Buell XB12STT Super TT | First Ride

Pseudo Supermoto

Super TT...it's strange to see that name adorning the handlebar clamp of a production motorcycle. Seems like just the other day Don Canet told me that's what he was going to call his fledgling supermoto race series. I could see the rational behind his thinking-that this was a modern version of American dirt-track TT racing. And I suggested an acronym: STTARS. A decade later, the Super TT American Racing Series is still going strong.

I shot Don an e-mail after hearing about Buell's new model, congratulating him on having a bike named after his series. Amazingly, that was the first he'd heard of it! So much for eminent domain...

Fast-forward a few months and the U.S. moto-press is assembled at the double-throwdown Doubletree hotel in Dana Point, California, for the introduction of the new Buell Super TT. Canet is notably absent. But Erik Buell goes right on record as saying his team chose the Super TT title because it invokes visions of the XR-750s raced on the Grand National dirt-track circuit and because that's what supermoto was called when it first started in America.

Turns out I was on hand for the genesis of the Super TT motorcycle, too. In the summer of 2005, Harley-Davidson held its annual dealer show in Denver, Colorado, and invited the press there to ride the new models. Erik Buell went along for the ride, and said he found himself longing for a bike partway between the Ulysses and Lightning Long. That, combined with a pent-up demand for a 1200cc version of the XB9SX CityX, led to the XB12STT.

Unlike the CityX, the SuperTT is based on the enlarged frame of the Ulysses and Lightning Long, with 4.4 gallons fuel capacity and 54-inch wheelbase. With 5.6 inches of wheel travel front and rear, its suspension is a compromise between the Ulysses' 6.5/6.4 inches and the Lightning Long's 4.7/4.9. Handlebars are crossbraced motocross-style and equipped with hand guards, like the CityX's, and the bodywork is minimalist, with a tiny flyscreen, a small plastic "gas tank" (actually the airbox cover) and a pair of side-mounted, racing-style numberplates. There isn't so much as a tailpiece, the long, flat seat extending to the rear of the machine, embossed with a graphic indicating No Passengers. But bec-ause most parts from most Buells fit most other Buells, there's an optional $300 passenger peg setup derived from the Lightning Long.

Like all current Buell models, the Super TT incorporates what has come to be called the Trilogy of Tech: mass centralization, frame rigidity and low unsprung weight. Key elements in this program are Buell's unique fuel in frame/oil in swingarm, under-engine muffler, ZTL (Zero Torsional Load) single front disc brake with inside-out caliper and zero-maintenance belt drive. And yes, Erik Buell said he feels vindicated by the other manufacturers now copying his muffler design.

The planned test route took us from Dana Point to Fallbrook over the famed Ortega Highway, with a short stretch of I-15 thrown in, but a few of us locals had another idea. There's a great fire road that runs south from the top of the Ortega, which with its tight corners and gravel-strewn, potholed pavement is the perfect test venue for a supermoto bike. Riding that stretch showed just how well the Super TT works. Its Sportster-derived Thunderstorm V-twin is user-friendly and makes good power (a claimed 103 bhp and 84 lb.-ft. of torque) within the confines of its 4000-rpm-wide power spread. It shifts nice, with good clutch feel and crisp-if-notchy selection. It's quick-steering and agile, if a little top-heavy, and with its Pirelli Scorpion Sync tires doesn't stand up under braking like its Dunlop-shod predecessors. And its brakes are superb, with plenty of stopping power and great feedback. The Showa suspension worked well for the most part, the chassis pitching less under braking than the longer-travel Ulysses. But it was still softer than we'd have liked, making ugly noises as both ends bottomed in the multitudinous potholes and g-outs found on our fire road.

One of my chief criticisms of the Ulysses was that its front brake was too grabby. And while there are no reported changes to the Super TT's braking system, it requires noticeably more lever travel to actuate-ironically the exact opposite of what you want on a supermoto bike. You need that initial bite to transfer weight to the front, which is how you initiate those long, lurid brake slides entering corners. The Super TT's short wheelbase and under-engine exhaust hurt it here, too, as the bike tends to snap back in line rather than hang its tail out-sometimes a little yaw is a good thing. And where's the slipper clutch? Word is the one developed for the XB-RR racebike fits, and will be available shortly.

Truth is the Super TT is a supermoto in name only, and that's OK. Really it's meant as a naked hooligan bike, as evidenced by Buell's promotional materials that depict it in a graffitied urban environment. And judged by those standards, it's a winner. It might not compete with a KTM 950 Supermoto, but it would sure be fun trying.

MSRP $10,295
Type a-c 45-degree V-twin
Valves {{{OHV}}}, 4v
Displacement 1203cc
Transmission 5-speed
Weight 400 lb., claimed dry (181kg)
Fuel capacity 4.4 gal. (16.7L)
Wheelbase 54.0 in. (1372mm)
Seat height 31.4 in. (798mm)
Super TT styling is elemental, with two color schemes: white or white with an orange airbox cover. This was intentional, as the bikes are meant to be blank canvases for their owners to customize. Buell held an online Super TT Trick-Out contest, which garnered 450 entries and 11,000 votes. See the winner at www.buell.com.
Engine Type l-c 65-degree V-4
Valve Arrangement DOHC, 16v
Lubrication wet sump
Displacement 999cc
Transmission six-speed
cassette type
Clutch multi-plate in oil bath
with slipper system