Lightning Strike: A Buell XB12S street fighter from France

Buell XB12S street fighter by Matao
Buell’s tempestuous history is sprinkled with moments of sheer motorcycling brilliance. And the XB series of the early 2000s ranks high on the American motorcycle company’s list of greatest hits.

The Buell XB had tongues wagging for an array of reasons when it first hit the scene. Not only did the XB’s fuel-in-frame design go on to be a Buell hallmark, but the bike also used an oil-bearing swingarm, perimeter front disc brake, and compact underslung exhaust system. All this in an uncompromising streetfighter package powered by an H-D Sportster powerplant.

Buell XB12S street fighter by Matao
The 2008-model Buell XB12S Lightning even featured translucent bodywork, offering a peek at its special downdraught air intake through the faux tank cover. But that aesthetic was a little too early-2000s for the owner of this Buell XB12S—which is why he entrusted it to Steven Lucas for a makeover.

Based in the Quiberon peninsula in Western France, Steven works as a furniture maker, welder-for-hire, and custom motorcycle builder, all under the banner of Matao. His approach on this project was simple; keep all the details that make the Buell XB12S special, but tighten it up visually.

Buell XB12S street fighter by Matao
Steven started by denuding the Buell of all of its bodywork, save for its front fender and rear hugger. Next, he unbolted its blocky subframe, replacing it with a handmade tubular steel unit. A custom seat sits up top, built on a carbon fiber pan, and upholstered in luxurious Alcantara by La Sellerie Fleury.

An Öhlins shock sits below the seat, flanked by Motogadget LEDs that act as taillights and turn signals. The license plate has been relocated to behind the rear tire, mounted on a custom-made bracket that’s bolted to the swingarm.

Buell XB12S street fighter by Matao
The old tank cover’s been replaced by a handmade part, formed from fiberglass. What stands out, is how well the new parts pay homage to the original bike. The tank cover has the same sculpted vibe about it, the Buell’s forward-heavy design has been exaggerated, and the gap under the tank cover mimics the gap under the OEM seat.

It’s the same story up front, where a steel number board plays host to an ultra-bright Baja Designs LED. The light is mounted low, mimicking the placement of the stock bike’s twin headlights relative to its fly screen.

Buell XB12S street fighter by Matao
Further back, you’ll find a burly set of risers and handlebars from Rizoma. A tiny Motogadget speedo sits just below the bars, fitted in a housing that also holds the bike’s LED warning lights. The switches, bar-end turn signals, and mirrors are Motogadget parts too, the grips are from Renthal, and the controls are from Beringer.

A chunky pod filter lurks below the tank cover, visible via a cutout in the bodywork. The bike’s electronics and battery sit under there too, along with a Motogadget control unit.

Buell XB12S street fighter by Matao
It’s business as usual for the Buell XB’s fuel-filled frame, oil-filled swingarm, perimeter front brake, famous mismatched alloy wheels, and front forks (although those have been blacked out). Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SC tires make the bike’s intentions clear; it’s a street fighter, through and through.

To make sure the Buell has the go to match its show, Steven yanked the engine out and sent it to Twin Motorcycles France for a rebuild. A full exhaust system from GPR in Italy takes care of the soundtrack.

Buell XB12S street fighter by Matao
L’Atelier de So handled the silver paint on the tank cover, while ABdeco tackled the black finishes on the hard parts. Nickel-plated fasteners add hints of contrast to the mostly-black mechanical bits.

These muted finishes only emphasize this Buell XB12S street fighter’s brutal vibe. Minimalist and unapologetic, it’s a cracking redesign of one of Buell’s best releases.

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Buell XB12S street fighter by Matao