Motorcycle Reviews

2007 Buell XB12SCG Lightning

Written by  July 31, 2007

Location: Cycle Connection Harley-Davidson/Buell, Joplin Missouri

Weather: Clear, temps in the mid 80s, mid levels of humidity, winds S 5-10

Rider: Jim Austin
6’0 220 Lbs
30 Years riding experience
Current ride: 2003 HD FLHTCI

Passenger: Karey Austin
5’7 107 lbs
3 years riding experience

Buell: innovative, cutting edge, ahead of it’s time design wise. These are just some of the things people say about Buell motorcycles. I have one other word for them, which I will get to shortly. Stopping in at Cycle Connection Harley-Davidson in Joplin, Missouri one day to buy some “bling” for my scoot, I was approached by Chris, the head of the performance division of the store. “Jim, when are you going to go and buy you another standard? You have been riding these big bikes for a while now, isn’t it about time you got you something you could flick around a little easier on the curves around here? I know you miss some of that spirited riding you used to do,” he stated. I laughed, and told him I hadn’t found the right mount in a few years to be able to just go out and have a great time that would be cost efficient for what I like to do. I have this thing about having to pay a grand premium on insurance to have some fun every now and then. Chris told me he had just the bike for me and to call him and we would set up a day to go out and play. He promised I would like what I saw. So we agreed to meet the next weekend, and he would show me what the new Buells were all about. I was a little skeptical when I read the specifications of the bikes about what I was getting into. But, was I in for a surprise.

On a nice sunny day with my full face Arai helmet and First Gear Textile jacket and gloves in hand, I putted over to the dealership. Chris had two bikes to play on that day. One a 2007 XB12SCG Lightning, the other the XB12 Firebolt. I picked the Lightning for the mount of choice for the day, due to a more upright seating position. And, because my wife was going to be with me part of the ride, I wanted her as comfortable as I could get her for the trips we were about to make. The first thing I noticed about the Buell was the layout. Everything seemed to be well laid out ergonomically. The pegs on the Lightning weren’t too high, although going from floorboards to rear-sets is a big adjustment. I wasn’t very uncomfortable at all and the reach to the bars was just fine. I wasn’t bent over so far that my shoulders were going to ache from the riding, like they had on my last standard, a Suzuki SV650 with lowered bars and high rear-sets. I liked the way everything seemed to flow on the Buell as ergonomically as it was designed. The next thing that caught my attention was the clutch pull. Harley engine-based bikes convey the image of a hard clutch pull in my mind right off the bat. This bike threw that notion right out the door. I liked the easy pull, no arm pump working the gears as the playing got harder I figured. Later I would find out you don’t need to work the gears on this particular bike, but more about that later. The bike started effortlessly and there did not seem to be any type of “hunting” on warm-up. It seemed to fire right off with a push of the button and warmed up quickly. We took off out of the parking lot, going easy so I could get used to the pull. This motorcycle has a short wheelbase, so I didn’t need any wheel stands right out of the parking lot to begin with.

The engine pulled away with almost a linear like feel. The motor seemed like it was designed with the way people would ride this bike in mind. You could make it pull hard, or easy. It rode through all the gears with enough pull you could lug it and still pull hard. I liked the way the bike’s engine was laid out. The gas mileage this bike generates was a big plus. It will get better fuel mileage than a comparable Japanese bike of the same displacement. When you shut the motor off, a fan kicks on to get the motor cooled down. It was a little loud, but after a bit you got used to it. Pulling out of curves when the motor was in gear was a real rush. Not the rush you get on a 150 HP liter bike of Japanese stature, but of one that gives a feeling of control and grace. This bike was built for curvy roads, no doubt.

The frame carries the fuel, the swingarm carries the oil, and the exhaust is hung low under the bike, giving the bike a lower center of gravity. All of which, when combined with a steep steering head design and a short wheel base, will give a rider extreme “flickabilitiy” in the turns. The stock tires worked wonders and in no time I was able to lean the bike to the extremes it was intended for, with confidence in its abilities. I liked the bike and it’s handling right away. I also liked the confidence it gave me when I had not been on a sport type ride in a while. This bike screams hooligan ride. The brakes on it were fantastic, the front one especially. I wish all bikes had that front brake. Stopping never was a worry, and you could brake down speed very efficiently. All in all it is a great package.

