By Marissa Baecker
Motorcycle racing is a very broad spectrum varying from dirt tracks, closed circuit street racing, super cross, flat track. When you get to the top of your game, someone always thinks up another challenge. For example, NHL has the All Stars – testing the speed, skills and talent of the leagues best players. Well in the motorcycle world, this challenge usually comes in the form of a Supermoto – a race whose course covers flat track, motocross and road. Naturally, you need a bike that will perform well in all three areas because changing bikes during the race is not an option.
When I laid eyes on the Austrian built KTM 990 Supermoto R I admired it, “A dirt bike on the street?” Visually, it is hard to believe with the 990’s sleek styling but there are visual elements of the model that are definitely dirt bike style. The handlebars, the one piece seat and the gear shifter and brake lever. Add an electric start, two side mirrors and licence plate and the bike is street ready. However, when your eyes wander down to the tires, and you may get a visual in your mind of stepping into a one piece racing leather.
After an overview of “The Fighting Machine” with Barry Wellings of Valley Moto Sport in West Kelowna, I was getting set to head out when Wellings said, “Wait one second,” and disappeared into the store. Upon his return, he handed over the leather KTM Speed Jacket complete with full shoulder and elbow armour built in, as well as a full leather ‘camel back’.
“Oh, and the bike has brand new tires on it,” added Wellings.
(For readers that don’t know, new tires on a bike have to be broken in for full control of a motorcycle for cornering, braking, etc. Brand new tires are more apt to allow a bike to slide in corners than tires that are slightly worn.)
So I checked out the Pirelli Marchesini Forged tires and then calmed my nerves when I noticed the Brembo brakes. Other than KTM, so far I have only noticed Brembo brakes on Ducati.
Like Ducati, Brembo are Italian and are leaders in brakes. Formula 1, the World Superbike racing circuit riders, Audi, Porsche, Alfa Romeo, Dodge Charger SRT-8, Cadillac CTS-V, Ford Mustang Cobra, Dodge Viper just to name a few – you get the picture?
Front brakes on 990 are “twin-disc brake with radially mounted four-piston brake calipers; floating brake discs” and the rear “single-disc brake with two-piston brake caliper; fixed brake disc.”
Turning the key, and not only were the tires new, the bike itself had 3 km on it. Not only would I be breaking in the tires but also the bike.
Sure enough, as I left the dealership, that new bike smell wafted past my nostrils.
I thought I would have buck teeth and whiplash trying to get used to the torque on the bike.
Heading onto the highway, the dirt bike features were instantly apparent. The height of the ride (34.5” unloaded), the position on the bike, the almost eight inches of ground clearance, the foot controls and clutch were all synonymous to dirt bike riding and the instant torque of riding motocross but on the street? The two cylinder, four stroke spark ignition engine offers instant power at the opening of the throttle and the KTM 990 Supermoto is ready to jump mountains instead of mole hills.
The feeling of the bike is dirt, yet you have to be thinking street but with that much torque leaving the lights and the smooth ride, I was thinking track instead of highway.
After the initial ride, it was understandable why Barry offered a matching KTM full armour jacket when riding this bike. Manufacturers design an all around experience when they design a bike, sometimes creating gear specific to each model or class. Considering that the Supermoto 990 is the only model in its class in Canada, the leather Speed Jacket was the perfect accompanying piece and with that much power packed into the small 990 package, the extra confidence boost wasn’t a bad thing (not to mention that I looked good matching the bike).
As for performance, the 990 likes its higher rpms. Driving through the city in traffic, I didn’t get out of second gear so when I got to the highway I really got to test the transmission.
It is difficult to tell if the bike would shimmy or wobble at normal highway speed as the day I was riding, I was experiencing gale force winds so there was definitely movement beyond what you may encounter every day.
Wet multi-disc clutch changes the six speed claw shifted transmission with little to no effort and with the “state-of-the-art V2 engine with electronic injection and impressive punch, a perfectly balanced chassis, a whole bunch of high-quality components – the 990 SM R is the most radical twin-cylinder Supermoto on the market” and entertains the rider with all 114 HP. All that translated to ‘keep your mouth closed if you don’t want bugs for lunch’ which is hard to do when you are smiling ear to ear enjoying the ride.