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2010 KTM 990 SMT Review


by Luc Brière ,

After switching from a relaxed touring cruiser to the 2010 KTM 990 SMT (Supermotard Touring), it didn’t take long for the front wheel to leave the ground. In fact, I was still in first gear and not even out of the parking lot, with the little Satan guy over my right shoulder whispering how much he loved and admired me. I’ll tell you, if there’s one machine that can turn a quiet 50-year-old into a real hooligan, it’s definitely this KTM… notwithstanding its Touring (T) label!

So, what purpose does the SMT serve? Well, it’s about having fun and unleashing your inner demon. It even fits me perfectly!  (Photo: Philippe Champoux/

I have been there before, mind you, like when I traveled thousands of klicks (Montreal to Goose Bay, Labrador for example) over all kinds of surfaces, aboard a KTM Adventure 950, and later on the fuel-injected 990. If you must know, I do have a sweet spot for the big 90-degree V-twin from Austria that delivers gobs of low-end torque and keep pouring it on right up the rev range. The chassis helps putting it all to the ground, providing excellent traction on takeoff and out of corners on pavement as well as slippery surfaces.

In SMT trim, the engine's flywheel feels lighter than on the Adventure version of the big twin, as the SMT variant engine claws up the rev scale quicker than in the trail oriented version, so much so that I had to pay real attention to my wayward right wrist to prevent the engine cut-off from interrupting my fun.

The engine showed a couple of soft points. First, the over-aggressive injection mapping creates unnecessary drama during low-speed manœuvres (although snapping the throttle open worked great!). Second, the cooling system proved marginal for a late-spring test ride (granted, the temperature hovered above 25°C), as the fan stayed busy whenever the speed dropped a little.

The light and stiff trellis frame, and judicious wheelbase translate into superb handling and stability on the road, especially under acceleration. Like all Supermotard bikes, the 990 SMT features longer than normal suspension travel (remember, Supermotard races take place on hybrid tracks, featuring a paved section, a 180-degree turn on dirt and a motocross-like off-road section with at least one jump). I couldn’t be more grateful for that extra travel, given the poor Quebec roads. Sure enough, though, you have to get used to the resulting nosedive upon braking… or stiffen the fork damping and sacrifice some comfort and effectiveness on bumpy surfaces.

This is serious braking power from the masters at Brembo, with rigid radial mounting of the calipers to eliminate distorsion and ensure efficient pad-disk contact for heavy use. (Photo: Philippe Champoux/
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