My wife really enjoyed the back perch; she said it was fun with the curves. Going out, some great back roads provided a lot of thrills for both of us, and the seat was good for a 'couple of hour’ type outing. Now I wouldn’t recommend this bike for any kind of long distance tour; the small flyscreen is great at lower speeds, but I got a lot of wind buffeting at interstate speeds on the short stretch of superslab we rode. I had no problems with the seat though, it wasn’t too hard or too wide; it worked well in the package. I could slide around on it to shift my weight just fine.

Overall I only had two complaints about the bike, both of which could be handled with some minor modifications. First were the grips and bars. There was a lot of buzz in the grips at moderate speeds. The bend of the bars could have been just a little higher. To get rid of the buzz, though, a good set of bar ends or a barsnake would probably work wonders. I would switch out to the bars on the City-X too, I like the profile better. My other complaint was the mirrors. Chuck 'em and replace 'em if you want to be able to see behind you at all; useless to say the least.

Wrapping this quick ride up, there is one word that describes this bike to the letter. That is fun; pure, unabashed fun. Nothing more could be asked for. This bike was a hoot to ride. I had so much fun I almost traded in my bike for one of them. The only consideration I had was how far I travel on my motorcycle when I travel. Fun generally comes at a price now, however the base MSRP of the bikes is low enough and the insurance payments are seemingly lower than the sport bikes of overseas; all of which make it worth the while. The gas mileage was a big plus too. So to put it all in context, how could you go wrong?

I want to thank Chris at Cycle Connection H-D in Joplin for his hospitality. I can’t tell the public how much this dealership goes out of its way to satisfy its customers. Thanks again Chris. Take a test ride at your local dealership, or give Cycle Connection H-D a call, you won’t be disappointed.

Bike Specs:
Engine Type: Air/Oil-cooled 1203cc Thunderstorm V-Twin

Bore and Stroke: 3.5 in (88.90mm) / 3.812 in (96.82mm)

Displacement: 1203cc (73.4 cu. in)

Compression Ratio: 10.0:1

Fuel Delivery system: 49mm down draft DDFI II Fuel injection

Peak Engine Torque: 84 ft lbs @ 6000 RPM*

Peak Engine HP: 103 HP @ 6800 RPM*

Transmission: 5 Speed, helical cut gears

Primary Drive: Chain, 1.500:1 (57/38)

Secondary Drive: Constant path, 14MM pitch, Aramid reinforced Hibrex belt,
2.407:1 (65/27)

Overall ratios: 1st 2.648 2nd 1.892 3rd 1.407 4th 1.166 5th 1.000

Frame: Aluminum/ with fuel carried within

Swingarm: Cast aluminum/ with oil carried within

Front Suspension: 41MM Showa inverted fork, adjustable compression damping,
rebound damping, and spring pre-load

Rear Suspension: Showa Coil-over monoshock, with adjustable compression
damping, rebound damping, and spring pre-load

Front brakes: Front ZTL type brake, 6 piston, fixed caliper, 375mm single
sided-inside out stainless steel floating rotor

Rear Brakes: Single Piston, floating caliper, 240mm Stainless Steel, fixed

Front Wheel and Tire: 6 Spoke, cast aluminum/ Pirelli Diablo T 120 / 70

Rear Wheel and Tire: 6 Spoke, cast aluminum/ Pirelli Diablo T 180 / 55 ZR-17

Overall Length: 75.7 in (1923mm)

Overall Width: 29.7 in (755mm)

Seat Height: 28.6 in (726mm)

Wheelbase: 51.8 in (1315mm)

Ground clearance: 3.55 in (90mm)

Maximum Lean Angle: 50 Degrees*

Dry Weight: 395 lbs (179kg)*

Fuel Capacity: 3.82 US Gallons (4.9L / 100km)

Estimated MPG: 65 MPG (3.6L / 100km)*

Available colors: Cherry Bomb Red Translucid, Midnight Black, Valencia
Orange Translucid

*Factory-based figures - Not gathered from independent source for this test.

Happy Roads!

By Jim & Karey Austin