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KTM 950 Supermoto - review

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' at netrider.net.au started by titus, May 7, 2008.

  1. CBF finding the old thread (title was confusing, anyway)...

    Well, I've had the SM for a week or two now, so maybe it’s time to pass on some thoughts.

    First thing I did after picking it up was take it for a squirt in the nearby hills, along with a mate on a CBR600RR for comparison purposes. First we had to get out of town.

    First impression from the saddle is – it’s high, way high. I’m talking, bring oxygen! Ok, maybe it’s not that bad. I can just get both heels on the ground if I find the lowest point on the long seat and stre-e-etch. But anyone with shorter legs than mine (I’m 5’10†– 178cm) would need to think seriously about how practical this bike would really be. You do need to think just a little about where you choose to put your foot down. On the other hand, I find I really don’t always need to put a foot down at all. The bike simply could not feel better balanced, and quite often I can hold it at a red light without ever touching down!

    It’s narrow, too. You feel like you could clap your heels almost, although the seat is adequately wide for me. Not so the bars, which are wide, and positioned at a height that allows you to glide over the mirrors of sporty cars (but unfortunately just the right height to clip van mirrors). The hydraulic clutch is light, and instruments (what there are of them) easy to read in any light.

    Anyway the town traffic is despatched effortlessly (apart from the effort needed to restrain the front wheel from heading skyward at the slightest provocation from the light throttle), and we are into the first sweepers after Whittlesea.

    I’ve ridden this model twice before I test rode this particular example, and I’m reminded again that this one is definitely better at holding a line than those other two were. I’m not sure yet whether it’s the Pirelli Diablos fitted here (OEM is Scorpion Syncs) or that the complex suspension has been properly set up. Either way, I can say within a couple of ks that nothing – nothing – will upset it. Not bumps, not holes, not ripples, not tightening radii, not brakes. It’s a revelation. There is a hint of dive from the forks on the brakes, then it just digs in and despatches the road with casual disdain. It’s unbelievably easy to steer. Very light, and you can feel it moving constantly, but so far not a sign of a head-shake. Haven’t got it up to race-track speeds yet, though – we’ll see.

    The overall feeling is of a kind of loose-limbed competence. It’s not really firm and harsh like a sportsbike, but compliant and somehow unshakeable at the same time. Weird.

    So by the time we’re into the proper bends, I find I’m hounding the CBR through the slow corners, exiting faster and braking much later. That’s not the rider, either. We swapped bikes for a while and the Honda had to be pulled up earlier to ensure correct line. With the SM it simply doesn’t matter. Change lines mid-corner? No problem. Throttle on (or off, even!!)? No problem. And the brakes – OMFG! Without doubt the most ferocious and powerful I have yet encountered. You could quite easily send yourself over the ’bars if it weren’t for the fact that only a fool would ignore the superb feedback. My only concern is that they may be too sharp for use in the wet. That was confirmed later in the week, although the feel is still good enough to give you a chance if you do come close to locking.

    Getting into the tighter stuff down toward Flowerdale and I’m relishing the excellent drive and traction out of corners. The motor is brilliant. Not quite as thrilling as it’s 990 brother in the Superduke, but more than enough to satisfy on any public road. It’s not quite as smooth in it’s delivery as an EFI motor, but there are no real holes in the rev range and it produces gobs of torque from way down low right to the yowling top end. It doesn’t mind revving either, even on stock pipes. Thankfully the rev limiter works well, as there’s no tacho. This motor, like the rest of the bike, will cruise along all soft and docile when you want it to, and then transform into a snarling wildcat when you open the taps.

    Being carburettored, it has a conventional manual choke, which is a bit of a novelty nowadays (keep forgetting to push it in). The instrument unit contains a digital speedo, temperature bar graph, plus switchable functions for clock, odometer, two trips and a fuel countdown device which measures km done since the reserve was hit (which does nothing until you hit reserve). There are the usual warning lights in a separate panel to the right.

    The return trip involved a few more tight twisties, where the SM showed once again that it was completely up to the job, even with an unfamiliar pilot, followed by some freeway. By this stage I’ve been in the saddle long enough to notice any serious issues with the seat, and I can say that for me it was perfectly comfortable. More rounded than flat, I found I can sit without any particular pressure points, and it couldn’t be easier to shift backwards and forwards to change position or alter the weight distribution. There is noticeable wind blast, but it seems fairly even and relatively turbulence-free. Haven’t tested tank range or consumption ( did about 150 but no reserve light yet), but I reckon I can safely assume that it will be the need for fuel that stops me before it is my aching arse.

