While it’s true there’s not much entirely new on the CityX, the minimal alterations have amped up the bad-boy attitude of the XB9S.
The biggest splash out of the recently announced 2005 Buell lineup is the funky Lightning CityX. The eccentric machine, dubbed XB9SX in Buell nomenclature, is the latest variation on the XB series that debuted in 2002.
All models in the XB series, including the XB9R and XB12R Firebolts, have received subtle refinements for 2005. A fully adjustable 43mm Showa fork replaces the 41mm stanchions previously used, helping make for additional chassis rigidity. Stickier Dunlop D208 skins replace the D207s. Buell says the new buns have 50% greater life, but the downside is that the 208s are a combined 1.25-lb heavier than the older rubber.
Buell seems to have cut out a nice-sized niche for itself in Europe, where the Harley-engined bikes are regarded as exotic. In fact, Buell reps tell us that more bikes are sold in the EU than here in the States. Still, according to Bill Davidson, Harley-Davidson director of marketing, motorcycle product development, Buell’s year-to-date sales “are way up.”
To help stimulate U.S. interest in the Buell line, prices have been dropped $500 across the board, bringing the MSRP of the XB9 series down to within $100 of the $8599 Honda CBR600RR. XB12s now retail for $10,495. All Buells are covered by a two-year, unlimited mileage warranty.
The 984cc CityX replaces the standard XB9S in Buell’s Lightning lineup, while the XB12Scg augments the standard XB12S we tested against Ducati’s Monster 1000S. Buell says its new models are “customer driven.”
With its flatter, motocross-style seat, hand guards, aggressive-looking tires, headlight cage and blacked-out lower portion, the new CityX challenges the hooligan Triumph Speed Triple as the toughest looking bike on the block.
We can only presume some of those customers are short, as the cg model’s suspension has been lowered by ¾ of an inch and, combined with a less-padded seat, brings the overall seat height down to 28.6 inches. Buell claims no loss in cornering clearance even though there is 0.8 inch less overall ground clearance. The cg is the only 2005 XB Buell that retains the 41mm fork used since the model’s inception, stuffed with more appropriate springs and damping to suit the shorter travel.
Over a few drinks, Erik Buell told me of how he had the idea for an urban assault vehicle when he first watched the film “Terminator 2.” He saw the futuristic automobiles struggling to get around and over streets strewn with wreckage and imagined something better. Fifteen years later, the CityX is the result.
Buell’s theme for the CityX (say: city-cross) is “urban ruggedness,” perhaps something akin to a Subaru WRX.
“The CityX is ready to take the holeshot at every green light, dart around potholes, avoid lanes of strangled traffic and drift through the tightest lines the urban jungle has to offer,” Buell’s PR literature boldly states.
The key styling element of the CityX is the see-through plastic used for the airbox cover and flyscreen. Buell says they are the first uses of translucent body panels on a production motorcycle. Tying the “Hero Blue Translucid” color theme together are the blue instrument faces with accompanying blue lighting.
Nearly everything from the faux fuel tank down is colored black to disguise road grime splashed up from the dirty streets of our towns, including the wheels, chin spoiler and front fender. A minimalist headlight cage does as much to toughen the bike’s look as it will deflecting stray rocks. An X-shaped piece of plastic mounted atop the translucent airbox cover protects tankbags from scuffing the material.
Buell wanted some aggressive, supermoto-style tires to augment the urban blaster attitude of the CityX. Dunlop has been Buell’s regular tire supplier since forever, but they didn’t have a tire to fit Buell’s bill. As a result, the CityX is the first Buell to be fitted with Pirelli tires as standard equipment. The deeply grooved Scorpion Sync tires that we first saw on Ducati’s Multistrada helps butch out the new XB’s appearance.
Also new this year is the “Skyline” seat fitted to the CityX. Its flatter profile is more like a motocross seat, and the altered riding position that results induces a curb-hopping attitude. It’s only potential downside is that it raises the seat height 0.5 inch to a claimed 30.6 inches (feels taller to me..). An MX-style crossbar on the otherwise unchanged handlebar adds to the dirtbike impression. Plastic deflectors in front of the rider’s hands keep them sheltered from the elements you may be forced to endure during your morning commute, whether it be rain or car mirrors.
The CityX proves its mettle in the cut and thrust of urban traffic, using its narrowness and high sightlines to good advantage.
From the saddle, the riding position of the CityX makes a rider feel like lining up at a motocross starting gate, and the bike’s steeply raked front end nearly disappears in front of you. The 45-degree, 984cc engine is unchanged from its claimed 92-horsepower state of tune. It can really scoot when the revs are up, but the playful engine stumbles when picking up throttle from low revs. Apparently, the fuel injection system doesn’t operate on its closed-loop circuits until after low-speed rpm, making it feel too rich off the bottom, a condition likely enhanced by the oppressively hot conditions during our ride in San Diego’s Gaslamp district. Amazingly, the “primitive” air-cooled powerplant meets 2008 California emissions regs and Euro 2 standards without the use of a catalytic converter.
Buell had one of its BattleTrax courses set up in a downtown parking lot for some low-speed road racing against the clock. The CityX shined in this cut-and-thrust environment, posting quicker lap times than its XB12S big brother thanks to its more manageable power delivery and a slightly more nimble feeling. The blockier tread pattern on the Pirellis seemed to offer as much grip as the Dunlops on this slippery course.
The CityX retains the positive attributes of previous XBs, including the effective and easy to modulate rim-mounted 375mm brake rotor and six-piston caliper, the fuel-in-frame gas tank, and the stubby 52-inch wheelbase that makes the bikes feel so tiny. Another reason for the Buell’s deft handling is the light front end made possible by the unique front brake system and lightweight wheels. Buell claims that its entire front end weighs a significant 6 lbs less than a certain 600 sportbike with radial-mount brakes (read: Kawasaki ZX-6R).
While we’d like to see the CityX in a 1200cc version, the 984cc bike actually was able to turn quicker times than the XB12S around the BattleTrax parking lot course.
While it’s true there’s not much entirely new on the CityX, the minimal alterations have amped up the bad-boy attitude of the XB9S. Quite simply, it entices a rider to do bad things, whether it’s jumping curbs, cranking out high wheelstands or scything through city traffic like a Hong Kong delivery rider.
Add to that the gimmick-y but effective translucent bodywork and we think the CityX will have no trouble out-selling its racier XB9R Firebolt brother.
Now if you excuse me, I have a few errands to run..
For more information on the CityX or to find a dealer near you, check out Buell.com
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