Inspired by Arnie, perfect for the city

The innovative Buell CityX has the looks and performance of the consummate urban motorcycle, says Tim Luckhurst
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Indy Lifestyle Online

SPECIFICATIONS
Model: Buell Lightning CityX XB9SX Price: £5,995
Engine: 984cc V-twin. Air/oil/fan cooled
Max Power: 83bhp@ 6,600rpm
Max Torque: 64ft/lb@ 5,600rpm
Max Speed (claimed): 135mph.
Fuel Capacity: 14 litres
Available: Harley Davidson or Buell dealers
Contact: Buell UK on 0870 9049984, www.buell.co.uk

SPECIFICATIONS
Model: Buell Lightning CityX XB9SX Price: £5,995
Engine: 984cc V-twin. Air/oil/fan cooled
Max Power: 83bhp@ 6,600rpm
Max Torque: 64ft/lb@ 5,600rpm
Max Speed (claimed): 135mph.
Fuel Capacity: 14 litres
Available: Harley Davidson or Buell dealers
Contact: Buell UK on 0870 9049984, www.buell.co.uk

Seasoned motorcyclists claim the solution to Britain's urban transport crisis is to reduce the number of wheels on city roads. Certainly, by sponsoring mass migration from cars to motorbikes the Secretary of State for Transport could help unblock sclerotic ring roads and ease city congestion. There would be vacant seats in underground carriages at rush hour. Buses would become peaceful havens for parents with young children. Demand for fossil fuels would decline and the planet would give a huge sigh of relief.

So luminous appear the advantages of travel on two wheels that, even without state assistance, the motorcycle is making a comeback as a means of urban transport. Adolescents, and a growing number of adults, consider scooters cutting edge, especially now that technology has made them safer and more reliable. Sales of commuter scooters and mopeds are on the increase. First time 'bikers are queuing to complete the compulsory basic training that allows them to ride a small motorcycle as long as they display L-Plates.

But the scooter solution is not perfect. Nimble as they are in dense, slow traffic small-engined motorcycles are terrifying when speed increases. The cute little machine that is fun between Sloane Square and Hammersmith is an embarrassment on a motorway. Manufacturers have confronted this problem by building larger, faster scooters. But not all of us hanker after the images conjured by the films Quadrophenia and Roman Holiday. Experienced riders soon realise that, for serious commuting, a proper motorbike is a better answer.

Erik Buell, chairman and chief technical officer of the Buell American Motorcycle Company he founded in 1993 with Harley Davidson, is not the scooter type. A former professional race rider, Buell says he got the idea for the innovative Buell CityX (pronounced Citycross) while watching Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator. Buell thought he could escape from any assailant if he had the right motorbike for rapid urban riding. So he decided to build what he describes as "the world's best street motorcycle".

The first thing observers will notice about the Buell CityX is what looks like a translucent blue fuel tank. This is not a fuel tank. The CityX actually stores petrol in its slim, aluminium frame. The blue tank is really an airbox cover. It is also an affectation, much like the minuscule flyscreen (also translucent blue) and the puny black metal grille that covers its otherwise excellent twin headlights.

Some riders will consider these foibles chic. A Buell motorcycle's appeal to European buyers is rooted in individuality. To me these cosmetic additions serve no purpose beyond distinguishing the CityX from other Buell bikes including the XB12S and Firebolt XB12R. But they are the only aspects of this machine that are not perfectly attuned to the task Erik Buell set himself.

The CityX is a consummate urban motorcycle. It has a raised, upright seating position which allows even a short rider to see over cars and permits an excellent view of the road ahead. The round-black rearview mirrors are large and easily adjusted. Anticipation is the key to safe motorcycling and these aspects of the design will do more than just reduce journey times.

The matte black Supermotard-style handlebar comes equipped with deflectors to protect the hands from wing mirrors when squeezing between cars. The indicators are flexi-mounted for the same reason. And the CityX does squeeze delightfully. It is very short, very narrow, light and tremendously manoeuvrable. Female riders may find it particularly appealing. This machine is guaranteed to get its rider to the front of every lane of stationary cars and to filter effortlessly through crawling traffic.

The cast aluminium wheels, mudguards, exhaust and drive-belt fairing are all black to keep them looking good even when filthy. Buell's air, oil and fan cooling system keeps the hefty 948 cc V-twin engine operating in its optimum temperature range even when the atmosphere is hot and heavy. That engine is at the heart of the CityX's appeal. It delivers tremendous torque but without the low-speed tetchiness of large capacity twin-cylinder bikes. Throttle response is instant and the machine is geared to trickle through traffic without taxing the rider's nerves. A light clutch and crisp five speed gearbox help too.

Buell says: "This is a bike for the rider who loves to dodge traffic, power away from the lights and utilise the incredible agility of a sport motorcycle to charge through the asphalt jungle."

The short wheel base, excellent suspension and Pirelli Scorpion Sync tyres, combined with its low centre of gravity, do give it very impressive performance on tight corners. But the CityX is also fast enough for the quickest motorway - it can reach 130mph - but it is not a pure licence burner. Testing it on city and suburban roads and on motorways I found the CityX flexible, comfortable and utterly practical. It is a commuter motorcycle with the power to take its owner on holiday as well. The CityX is available in the UK from mid-September at £5,995.

motoring@independent.co.uk

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