KTM plans on leading the S2 Supermoto class by delivering an ultra-light racing machine fitted with all the goodies of such a bike: Supermoto chassis, Brembo brakes and plenty of engine performance.
2008 KTM 450 SMR
Supermotards perfectly combine off-road excitement with fun on paved surfaces and KTM is a true master of this domain. At the base of its Supermoto lineup, the ultra-light and compact 450 SMR is what a motocross rider would jump on when heading towards a new type of competition which would not only bring him the joy of a new racing experience, but many first places.
The KTM 450 SMR is not destined to reach the streets, but performs excellent on the track and manages to become one of the most competitive machines that the market offers today.
KTM first introduced the 450 SMR as a 2004 model year. It was the awaiting alternative to other European and some Japanese motorcycles so many riders rushed to get a feel of the new introduction. They weren’t disappointed as the carbureted 450cc four-stroke single cylinder provided great throttle response while the lightweight Supermoto chassis and low suspensions got the bike incredibly through the corners. And so, KTM completed with two major requirements for the bike to become a winner: fast through the corners and barely managing to keep the front wheel up under strong acceleration in the straight lines. In order to keep the bike as light as possible, a kick starter was the best option and it was only replaced for 2008 with an E-Starter.
2008 Aprilia SXV 4.4-5.5
Aprilia practically rules the class with the SXV 4.5-5.5. Why? Grab a handful of its throttle and discover the power of the 77 degree V-twin four-stroke liquid-cooled engine which makes all the difference between it and the rest of the single cylinder engines. Obviously the most appropriate version is the 450cc, but I’ve ridden both motor options and there isn’t a striking difference between them. They are superior to the KTM’s engine and to make things even interesting Aprilia created both track and street SXV machines so that everybody will have the piece of mind that fun and excitement aren’t harnessed by the perimeter of a track. The KTM is also street legal, but not as aggressively styled as the Italian motorcycle.
2008 Suzuki DR-Z400SM
A more appropriate competitor for the subject of this review would be the Suzuki DR-Z400SM because it features a 398cc, four-stroke, single cylinder, DOHC, 4-valve, liquid-cooled engine which is the Japan’s closest thing to the KTM’s engine. The bike is built for the track, but it won’t perform badly on the streets either as it has the package (headlight, mirrors) for proving versatile and fun even between the most boring routes.
2008 KTM 450 SMR
Even though pretty tall and massive looking thanks to the 17” wheels fitted with slick tires, you will notice that between those wheels isn’t that much of a bike. A result of the manufacturer’s attempt to keep its machine as compact as possible, this look reminds me of motocross machines. Weight distribution is very important so that during a jump the rider would straighten the bike by playing with the throttle or with the rear brake. But let’s not deviate here.
On the bike’s agressive plastics, KTM plays with two dominating colors, black and orange, which are meant to make the design features stand out even more. Contrast is what it’s all about. Start with orange front mudguards and finish with the same color on the rear fender while everything in between is black painted with some orange intrusions here and there. Even the monoshock’s spring manages to stand out between the swingarm and the frame. Attention to details is everything when creating even the smallest thing, not to mention a motorcycle, and KTM is known for delivering truly refined products, the 450 SMR being a good example.
The track is where it belongs so that is where I’ve taken it in order to have it confess everything. Riding a few laps made me feel very at home on the new SMR and I was soon grabbing to the handlebars like it was no tomorrow. It seems that playing with the throttle on these things will leave you with a great muscle fever because the keyboard isn’t quite my friend as I am writing about my last motorized experience.
It is all due to the 450cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder, four-stroke engine delivering impressive low-and-mid-range power which thanks to effective delivery practically defines the attitude of the bike when exiting a tight corner. Straight lines are all about revving the engine as close to its highest abilities and that is what I did, noticing that it doesn’t lack in power all the way of its rev range.
Going through the five gears of the transmission, which by the way features dog-clutch engagement, wasn’t very difficult because the engine’s character is contagious, resulting in quick shifting. And that is what Supermoto bikes are all about; if you don’t have an efficient gearbox, what’s going to help you lose traction and powerfully slide before corners? The rear brake will probably do that but not on asphalt. Sliding the bike from side to side, depending on the corner, needs a bit of practice but the basic idea is that downshifting makes losing the grip as the engine revs to catch its breath. It is everything that your riding instructor told you not to do before a corner or in a corner, but an expert hand does the trick every time (not mine).
Versatility consists in a special supermoto chassis. The double ground, chrommoly-steel frame together with the front and rear suspensions not only prove able to get the bike very fast through ace pins, but provide smooth landings for the off-road part that everyone seems to enjoy taking.
But no matter where you ride it, the motor’s sound coming from and Aluminum silencer will always advise you to get the foot back on the peg and hold on while your right hand seems stuck with the throttle wide open. The KTM is so tempting that popping wheelies is inevitable, but not uncontrollable. It needs a strong impulse and it then reacts.
High tech brakes were definitely needed for this powerful piece of machinery, just like on any other on the track. Up front, Magura four-piston calipers are applied on a 310mm brake disc while at the rear KTM required and Brembo provided a single-piston floating caliper giving a hard time to a 220mm disc. Stopping power is incredible both on and off the road and if you’re not used to these bikes, you’ll better not pull that lever more than necessarily. I kind of did and while the rear wheel was detaching from the ground I was glad that I had my full-face helmet on. In a split second I released the front brake lever and lived to fight another day.
It may not have the V-twin of an Aprilia bike that I know, but when it comes to single-cylinder equipped Supermotards, it proves being an incontestable leader. Considering the fact the at AMA Championship only participate single-cylinder equipped racing bikes, we’re clearly witnessing the glory days of KTM.