2007 Buell Lightning XB12STT

Lightning Strikes Buell. Again!

"Anyone can dabble, but once you've made that commitment, your blood has that particular thing in it, and it's very hard for people to stop you."
--Bill Cosby

If Erik Buell wasn't successful as a designer/engineer, innovator, racer and entrepreneur in the motorcycle business, he would be successful at whatever he set his heart, mind and hand on.

Sitting in a small conference room for the model/tech briefing of the 2007 Buell Lightning Super TT XB12STT, I found myself quickly drawn to Mr. Buell's decades-long, unwavering enthusiasm for motorcycles -- specifically his own. Erik's love for what he does and has done comes through in bursts of exuberance at overcoming the challenges of designing a motorcycle, or rather a sportbike, like no other. Part of his elation comes not only in the making of a bike uniquely Buell, but in trouncing the staid attitudes of a jaded media and a circumspect bike-buying public.

The new Buell Lighting Super TT XB12STT. It doesn't float.
The journalist riding this Buell is more than moderately attractive.
As part of a larger illustration to support his philosophies on Buell design, Erik relayed a story of a certain European publication openly recanting their long-held negative opinions of his creations. He thrust his fist and arm downward, toward his body in an emphatic "Yes!" like a quarterback or pitcher who just slammed the door shut on the opposing team and any hopes they had of survival in one final, skilled move. In what was probably an inward act of contrition to such an outburst not analogous to his character he said, "I'm not an arrogant guy. Those [other] guys are making some good bikes. I just want some respect for what American engineers can do."

He is otherwise soft spoken and humble. But his bikes are not.

We learned in mid-summer of last year from Senior Editor Ets-Hokin that, according to Erik, 2007 would be a year of refinement. Coming on as a late addition to Buell's '07 line-up, the Lightning XB12STT was initially presented to the world in November, 2006 at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy. Buell -- not necessarily Erik -- uses carefully selected catch phrases and enthusiastic analogies, to align the latest Lightning with the aggressive imagery of supermoto and flat track TT. Additionally, they've given owners a way to make their XB12STT truly their own by providing an all-white color scheme as a blank canvas to express themselves.

If your inner rattle can Da Vinci has escaped you, fear not. You can choose from a couple different, shall we say, pre-"urbanized" paint schemes for the faux fuel tank and fly screen. So, does the new Buell fall in line with its brother models and only bring surface treatments to the table; or are the differences more than Surlyn® deep?   Journos representing most of the American motorcycle publications were beckoned to south Orange County, California by the Buell team to swing a leg over their latest "urban assault" machine and assess all that it offers. During the tech briefing led by none other than the Chief Technical Officer of Buell himself, Erik Buell, the moderately attractive assembly of motorjournalists were refreshed on the technologies of Buell bikes. I say refreshed because the XB12STT is suspiciously similar, a hybrid of types, to most all the models carrying the Lightning namesake.

In the event you're in need of a refreshing yourself as to what makes a Buell, well, a Buell, you can either read the following not-so-succinct version or simply read our earlier reviews from the 2006 and 2007 model-year intros.

Still here? Well then, let's get to the meat. The Super TT -- to make it easier on the brain and tongue -- has as its backbone the same rigid aluminum, fuel-in-frame twin-spar unit found on all the Lightings; it also has the same swingarm as the Lightning Long. The TT also shares the same torque-a-licious air/oil/fan-cooled Thunderstorm 1203cc OHV 45 degree V-twin producing a claimed 84 ft. lbs of torque and 103 hp that the other Lightnings -- save for the CityX which uses a 984cc mill -- rely on for mile after mile of tomfoolery. Again, just like its siblings, it has stout, inverted 43mm fully-adjustable Showa forks and a fully adjustable Showa shock. It puts the power to the rear using the same belt final drive, as do all the others. The "Interactive Exhaust System" is right where it always is, at the bottom. Finally, bringing the TT to a stop is the exact same ZTL?(Zero Torsional Load) brake system that virtually every other Buell model uses. All Buells operate under what Erik calls the Trilogy of Tech: mass centralization, frame rigidity and low unsprung weight. These traits, says Buell, are uniquely Buell, race proven and imitated. I can certainly agree with the assertion that Buell tech has been imitated..

ZTL. See, it says so right on the caliper
No clearer example of mass centralization exists than the location of a Buell exhaust system. Come to think of it, Gabe's widening belly is a good example too.
No clearer example of mass centralization exists than the location of a Buell exhaust system. Come to think of it, Gabe's widening belly is a good example too.
Dimensionally, the TT is a hair's breadth from being a dead ringer to the XB12Ss, also known as the Lightning Long. Only a few numbers on the spec sheet separate the TT ever so slightly from the Long. The Super TT is less than half an inch longer than the 12Ss but the braced, motocross style bars on the TT make it just over two and a half inches wider than the 29.7-inch width of the 12Ss. The 23.5 degrees of rake on the 12Ss is marginally softer than the 23.1 degrees on the TT. Also, a mere four tenths of a degree separate the 22-degree fork angle on the 12Ss when compared to the TT's 21.6 degrees. They both have a 54-inch wheelbase and share the same 4.7 inches of trail.

On the reasoning behind the slight differences between the two with respect to rake and fork angles, Erik gives the following explanation, "On the Super TT chassis, like on the Ulysses, we have the steering head or frame rake angle more relaxed than the fork tube angle. This does a couple of things: first it gives a more relaxed head angle for rougher roads, and second it gives more trail for stability on unpaved roads. Having the fork angle steeper than the rake allows us to get more suspension compliance, and it allows us to have significantly more trail than the rake angle would suggest, with the bonus of reduced front end inertia." Sounds sensible enough to this non-engineer bike lover.

"What the heck? I thought this was a new model!"

You'd be right to ask such a question with all the indignation you could muster. Yet, a little more attention to detail will expose some key differences.

Where the XB12STT sets itself apart from the crowd is in a much more functional arena. For example, the saddle on the TT is styled much more like a dirt bike or supermoto seat than it is any of the other, more sculpted Lightning mounts. It's long and narrow, which is intended to allow the rider to move around with ease, just like they might on an off-road machine. The seat shares honors with the XB9SX for second-highest height -- the Ulysses is tallest, but not by much -- rising 31.4 inches above the Earth. While on the subject of bum carriers, it's also important to note that the Super TT has no passenger accommodations. That's right, it's just you, you and more of you. If you really want to expose someone to your riding talents, it'll cost you an additional $300.90 to get the passenger kit.

Despite being all in the family with 43mm inverted forks, the TT actually has a whopping 5.63 inches of suspension travel, up front and the same travel for the rear. This helps contribute to the substantial ground clearance of 5.5 inches. Again, the Ulysses rules them all in this area, but you already knew that. One last note on the practical side of things: the TT is now one of three bikes in the Lightning line to ride on the Pirelli Scorpion Sync.

"The narrow saddle...proved to be one of the defining elements of the XB12STT."
If those mostly technical differences don't set the TT apart enough from the other Lightings for you, the look of it should. Unique to all the other bikes from Buell, the Super TT has a set of blank side number plates where the passenger foot pegs would normally be. If that's not enough, they did away with the traditional front tire-hugging fender and gave it a high-riding unit a la the Ulysses. Of course the fly screen is a matching white as is the faux fuel tank/airbox cover, to help round out that racing look. The other standard color choice is Barricade Orange. But orange is only found on the tank,
er...airbox cover. As mentioned above, for a variety of fees you can customize your TT with optional graffiti-style graphics, one piece at a time or as a kit.

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