BUELL XB12S LIGHTNING (2003 - 2009) Review
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£200|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
The Buell XB12S Lightning is weird but it works. An antique, character-rich engine in a stubby street-fighter motorcycle chassis dripping technical innovation. Buell motorcycles is a subsidiary of Harley-Davidson set up by employee/ motorcycle racer/visionary Eric Buell. The Buell XB12S Lightning is a very individual motorcycle and hugely enjoyable to ride. Easy to love if hard to justify.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
Superb handling. Buell were talking about (and using) mass centralisation years before the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers cottoned on. The Buell XB12S Lightning's rim mounted disc brake works well plus lets the wheel be lighter for lower unsprung mass. Fuel in frame and oil in the swing arm aren’t rocket science but help keep the motorcycle's weight where it’s best carried and the Buell XB12S Lightning corners with aplomb.
EngineNext up: Reliability
1202cc Harley-Davidson air cooled V-twin in the Buell XB12S Lightning has been tuned and lays down fat wads of torque from tick over upwards. The Buell XB12S Lightning's power is plentiful if not excessive. The gearbox is not good though. It needs a firm prod and makes plenty of noise as you swap cogs – but it kind of adds to the experience of taming this motorcycle. Injection somewhat jerky with this particular motorcycle.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
Buell promise the glitches and niggles of earlier years are sorted with the Buell XB12S Lightning but owners of the motorcycle report otherwise. Electrical problems and poor finish are more minor than the snapping bolts and drive belts that earlier Buell motorcycles suffered. A local dealer who understands the Buell XB12S Lightning will make ownership easier.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
Rival motorcycles are available for similar money to the Buell XB12S Lightning. The exciting and dependable Triumph Speed Triple 1050 and the punchy Aprilia Tuono 1000 are both as desirable and capable but with their own character and cachet. You have to really want any of those motorcycles to buy one but if you do, little else will fit the bill. Used Buell XB12S Lightnings can be a mixed bag – be wary of far-out modifications.
Little is expected on streetfighter motorcycles and the Buell XB12S Lightning is particularly minimalist. The motorcycle's seat is barely adequate for one, let alone two and the lack of wind protection makes longer journeys tiring on a Buell XB12S Lightning. Fuel range poor. Twin trip meters is about as much luxury as you get with this motorcycle. Factory extras include a gel seat, rigid panniers, frame protectors, loads of carbon and dress up parts and more.
|Engine type||8v V-twin, 5 gears|
|Frame type||Aluminium dual spar|
|Fuel capacity||14.5 litres|
|Front suspension||Preload, rebound, compression|
|Rear suspension||Preload, rebound, compression|
|Front brake||Single 375mm disc|
|Rear brake||240mm disc|
|Front tyre size||120/70 x 17|
|Rear tyre size||180/55 x 17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||46 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£101|
|Annual service cost||£200|
16 of 17
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two year unlimited mileage|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||100 bhp|
|Max torque||81 ft-lb|
|Top speed||150 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||11.2 secs|
|Tank range||145 miles|
Model history & versions
2002: Buell XB9S Lightning introduced.
2003: Buell XB12S Lightning introduced.
2004: Buell XB9S replaced by Buell XB9S City-X.
2005: Buell XB12Ss Lightning Long introduced.
2005: Buell XB12X Ulysses introduced.
Buell XB9S Lightning: the original Lightning (in 2002) came with a smaller 984cc engine
Beull XB9S City-X: smaller 984cc engine motocross style bars, transparent bodywork.
Buell XB12S Lightning Long: longer wheelbase, more spacious riding position and slower steering geometry for a less manic ride. Other minor mods.
Buell XB12X Ulysses: 'adventure sport' style with enduro bars and bodywork and long travel suspension.
Owners' reviews for the BUELL XB12S LIGHTNING (2003 - 2009)
17 owners have reviewed their BUELL XB12S LIGHTNING (2003 - 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.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£200|
I Would Recommend a Hydraulic Clutch
I’ve Taken this Bike on Long Rides Through the Mountains. I’m 6 ft 2” tall. My Only Complaint Would be Fighting Head Winds can Be Exhausting. But Not Enough to Drop My Evaluation Score. Brakes are Great and Everyone Always Comments On the Size of the Rotors in the Bike.
With a Toon and a Couple Simple Mods it’s Easy to Get 120 Hp out of this Bike. The Torque on This Thing Will Shock You LoL I’ve Never Tricked this Bike but I can See Why Guys Use them as Expo Bikes. It’s Hard to Keep the Front Wheel on the Ground.
