2006 Buell Lightning® XB12Ss
by Kirk Johnson
as tested $10,495
many times have you walked through the local Harley dealer and
noticed the little Buells sitting around. I know I have, but never
thought much about them. Well I got to ride one the other day
and was blown away at how much fun it was. This little lightweight
screamer is a blast. All the time while riding it, it screams
at you, “let’s play. Please, lets go and have some
fun. I can do a lot; let me show you, please, please”. The
Buell behaves like a happy little obedient puppy begging for attention.
Next time you go through the dealership stop and take a look at
this little gem.
are several different Buells to select from. There is the Ulyssys,
Firebolt, Blast and the bike that I rode the Lighting XB12Ss.
The little “s” stands for stretch. The rear swing
arm is 3” longer than the standard bike. Glad to have that
little extra extension. The bike with a shorter swing arm might
be a little more playful.
little Buell weighs in at around 400 pounds; about 150 pounds
lighter than a Sporster. The
specs on the Buell show that this 1200 cc engine, similar
to the Sportster engine, puts out 103 HP at 6,800 RPM. Ya, 6,800
RPM, that’s what I thought. This is not your stock Sportster
engine, plus it is fuel injected. Do the math on this bad boy.
The bike comes in at 3.88 pounds per HP. Yes, it does scream.
Add a 150-pound person and the WT to HP ration is still awesome.
That number is 5.33 pounds per HP. Ronnie, sales manager at Hacienda
Harley-Davidson told me this bike should run in the low 11 seconds
for the quarter mile.
do you stop this machine? Very impressive front Buell
setup. The 6-piston caliper transfers braking forces directly
to the rim with the 375 mm rotor bolted to the wheel’s perimeter.
This makes for a very efficient and lightweight front-end with
ample stopping power.
a short walk around with Ronnie, I was ready for a ride.
first thing that I noticed was the high seat at 30.5” high.
While sitting on this bike, I had to use my toes to move the bike
around. But, I found that the bike was so light that I could move
it with ease. With very little effort I was able to move the bike
back and turn it so I could get out of the parking lot. I headed
north on Pima road and blended into traffic very easily.
don’t really sit on this bike; you wear it. It is very light
and compact, extremely maneuverable. All of the controls are right
there, close together. When you sit on the comfy gel seat you
find that your legs are bent and behind you. This, of course,
is a very aggressive riding posture, one dedicated to sincerity.
But at the same time it is not so cramped that you feel uncomfortable.
You can still sit up fairly straight; you do not have to lean
forward like some of the café racers.
the lightest twist of the throttle you get instant response. You
can feel the ride as if you are part of it. This road feel is
not the same as a hardtail by any means. Now, you can look for
payment that is not friendly looking and laugh at it. You can
maneuver around cars and potholes like it is a sport. You own
the road. By this I mean you can put the bike any place you want
with ease. Change lanes, accelerate or stop – whatever you
want to do.
riding north on Pima for awhile, I had to get off this boring
road and headed west on some of the back roads in north Scottsdale.
These roads are curvy and ideal for this ride. I rode around some
of these roads with excitement. The bike loves this sort of fun.
I did not feel comfortable enough with the clutch and the power
of this bike to clutch the front end up yet but I did rap the
throttle hard to get the front end up. Unlike my bike, when it
comes up, it is with the clutch and a power wheelie. It will carry
it for a little bit but does not have the power to carry the wheelie
unless the front end is up at about 30-40°. With the Buell,
the front tire came up about 6” off the payment and the
power that the little twin had held it up all the way through
about 6 grand before I let it down. What a treat. That wide power
band is not representative of many metric bikes that have a narrow
power band. I have experienced some of the jap bikes that are
sluggish at lower RPMs and then come on strong around 7-8 grand.
It is nice to have the gutsy torque needed to carry the bike thought
some of the lower PRM power ranges.
with the braking a little and found that this little screamer
stops as fast as it starts. With just two fingers on the lever
the front end dives and comes to a very fast effortless stop.
It is not gabby or erratic, but completely controlled; impressive
stopping power. The rear break seemed little weak to me. You can
lock it up easily enough – you just have to push on it a
a short time on the back roads I was ready to put this bike in
my garage as a keeper. You know that having only one bike is not
enough. Oh well, back to the test ride. I headed back south on
Pima and headed for the 101 ramp for a short ride on the freeway.
Zoom down the on-ramp. It pops up in 2nd and 3rd with little effort.
You own the highways. You can put the bike in any spot you want
just about as easily as it is to look at where you want to be;
you have complete control.
said that some of the options for Buell include saddlebags. Don’t
know if this is the bike for me for long cross-country riding.
A much younger body is needed for this kind of time commitment.
I know the ride would be great, but the body position would not
be good for me on a long trip.
fast and playful. This bike begs for attention, I do not mean
service problems either. This is a spirited little friend that
you can take out and play with all day and never get bored. Although
there are people that ride these cross-country, I think it is
for a younger body, even with the gel seat that comes with the
bike. It is the body position that would wear on me anyway. The
price is great too. For under 11 grand you get a lot of ride.
Down side - ? You have to be in the right frame of mind to want
this kind of bike. If you are high-spirited and want fun rides
up to Prescott on the back roads this is the bike for you. If
chrome, road pegs and earth shaking thunder from the pipes is
your thing then you will have to pass on this ride. But remember,
having only one bike is not enough.