5 years and 56000mls with no problems at all.

Overall Rating 1 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 1 out of 5
Engine 2 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 1 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 1 out of 5
Equipment 1 out of 5
2 out of 5

Must have had a bad one

20 June 2008 by 01partsman

Bought one 2nd hand approx 3 years old,low milage. Took it for a test ride and liked it so bought it. Now I havent made that many mistakes in the past when buying bikes but I must have this time around. The bike was in very fine condition as the... Read more previous owner had looked after it and spent lots of money on it. The bike was awsome, i considered it to be akin to a Chenook helicopter on two wheels. But in the short time that I owned it, it blew two sets of rear wheel bearings and I dare not take it out on a damp even misty day. It got so bad that My Breakdown recovery company said that they would not attened to me anymore because of all of the call outs that I had made. The last straw was when I went out for a Sunday morning ride and for no reason at all the gearbox casing cracked. So in summing up. Good looking machines. Awsome power. Poor build quality. Non reliable. If you buy one of these, have a back up bike handy.

Overall Rating 2 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 3 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 1 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 2 out of 5
Equipment 2 out of 5
Read all 7 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 1998
Year discontinued 2002
Original price -
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group 15 of 17
Annual road tax £80
Annual service cost -
Performance
Max power 95 bhp
Max torque 86 ft-lb
Top speed 135 mph
1/4-mile acceleration 11.5 secs
Average fuel consumption 40 mpg
Tank range 130 miles
Specification
Engine size 1203cc
Engine type V-twin, four stroke, 5 gears
Frame type Steel tubular
Fuel capacity 16.3 litres
Seat height 749mm
Bike weight 200kg
Front suspension Preload, rebound, compression
Rear suspension Preload, rebound, compression
Front brake Single 340mm disc
Rear brake 230mm disc
Front tyre size 120/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 180/55 x 17

History & Versions

Model history

1999: Buell X1 Lightning launched.
2002: Buell X1 Lightning replaced by XB9/12 series.

Other versions

Buell X1 White Lightning: Hopped up version with more power.

Photo Gallery

  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Riding
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Side view
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Engine
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Riding
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Riding
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Riding
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Riding
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Side view
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Riding
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Riding
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Engine
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Side view
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Riding
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Side view
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Engine
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Riding
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Riding
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Riding
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Riding
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Side view
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Rear view
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Riding
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Riding
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Engine
  • Buell X1 Lightning motorcycle review - Side view