2009 Buell Lightning CityX XB9SX | Motorcycle Test

A Motorcycle with Urban Prowess.

This motorcycle grew on me. Sure, I was initially impressed with its interesting appearance; the compact slender motorcycle gets one’s attention with its striking translucent airbox cover, extra-wide black aluminum frame, headlight grille and handguards. But, I didn’t know how cool I would end up feeling, perched atop this little powerhouse.

Throw a leg over the 30-inch seat and try to find the front wheel–it can’t be seen from the saddle due to the short chassis and steep steering. Turn the key and this succinct package rumbles to life, its V-twin 984 cc Thunderstorm engine (built by Harley-Davidson) pulsing with energy.

The ergonomics of the CityX favor smaller riders, even though the seat is a little high. At 5′ 6", I am still secure on the bike, despite not being completely flat-footed at a stop. The reach to the wide, MX-style handlebars is minimal and, at 390 pounds (claimed dry weight), the Buell is quite manageable at low speeds and stops.

At a stop or strolling down the boulevard, you can feel that distinct Harley-Davidson vibration, reminding you that she’s ready to rumble and take on the mean streets and nasty, congested freeways.

The CityX’s urban prowess is confidence inspiring. There is so little distance from the front rubber to the license plate hanging off the end of the fender that I never worried about getting tagged while slipping through heavy traffic. The bike is narrow, agile and fast on its Pirelli Scorpion Syncs. Its trim size allows easy lane splitting, and the upright seating position affords good visibility. The mirrors are well placed, requiring only a shift of one’s eyes, and they are steady and true at high speed.

Although the clutch has a heavy pull, which can get tiresome in stop-and-go situations, the torquey power of the V-twin engine is welcome when executing passes in unpredictable situations. Too much time spent at low speeds becomes uncomfortable, however, as the air-cooled engine runs hot. Even on cold nights, when I got home, the fan would run in the garage for a while to cool down the motor.

Away from tight quarters, the bike responds well to a healthy twist of the throttle. It is easy to blast through the five speeds and find myself closing in on 85 mph before I know it. I have found myself searching for a 6th gear several times when the freeway was wide open. While the flyscreen adds to the spare, urban look of the bike, it is a quick deterrent to pushing the mph, as you will find yourself blasted by the wind.

Weekend riding through canyon roads is effortless, as the powerband is broad. There is ample engine braking when rolling off the throttle into turns, and plenty of power to shoot you out the other side; no need for extra clicking through the nicely deliberate gearbox. When more aggressively attacking the twisties, the powerful six-piston caliper bites down on the Buell-exclusive rim-bolted front disc extremely capably. The taut suspension is a bit stiff for my 115 pounds when commuting on the freeway, but spot-on for holding a line through turns.

Buell’s CityX XB9SX is a compact little firecracker that is fun to ride. It is how I imagine a jockey feels–his legs tucked high atop a quarter horse, parading to the gate, knowing a subtle movement of hands or feet will inspire a surge of energy. It’s hard not to feel urban street-cool on such a head turner when fellow motorists roll down their windows, lean out and ask, "What kind of bike that is?"


Photos by Don Williams

Helmet: Suomy Spec 1R Extreme Flowers
Jacket: Dainese Lady Luck
Gloves: Dainese Motodon Lady
Pants: Icon Standard
Boots: Alpinestars Stella S-MX 4

Other articles you will enjoy: