Motorcyclist Comparo: Sumo Supermoto

Large, Powerful And Not Exactly What They Seem

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Kevin Wing

Put some fast, sweeping corners ahead of it and the 'TT is capable of surprising velocity if you play by its rules. No pointing your boot at the apex. Cornering is knee-down, roadrace-style. Hard braking pitches everything forward, overwhelming soft fork springs, so don't. Nothing but smooth control inputs here, people, plus plenty of cornering speed, rpm and did we mention smoothness? That compact aluminum chassis is stiff where it needs to be, but the bike feels top-heavy despite what the brochure copy says. Assisted by competent (if somewhat flaccid) Showa suspension bits at either end, the Buell rails through corners with the sort of bolted-down feel that inspired even the card-carrying supermoto racers in our midst. Acceleration is somewhat less inspiring, especially when it's compressed into a relatively narrow band between 5000 and 6750 rpm. With an abundance of flywheel mass and some big gaps between cogs in the notchy five-speed gearbox, painstaking smoothness is the only way to go fast. That's considerably easier at the track where corners are the same every lap than on less predictable public pavement.

Pirelli Scorpion Sync radials do an excellent job of holding on to any sort of road. Clean, dirty, wet or dry, it really doesn't matter. And they generate a good deal more grip at the track than that omni-surface tread pattern might suggest. Brakes turned out to be the biggest impediment to speed on our bike. Grabby and short on feel from the beginning, the heat of a half-day at Willow Springs' Horse Thief Mile turned the 375mm inside-out front disc a lovely shade of blue. It also incinerated whatever feel remained from our street testing, making it difficult to slow things down from speed without locking the front wheel and pulling in for fresh Jockey shorts. Fresh pads and fluid helped, but we really expected the Zero Torsional Load disc to deal with the heat better than it did.

Total all the columns and the Super TT ends up being more Buell and considerably less supermoto than its peers. If you're after a sporting big-bore twin that doesn't care how they do it in Munich or Bologna-or anywhere else, for that matter-this is it. But for those who prefer a bit more bandwidth in a pseudo-moto twin, this one comes up a bit short.





Off The Record
J. "Stuntah" Neric

It's surprising to me that supermoto bikes don't sell well in the U.S., because they're so much fun to ride. My friends always ask me, "Which bike would you buy with your own money?" That's not easy to say. I'd have a hard time deciding between the Ducati and the KTM-they're as dear as the BMW's asking price. But I enjoyed the Buell best. It's easy to ride and quick getting through tight spots in traffic. I do wonder, however, why I'm the only one who liked it best. Maybe it has something to do with how slowly I ride. No matter, I like the ole 'TT. It's not as sexy as the Ducati or as ballsy as the KTM, but it's not bad for a hair over 10 grand.

Age: 33
Height: 5' 9"
Weight: 245 lbs
Inseam: 30 in.

3rd
Ducati Hypermotard 1100

Pierre Terblanche had an idea that begat a swoopy little concept for Ducati's display at the '05 Milan Show, which begat sufficient buzz to ink production plans in '06 and stacks of deposits before the bikes materialized in dealer showrooms in '07. As it turns out, spinning the Captain Sensible Multistrada into a post-modern supermoto was a good one. And if the stylized supermotard lines don't convince you, one ride will.

Finally, a Ducati that looks and acts like one in the city. Cut short like a sawed-off Benelli shotgun, the 'Motard carries you close to its tapered-aluminum handlebar and Desmosedici-derived dash. The result is like a tight pair of Diesel jeans: A lot of cool makes up for a little discomfort. Mirrors integrated into stylized bark busters-SUV mirror busters where we live-deliver a fine rear view, but make an otherwise stiletto-thin motorcycle way too wide for L.A. traffic. Style, you see, enforces certain concessions.

The 3.3-gallon fuel tank-smallest of the bunch-feels nice and skinny between your knees. It also runs dry every 110 miles or so, which makes ferreting out arcane curves any distance from outposts of civilization such as the gas station a bit dicey. On the plus side, tall gearing factors vibration out of the equation all the way up to an indicated 80 mph, and the seat is comfortable enough to let most of us sit through 100 freeway miles.

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