I Run Royal Purple in the Transmission and Red Line in the Primary and Lucas 20W50 in the Crank Case. I Change the Fluids Every Couple Rides , Keep it Clean and Cool (it’s an Air Cooled Engine)
Annual servicing cost: £200
My 05 xb12scg, is the coolest bike I have ever ridden. It handles the corners, like no other bike! And I have never felt cooler, then when I ride that bike.
You will never feel as cool as you do on a Buell! The brakes are phenomenal. I can stop on a dime. The corner is unbelievable. Watch some YouTube videos.
It's the rumble of a 1203 cc Harley, the V-Twin is easy enough to work on. And regardless of what anyone tells you, that simple old cavemen design engine is a beast! The low-end torque will drop you off the back if you don't hold on tight.
In two seasons, I have replace the rear tire once, clutch cable once, but that one was my fault I overturned the ferrule. And about a hundred bucks in oil change supplies (oil, oil filter, drain plug o-rings, clutch cover gasket, inspection Port gasket.) And of course, I upgraded the exhaust, and added some cosmetic upgrades like shorty levers, bar end mirrors, some vinyl wrapping, and a new seat because mine was 14 years old.
It's a motorcycle not a luxury car. what more do you want than something that looks cool sounds amazing and moves like the wind?
Buying experience: Brand new they were $10,500 retail. I bought mine used for $3,000 and $475 for shipping. I purchased it from a small independent dealer in mesquite Texas. I bought it over the phone, and internet. I never heard it or saw it in person before I purchased it. And it was super exciting getting the updates from the shipper along the way to my state of Washington.
I can only agree to the last comments what a great bike!
I owned a lot of bikes from Japan, German, american, Italian, british, austrian and even a Russian. But the Buell is the one which always puts a smile on my face. When I get up on my day off after a 14 hour day, tired and exhausted I look out of the kitchen window and see her sleeping and I just know I gotta get out asap. Reliability? Well I owned an Italian primadonna which would not start straight away when it was raining or under 10C! Bearing in mind that the BUELL is a pretty exclusive bike it never let me down in 54K miles on the original belt!! Highly recommendable even as first 'big' bike.
Love that bike.
Best bike I ever ridden. Go on the twisty country roads or up on the serpentines in the alps and all those r1, blades or zx will eat. You don't need to be a Rossi to scrape your knee with the XB.
i owned an XB12sx for 18 months and put 11000 mile on her, in that 18 months the bike cost me £1600 in parts, repairs and hassle. I loved the way it handled and looked but every single other bit was appauling. anyone wanting an everydy bike should not even consider a buell - they dont work!!
Brilliant bike just love it. No big problems on it had a misfire due to bad spark plugs and a tps reset which is nothing. I had a Super Duke before and I love to Buell more than any other bike I had. Never had a bike before giving me so much confidence to throw it into corners and get my knee down than the XB. I know on the UKBEG forum there is a stark tendency to talk the XB down and praise the 'easy fix' Tuber but I think that is all due to people who spend all those hours on their bikes that they just dishonest to themselves how the Tubers really are. I rode any X1 and S1 and the handling is just awful. Also the standard looks of the Tubers are ugly compared to the XB where only the Cheesegrater in the way of the beauty but easily removable. I am using my bike every day in every weather the XB whether it is a S, R, TT or Uly are great bikes and reliable.
I could write a book on here explaining why it is so good but you have to experience it yourself so get down to your local dealership and test ride one and you will see what I mean.
As Clarkson always says you have to own at least one Alfa in your life. I have to say you have to own at least one Buell in your life and this is the model or the XB12R. Forget the old unreliable tube frame models these bikes apart from very early 03 bikes are absolute fun. The first time you sit on them and start em up it might feel weird but the first time you out on a country road you cannot stop loving them. XB riders are known for a constant grin on their face. The handling is idiot proof and superb. The engine, yes it want do over 120 (I don't know where they get the 150 from) but you don't want to do that on it anyway but saying that it will do motorway miles without problems. The old tubers are known for exploding engines on motorways. The XB has tons of torque and will kill any superbike in cornering. Than there is the exclusivity turn up at your local biker caff and you will see how many other Buell's there are most times you will be the only one and you will piss these mid life crisis weekend granpa-rossis on their sunshine bikes off in stealing them the show. only problem is when you wonna hit off you have to fight through the crowd which has build up around your XB.
