I’ve always loved Buell’s streetfighter models for their combative stance and no-nonsense ergonomics. In stock form they’re bare-bones, purpose built machines—devoid of any superfluous add-ons and powered by 1203cc of Milwaukee muscle.
They’re an acquired taste though, and some—like the X1 Lightning—are beginning to look a little dated. Trust the Italians to inject a little timeless elegance—more specifically Francesco Torricella and his crew at Sartorie Meccaniche.
“We like the X1 in general,” says Francesco, “and in particular its big twin heart, with tons of torque and a really deep growl.” What the team didn’t like was the X1’s weight and styling. “It was original back in the day, but we liked the idea of making a more European version of it—with a distinct British flavor and some Italian taste.”
Enamored with their portfolio, the bike’s owner was happy to give Sartorie Meccaniche free rein, save for two requests: the tank was to be painted in British racing green, and any modifications were to be reversible in case he decided to sell it later.
Thankfully the original brushed aluminum subframe is attached via a mere four bolts, so the team removed it and fabricated an entirely new one to fit the existing mounts. Using tubular steel and painted black, it now blends seamlessly with the rest of the frame. It also carries a much more classically-styled perch, with discreet LED rear lighting.
The other noticeable change is the new fuel tank—a fiberglass Norton endurance racing unit. Sartorie Meccaniche modified its underside to match the Buell frame, before painting it in a metallic, matte finish. The clear strip on each side (to keep an eye on the fuel level) is a particularly nice touch.
Ditching the stock tank also meant losing the bike’s stock fuel injection, heavy fuel pump and airbox. The X1 now runs on a single carb with a K&N filter and a free-flow muffler, changing its temperament significantly. According to Francesco, “the ferocious feeling of the engine is now even more beastly, the throttle response much more direct and the grunt meaner!” This has earned it the suitable moniker of La Belva (The Beast).
The team matched the stock rear sets to a set of Tommaselli Condor bars, and dropped the front suspension a touch—shaping the X1’s ergonomics for a sportier slant. The front rotor was also swapped for a floating wave disk for better stopping power, and the wheels wrapped in a pair of Metzeler Sportec M3s.
The entire cockpit was reworked, with the stock headlight, shroud and cluster making way for a classically-styled light (tucked neatly between the fork tubes) and a tiny Motogadget speedo. The ignition’s been relocated to the left of the bike, and the license plate is now side-mounted. Other finishes include hand-made aluminum side panels and grips wrapped in leather bicycle grip-tape.
La Belva is just as brutal now as it was before Sartorie Meccaniche got their hands on it—but with retro chops and a great deal more charisma. As classic takes on modern sport bikes go, I’d say it’s a winner.