BMW K1300GT, Honda VFR800, Suzuki Hayabusa, KTM 990SMT – KTM 990 Supermoto T
He’s still got that suitcase on his back
KTM 990 Supermoto T
In stark contrast to the VFR, the SMT; new, tall, wild, grunty and shot-through with a sense of mischief, the KTM is a revelation
When riders started fitting seventeen-inch road wheels to motocross bikes, we all thought the world had gone mad. And now, as I look at a bike that’s morphed over time from the original hooligan’s tool into a machine billed as a sensible touring bike, I’m not sure what to make of it all.
But just as the ethos of supermoto now makes sense, at least on the right racetrack, so the SMT doesn’t take long to work its magic. A less than obvious derivative of the 950 Supermoto, only a European firm as broadminded as KTM could have thought of turning something so single-mindedly mental into a versatile tool.
Wipe away your preconceptions and ignore the fact the SMT has the word ‘supermoto’ in its name. What we’re dealing with here is a high-spec road bike with enough wind protection to feel as relaxed as is ever likely to be considered safe aboard a 130bhp motorcycle.
Keeping up with anyone with a healthy respect for their licence is never a problem on the KTM. Even on the long and boring motorway stint between Abbeville and Calais on the way home after two days of tiring riding, wine drinking and cheese eating, sitting at 100mph our agreed cruising speed based on balancing fuel economy with the potential for boredom the KTM is never anything other than very comfortable. With plenty of legroom for the long of limb and an unexpected absence of the usual V-twin vibration through the footrests and handlebars, the small fuel tank is always depleted long before you are.
Fuel economy is something of a disappointment on the KTM, the SMT returning an average of just 34mpg on a mixed run. But apart from its fairly steep asking price of £9595 and some slightly cheap-looking plastics, these are the only downsides any of us could come up with after three days’ riding. When it comes to considering the KTM’s plus points, it’s a much longer chat.
Get off the motorway and the first thing most of us want to do is to get into a few corners. While the BMW feels like it’s almost welded to the road and both the Honda and Suzuki handle up to a point, the KTM takes things to whole new level, injecting as much fun into the ride as it does unleaded into those thumping twin cylinders.
What you get with the KTM that none of the other bikes can quite manage is a properly split personality; forget Jekyll and Hyde, the SMT is more tripolar than bipolar, with a skill set broader than the BMW’s capacious panniers.
The twisting D940 was our escape route from the grime and industry of Calais. This writhing, undulating road varies constantly, with every type of corner and surface. In places it’s grippy and positively cambered; in others it’s bumpy, shiny and demands concentration and respect in equal measure.
A cracker, then.
On anything other than the KTM, care needs to be exercised, the brute power of the Hayabusa requiring a skilled throttle hand, the sheer momentum of the BMW tempering enthusiasm and the VFR well, some caffeine would probably be a good idea.
From the tall, upright riding position of the SMT, planning your next attack on yet another unsuspecting Citroën Berlingo, on any type of bend you care to mention, the KTM makes it so easy. Generous leverage from the wide bars allied to quality WP suspension that somehow manages to combine softness in the first part of its stroke with enough support further down to encourage late braking and hard acceleration, means that only those with utter and absolute self-control will be able to behave themselves on this bike.
I’m not one of these people. Sliding it into corners on the brakes and wheelying out the other side is pretty much unavoidable for someone with a mental age of fifteen.
For most other people, the sheer compliance and versatility of this bike means that whether you’re riding in town, tearing up B-roads or taking the missus out for a countryside cruise, the KTM will be whatever you want it to be.
There’s a feeling of simplicity to the KTM I find hard to dislike, too. The clocks won’t tell you how much fuel you’ve got left or what your average mpg is (it’s probably too embarrassed). Nor will it tell you what gear you’re in or what the ambient air temperature is.
But let’s face it, if you don’t know if you’re in the right gear and what the weather’s like, maybe it’s time you considered swapping two wheels for four.
If you’re after a bike that will have a go at anything, anywhere, anytime, you need to take a test ride on this latest offering from those crazy Austrians. It may be expensive but it’s also pretty damn special. The Supermoto T really is the jack-of-all-trades bike we hoped it would be.
That in itself is a remarkable achievable. That it’s also master of most of them is little short of astonishing.
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