MD First Ride: 2007 Buell Lightning Super TT XB12STT
Ever since my first test of the latest generation of Buell motorcycles (see my First Ride and full Ride Review of the ’07 Lightning), I’ve become a big fan of Buell’s combination of innovative, sporty chassis design and grunty Harley-Davidson derived motors. Using the same basic chassis (their super-stiff, twin-spar aluminum frame, which doubles as a fuel tank to keep the weight of the fuel down low) and motors (Buell offers two powerplants, both air/oil-cooled pushrod V-Twins derived from H-D’s classic Sportster – 984cc and 1203cc), Buell has created a wide range of bikes, from sportbikes (the Firebolt) to Streetfighters (the Lightning) and even a big ‘adventure bike’ (the Ulysses).
The latest model from Erik Buell’s creative design team is the Lighting Super TT, which takes the basic Lightning streetfighter and adds supermoto-inspired styling and features to create an aggressive urban assault machine. Because it shares it’s basic architecture with the rest of the Lightning range, the XB12STT possesses all the same Buell “Trilogy of Tech” design features as its parent model – to learn more about the Trilogy of Tech, check out the full write-up in my first ride of the Lightning XB12S .
Anyone who comes from a motocross or off-road back ground (which includes the author) will feel immediately at home swinging a leg over the XB12STT and settling down onto the comfortable but aggressive-looking single seat unit. The riding position is very similar to most motocross bikes, with the rider sitting almost perfectly upright and controlling the bike through wide, dirt-bike style handlebars mounted to the top of the triple clamp.
The Super TT is quite narrow, far slimmer than any inline-four sportbike. Still, the frame spars bulge out a bit right next to the rider’s knees, offering excellent purchase for gripping the bike with your legs. The seat strikes an excellent balance between firm and soft, and at the end of a 175-mile day I wasn’t wishing for anyplace different to rest my backside.
Regular readers will have seen me mention in other reviews that having extremely low body fat means my butt doesn’t pack much cushioning of its own, and I find very few seats that don’t leave me hurting after 100 miles or so – so the TT’s seating was evaluated by a particularly tough critic.
Press the starter button and the 1203cc V-Twin lurches to life, immediately settling into a slightly loping idle accompanied by the low-frequency vibration typical of big-piston Harley engines. Once you get moving, the vibration all but dissapears, but even when stopped it is in no way uncomfortable, and I actually find it kind of cool. It’s a good reminder that you’ve got a big internal combustion engine down there, rather than some kind of electric motor.
We rode the XB12STT in a wide variety of conditions – everything from traversing Southern California’s famous (or infamous) Ortega Highway, which is packed with miles of high-speed sweepers, all the way to an insanely tight, (badly) paved fire road which was only one lane wide and kept us in first gear (occasionally I got into second) for almost an hour, constantly transitioning from left to right to tackle a seemingly endless set of switchbacks deep in a valley in the mountains south of Ortega. We spent some time in traffic in the city, and even got a chance for a short romp on a relatively smooth dirt fire road. Through it all, I was extremely impressed with the Super TT’s versatility and fun factor.
With 5.63 inches of suspension travel front and rear (.91″ more than the standard XB12S up front and .63″ more in the rear), the STT handled rough pavement, potholes, and even a few small jumps with ease, only bottoming once throughout the day (that was my fault, as I didn’t see the big dip in the road until too late, and I hit it going WAY too fast). On the extremely tight, roughly paved fire roads, the STT was in its element – the wide bars gave me tons of leverage to throw the bike from side to side, and the seat was shaped in a way that allowed me to get pretty far forward on the bike, using my weight to help keep the front end planted while trail-braking deep into each turn.
As you can see from the photo, I decided to ride the XB12STT like a dirt bike, at least on the tighter stuff – personally, I felt more comfortable with my foot in position to catch the bike if I slid out on some of the gravel or dirt that dotted this poorly maintained road. Plus it was just plain FUN! Fortunately, though, I never had any big slides (well, except the ones I initiated on purpose!) – the Pirelli Scorpion Sync tires provided impressive grip and confidence on all kinds of surfaces, from smooth pavement to grainy, dirty, rough roads that looked like they’d been paved decades ago and maybe used to transport tanks (the military kind propelled by metal treads) in the years since.
As you can probably tell, I had tons of fun riding the Super TT, and a lot of this was due to the handling. From the fast sweepers of Ortega Highway to the tight first-gear switchbacks of our secret fire road, nothing seemed to faze this bike – and all this without touching the suspension adjustments all day!
I even enjoyed our short foray into the dirt, and was amazed at how well the Super TT handled and how fast I was able to go through the corners – for tires that are much more road-biased than the near-knobbies found on adventure bikes (which the Buell isn’t, but it is similar to one in some ways), the Pirelli Scorpion Syncs had really impressive grip in the dirt. My confidence in the front end carried over into the dirt as well, and I soon found myself getting on the throttle early and throwing the STT sideways coming out of the dirt corners. I wouldn’t suggest tackling technical single-track or Baja whoops, but for the occasional foray onto dirt fire roads, the Super TT is perfectly capable.
Like the standard Lightning, I was very impressed with the feel and stopping power offered by the Super TT’s ZTL (Zero Torsional Load) perimeter-mounted front brake. Initial bite was strong without being snatchy, and excellent feedback was available at the lever – along with the confidence-inspiring front end, the excellent brake feel played a big part in my willingness to trail-brake deep into tight corners on crappy pavement. When you have to scrub off a ton of speed in a hurry (like I did when I finally spotted that huge dip, just about 40 or 50 feet before I hit it!), the ZTL brake is willing and able, and the rear brake works well to keep the bike level when used in conjunction with the front.
The 1203cc air/oil-cooled pushrod V-Twin doesn’t pack a lot of peak horsepower, and can feel a tad wheezy when reaching for its 7000rpm redline (despite Buell’s claim that 103 peak crankshaft horsepower is attained at 6800rpm), but this somewhat outdated design more than makes up for any lack of top-end with expansive torque and supremely flexible midrange. As long as you’re carrying at least 2,500rpm, the Buell can create linear forward progress linked directly to the position of your right wrist.
You’ll note that the word ‘flexible’ was an appropriate description of the Super TT’s handling character, and this goes a long way towards explaining why the powerplant, a paragon of ancient technology (now fuel injected) seemingly in sharp contrast to the advanced chassis design, is actually an excellent match for the Super TT’s hooligan character. Yes, the Buell seems to be saying (while thumping away at a red light) wheelie off the line, then throw me around roughly with those wide handlebars and slide the back wheel through the 90-degree right at the next intersection – I love this kind of treatment, can’t you tell!
Nevertheless, underneath the hooligan attitude, it can be a very practical machine (except, perhaps for the lack of passenger accomodations). Surprisingly, freeway windblast is unexceptional at a 75-80mph cruising speed, despite the minimalist number-plate style front fairing. The torquey V-Twin excels in relaxed around-town use, and as mentioned previously, the seating position is all-day comfortable.
In short, the Buell Lightning Super TT XB12STT can be a great partner for your mood swings. A rare thing, indeed.
- Buell Ulysses XB12X Review from ChoiceQuote Motorcycle Insurance
- Buell Blast vs Ninja 250 – Ninja250Wiki
- My Buell XB9SX and XB12STT review (LOOOONG)
- Buell Blast 500cc
- 2008 Buell Ulysses XB12X