Buell S3T?

Discussion in 'Road Warriors' started by EmptiMind, Feb 6, 2013.

  1. EmptiMind

    EmptiMind Stoopid Youngin'

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    Hey folks, I'm thinking of snagging a 1999 1/2 Buell S3T for my touring needs. Found one for $3k with only 13k miles.

    I love its look, I love its fit, I'm uncertain about its reliability. I've been scouring the internet, and I've found so many mixed reviews, some saying it'll fall apart under me as I ride, and others saying they've clocked 200k easy miles. I know about the bad weather bikers, but I trust you guys to give me a less biased opinion.

    50+ MPG, already has touring bags setup. Going to be 2-up riding with my girl. Several hundred mile days. I just want something that's going to be comfortable, and won't leave me stranded.

    Please throw your knowledge at me.
    #1
  2. kirb

    kirb should be out riding

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    I have owned a 99 Buell M2 for 11 years. The bike required the least work of any bike I have owned...ever. You have to be smart obout things...it shakes at idle, so go over bolts and such on a regular basis. Change oil, add fuel, ride. The bikes are dead simple with great parts support as most of the items giving you issue on the road can be had at any HD dealer (engine is sportster based). Badweb is also an excellent resource.

    Tubers rule. I don't think you can go wrong.
    #2
  3. HR Puffinstuff

    HR Puffinstuff aka hotrod

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    Do it.
    #3
  4. pancho

    pancho Been here awhile

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    I enjoyed owning a 97 and 98 S3T. It was a terrific touring bike. 5.5 gal tank with 67 mpg at 70 mph. These were carb versions. The 99 is FI . There were some issues with the varying temps between cylinders causing problems with mapping. Another issue is payload. The S3T gets its performance from the light weight platform along with intake and exhaust mods. On the 99 consider carefully your weight limits and tuning of the FI. Just my opinion. These are great bikes. They just do not hold their value well. If you are a true enthusiast...enjoy!

    PS The M2 is a carb version and one of the most dependable Buells made! Dito on check your nuts and bolts and belt tension...once you get it down 'life is good." Buells are different by design!
    #4
  5. EmptiMind

    EmptiMind Stoopid Youngin'

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    So, sounds like I just need to do a nice pre-ride check, make sure everything is tightened and this Buell will be awesome.

    67MPG!? Were you running lean, or should I expect that? I hear the FI is usually easily remedied with a race ECM. I also hear you need to leave the belts a little loose.

    I plan on keeping this bike until it becomes more expensive to maintain than to enjoy, been riding a CB750 for 10 years. I've ridden the Buell, since the seller wasn't in a hurry to sell I made sure to do some research before committing, but I love the way it feels.

    What are the weight limits on it? I figured with 101 HP and as much torque as it has it'd be able to handle a bit. Was thinking about making it into a hack later in life, would it have issue pulling one?
    #5
  6. Donkey Hotey

    Donkey Hotey De Jo Momma

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    The saddlebags are not super-sturdy. They tried to keep weight down everywhere and that included the thickness of the bags which was a mistake. They are known to crack and break on the mounting areas. Take a good look at the inside of the bags. They may have already been repaired.

    I just installed a set on my 2000 last summer and I'm not confident in the latches either. Maybe I'm paranoid. I haven't had one come open but, I also haven't spent much time with them on the bike. I sure wouldn't load them up with heavy gear. Bulky? Yes. Heavy? No.

    I specifically bought my Buells (four of them now) BECAUSE they were lower on maintenance than my other bikes. As already stated, air cooled, pushrods and belt drive = simple, minimal maintenance. That's a plus for me. I've never owned a truly trouble-free motorcycle. I can't think of anything that suggests Buells are worse than any other.

    [​IMG]
    #6
  7. Donkey Hotey

    Donkey Hotey De Jo Momma

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    I get low 50s on mine, whether carbureted or fuel injected (I have four of them). Low speed touring would get higher but, I don't do much of that.

    Sidecar? I wouldn't. The engine and swingarm are rubber mounted. It's been done but, I can't imagine it's very good for the engine mounts or the vibration transmitted to the rider. A sidecar would put all kinds of weird loads into the engine mounting system, in directions it's not designed to carry them. Bad ju-ju.
    #7
  8. motomike14

    motomike14 Thumper Crusader

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    I had a 2000 S3. Couple things to check:

    1) Shock mount recall. Three options; skinny mount (the "bad" ones), the weird looking cone, or the thicker mount.
    2) Voltage regulator. Bring a volt meter reader and check at idle, then rev it up. If the volts go way up, regulator could be bad.
    3) Last time it had the fuel injection "zeroed."
    4) Oil overflow tube into the airbox. If it doesn't have a bottle or something like that on the end, I'd address that. Buell in their infinite wisdom (and the "$1 million airbox"), decided the air filter was a great place to dump oil overflow into.
    5) Rocker box seals. Harley went a metal based rocker box seal in like 2001 or 2002, much superior to the older types.

    The bikes are reliable as anvils. I put almost 18,000 miles on mine in about 18 months with no problems, sans a voltage regulator that went out. Engine parts are easy to get since it's just a Sportster engine. Any local Harley dealer would be able to help you find parts. I got 55mpg consistently (stock exhaust, K&N filter, just normal riding) and it never let me down. My dad had 3 other Buells and my uncle had an M2 for a number of years. Never had any major problems.

    S3 is a great bike. Ample wind protection and an okay seat. I still have an RKA tankbag for an S3 (though, faded).
    #8
  9. BigIron

    BigIron Tenured Prof - Leghump U.

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    I've had my 98 for over a decade, it's just too much fun to ride.

    To echo a few comments already made:

    I'd do a fresh set of rocker box gaskets just to be sure,
    The bags and latches do indeed suck. At least 2x check that they're closed and latched properly.