Well yes I always did. I had a S1 and an X1 both where absolutely horrible blowing engines at early stage. After riding some Nippon the XB came out and wow it looked the business. Love at first sight. But grown older and matured I thought do you want to go through all that again, having the bike fixed when the mates riding on the weekend. Well I test rode one and I just had to have one. Now after 5 years and 56700mls I still love it like on the first day. Thanks to Harley the rubbish reliability of the old tube frame models got sorted and Erik still has his crazy input on the design both pared made a superb handling bike. No other bike handles like the XB and the grunt of the 1203cc is just awesome. If you want to stand out from the crowd, without spending lots of money on a Italo exotica than you have to have the XB!!!!!
If I could only enter one sentence here, it would be: Just take it for a test drive. I admit, the first time you get on it, having a tweaked harley engine thumping away is a bit odd. But once you open it up, ohhh boy. It has power nearly everywhere along the rev range and the cornering is excellent. The bike just has tons of character and makes you smile constantly. As for the comments in the review concerning the engine and the gearbox: not an issue, at least not in the 2008 model that I have. The gearbox is great and there's no jerkeyness what so ever. There's nothing wrong with the build quality these days, the review above definately needs updating. The only thing that might be a problem is the exhaust. Its been known to rust, so far though, i haven't had a problem with it. Fuell range: poor? Thats just plain wrong. If you ride it as a commuter you'll get 200 miles out of it. And as for the equipment, why it gets two stars astounds me as the speed triple get 5 stars (which is also a streetfighter), which is just as minimalist. There's tons of parts available if you want to customize it.
I had a 2005 XB12s and it was excellent especially the engine,i really loved the responsive punchy power.So buying the 2008 model with its extra tweaks it had gained over the years i new it would be even better. OOOHHHhh dear,how wrong can you be,what the f.c.s happened here.I am so shocked at how bad the power delivery is,twist the throttle and it all bogs down.The engine is fine for poodling along at 1-3thou revs,but crack the throttle open and it's one big flat spot all the way to 5 thousand revs where your met with a big shudder and finally thrust.Yes i had the bike checked over as i really thought there was a problem,but every thing is NORMAL!!!! i test road an 08 xb12scg and it does do the same thing. It is a real shame as the 05 buell was the best bike i ever had but the 08 model is the worst.
i have had tl's busas ccms vertematis but nothing comes close to my cherry bomb red buell xb12scg the torque is incredible it actually stopped traffic in middlesbrough the build is superb im used to it coz its all suzuki switchgear and its awsome completely unique and customizable theres a dealer who just does after market parts at trojan horse the engine is a stonker its pricey but worth it
on our ducati club run in 2005 the local dealer for ducati,hd e.t.c. in malaga spain sent a couple of buell on the run a lot of interest was shown my wife who rides 620I i duc monster loved it,as did one of our sons, the next week we went on a test run and it was ace so we ordered 2 for our use and a couple for the tour business, the response to them as been good ,they are so forgiving if you mess it up a bit, and they handle the mountain,twistys, perfectly, the bottem end grunt is brill, and by playing with the chimney a bit they dont half sound good,the only trouble we have had is on one the fuel pump was very loud but it was sorted out by the dealer.
I really love it. my last bike, 03r1, I had it for 4 years. Last weekend I took the buell out for the first time to the country. On the Twisties & mountains, I was consistently going 5 to 10 MPH FASTER than the r1. I was simply amazed at how you could become one with the buell so quickly. It feels like you're riding a mountain bike with a great engine and super brakes all wrapped in an egineering masterpiece of a package. Can you tell I relly like it? Thanks Mr. Buell.
What a blinding bike. Much improved in the 2007 model year as the gearbox and clutch were brought up to Jap standards. The ride is superb, really lets you know what's going on without blasting you out of the seat when you roll over an ant. The equipment is sparse but that's fine, you dont buy a bike like this to get bells and whistles... you buy it because you specifically cant stand all the tat that other bikes get peppered with. The quality over all is just excellent, apart from the standard exhaust which RUSTS in about 5 minutes. I really do mean 5 minutes. Everything else is beautifully thought out, the engineering solutions are spot on. Frankly, I love it. I've had 2 Firestorms, a Fireblade and countless road based bikes, cutoms and off roaders and this is one of the best things I've chucked a leg over. Bring on the dry roads and roundabouts. Perfect.