    Would it be good for touring? Probably only if you don’t mind stopping a bit more often than a proper tourer, and you choose a nice, winding route. There’s a half decent luggage rack incorporated, and some interesting luggage options available from the manufacturer. The high pipes might be a bit of an issue for some generic items. You could do it, but it’s not perfect.

    Pillion accommodation looks to be OK, actually. The seat is certainly big enough, and reasonably wide at the rear. Can’t tell about the padding or handling, but since the missus has actually suggested I take her for a spin (the first in 4 years! She tells me it looks horrible but she wants to get on?), I’ll report back on that later.

    There’s reasonable storage under the seat (mostly under the rack) along with a good quality tool kit (it even has a bottle opener!). Dunno about the headlight yet.

    So – all in all, a brilliant back-roader (any road), excellent commuter, touring-capable (I think) and all I need to do now is see how it goes on track. It’s not gonna eat sportsbikes on track, but it should be alright. And dirt. I believe it’ll do that, too.

    - brilliant brakes
    - excellent handling on any surface
    - decent motor
    - the butch off-road looks

    - no tacho
    - no weather protection
    - it gets a bit hot – nice in winter but likely not in summer
    - the wanky off-road looks.

    I’ll do an update when I’ve had it serviced, done a track day, and put it on a bit of dirt. Can't wait. :)
  2. Really nice write-up, man! Ya know how I tell? I wanna at least ride one and potentially buy one after reading it! (But I think my secret lust remains with the Superduke really).
  3. Sounds like a neat bike! :)

    A hell of a lot more concise than my Tiger review. I must learn to be less verbose. Well done.

    No tacho? Ee... Oh, wait, my last bike didn't have one of those. Nevermind. :grin:
  4. Entirely understandable, Bravus. The SD definitely has the edge in the motor department. It only gives ground to the SM in a couple of areas, like pillion and luggage. The 990 SM (on the way) will even up the performance, but it's 1cm taller, and that will be 1cm too much for me, unfortunately.

    Spots, if you're down this way take it for a spin and give us a comparison :wink:
  5. Brilliant Wayne, thanks for that. I must confess I found the big KTM twin a bit chuggy for my liking in the Superduke, but then perhaps I spent too much time in traffic. The big supermoto bikes fascinate me but I've yet to ride one. Thanks for tiding me over til I do! :)
  6. two top reviews in one day...
    You guys are making me work...
    And by the looks of it giving Loz a chubby.
  7. No that's just how my pants sit!
  8. FAARK!!

    Another top review by some one with a brand new bike. Youse are all utter bastards!!

    Well done mate. Something I will definetely try come upgrade time.
  9. You could get quite a pretty penny for a kidney you know.... :)

    Good write up Titus. :cool:
  10. If I got a dollar....
  11. :LOL:
  12. Ya dirty guys..

    But since you bring it up... I can report that pillion accommodation proved, umm, less than satisfactory :(

    The seat has heaps of room, but only the section directly under the normal rider's position has any spring and cushioning in it. So the pillion is left to deal with the hard end bit (shaddup!)

    Not only that, but the angle of inclination is a bit steep, leading to lots of sliding backwards and forwards (oh god, I'm just getting in deeper, aren't I?). Which I couldn't help taking advantage of :twisted:

    Anyway, the end result was grumpy pillion, who vowed it'd be a long time before she did that again.

    Yeah yeah, heard that before :wink:
  13. This write up just keeps getting better. :cool:
  14. Might I suggest removing one plug lead? It will run just a little bit rough, but may prove popular.
  15. Errr...
  16. Nice review. Sounds like a lot of fun... light bike with big engine. Mmmm. :cool:

    Looks of the bike certainly don't appeal to me. Looks like a big dirt bike with small wheels.
    Pity about the carburettors. How much fuel does it drink?
  17. **UPDATE**
    2000km on (that's a shamefully low rate of useage, innit?), time for an update.

