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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

KTM Supermoto 950 R

KTM's Supermoto 950 has always been a favourite of mine. In short, it's a tall-rounder, with an engine that's as smooth as the ride experience itself.

And thankfully, it will stay that way for another year yet. Where most carburettor-fed bikes are being forced to adopt fuel-injected engines, the Supermoto 950 is produced in such limited numbers; it has sneaked past the Euro 3 red tape for one more year. So not only do we get silky smooth power for longer, with the new R model, we get it in a race trim bike. Nice!

KTM Supermoto 950R (image © PA)

Part supermoto, part racer

So, the Supermoto 950R keeps its carbs and gains a few extras to the standard bike to make it 'ready to race'. The chrome-moly frame is lavishly lacquered in KTM orange, whilst the triple clamp, swingarm, engine brackets and footplates are all black anodised parts. The new tank and seat unit have been adapted from the Super Enduro R model, supporting a sportier stance and placing the rider up to 40mm closer to the front wheel. But despite the ballsy buzz about the R, the riding stance is still very comfortable and you feel you could ride to the track, hack about all day, and still be up for the long trip home.

KTM Supermoto 950R (image © PA)

That said, on the launch in Hungary's Pannonia Ring, I had the opportunity to ride both the Super Duke 990R and Supermoto 950R back to back. Where the Duke's a compact weapon on wheels, the Supermoto feels pretty tall and the thought of sticking it on its ear did make me wonder if it really would comply. Kitted up and primed for action, I strode over to the row of spotless pit garages housing an army of orange Dukes and Supermotos all ready to race, but was I?

KTM Supermoto 950R (image © PA)

Smooth and easy

I'd never been to the Pannonia Ring before and judging from the sheer size of the track, I guessed it could take me a fair few laps before I really knew my way round. Cue the Supermoto R. OK, it's livelier than its sibling, but it's also one of the easiest bikes to ride. I cocked a leg over the 865mm-high seat and thanked the man upstairs for blessing me with long legs. I fired the bike into life and headed out of pit lane. It was perfect.

KTM Supermoto 950R (image © PA)

Not only was the Supermoto fun and friendly, it was sporty without being hectic (if you so choose) and I found I had ample headspace to learn the track and play about a bit, before later ragging the Super Duke R for all its worth. As the day progressed, the tractable trailie continually surprised me with its agility, and I surprised myself by enjoying the Supermoto R as much, although in a different way, as the Super Duke R. Time and time again, I barrelled into a bend, pushed on those wide bars, and the bike dropped steadily and effortlessly into the corner.

KTM Supermoto 950R (image © KTM)

Manageable moto

Everything just works. Where I wondered if the bike may feel gangly if provoked, it was as agile as you'd hope, every single time. Geometry wise, the offset's been modified to 27mm compared to the standard Supermoto's 28mm but the wheelbase and steering head angle remains the same. So not only is the handling good, the stability is firm and focused. KTM likes to keep things in the family so the suspension is still WP, but the fully adjustable upside-down forks have a harder spring (a 5.9 spring rate instead of 5.6) to deal with the sportier spirit of the bike.

KTM Supermoto 950R (image © KTM)

Aluminium cast wheels and Pirelli rubber ensures this 'moto is not merely manageable, it's impressive. As are the Brembo brakes, which are borrowed from the Supermoto 950 standard version. A radial master cylinder and two radially mounted four-piston callipers haul 191kg of bike to a standstill without issue. But as the day drew to a close, I developed an issue of my own. I'd been playing (err, slip of the tongue) working hard all day on track. The Super Duke R lives there, it was built to be spanked - hard. The Supermoto R is certainly perfectly capable in these same circumstances and a more experienced racer would undoubtedly take the bike to the edge and beyond.

KTM Supermoto 950R (image © KTM)


But truly, I was hankering after the road, a public highway, everyday asphalt with Hungarian pot-holed craters or not. Given the choice, I'd take the Duke on track every day of the week - it's a no brainer. But given that the Supermoto R was so much fun, and more compliant than I'd imagined in such extreme circumstances, I was literally dribbling at the thought of riding it in the real world. And I still am - pass me a bib!

Need to know
942cc twin
Top speed (mph)
six-speed, chain drive
Weight (kg)
Seat height (mm)
Fuel tank capacity (litres)

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