BUELL XB9SX CITY X (2004-2009) Review

Published: 22 November 2009

"An old-school v-twin in a high-tech chassis, all wrapped up as a Mad Max-style urban scrambler"

Buell XB9SX Lightning

"An old-school v-twin in a high-tech chassis, all wrapped up as a Mad Max-style urban scrambler"

  • At a glance
  • 984cc  -  84 bhp
  • 45 mpg  -  171 miles range
  • Medium seat height (765mm)

Overall Rating 4 out of 5

The Buell XB9SX is an oddity. What you get is an old-school v-twin in a high-tech chassis, all wrapped up in a mad-max style urban scrambler. On paper it makes very little sense – a modern naked middleweight out-performs it in every practical way. But it looks great, sounds mean and the handling is sublime. It would be a hard purchase to justify, but everybody should try one.

> Video: Buell XB9SX 2-minute test

Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5

This is what the Buell XB9SX Lightning is all about. Make no mistake, it’s razor sharp and will fall on its ear like its name suggests. Erik Buell is obsessed with mass centralisation – to keep everything tight and low the exhaust is under the engine, fuel is in the frame and oil is in the swingarm. The rim mounted disc brake has a lot of initial bite and the wide motocross bars make weaving through traffic easy. Oddly though the XB9SX comes fitted with dual-purpose Pirelli Scorpion Sync tyres – probably mostly to fit the urban scrambler styling. They grip well enough and will come in handy if you happen to find yourself on a dirt road, but for most riders some standard sports or sports touring rubber would make more sense.

Engine 3 out of 5

Unfortunately this is the Buell’s weak point. It’s charming 984cc V-twin motor has character, makes a reasonable 84bhp and pulls hard from very low revs (handy in town). But the XB9SX has very little in the way of top end. It also vibrates heavily (see our video) and the gearbox occasionally rewards undetermined changes with false neutrals. It’s great for squirting out of hairpins on B-roads, not so good on lengthy straights. 

Build Quality & Reliability 3 out of 5

Buell have come a long way since their tubular frame models and reliability has improved, but some owners do still have occasional problems. Buell may have closed down now, but Harley are promising a further 10 years of dealer and parts back-up.

Insurance, running costs & value 3 out of 5

The hard truth is, many bikes do more for less. Now that Buell has closed down though, there are some great deals on new bikes as dealers try to shift their remaining stock. Harley have promised dealer support for a further 10 years, so if you always wanted a Buell now is the time to grab a bargain – just don’t expect it to hold its value well. Fidn a Buell XB9S Lightning for sale.

Equipment 4 out of 5

The Buell XB9SX is as simple and uncluttered as its styling and the pillion seat is for ornamental use only. On the plus side the clocks are clear and easy to read and the mirrors are better than you would think. This is the City-X (pronounced ‘city cross’) version of the XB9 so you do get hand-guards, a grill over the dual-headlights and pucks on the frame to protect it in a spill. The overall effect is a stylish-looking urban scrambler. Available in 3 colours: ‘Villain black’, ‘Kick Ash Translucent’ or ‘Cherry Bomb Red Translucent’, but the translucent options are £370 more. Compare and buy parts for the Buell XB9SX in the MCN Shop.

Owners' Reviews

1 owner has reviewed their BUELL XB9SX CITY X (2004-2009) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your BUELL XB9SX CITY X (2004-2009)
Summary of Owners' Reviews
Overall Rating 5 out of 5
Ride Quality & Brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5
Build Quality & Reliability 4 out of 5
Value & Running Costs 5 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5
5 out of 5

modern classic and addictive

15 June 2017 by Davey

It's not Japanese and it's never going to as reliable as a Honda ...but in the car park it's the bike everyone wants to talk about and it makes me smile everytime I open the throttle ..with the race pipe ecu it's a addictive noise , the 1000 has none... Read more of the vibration of the 1200 and feels more Smooth in the way it revs...it's not a Japanese engine but that's what makes it ! It's also not fast by modern standards ...it actually reminds me of a 350lc with its powerband but with gobs of torque too. I've never owned a Harley and to be honest didn't expect to fall in love with this as much as I have ...the biggest negative is 13 years after they were launched other people seem to be finally getting the point, a bike doesnt have to do 200 mph it just needs to be fun and have a bit of soul )

