"Let me in, get me out. Can't do more than twist and shout. Lost my soul without a trace, found it again in my secret place."
More powerful than the City X, more nimble than the Ulysses, the multi-purpose 2007 Lightning Super TT steps up to fill the void between the two.
- Dave Mustaine, Megadeth
Like a heat-stroked renegade cowboy with a bad attitude, Buell's Lightning Super TT kicks open the doors of the saloon, smacks the barmaid on the ass, downs a double-shot of liver-killer, lays a smoky burnout around the piano before rolling into the street, burning out sideways, flat track style, and heading due west into the sunset waving a middle finger in the air.
And that's why the XB12STT is so damn cool, because it is what it is and makes no apologies for it. The Super TT is an in-your-face hoodlum that combines the best of two of Buell's most current design concepts into an ultra-fun and easy-to-ride method of transportation that is sure to polarize public opinion on the topic of its appearance and functionality.
This latest evolution of the Lightning series is a multi-purpose machine that occupies one specific void in the Buell line-up located somewhere between the CityX and the Ulysses. Buell's CityX is based on the Lightning XB9 which leaves the 984cc X a bit underpowered to be taken seriously as a full-bore hooligan machine. The tall adventure-touring Ulysses features the 1203cc Thunderstorm motor and extra suspension travel that provides a smooth long-distance ride but it's a bit ungainly when the road gets tight and twisty. The Super TT uses a 23.1-degree rake, a bit sharper than the 23.5 degrees in the Uly and XB12SS, but much more relaxed than the 21.0 degrees of the standard Lightning. A generous 4.7-inches of trail combines to keep things relatively stable for such a quick-turning bike. A tall inverted fork with nearly a half foot of travel smoothes bumpy roads.
The Super TT's front suspension consists of a 43mm Showa inverted fork that is fully adjustable to allow a rider to tweak the set-up for any situation.
The journey to uncover the appeal of the Super TT began with an early afternoon jaunt down Southern California's I-5 to Highway 74 that revealed its rider-friendly ergonomics. The supermoto-inspired riding position is afforded by the relationship of the rear-set pegs, motocross-style bars and its long, slim seat. This would be the first, and least entertaining, test of the 5.63-inches of travel offered up by both the fully adjustable 43mm Showa inverted fork and fully adjustable Showa shock. With a 31.4-inch seat height (measured, as Buell and H-D do, with a rider aboard) and an unobstructed view of the road ahead, it makes for a good base to survey the chaos developing before you. The concrete whoops pounding away beneath are kept in check by softly sprung suspenders, the first of a long list of compliments the STT deserves. Blasting along SoCal's infamous Ortega highway on the STT further proved that it is equally at home in the canyons.
As it is with all Buell motorcycles, the STT consumes twisties with minimal effort on the part of the rider, thanks to its responsive nature. It has a very neutral feeling while navigating the seemingly endless onslaught of curves found along Ortega. Thanks to the well-balanced chassis and centralized mass, perpetrated by Buell's Trilogy of Technology philosophy, the STT accepts rider input without resistance and provides a level of riding enjoyment usually reserved for pure sportbikes.
At the heart of this canyon-consuming beast is the air-cooled 45-degree Thunderstorm V-Twin. It has the torque necessary to accelerate quickly in almost any of its five gears, allowing for on-demand passes and impromptu roll-on wheelies when conditions allow, even though the motor stops making power rather abruptly immediately after redline. Just keep the Buell on the boil by shifting around 6800 rpm and there's a claimed 103 hp on tap. This is more than enough motor for the average rider to get their kicks.
The Super TT's 1203cc 45-degree Thunderstorm V-Twin carries a powerband wide enough to feel the acceleration through all five gears.
And in the event someone underestimates the power of the Twin, they will be thanking Buell for another of its unique components. If you do find yourself overcooking it into a turn, the massive 375mm ZTL front brake rotor and six-piston caliper offers up amazing stopping power along with excellent feel at the lever. So, late braking won't always end in disaster, and the giant single rotor looks really cool, too. But the Super TT has even more to offer the discerning rider than merely being a comfortable commuter platform and competent-canyon carving motorcycle.
