Buell X1 Lightning


Make Model.

Buell X1 Lightning




45° V-Twin, four stroke, pushrod actuated overhead valve. hydraulic self-adjusting lifters, 2 valve per cylinder.


1203 cc / 73.4 cu in
Bore x Stroke 88.8 x 96.8 mm
Compression Ratio 10.0:1
Cooling System Air cooled
Lubrication Dry sump


Free breathing, two-into-one


Dynamic Digital Fuel Injection


V-fire electronic




12V, 19Ah

Max Power

75.3 kW / 101 hp @ 6000 rpm

Max Torque

122 Nm / 12.4 kgf-m / 90 ft.lbs @ 5600 rpm


Wet, multi-plate


5 Speed

Final Drive

Kevlar belt

Gear Ratios

1st 2.69 / 2nd 1.85 / 3rd 1.43 / 4th 1.18 / 5th 1.00:1


Tubular perimeter chrome-moly mainframe with Uniplanar®




89 mm / 3.5"

Front Suspension

Ø41 mm Showa upside-down front forks adjustable compression and rebound damping

Front Wheel Travel

119 mm / 4.7"

Rear Suspension

Showa shock absorber under engine adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping

Rear Wheel Travel

117 mm / 4.6"

Front Brakes

Single Ø340 mm disc, 6 piston caliper

Rear Brakes

Single Ø230 mm disc, 1 piston caliper


3-Spoke, Stardust silver or Nuclear blue finish

Front Wheel

3.50 x 17"

Rear Wheel

5.00 x 17"

Front Tyre

120/70-ZR17 D207F, Dunlop SportMax

Rear Tyre

170/60-ZR17 D207, Dunlop SportMax
Wheelbase 1397 mm / 55"
Ground Clearance 125 mm / 4.9"
Seat Height 787 cm / 31.0"

Dry Weight

200 kg / 440 lbs

Fuel Capacity 

15.8 L / 4.2 US gal

Fuel Reserve

1.9 L / 0.5 US gal

Top Speed

225 km/h / 140 mph

By late 1998, Erik Buell's lively and IK distinctive sports bikes had come a long way since the Wisconsin-based engineer and former racer's first model, more than ten years earlier. With their distinctive styling, upright riding position, tuned Harley V-twin motors and agile chassis, Buells had provided plenty of speed and handling along with more fun than just about anything else on two wheels.

But Buells had suffered some problems, too. Models such as the S1 Lightning had been rather eccentric, with their big, ugly air filter, truck-like exhaust, uncomfortably tiny seat, soft Harley footrests and tendency to overheat their rear cylinder. That was until late 1998, when Buell introduced the X1 Lightning.

The X1 proved that founder Erik Buell and his colleagues at Harley-Davidson, which by this time owned most of the company, listened to criticism. It combined typical Buell aggression with fresh styling, a smaller air filter, a belly pan to cover the silencer, a larger seat, normal footrests, and better cooling to engine parts including the rear cylinder. It also had a stiffer steel frame, new aluminium rear subframe and swingarm, plus uprated Showa suspension at front and rear.

Like other Buells the X1 was powered by an air-cooled, 45-degree pushrod V-twin that was intended for Harley's 1200 Sportster. Here it was hotted-up with Buell's 'Thunderstorm' cylinder heads, incorporating bigger valves, reworked ports and reshaped combustion chambers. A new fuel-injection system helped give a best yet peak output of 95bhp at 6200rpm. This was a pretty remarkable achievement given that a standard Sportster produced less than 60bhp.

That meant the XI was good for a genuine 140mph (225km/h), and the cleverly rubber-mounted motor felt amazingly smooth, too. There was a generous amount of mid-range torque, and the bike sat effortlessly at 70mph (113km/h) with instant acceleration on tap.

Sharpened geometry

The chassis was also impressive. Steering was light enough to allow rapid direction changes, due to the X1's sharpened geometry. Showa suspension parts worked well at the front and also at the rear, where the XI retained the traditionally quirky Buell set-up with its under-slung shock working in tension rather than the normal compression.

The X1's front brake combination of six-piston caliper and huge single disc gave powerful stopping, though it was prone to fade when very hot. Detail work was improved from previous models, with generous steering lock, dashboard-mounted ignition switch, easily adjustable mirrors, under-seat storage, and other useful details.

Anyone wondering whether these civilizing touches disguised the fact that the XI lacked Buell's traditional raw appeal had no need to worry - the X1 still felt suitably crazy. It was a more sophisticated, up-to-date machine whose old-style Buell fun factor was very much intact. Equally importantly, the X1 was confirmation that Harley-Davidson, Buell's new owner, intended to inject the effort and investment needed for success.


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.

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.

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.

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. 

Source: Motorcycle News