Ride Quality & Brakes
5 out of 5
By far the best handling bike I've ridden ...considering this is a 2003 bike the way it goes round corners is amazing ..,can be a little twitchy on bumpy roads with elevation changes under hard throttle in lower gears but it's does have the same wheelbase as a rgv250 ) very important to set the bike up as Per the owners Manual to your weight ...seat isn't the most comfortable on a run but it isn't a tourer
Engine
5 out of 5
Never had a twin never had a Harley before but wow what a great old lump ...with the race kit ecu pipe airbox mine sounds great and comes on cam like a rd350 at 4.5k. It doesn't bounce across the car park like the 1200 does at idle being a short stroke motor and is very vibe free...despite reviews etc I think the gearbox is fine certainly nothing to complain about ...I think it's very important with these to warm them up gently before riding and treat the engine with respect until upto temp
Build Quality & Reliability
4 out of 5
The build quality isn't upto Japanese standards although I notice a lot of Japanese bikes ain't what they used to be. The quality of the fixings and bolts are not the best but easily rectified with aftermarket stainless quite cheaply. All the xb range have a tendency to eat wheel and head race bearings more often then their jap counterparts so need to be kept an eye on. So far the only issue I've had with mine was a broken drive belt and since fitting a better quality belt and a aftermarket tensioner no problems since ...I really like the smoothness of the belt drive system and the cleanliness...I'd never have chain and sprockets again given the choice )
Value & Running Costs
5 out of 5
These bikes are incredibly simple to service with no valve adjustment or camchains etc ...the pushrod engine services generally only involve fluid changes which the home mechanic can do easily ...lots of Buell specialist independent mevhanics around and a great online community for help and advice. The bike is very frugal on fuel ridden sensibility even tho mine has the Buell race kit.
Equipment
5 out of 5
It's a street fighter doesn't have any equipment ). I personally like the Pirelli corsa diablo 3 tyres seem to work well
Buying experience

Great only going up in value very rare bikes no longer made and gaining cult status . Many getting exported to Europe for silly money and now with euro 4 regs etc the days of aircooled bikes is almost certainly finished ...these were made in very limited numbers grab a xb9 while still affordable as they haven't reached the price of the 12s yet. I love the response I get from the public and fellow bikers about this rare old beast ...certainly not a everyday commuting bike and ur never going to get the reliability of a BMW or Honda, but without a doubt what a bike should be ..characterful interesting and I smile everytime I look at it let alone ride it ).

Read all 1 owners' reviews in full

Facts & Figures

Model info
Year introduced 2004
Year discontinued 2009
Original price £5,990
Used price -
Warranty term (when new) Two year unlimited mileage
Running costs
Insurance group -
Annual road tax £85
Annual service cost £40
Performance
Max power 84 bhp
Max torque 60 ft-lb
Top speed 120 mph
1/4-mile acceleration -
Average fuel consumption 45 mpg
Tank range 171 miles
Specification
Engine size 984cc
Engine type Thunderstorm air/oil/fan-cooled, 4-stroke, 45° V-Twin, 5 gears
Frame type Black aluminium frame with Uniplana powertrain vibration isolation system, fuel in frame
Fuel capacity 14.5 litres
Seat height 765mm
Bike weight 177kg
Front suspension Fully-adjustable
Rear suspension Fully-adjustable
Front brake 6-piston fixed calliper with single 375 inside-out floating disc
Rear brake Single piston, floating caliper; stainless steel, fixed 240mm disc
Front tyre size 120/70 ZR-17
Rear tyre size 180/55 ZR-17

History & Versions

Model history

n/a

Other versions

Buell XB9S: Original version, replaced by XB9SX version in 2004.

Photo Gallery

  • Buell XB9SX Lightning
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  • Buell XB9SX Lightning
  • Buell XB9SX Lightning
  • Buell XB9SX Lightning
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