When the road gets really, really tight, really, really twisty and full of really, really nasty imperfections including, but not limited to, gravel, chuck-holes, braking bumps and sharp elevation changes, that's right about the time the Super TT is in its element. And this is the secret place Erik Buell intended to dominate with the Super TT.
This particular road, the most exciting and truly taxing portion of our SoCal excursion, occurred on a rarely used single-lane paved path that our trail boss Big Cat revealed to us out of the kindness of his heart. Throughout the ride my adrenalin was pumping, I was smiling and laughing, and Megadeth's "Secret Place" was running rampant in my head the entire time. Thank goodness the likelihood of running across The Man was all but non-existent because, for what seemed like nearly an hour, the SuperTTs were flogged mercilessly, wheelied incessantly and literally pounded into the ground repeatedly in the interest of discovering the answer to that all-important question: Why build this bike?
The Super TT's stable handling is due in part to its incorporation of the 4.4 gallon fuel tank into the frame and the oil reservoir into the swingarm.
After much research, the answer to that question is surprisingly simple: Why not? It's so much damn fun to ride a streetfighter and so much fun to ride a supermoto that it now makes perfect sense to combine the two. The STT is more fun to ride hard and fast than a number of narrowly focused bikes on the market today, plus the variety of roads it can tackle make it a truly multi-purpose bike. A pure sportbike, for example, would be hard pressed to hang through that type of terrain at those speeds, and, frankly, the lower fairing would have been smashed to oblivion five minutes into the ride. As it was, the underslung exhaust did take a pounding. (Sorry, guys.) There's just something exciting about the bike that is hard to put a finger on. I think it may stem from the dirtbike-like riding experience.
The torquey V-Twin that does such an admirable job on a standard stretch of canyon road is damn near perfect for a street-bound supermoto such as this. With 84 lb-ft of torque on tap at such low rpm, the 180/55ZR-17 Pirelli Scorpion Synch rear tire grabs plenty of traction, which when combined with the stubby 54-inch wheelbase, 2-inches longer than a standard Lightning XB12S, makes the front end ultra light. When cresting the sharp hills and road undulations that comprised the majority of our covert canyon tarmac, the 120/70 ZR-17 front tire was off the ground more often than not. The point is that the front end was light and wheelies were mindlessly simple on this rollercoaster of a road.
When the ride was over it was clear that this is where the Super TT belongs. Sure, it does a great job as a daily driver, and the 4.4 gallon fuel capacity and nearly 200-mile range makes touring an option as well. But if you want to experience the best of the STT, you need to roll hard and flat-out get it on at your secret place. Whether it's a favorite hidden canyon or fire road, the STT is capable of dispatching it in fine fashion. Once you experience the STT in its element, then you too will understand why Buell went through the effort to build a bike to address the inner hooligan in all of us. An interesting Super TT option is the uniquely graffiti-inspired color schemes available directly from Buell. The STT is available in either Barricade Orange or Arctic White versions but optional painted tank cover, front and side number plates are also available.
The Lightning Super TT has cusomizable flyscreens and tailsection number-plates with easily exchangable additional sets that will match any rider's personality.
The massive twin-spar frame/fuel cell wrapped around a low-maintenance belt-driven air-cooled V-Twin and oil reservoir/swingarm is at the heart of all but one model (the single-cylinder entry-level Blast). The gauges, switchgear, mirrors and bodywork are all basic Buell hardware, as are the 6-spoke wheels and minimalist bodywork. It's the minute differences that make the Super TT different. Buell produces a number of variations on its proven base platform, just like a number of its competitors do, so get over it.
With a MSRP $10,295, the XB12STT is actually one of the less expensive big-bore Buells. Add into the equation an available level of customization to go along with the Lightning attitude, and the Super TT starts to make sense as a good all-around streetbike. This is not a sport fighter. It is not a supermoto. It is a multi-role urban-assault vehicle offered to us by the man as a solution to satiating our inner child.
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