    In most ways, it just gets better. Commuting has become an absolute pleasure, with the amazing turning circle and decent low speed manners. It's just got that wicked side. I could get myself into a whole lot of strife if I wasn't so, err... mature :p
    I'm not missing injection much - the fuelling is excellent. Maybe a little more complicated to get started on a cold morning, but hey, I grew up with that.

    Megaphat (sorry I didn't see your question), the fuel thing is interesting. Gearing is fairly high, so even at highway speeds the motor is barely turning over in top gear. 15 litres to reserve, I've seen 250km before the light comes on. At the other extreme, got 150 out of a tank at a track day. Average usage has come out at 14-15km/litre with most of that being low speed commuting. Not complaining (runs just as well on 95RON, too).

    Brakes are still fierce. You learn to live with it, but it's still a bit too sharp for wet weather). An absolute blessing on the track though.

    Speaking of which, I did a day at PI recently and had a ball. I'm far from an experienced track rider so bear that in mind. I do know PI pretty well, though. In the slow group, The SM had the bigger sports tackle easing away on the fast bits (could more or less hold most of the supersports). No-one around me was anywhere near as confident under brakes, however. It's ridiculous fun howling up on the other noobs, braking 100m later and letting the popping and crackling from the exhaust on overrun scare the bejeezus out of 'em :twisted:
    Don't need to change down much, either, with a deliciously thick spread of torque covering up for my club-footed changes. The 'box is fine, regardless.

    Lack of a tacho is an absolute pain. I hit the limiter repeatedly, especially coming off turn 12, to the point where I routinely shouted "F$%^!" inside the helmet just about every time around. When I got a better exit onto Gardner I was seeing 215kmh and I reckon it was going to need a lot more time for me to see much more.

    A lot of that is going to be attributable to aero. That top speed was into a stiff headwind, BTW. The bike does get kicked around quite a bit by crosswinds at higher speeds, Lukey and Turn 12 were downright scary a couple of times that day. It actually loved the bumps at Hayshed, on the other hand.

    So, overall, you're not going to be setting any lap records with a 950 SM but you WILL have heaps of fun. Time to try somewhere tight and twisty?

    What else can it do? At the other end of the scale, I've taken it up a few dirt tracks. Nothing adventurous but enough to know that it deals with well made dirt roads pretty well. The suspension is better at this than your average roadie and the riding position, naturally, is well suited. Tyres inevitably are the limiting factor. Mines got Diablos from the previous owner, and they will skate over marbles. I wouldn't even try mud. The OEM Scorpion Syncs are reportedly much more versatile but you'd have to sacrifice a bit of road grip (which I am loathe to do).

    Touring? Well, the longest trip has been the transit to PI. Quite comfy thank you - better than my old Speed Triple. A bit blustery, but the seat is fine, and you can fit a tail pack quite easily. soft panniers are out, due to the high exhaust. The range is enough for softies like me.

    ( I notice KTM have released a touring version in Europe, BTW).

    Servicing is pretty typical Euro-pricy, but the intervals are 7500 minor- 15000 major. I can live with that. Nothing seems to break (touch wood).

    For the kind of riding I do nowadays, I can't think of any bike that would suit me better. It turns the ordinary into something special, almost spooky. At times I think I wouldn't mind a certain TRIck supersport... but no, I wouldn't swap.
    But I DO wonder what the new 990 goes like. :)
  18. Great review mate :) , it's the funny thing with the KTM's... they don't have the outright power of a sports bike but the grin per k factor is off the scale :grin:

    If you get the chance go and do a track day at Broadford, the tighter nature of the track suits nakeds better than PI, where hanging on down the straight is hard work. I just did a track day with some of the guys from svdownunder.com.au and we all had an absolute ball...such a fun track without the pucker factor of PI

  19. Thanks for the tip Bamm-Bamm. I'll give Broadford a go next time and see what happens. :grin:
  20. Thanks for the update Titus! I must admit your original review got me interested in these beasts... now I've got one my own and I'm loving it. :grin:

    I'm on my second pair of scorpion syncs; the first pair were done after 7000kms. If there's a lack of traction on the road on these things then I'm yet to notice it, on the track might be a different story (I've yet to do a track day).

    My milage doesn't tend to vary as much, but is similar to your average. Typically I get 190 to 215 kms before the fuel light comes on. I haven't pushed reserve anywhere beyond 35ks.

    Now go get some kays on that bike! :p