1997 Buell S3 Thunderbolt




Rear brake pads worn at 1000 miles! I adjusted my braking technique to only use the rear brake in parking lot maneuvers.

Rear brake hose chafing on the fender at 1000 miles and replaced under warranty.

Side stand switch failed at 5000 miles. It was replaced again under a subsequent recall.

The buttons holding the front brake rotor started falling off at 5500 miles. Later upgraded under a recall.

Front faring stress cracked at 7000 miles and replaced under warranty.

Rear shock and swing arm replaced under a recall.

Shifter arm broken during fluid replacement at 15000 miles.

Intake manifold gaskets failed at 20000 miles.

Swing arm bushings failed at 20000 miles.

Throttle cables failed at 20000 miles.

Front rotor warped and replaced at 28000 miles.

Rocker box gaskets failed at 30000 miles. Cylinder base gaskets weeping, but not replaced.

Shifter arm broken again during fluid replacement. Changed to an upgraded item from the 2001 model.

Fork seals leaking at 50000 miles. Internal fork bushings found to be worn and were not available from Buell. The dealer would not source replacement parts from fork manufacturer WP. I was forced to replace both fork legs.

Clutch failed at and replaced 53000 miles.

Rear wheel bearings failed at 58000 miles.

Rear brake caliper mounting bracket stripped at 63500 miles. Bracket not available from Buell. Dealer would not source a replacement part from Brembo. Entire caliper replaced.

Rear brake rotor under thickness specification and replaced at 63500 miles.

Fork seals on the replacement forks leaking at 64000 miles.

General Comments:

Handles great and is fun to ride.

It is very, very expensive to maintain.

This bike spends three to seven weeks each season at the dealer for repairs.

Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 12th June, 2005

31st Jul 2006, 22:56

I bought my '01 S3 new, put 27,000 miles on it in 4 years from 01 to 05, and never needed anything other than oil changes and rear bulbs.

The tail piece needs to be beefed up from vibration, and shakes the bulbs and blows them out.

This thing is a tank, I ride very hard, but am conservative at the same time.


1999 Buell S3 Thunderbolt


The best, most fun cycle that I have ever had


The side stand switch went bad.

The rocker box gasket leaked.

The stator went out at 40,000 miles.

General Comments:

I have had several different types of cycles, this one has been the most enjoyable.

The new style are more reliable, but not of the sport-touring that I am interested in.

Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 10th March, 2005

1999 Buell S3 Thunderbolt


Great bike on the sport side of sport-touring


Leaking rear rocker box gasket (metal gaskets introduced in 2002 fix this).

Clogged fuel injectors.

Speedo sensor failed.

Rear shock leaked.

No factory issues after warranty expired (1 year) (some issues with after-market products)

General Comments:

Great bike, plenty of power for touring, very comfortable. Good bags with great liners.

Went 2-up distance riding, commuting, drag racing, and track riding (CLASS).

Very good brakes and handling. Not too heavy, just right for sport-touring.

Short warranty (1 year).

Pretty much requires the "Race ECM" for the best ride/performance/feel. $150.

No longer made.

Low on power compared to Japanese sport-touring (ie FJR), though feels better in the lower RPM range.

Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 10th March, 2005

1997 Buell S3 Thunderbolt


Super bike, except for the motor mount design


The side stand switch failed unexpectedly. Although it's a known issue.

The front motor mount broke, dropping the engine into the frame ~1.5 inches.

General Comments:

This bike is loads of fun. Handles great, incredible acceleration.

Would you buy another motorcycle from this manufacturer? No

Review Date: 4th January, 2005

14th May 2016, 02:42

No more unreliable than any Harley. Hard bike to get $3000 out of though, no one wants this generation Buell.