The Supermono is coming back! And it’s a Buell. From Sweden. Errrr, sort of …
If you’ve been around motorcycles a while, you might remember the Ducati Supermono. Built for Europe’s Supermono racing scene (all based around single-cylinder engines, as the name implies), the Ducati Supermono was a race-bred chassis (designed by Claudio Domenicali) with Pierre Terblanche-designed bodywork and an engine that was a weird mutation of an 888 L-twin.
A crazy idea, yeah, but the new single-cylinder sportbike saw some success in Euro racing (including the IOMTT) and is generally considered a cool, if wacky, machine. Plus, Ducati only made 65ish examples, so they’re ultra-rare.
That was all 25 years ago; this new project from Swedish company NCCR is in the here-and-now.
A 21st-century Supermono?
To understand this project, you first have to understand NCCR. Based “in the Swedish forest, about 350km north of Stockholm,” NCCR is a smallish family-run motorcycle shop that produces and imports high-spec motorcycle components for custom motorcycles and race bikes. Before setting up their business in Sweden in 2006, founders Birgitta and Jens Krüper had a successful vintage bike restoration operation in Germany, and during those days, they started tinkering with early-production Buell motorcycles. That interest continued when they set up NCCR in Sweden, and they still specialize in parts and tuning for Buell and EBR machinery. They actually own the bikes and inventory of the Erik Buell Racing’s short-lived World Superbike team. They’re well-known in the Buell scene.
Taking a look at the “About Us” section of the NCCR webpage , you can see that this is not a cynical, money-driven operation, selling mass-produced crap to clueless “builders.” These people love riding motorcycles, and they love making motorcycles perform better.
That’s where the NCCR SuperSingle project comes from. NCCR saw interesting potential in Buell’s 1125 Helicon engine, and is now working on a single-cylinder mutation aimed at DIY customers who want to build their own adventure bikes and race machines.
Examining the engine
The SuperSingle project is still under development, but already, we have a fairly good idea of what to expect.
The engine itself is mostly a Helicon V-twin, with the front cylinder removed and replaced with a counterbalancer. This is the way Ducati built the Supermono, and Suzuki also recently flogged a similar concept engine around the show circuit.
The rear cylinder will also be changed from stock configuration. NCCR is currently looking at 562 cc and 595 cc cylinders (based on 1125 and 1190 Helicon engine components), but is planning to go big-bore in the future, with a cylinder in the 660-700 cc range.
This engine would have the same bottom end as the Helicon V-twin, and Jens Krüper (“The Brains” behind NCCR’s projects) says this will make for max reliability. NCCR hopes to build a SuperSingle engine with as much as 100 horsepower, so it’s important to have a gearbox and clutch that are intended to handle that load.
How would NCCR get that much power out of this single? Because it owns the EBR World Superbike team’s old inventory, NCCR has access to the most advanced technologies developed for the Helicon engine. Krüper says the goal would be to build a highly tuned engine for racing, but a SuperSingle intended for adventure riding would have lower compression, and aimed at the 70-75 horsepower mark, for better torque and fuel economy, and emissions regulations.
Communicating through email, Krüper shows a surprising practicality in his approach to the SuperSingle project. While his company wants to build a powerful engine, he constantly references dependability as an important goal.
“What we want, is a reliable, rugged motor as the base of a rugged, easy to repair bike,” he says. Modern big-bore enduros have made great progress in mass reduction, he says, by analyzing every aspect of the engine and trimming weight wherever possible. That makes for a fun, powerful bike, but it’s not necessarily robust.
“What makes you happy on a quick weekend trip into the woods or on the supermoto track, might ruin your TET adventure or your trip around the globe,” “(The) time is due for a reliable rugged power plant in a on purpose-constructed chassis concept.”
For more details on the SuperSingle, check out NCCR’s write-up here.
A DIY package
With that in mind, NCCR is looking at developing not just a SuperSingle engine, but a whole adventure bike package built around it. And, it’s intended to be an “advanced self-build project,” since NCCR reckons the price of selling a completed machine would be too high.
“We calculated a complete bike and we come out somewhere at 25-28.000 Euro … even if the bike is ‘ready for adventure,’ a too-steep price,” says Krüper. “But what we can do, we can focus on the main components, like engine conversion, Docol steel frame, swing arm suspension, fuel cell, bodywork, etc. and sell them as building kits.”
Along with those components, NCCR could supply the information needed to complete the build, and even send 3D files that allowed the builder to print the airbox and other components.
NCCR would offer complete engines and maybe even bikes built around modified Buell/EBR engines, says Krüper, but the main plan is to sell those conversion parts and kits for DIY builders. Krüper says Buell 1125 engines are available for $800-1000 USD, with complete bikes starting at $2,000 USD, and that would be the starting point for the do-it-yourself customers.
These are all still plans for the future, at this point. NCCR is still working on developing the SuperSingle. Krüper says the company expect to have the engine running on its dyno before this Christmas, and it’s already working on a frame and other components.
A path for the future?
NCCR is well-suited to a project like this, a crossover between the worlds of performance street bikes and high-end, low-weight ADV bikes. Along with its experience with Buell/EBR, NCCR also brought CCM’s GP450 adventure machine to Swedish customers, and manufactured accessories for it.
The question is, can they actually pull this off, and become commercially successful selling the SuperSingle engine and other components? I think that with NCCR’s 15 years in business, they’ve proved they know how to pay the bills.
And, who knows—maybe they’ve landed on a new business plan that the rest of the industry’s been ignoring. For a long time, roadracing’s been filled machines from niche manufacturers, cranked out to the fussy demands of trackday junkies and racers who know exactly what they want, and can’t find it from the big OEMs.
Looks like NCCR’s project might work for that set, if they build Supermono-legal bikes, and also possibly fill a demand for the same thing in the adventure bike market. Maybe soon, we’ll see a rise in demand for high-spec adventure bikes that are built, not bought?