Adjusting the fork’s compression and rebound is easy; and the WP rear shock, with adjustable preload, compression and rebound, operates directly on the swingarm and does a remarkable job on all surfaces you are likely to see aboard that offbeat bike.
The powerful rear disc (240mm) remains easy to modulate at all times, helping to slow down and change direction easily, on dirt or pavement, especially if you enjoy diving sideways into corners. As you would expect at the front, large diameter twin discs (305mm) and ultra-effective Brembo calipers (four pistons) easily provide all the braking power you need. So much so that a little caution is indicated until you get used to the front brakes, as a single-finger pull is enough to make you feel like your tether just ran out.
|The small windscreen protects you surprisingly well at high speeds. (Photo: Philippe Champoux/Moto123.com)
The wide, tapered handlebar completes the package and helps pass on the riders commands easily, almost instinctively. The tapered shape near the grips also dampens some of the larger hits as well as some of the high frequency vibrations from the engine. When cornering on pavement, the stock tires deliver sportbike-caliber handling. Crank it up a notch and you will leave most wannabe quick riders in your dust. As an added bonus, the SMT also fares exceptionally well on dirt or gravel; although I would stay away from trails.
The small windscreen protects you surprisingly well at high speeds, while the two storage compartments can hold little more than a raincoat, spare gloves and a snack. In typical KTM fashion, the super-firm rounded saddle turned into a torture device for my tender parts after a few hours, given the pressure from my ample build. Definitely need to toughen up at that level!
Which brings me to the issue I raised in the title: a Supermotard is an evolution of the motocrosser, with smaller diameter, wider sportbike wheels and upgraded brakes, designed to ride fast on a mix of tarmac and hard dirt. The KTM 990 SMT, on the other hand, finds itself far from that original concept, a longer, heavier and more powerful bike that traditional Supermoto machines – and I cannot see it at home on the original Supermoto mixed tarmac and dirt surface.
So, what purpose does the SMT serve? Well, it’s about having fun and unleashing your inner demon on a seductive, nicely turned out motorcycle that does it all — and does it well. Be careful though, as it can take away your permit faster than you can say "damn radar!"