Test Ride: KTM Supermoto

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 Words: Rob Harris   Photos: Rob Harris (rh), Wilfrid Guabe (wg), Nick Smirniw (ns)

Now, isn’t that purty … (rh)

After a long wait at the hands of Transport Canada, at last we are allowed to sample KTM’s range of LC4 bikes. The range is basically a mix and match set up utilizing either 398, 609 or 625 cc four stroke singles, in the same (or very similar) chassis with variances on wheels, brakes, suspension and some bodywork to define it as either a Competition, Enduro, Supermoto or Adventure. Actually that’s a bit of a simplistic breakdown, but to go into more detail would confuse you and me even further.

The first LC4s to be imported into Canada (and so the one that we got our grubbies on) are the Super Motos. In my opinion they also happen to be the sexiest and most distinct of the range. Since there are currently only three in the whole of Canada, getting hold of one right now could prove a tad hard. We picked up our model from Deliverance Motorcycles (thanks guys), a new shop located on the south end of Bathurst St., in downtown Toronto (416-867-9669). They are expecting a delivery of KTM’s in mid September and again in early December, so consider yourself informed.

Inverted forks, 17″ wheel, big fat tire … must be a super motard (rh).

At first glance the Super Moto looks much like any other dual sport bike: tall, high suspension and fenders, single cylinder and … big fat tires? Hang on, that’s not right.

The Super Moto is KTM’s tribute to the Super Motard, a dirt bike variable that has proven quite popular in Europe. Basically, a bog standard dual-sport bike fitted with road going wheels and tires along with some stiffer suspension. The result is all the benefits of a dual-sport on the road (slim, torquey, tall), without that soggy suspension and poor gripping dirt tires.

Until KTM came out with their Super Moto, the only available Super Motards were effectively home made.

They’re available in two variations, the LC4-E 640 and the LC4 620 SC. Again there are numerous little differences, the main ones with the 620 being no electric start, 16 cc smaller, and about a 45% drop in power!

The 640 uses a 625cc liquid cooled four stoke single, that pumps out a claimed 50 hp at 7,500 rpm. It’s dry sumped (oil not carried in the engine), with the oil held in the frame tubes, the front one of which has a neat screw on oil filter at it’s bottom. Suspension is White Power front and back and the Brembo brakes clasp a 320 mm disc up front and a smaller 220 mm at the rear. The exhaust pipe is a beautifully sculptured two into one stainless jobbie that turns deep blue towards the exhaust ports. Oh, and there’s a catalytic converter about half way along.

I just love this picture (rh)

But enough introductory babble, what’s it like then? Well it’s tall. The seat height is a lofty 935 mm which is just fine for Mr. Lanky Bastard Harris but probably rules out a good section of the stubbies amongst you. It does however compress somewhat when you get onboard, so could still be usable for an obese dwarf armed with a step ladder. Remember this is basically an off-the-shelf dirt bike with road tires.

Starting up gives you two options: electric or boot. The kick-starter is weirdly situated on the left-hand-side (maybe the Austrians are left footed?), located on a collar around the gear shaft. But that doesn’t matter because there’s that handy lazy man’s electric button.

It starts easily and quickly with only little choke, but then goes on to die soon after if you don’t kill the choke within ten seconds. Once running there’s a noticeable amount of vibration coming through the bars, but more on that later.

Eh up! (wg)

Riding around the strife of Toronto’s streets and the Super Moto (SM) is instantly at home. It’s slender profile is ideal for squeezing between frustrated cagers, the tall seat giving a clear view of the layout of the congestion ahead and the wide bars enabling excellent slow speed maneuverability. Then, when you do finally get that gap, a hearty twist of the wrist propels the SM ahead of all others. The excellent suspension means that ‘traffic calming’ bumps and drunken bums can all be taken at speed.

It’s also beautifully balanced and light at a dry weight of 137 Kg. While taking the bike through the motions in a car park for the photo shoot, I was amazed out how easy it was to be stupid on. Locking the back brake in a turn led to a very predictable rear slide which you could hold long enough to point you where you wanted to go and then drive off. No foot contact required. It’s also very stoppie friendly. It does require a rather sudden and hard squeeze of the front brake to get it lofting the back, but again it could be slapped back down and ridden off without need for feet to ever come off the pegs. A stuntmeisters dream.

Taking it out on the open highway was a different story however. Here the vibration becomes sorely noticeable. As far as I can tell the SM comes with no balance shaft or any other effective vibratory damping mechanism for that matter. There are rubber inserts in the footpegs but no rubber mounting of the engine and no bar end weights to dampen vibes to the riders hands, body and … eyes. Oh, I think I’ve detached a retina!

It’s not too bad at speeds up to 100 Km/h (so I guess legal speeds are okay) but the motor has such a wide and long power band, and also loves to rev, that it will easily and quickly pull all the way up to the 160+ zone. It’s crying out for an overdrive gear at least, with fifth still having more grunt than you really need. It also tends to start to feel a bit vague and weaves slightly once you get above 130, but then that’s probably just it’s dirt bike heritage showing through.

With the scooped seat putting you quite far forward, an extended blast on the highway will leave testicles tingling, bollocks buzzing and other odd sensations. Of course, some may see this as a big plus. To each their own.

Super Moto is very comfortable on gravel roads (rh).

You also notice pretty quickly that the seat is hard. Not that noticeable around town with its constant stops and starts, but a long stretch will numb the arse quite quickly, even with the stimulating vibes.

So we’ve found out that it loves the urban theater, fails on the highway stage, what about dirt drama? Well, with the road wheels and tires it’s really no longer a dirt bike, so don’t even think about muddy trails, but on the gravel roads it’s a gem. The excellent White Power suspension (inverted forks up front) keeps the SM in contact and pointing in the right direction. Powering up a steep and heavily rutted section, the SM kept the rider free of the worst hits and would not skip out or feel like it was going to spit you off at any point. Most dirt stretches could be taken as if they were almost asphalt. High praise indeed.

Talking of which, I should mention that on the slower and twistier side roads the SM also turned out to be a lot of fun. Because the speeds are normally not much above the 100 km/h comfort zone, vibration is not so dominating. The light chassis, stiff suspension and road tires enable sharp lean angles and fast turns thanks to the wide bars.

Bike

LC4-E 640 Super Moto

MSL

$10,499.00

Displacement

625 cc

Engine type

sohc single, liquid cooled

Carburetion

Mikuni BST 40

Final drive

Five speed, chain drive

Tires, front

120/70 – 17

Tires, rear

160/60 – 17

Brakes, front

Single 320 mm discs with two-piston caliper

Brakes, rear

Single 220 mm disc with one-piston caliper

Seat height

935 mm

Wheelbase

1510 mm

Dry weight

137 Kg (claimed)

Canadian colours

n/a

 

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