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2003 Buell XB9S, 1989 Yamaha Radian YX600
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Today is my favorite day - New bike day.

62191

2003 Buell XB9S with 20,000 miles on the odometer.

Background

I have been riding my old Radian 600 for years now, and spent a brief 3 months on a '97 VFR750F before it got obliterated at an intersection.

I learned a couple things in that time:
  • 60-100HP is perfect for my riding style
  • Something amazing happens when your frame isn't made out of wet noodles
  • 500 lbs is too heavy for a sports bike
  • Not having wind protection sucks
  • Nothing will ever sound better than a 4th gen VFR750F with a Delkevic slip on
  • Always watch your rear view mirror for box trucks
So I started the quest for a ~80HP bike that had premium frame/suspension/brakes, wind protection, and a riding position that would not kill me. There are surprisingly few bikes in this category. It takes peculiar tastes to spend super bike money on a chassis then equip it with a street bike motor.

Peculiar Tastes

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The Buell XB9S hits all of the criteria - great chassis and brakes, fully adjustable suspension, 90HP at the crank, tons of torque, streetfighter ergonomics, and a dry weight just under 400 lbs. The quiet, clean, and maintenance free belt drive is just the cherry on top.

I've always heard of Buell's absurd bikes and the engineering behind them, and am pretty excited to get the chance to own one. I love how unique these bikes are. They are a mix of engineering and art that you don't find anywhere else.
  • We're going to put a Sportster motor in a superbike frame and make it fast
  • Let's re-engineer the front wheel and brake because ???
  • Who needs a fuel tank when you can pour gasoline directly into your frame rails
  • Engine oil belongs in the swing-arm
But there is sound engineering behind every decision, and the finished product not only performs well because of that but develops a very unique and cohesive style. It's one thing to be quirky, but it's something special to deviate so far from the norm and still deliver a genuinely good product. It makes the Buell bikes seem very exotic, like a piece of engineering artwork. It's hard to believe these bikes actually got built, let alone to see one and ride it in the flesh.

Which is why I'm surprised you can buy these so cheap. I mean, they don't make Buells any more. No one even makes bikes remotely like Buells any more. The XB9S isn't all that significant, but I imagine other more "signature" Buell models will become collectors items down the road.

Actual Riding Impressions
  • Handling - All of the reviews out there raved about the handling and I can't disagree there. The chassis is certainly rigid. I haven't had the chance to dial in the settings and find a nice road, but it's apparent that it has capability. But the short trail, steep head angle, and short wheelbase definitely make it feel less stable on the highway. I try shaking my weight a bit at 70MPH and it induced a noticeable wobble.
  • Brakes - Most of the reviews described the front brake as more than adequate to stop the bike and/or pull a stoppie. A couple described it as lacking initial bite. My initial impressions agrees with them. They're good brakes and have enough initial bight that I got caught off guard once or twice in slow moving traffic. They are probably a step or two below what comes on the average super sport bike, but I don't think that's an issue.
  • Engine - Torque! Really, it's surprising how the bike just thrusts forward as soon as the clutch starts to engage. And it revs way faster than I expected with noticeable pickup after 3000 RPM. When you get to 4500 RPM the engine note changes to an aggressive growl. It hit 50MPH in a hurry and maintained 4000 RPM on the highway without complaint.
  • Transmission - One reviewer out there said they hated the transmission and that it ruined the whole bike. No idea what they're talking about. The transmission clicks into gear cleanly and precisely, just like my Japanese bikes. The only difference is a big shove at the rear wheel if you don't rev match properly.
    The belt drive is super smooth and seems to be well protected with guards that wrap all the way around the belt to protect from dirt and debris. Makes me realize how much I hated chain maintenance.
  • Exhaust - Really like the underslung look, and it sounds surprisingly good for a stock exhaust when the motor opens up. A bit too quiet, though.
  • Riding Position - Very upright and comfortable. You sit on top of the motorcycle in a way that makes low speed maneuvers very easy. The wind protection from the fairing is pretty good at highway speeds. The foot controls are set farther back and at a much steeper angle than true mids. I found the rests a bit slippery for my boots, but the angle of the levers was set just right so that they are only a short reach away when you need them.

Conclusion

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I really love the bike so far and can't wait to get out and ride it. Not sure how I'll get it registered since Michigan just opening up again (as if the wait at the SOS wasn't bad enough without a 3 month backlog clogging the system). But in the mean time I can figure out how to get all of the previous owner's red spray paint off the headers and maybe find an oil filter that isn't bright yellow.

Thanks for reading my massive wall of text. What are your thoughts and experiences with Buell motorcycles?
 

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8,822 Posts
That is a beautiful bike and every component was well thought out. Initial bite can be disconcerting on a Superbike especially since the ones I had didn't have ABS. The Sportster powertrain is the real star here because parts are available everywhere and that 900cc engine can very easily grow to 1250cc's and still be reliable. You got a keeper there!!!!

In 2010 I bought a new Buell 1125CR Sportbike and it was a work of art and technology in every way. I put higher handlebars and cables and a lowered footpeg kit on the bike and it made a huge difference in comfort. The thing was hyper fast and the throttle was basically on and off. At a steady cruise of 65-70 mph it put my hands to sleep and it got terrible fuel mileage, like 20 when on the boil! Of the 88 bikes I've owned, I believe it was actually the fastest!

Have fun!

Sam:)
 
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