When you absolutely, positively, have to go completely stark raving mad this weekend there is only one path to take
We’ve only been in the saddle for 45 minutes but it’s taken a hefty toll. Arms are aching, bums feel like we have been beaten by an overly enthusiastic dominatrix and one bike is already on reserve. It’s only taken 39 miles for these supermotos to reduce us to shells of our former selves, but that’s the pleasure of them. Nothing in life comes easy, and with a full-on supermoto you pay the price for every wheelie, stoppie, skid or whichever two-wheeled vice you choose. Pleasure versus pain, you never get one without the other, but can you hang onto the ride long enough to satisfy your urge for trouble?
Which is all these bikes are. Trouble. But, like a spoken-for beauty who gives you the come-on, trouble is exciting, thrilling and worth the risk and potential pain and discomfort. Supermotos are an itch that needs to be scratched, and when the urge hits you to enter into an hour of mind-out madness, there is no finer machine. As with many high fashions, the mainstream has diluted the supermoto buzz, bringing us turgid runarounds like the DR-Z400SM and XT660X, powered by flaccid engines with no guts for a proper fight. These bikes are little more than styled city commuters, more scooters with fancy clothes than the monstrous converted crossers that their forefathers were. But look beneath these imposters and a few machines remain true to their ancestry. Bikes such as the three we draw together for a day.
If you know who Christian Iddon or Van Den Bosch is none of these bikes will need an introduction. They are all leaders in their field. Aprilia’s SXV550 is the Ducati 1098R of the supermoto world. When it entered the supermoto scene in 2006, rather than follow the traditional route of a big single cylinder machine Aprilia built a unique (in moto) terms 549cc V-twin. A controversial move, but one that has rewarded the Italian company a whole host of supermoto trophies. This bike is little more than Den Bosch’s race tool on the road, complete with an engine’s service life that is calculated in hours, not miles, and a petrol tank that is designed for 15 lap races, which is barely enough to make the next petrol station. Make no mistake, the SXV is a racer barely masquerading as a road bike, and comes with the accompanying inadequacies.
Then we have KTM’s 690SMC. Having spent years dominating the supermoto race scene the Austrian firm seems to have taken its foot off the peddle in recent years. KTM is a fast growing company, branching out into many fields of road bike development, and with this has comes a gradual softening of the brand, something reflected in their supermotos of late. Where KTM used to be big, hard, and aggressive singles they have now been tailored to suit the more conservative road rider. They still boast the most powerful single cylinder motor on the market, but the bikes no longer requite a size 12 boot to kick them over or a new set of fillings after each ride. This bike has and extra letter after its name, indicating C for competition. KTM has taken its lightweight 690 Enduro bike and given it the moto treatment. It may share many components with the stock 690SM, but the C means it’s been down the gym for some weight loss and a bit of steroid abuse. Something the Husqvarna has no need for.
Continue the Supermoto Road Test - 2/2
How to jump
The key to a good jump is finding a great location. Hump-backed bridges are perfect but make sure you check the landing zone out first. If there’s a T-junction or any kind of entrance, forget it. It’s quite tricky to brake for a tourist pulling out of a tea shop when both wheels are a foot in the air! Approach the jump at about 30mph, it’s better to start slow and speed up as you get better. As you approach the lip, stand up slightly on the pegs, keep the throttle constant (don’t close it) and maintain a neutral body position. Jumps are hard to get wrong. The main danger is an obstacle on landing or giving it a handful on take-off, which can cause a bike to go vertical. Generally a bike won’t go out of control on landing if the wheels are in a straight line...
How to stoppie
Make sure the front tyre is warm and use Shellgrip sections for confidence. Use four fingers on the brake lever. Accelerate into second gear, about 30mph, sit upright on the bike and pull the clutch in while applying a little front brake to smear the front tyre into the ground and make the bike light on its nose. Now apply more brake until the rear lifts and ‘tweak’ the lever to make the rear rise up properly. At this point arch your back and keep as vertical on the bike as possible. Start small and try not to brake to a complete stop. As long as you are moving and you let the front brake off the rear should come back down, if you are stationary it can go over the top. Once you have mastered a slow speed stoppie simply increase the pace and work on your rolling speeds
How to wheelie
On a proper supermoto (not a sanitised DR-Z) you have enough power to lift the front in second gear on the throttle. Don’t try it in first, you’ll end up scaring yourself. Get into second and at 20mph, just as the power starts to come in hard snap the throttle shut then crack it open again while pulling on the bars. A bit like you’re doing a press-up. The front will drop and then bounce into the air. Initially it will only lift a little but be brave, keep the power on, and it will have a second lift that will bring the front up higher. As you approach the balance point (you’ll feel it) you should be able to hold the wheelie up and can consider clutchless-shifting into the next gear. Cover the rear brake with your foot, it’s your only safety net.
Posted: 12/11/2008 at 18:21
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