Used Bike

Buyer Guide: Buell XB Range

With a reputation for constant niggles and occasional disasters, our survey says Buells are by no means the nightmare of common lore

Click to view: Buell XB Range owners reviews, specs and image galleries.

There’s a bit of biking which is all about giving convention the middle finger, doing it your own way and having fun. That’s exactly what Buells do. They’re weird, they’re lairy and despite a few problems and some surprising paradoxes, they’re ahead of the pack in some areas.

This Lowdown focusses on the XB Buells: the XB9S and XB12S Lightning factory streetfighters, the XB9R and XB12R Firebolt sports bikes and the adventure touring XB12X Ulysses. To many they’re the consummate examples of the breed, dynamically superior to the early tube-framed machines and more appealing than the latest water-cooled offerings with their ‘controversial’ looks.

The XBs fill different roles but share an awful lot of parts. Engine and frame are nearly identical on all of them and both contribute to what makes these bikes unique and enjoyable. The frame, like much of the chassis, is high-tech and dripping with innovation. Buell was first into mass centralisation, fitting underslung exhausts and using the frame as a fuel tank. Their single rim-mounted discs match the stopping power of conventional twin rotor set ups – and the consequent reduction in unsprung weight helps suspension performance. This, allied to to laser-sharp geometry, means bikes with exceptionally alert handling.

Mated to this edgy, innovative chassis we have ancient air-cooled Harley-Davidson V-twin engines which don’t match rivals for outright power but blitz most on character and low and midrange torque.

They’re kinky, brash and great to ride. But rumours of poor finish and bad reliability dog the brand and put some buyers off. Fortunately an impressive 102 XB owners filled in our on-line survey telling us what these bikes are really like to live with. They’ve covered almost a million miles among them on their Buells so believe what you read here.

Continue the Buell XB lowdown

Buell Specifications

2002 Buell XB12R Firebolt

Engine a/c, injected, 4v, V-twin, 1,203cc (984cc) Power 103bhp (92) Torque 84ftlb (71) Weight 179kg (175) Seat height 775mm Fuel capacity 14 litres Top speed 155mph (150) (XB9R figures in brackets)

2003 Buell XB12S Lightning

Engine a/c, injected, 4v, v-twin, 1,203cc (984cc) Power 103bhp (92) Torque 84ftlb (71) Weight 197kg (175) Seat Height 755mm Fuel Capacity 14 litres  Top speed 140mph (xb9s figures in brackets)

2006 Buell XB12X Ulysses

Engine a/c, injected, 4v,  V-twin, 1,203cc Power 103bhp Torque 84ftlb Weight 193kg Seat Height 840mm Fuel capacity 17 litres Top Speed 135mph

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