    And don't overfill with oil. The injection point on the oil bag may fail. Don't ask how I know.
    #9
  10. Badge320

    Badge320 Wild Hog No. 3

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    There has been some great information in this thread. I owned a 2002 S3T which I rode to the Harley Homecoming in 2003 and throughout a large part of the U.S. I never had an issue and the bike was dead on reliable. Donkey Hotey is right on with the bag weakness. I overloaded the bags coming back from Milwaukee and cracked mine at the mount.

    If you decide to buy the bike I may have a brand new tank mask in the box I'll sell you cheap.
    #10
  11. EmptiMind

    EmptiMind Stoopid Youngin'

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    Awesome, I appreciate your input guys. I'm pretty much set on buying it. Called Buell to verify, all recall work has been done on the bike. The seller is a 53 year old Navy guy who is about to be sent over to Italy. He's babied this bike, I haven't seen a crack anywhere, but I didn't check within the bags at the mounts, he used it as a daily commuter, and only stored his riding gear in the bags while at work, so I doubt they'll be too bad. He replaced the VR in 2008 or so, hopefully that means it's got a problem free one in it.

    Anyone else thinks of anything else feel free to input.
    #11
  12. EmptiMind

    EmptiMind Stoopid Youngin'

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    Another question for you guys about the bags. It wouldn't be hard for me to take off the stock bags and throw on some aluminum panniers, right? The failure of the mount is within the bag itself, not on the bike side, if I'm understanding you guys. Also, does anyone know of a workable top rack, or will I have to fabricate one?
    #12
  13. Shooter1

    Shooter1 Been here awhile

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    I owned a '97 and a '00 S3T, both Amazon green. I've owned over 30 bikes in the last 32 years and can honestly say they were probably the most absolute fun street bikes I ever owned. I don;'t know how I ever kept my DL riding them. My old body finally started protesting the stiff suspension, seat and rigid mounted bars and I sold them. If I won the lottery and could justify a bike to just ride for a couple hours on the weekends, I'd find another. You can pick them up reasonable and they put a non-stop grin on your face. Mine were very reliable. The Sporty motors are solid. I agree, Tubers rule. Buy it.
    #13
  14. BadKarma

    BadKarma Long timer

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    I had a Ventura top rack and backrest on mine. It was solid and the stock bags held up fine for me over 25,000 miles or so. I had the front motor mount break, replaced it with a billet version from American Sport Bike (they have a website) and also replaced the rear shock once. Stone reliable, fast enough for me, decent handling and that motor/trans is just one of the best smile generators ever devised... :D
    #14
  15. anonny

    anonny What could go wrong?

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    Buy it
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  16. pancho

    pancho Been here awhile

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    The engine is very capable of carrying payload, but its the frame and engine mounts that are the Achiles tendon of this beast. You mentioned tandem riding....not well suited to that purpose in my opinion. And yes I had the Race module on mine....very easy to hit 10 grand, but don't forget its a push rod engine.
    #16
  17. EmptiMind

    EmptiMind Stoopid Youngin'

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    Well, hopefully my tiny little girlfriend won't hurt it too much, she's a buck twenty wet. Haven't got her a bike of her own yet.

    Will that Ventura rack support a Givi bag?
    #17
  18. bills3t

    bills3t Adventurer

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    things to watch for : 1. front mount ,can look ok but not (vibes at all rpm) 2.rear shock leaking (aftermarket best, but spendy)
    the other stuff are easy enough fixes for bags and such. when the suspension is dialed in it was one of the best handling sport-tour ever made , yet still put 500 mile a day in the saddle. replaced my 2000 amazon green with 2005fjr when my wife started to ride along . BUELL's are compact bikes and the s3t is no exception , load limit if remember right is 325lb. ventura made a great rack for the s3t that actualy looked ok . the s3t realy begs for the race ecm along with a aftermarket pipe . amazing what 8 more hp can do , pulled between 50_60 mpg all day long with a sweet spot around 77 mph made the bike easy on interstates when you had to .the harley mothership let a good one get away in the s3t .
    #18
  19. EmptiMind

    EmptiMind Stoopid Youngin'

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    I keep looking all over for load limit, I've seen anywhere from that 325 to about 400lbs. Either way, my girl is skinny enough, we're only 320 or so geared up. If limit is 400, travel shouldn't be an issue. Is it pretty easy to find an aftermarket shock that'll fit the S3T?
    #19
  20. X1Glider

    X1Glider Been here awhile

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    Motomike14 put all of the correct info you need to concern yourself with regarding the '99. The rockerbox gaskets and the shock recall are all that you should really worry about. You can still buy Wilbur and Penske shocks if needed, not Buell. The gaskets are no biggie to fix when they go.

    Your only other non powertrain concern is the inner cases cracking. I don't ever remember there being an upgrade for it. They only replaced it as needed IIRC.

    I had 2 X1s (FI so similar). I had issues in the bottom end on one (fixed and perfect thereafter) but the other was flawless. Mpgs were awesome IMO. I took one of the X1's to Alaska with rearsets and Crossroads low bars in some extremely crappy weather and one trip down into Guatamala with no issues. The only thing I had to do more often than I thought necessary was replace O2 sensors about evey 8000 miles. You can buy these at a Ford dealer for future reference. I'd have to really dig up the p/n.

    Just buy it. It's a lot more fun than the bigger ST pigs and having HD shops all over the place to help in a pinch is good to know.

    Can't offer anything on the aluminum cases. You could likely make a hybrid rack setup to work. Not sure anyone on Badweb has thought about it. Haven't visited in years other than to give away old Buell parts I keep digging up in my garage. (which I now wish I had kept:rolleyes)
    #20