KTM 990 SM R Ash On Bikes

29 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on KTM 990 SM R Ash On Bikes

KTM 990 SM R

KTM-s 990 SM T is one of the best bikes of the year, which bodes well for its sibling, the 990 SM R. After all, the R has the same engine and frame with firmer suspension and better brakes, so it-s going to be even better. Isn-t it?

It-s not quite as simple as that. There-s nothing wrong with the R at all, and as you-d rightly expect, it-s huge fun and very accomplished, but that perfect balance of ability, exuberance and practicality exhibited by the T has been upset in the R. In other words, it-s more specialist, so it will suit some riders better – I just don-t think it will be very many.

Click on image for gallery In fact, I-m not entirely sure who the R will really suit. KTM lauds the SM R as the fastest production supermoto, but that-s stretching the term supermoto rather taut. If these are bikes based on motocrossers with road running gear replacing the off-road equipment, then it doesn-t fit the description.

It has something of the attitude of a supermoto stylistically, and when you get on board it-s there in the riding position too. The seat is significantly higher than the T-s, it-s also narrower and firmer, and thanks to the smaller fuel tank – 3.3 gallons (15 litres) instead of 4.2 gallons (19 litres) – it sits you more forward and aggressively over the front wheel.

The wheels and suspension are high competition spec too: Brembo Monobloc brake callipers, 10-spoke forged Marchesini wheels, fat 48mm inverted WP forks and a rear shock adjustable for high and low speed compression damping. Those wheels save 1.5lb (0.7kg) at the front, 2lb (0.9kg) at the rear, very useful as the unsprung, rotating mass. Front wheel travel is the same as the T-s at 160mm while the rear is reduced 20mm to 180mm.

The engine meanwhile is identical, making 114bhp in KTM-s inimitable, hard-edged manner.

I rode the bike first on similar twisty Portuguese roads as the SM T ride, and wasn-t as comfortable mentally or physically. The bike-s fine for short sprints but offers nothing like the cosseting of the T, in addition to which the harder suspension jars on rough surfaces and the firmer, narrower seat amplifies the bumps further. Even the Pirelli Dragon Supercorsa tyres provide a rougher ride, though of course they-re supremely grippy.

It is more stable and sharper steering (those lighter wheels certainly make a difference), but in fact the T will gain ground rather than lose it when the going is rough (most British roads. ) as it soaks up many bumps which kick the R out of line.

So onto the track, the already-famous new Portimao circuit, and the R switches to superiority over the T. Even so, it still sways in fast corners and doesn-t offer anything like the feedback of a proper sports bike, and being tall it-s not stable when braking very hard. What it really lacks is meaningful feedback – it provides more than the T in these circumstances, but if these circumstances are what you crave, then you-ll be riding a sports bike anyway.

Given the basic premise of what the bike is, then it works extremely well, it-s just that road riders are better off with the T and track riders are better off with something designed for that environment. The lack of feedback in comparison with, say, a Fireblade (which also costs less) detracts from the circuit experience, even though the SM R is still a lot of fun. The lack of straight line stability detracts from your general sense of well-being: at anything over 120mph (195kph) the bike starts to wander, and beyond that it can get decidedly worrying – relaxing your grip on the bars helps in this respect but it-s a big strain as it-s then difficult to hold on, especially for taller riders.

KTM 990 Duke RR

I-ve seen it written elsewhere that the SM R would give sports bikes of a similar price a run for their money on the track: this is nonsense, anything from GSX-R to Ninja, 600 to 1000 (all of which costs less anyway), would run rings around the SM R and be more satisfying at the same time. Yet it is still fun – I certainly enjoyed myself on it, if only for the satisfaction of persuading an unsuitable bike around a big road race circuit.

On tighter, smaller tracks the T would fare much better, though I-m still not convinced about this leg-sticking-out business, especially on a bike this bike and fast. If it does slide suddenly, at best you-ll twist an ankle, more likely you-ll pop a kneecap. Ouch.

What this boils down to is that the SM R is good, but what you gain in choosing it over a T doesn-t compensate for what you lose. It-s sharper steering and better controlled on smooth surfaces, but fares worse on most everyday roads, has a smaller fuel range, comfort is poorer and although it-s a slightly better track bike, if it-s a track bike you-re after then you-d look elsewhere anyway.

I-m not really sure who-ll buy it or what it-s for, but I do still quite like it because it is a thrill when you ride it. But so-s the SM T.

Price: £10,695

Available: End March, 2009

Contact: KTM Sportmotorcycle UK Ltd, 01280 709511, www.ktm.co.uk

KTM 990 Duke RR
KTM 990 Duke RR
KTM 990 Duke RR
KTM 990 Duke RR
KTM 990 Duke RR

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