- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2001

The Buell Lightning X1 is a bruiser.

Broad-shouldered, arm-stretchingly strong and deliberately bellicose, there is nothing subtle about this street fighter.

It is quintessentially hooligan.

It is also what designer Erik Buell had in mind 18 years ago when he decided to develop a world-class, American-made sport bike.

For all these reasons the Lightning X1, selling for around $11,000, is appealing.

On the downside though, it is still rough around the edges, despite several modifications for 2001 to spruce up and tighten it and the rest of Buell's lineup.

Changes include new rear suspension settings intended to provide improved ride quality and comfort. That makes suspension fore and aft handled by fully adjustable shocks by Showa.

Most reviews praise the new set up for providing superior handling and turning the X1 into the canyon carver it's intended to be. And an incredibly short 55-inch wheelbase, coupled with 23-degree rake allows the Lightning X1 to turn sharply.

But the inverted forks on the test model provided The Washington Times had an odd clunking feel on the down stroke and the extension-type damper for the rear would rebound at two speeds, first at the rate set on the adjustment then with a slow final lift. Mechanics at a local race shop were confounded and said they could do nothing to help.

The combination made riding the test bike on curves less than confidence-inspiring, but at moderate speeds was tolerable.

A new shifter improves styling with more control and transmission feel. The new shifter design comes directly off the transmission shaft and provides a cleaner look with more positive gear changes. Despite the improvement, though shifting still felt like pulling a paddle through molasses, a familiar feeling to anyone who has ever ridden a Harley-Davidson.

An improved primary chain tensioner and a new rear engine isolator help to reduce engine noise and vibrations transmitted to the rider. A new exhaust mount increases the life of the exhaust and a new high-efficiency oil pump reduces oil carryover and discharge through the air cleaner. Wiring and hoses have been rerouted inboard, away from the rider and the weather.

New mirrors offer longer and thicker stalks to improve visibility and reduce vibration.

But the Milwaukee-made heart of the bike remains unchanged. Powering the beast is still a Harley-Davidson-made four-stroke, air-cooled, 45-degree 1,203 cubic centimeter twin engine.

The bike makes usable power after about 4,000 revolutions per minute and peaks at 6,000 rpm where it makes a believably claimed 101 horsepower.

In real-world terms that means powered wheelies on demand in first and second gear. A red line shortly after 6,000 rpm, puts top speed in fifth gear at a bit over 120 miles per hour.

When cold, the bike started grudgingly and complained briefly, but digital fuel injection kept the bike running smoothly once warm.

It's bikini fairing does not look like it would provide much wind coverage, but does. The fairing, which vibrated madly at idle, and the rest of the molded-in-color bodywork are very tough, made of the same material used to reduce cuts and tears in golf-ball covers.

Bodywork colors for 2001 include sunset orange, sunfire yellow, white, black and bull's-eye red. The tubular perimeter chrome-moly frame comes in black or nuclear blue and the cast-aluminum tail section comes in, well, cast aluminum.

The rear brake, in theory to keep riders from locking up the rear wheel, is an anemic single caliper on a 230 millimeter stainless steel rotor.

On the other hand , the front brake, a single 340 millimeter rotor clamped by a six-piston caliper, is astoundingly strong, allowing two-finger pressure to easily stop the bike's 488 pounds weight.

On the whole, Buell is stepping in the right direction with the 2001 X1, I just wish it had taken a few more steps.


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