SMT & SMR Motorcycles
I remember thrashing up to Big Sur on California Highway 1 a few years ago on a KTM 950 Supermoto. I reached the Henry Miller Memorial Library, parked up, and got off the motorcycle. Pulling the gloves from my shaking, sweaty hands I flagged down my compadre and begged him to swap bikes; I was worried I was going to die on the KTM.
No, the motorcycle wasn’t bad-it was simply too good. It gave me such insane confidence I found myself pushing harder and deeper into corners than I ever had before. Each turn (some of them blind) on the unforgiving cliff highway was being taken so aggressively I remember actively wondering at one point if I could push the front.
Suddenly jerking out of my trance, coherent thought had made me realize exactly what I was doing-and that I would simply keep pushing and pushing and pushing until disaster. Eventually, I would Geronimo over the edge into the wide welcoming waters of the Pacific, hundreds of feet below. Not good. KTM’s Supermoto was a confidence inspiring motorcycle to the nth degree-it fit me right, it was agile and light, balanced and precise, and I loved it.
Fast-forward to 2010 and KTM has smartly divided the 990 Supermoto into two distinctive models-the Supermoto T (SMT for touring) and the R (SMR for racing). Both motorcycles are fitted with the same brilliant 990cc 75-degree V-twin motor that peaks at a claimed 114 horsepower at 9000 rpm and 72 ft/lbs of torque at an easy 7000 rpm.
These are not big superbike type numbers, but in the sweet spot between 3000 rpm and the maximum output point at 7000 rpm, the KTM Supermoto models provide all the thrilling thrust you will ever have the pleasure of unleashing.
The twin pipes exiting under the seat give the motor a throaty bark and, once aboard, the crisp mid-range response of the quick-revving engine has it leaping eagerly out from turns. Agile handling, WP suspension, and the radial Brembo brakes keep everything well controlled. The riding position is upright and comfortable, and the peg position doesn’t bend your legs like a half-shut pocketknife.
There are more similarities than differences between the two Supermoto motorcycles, but they are still distinct machines. The SMT (T) comes equipped with an abbreviated fairing and smallish windshield that provide a surprising amount of wind protection, and the small bags attached at the rear are not particularly capacious, so you will need to pack light. The WP suspension is relatively softly sprung and offers a surprisingly comfortable ride that does not lose the excited spirit of the genre.
The SMR (R) version of the Supermoto is much more hard-core. The seat is skinny and hard, while the riding ergonomics place the rider much more forward and leaned over the handlebars-all like a dirt bike. The suspension is tightly sprung and, although it never gets harsh, it is a much more tightly focused point-and-shoot machine than its sibling.
Both KTM 990 Supermotos change direction with minimal effort at the bars. They are light, flickable and a blast to ride fast, though the SMT feels more of an all-rounder ready for any situation. The 990 R will deliver if you are an unbridled nutcase with a penchant for backing it into turns or braking deep into a corner with your leg stuck out in deference to the bike’s supermoto name. The KTM 990 T is targeted more towards the real world rider who wants a machine that is torquey, comfortable, and can handle any riding condition with ease. Most of all, the Supermotos are just plain fun.
KTM is making a lot of progress. Its motorcycles have always been high quality and very desirable, and with their minor quirks dealt with so effectively, KTM is poised to take market share from the more dominant manufacturers. KTM’s streetbike excellence is a secret I do not expect to be long-kept.
KTM 990 Supermoto T – Motorcycle Specifications
|Twin cylinder, 4-stroke,
|101 x 62.4 mm (3.98 x
|85 kW @ 9000 rpm|
|97 Nm @ 7000 rpm|
|Starter/Battery||E-Starter/12 V 11.2 Ah|
|Transmission||6 gears, dog clutch
|Keihin EFI, throttle
valve Ø 48 mm
with 2 pumps
synthetic, SAE 10W-50
|Clutch||Wet multi-disc clutch,
|Frame||Chromium-Molybdenum trellis frame,
|Handlebar||Aluminium, Ø 28/22 mm (1.10/0.87″), tapered|
|Front suspension||WP USD Ø 48 mm (1.89″)|
|Rear suspension||WP mono shock|
|Suspension travel front/rear||160/180 mm (6.3/7.09″)|
|Front brake||2 x Brembo four piston fixed-caliper, radially
bolted, brake disc Ø 305 mm, floating
|Rear brake||Brembo 2-piston floating caliper, brake disc Ø
240 mm (9.45″)
|Rims, front/rear||Cast aluminium wheels 3.5 x 17″; 5.5 x 17″|
|Tires, front/rear||120/70 ZR 17″; 180/55 ZR 17″|
|Chain||X-Ring 5/8 x 5/16″|
|Main silencer||Twin stainless-steel silencer with regulated
|Steering head angle||65.6°|
|Trail||109 mm (4.29″)|
|Wheel base||1505 ± 15 mm (59.25 ± 0.95″)|
|Ground clearance (unloaded)||195 mm (7.68″)|
|Seat height||855 mm (33.66″)|
|Tank capacity||approx. 19 liters (5.02 gal)/3.7 liters reserve
|Weight (no fuel)||approx. 196 kg (432 lbs)|