While my Buell Ulysses XB12XT was in the dealer for some tweaks I was given the Buell Lightning XB12S to keep me on the road. The dealer wanted me to give it a go since this specific version of the Lightning is being discontinued for 2009, being superseded by the lower XB12Scg version and longer wheelbase XB12Ss version. So after transferring my insurance over I went out to meet my new ride for the next 24 hours.
The first thing that strikes you is that is looks tiny! Literally just two wheels, a seat and that 1203cc Thunderstorm engine holding it all together. Pillion pegs are provided but if I owned one I think all pillion provisions would be the first things to go as comfort must be negligible except for the tiniest of grid girls! Looking over it further I can only have appreciation for what a tidy package this is. I got to use the Kawasaki Er-6n for 5 weeks earlier this year and that is 'supposed' to be a naked bike, compared to the Buell it really does not factor especially when you remember that this has a 1203cc V-Twin lump from Michigan wedged in!!
Starting the Buell I am met by the now usual thunder from the engine, it then settles done as it warms up. Straddling the bike only further unnerves me as I try to get my head around the compact size of this beast. This forces me to keep reminding myself that there is 104bhp on tap and some 104nm (77 ft lbs) of torque so respect is due. Being a Star Trek fan I can not help draw parallels with one of the TV shows most popular vessels, The Defiant. It too was a tiny little ship...but also arguable one of the most powerful!
Back from the realm of fantasy I twist the throttle and get rolling. Out on the road I am introduced to something even more surprising, that this thing is nimble! Filtering (lane splitting) takes on a whole new dimension as the Lightnings maneuverability allows me to put the bike anywhere there is a gap big enough to take her...at some points I think I am defying physics. The Ulysses is a very fun bike but the lightning is even more extreme and brilliant fun.
Out of the commuter traffic and on the motorway I can not stop grinning, because as you lean yourself forward into the wind you are struck by this sense that you are flying down the road, there is no fairing in front of you, nothing but road disappearing beneath at a rapid pace. This is totally thrilling and only the rumble from the engine reminds you that you are still a mere mortal.
24 hours was never going to enough time with the Lightning, it is a terrific piece of engineering. The compact dimensions mated with the big V-Twin engine was perfect for me, you get the flick-ability of a small sportsbike mated with the cruising ability of a large displacement cruiser. This is utterly fantastic and is a highly recommended experience for all. I appreciate this combination over speed any day, though do not get the wrong impression as this bike can reach at least 210 km/h (130 mph) according to the various motorcycle news media.
Now the only question that matters...would I buy one? As a standalone bike my honest answer is no. This is based on my needs which are a everyday commuter who needs the luggage, I also take off with my partner for weekend breaks/touring when possible so the Lightning simply does not fit this. But most 'bikers' these days do not fit this profile so do go and check these out if you are in the market for a naked bike which is genuinely built for the real world! A BIG thanks to Dublin Harley-Davidson for the chance to try out this motorcycle.
Keep the rubber side down.