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Top 10 supermotos

The wild childs of the motorcycle world, here is a countdown of our top 10 favourite supermotos

Top 10 supermotos

Top 10 Supermotards

The ratio of fun : price arguably goes towards supermotos, essentially an offroad bike with the knobblies replaced by road tyres and the suspension stiffened and lowered.

Motards vary between the out and out lairy machines for short blasts or ideal of a daily commute.

Here are the top 10 supermotos from the off the shelf to the super special.

10. Husqvarna 701 Supermoto

10. Husqvarna 701 Supermoto

Engine 690cc single-cylinder Power 67bhp Torque 49ft/lb Weight 145kg (without fuel)

Husqvarna’s 701 Supermoto is based on sister company KTM’s 690 SMC R, but the Husky has taller gearing, and different wheels, suspension and brakes. There’s no rev counter or fuel gauge, but what hooligan cares about that stuff?

This bike is as sensible as Husqvarna's tarmac-terrorising range gets the 701 Supermoto is powered by the surprisingly rev happy 690cc single, which pumps out 67hp and has impressive mid-range and top-end power. The motor is complimented by decent handling too and as you’d expect from a company known for producing bonkers race-spec supermotos, the 701 Supermoto is quick and eager to turn so it’s as capable of carving up congested street as it is laying waste to a go kart track.

Click here to read our review of the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto.

9. KTM 690 SMC R

9. KTM 690 SMC R

Engine 690cc single cylinder Power 67hp Weight 144kg

The KTM 690 SMC R is the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto’s brother from another mother. The 690 SMC R might have been updated and refined a couple of years ago but it’s still raw so even though its 690cc single-cylinder engine is smooth and refined enough for motorway work (if you have to), it’s also free revving and hungry to play. Thanks to quality fully-adjustable WP suspension, a strong four-piston Brembo front caliper and a slipper clutch, the 690 SMC R is no slouch when it comes hammering into tight, technical bends. In fact, for carving up tight and technical roads or tracks, the 690 SMC R is uncompromised.

Click here to read our review of the KTM 690 SMC R.

8. Suzuki DR-Z400SM

8. Suzuki DR-Z400SM

Engine 398cc, 4v, carb’d, single Power 39bhp Torque 29bhp Weight 137kg Top speed 90mph

Click to read: Suzuki DR-Z400SM owner reviews

Softer than the Euros, lighter than most Japanese rivals the DRZ400SM ploughs its own furrow. It’s true to the original supermoto formula of taking a dirtbike and fitting wider, smaller wheels, grippier tyres, stronger brakes and firmer suspension. Power’s modest but so is the weight. It handles superbly everywhere but runs out of puff on big roads. Reliability’s excellent but young hoons can still cause grief through massive neglect. Many were sold at big discounts (under £4000 on the road) a few years ago so don’t pay OTT prices. Converted regular DZ-R400s are worth less. Big bore kits can cause reliability issues.

7. KTM 640 LC4 Supermoto

7. KTM 640 LC4 Supermoto

Engine 625cc, 4v, carb’d, single Power 53bhp Torque 41ftlb Weight 149kg Top speed 110mph

Click to read: KTM 640 LC4 Supermoto owner reviews

Of the hard core, European nutty supermotos, this is one of the more sensible options. That means it’s fast, firm and focussed but not stupidly so. Comfort and distance are not on the agenda but urban assault and stunting are. Like all KTMs it’s made with top quality components and materials

Reliability is good for a Euro ‘moto. This model and engine has been used in loads of KTM models including the Duke, the Adventure and LC4 Enduro and it’s tough if properly maintained.

Not cheap when new and it holds its value well on the used market but at least you won’t drop much when you sell it on. From 2005 onwards bikes redesign featured a pointier headlight.

6. Ducati Hypermotard 939

6. Ducati Hypermotard 939

Engine 937cc, 8-valve, fuel-injected, L-twin Power 113hp Torque 72.2lb/ft Weight 204kg (wet)

The Hypermotard 939 is the latest incarnation of Ducati's Hypermotard range, which begun in 2007 with the air-cooled Hypermotard 1100. The Hypermotard is a bike that thrives on carving up mountain hairpins and being hustled through tight, technical corners and the new Hypermotard 939 is no different. It packs loads of punch for driiong out of tight turns, or floating the front wheel off the ground, has light steering and a ride position that makes it easy to boss the bike about. It's not made for pussy-footing about on, and that's why we like it - it's a fantastic toy, but it means business.

Click here to read our review of the Ducati Hypermotard 939.

5. KTM Duke II

5. KTM Duke II

Engine 625cc, 4v, carb’d, single Power 55bhp Torque 44ftlb Weight 145kg Top speed 105mph

Click to read: KTM Duke II owner reviews

The perfect blend of Euro whizz bang with near Japanese refinement and reliability served up with street art styling. The Duke’s been the people’s choice of ‘moto since 1994 with only Gilera’s Nordwest offering pace and practicality in one package before then. Steering is a little flighty at speed, there are still a few vibes and it’s not designed for long journeys but otherwise it’s a civilised and useable machine. Awesome in town and back lanes but sucks on the motorway as the diesel Skodas will stream past at 90mph. Not sure whether to go for a Duke II or the LC4? There’s little to choose but the Duke’s slightly more rounded and the LC4 a touch edgier.

4. Husqvarna SM450R

4. Husqvarna SM450R

Engine 449cc, four valve, carb’d single Power 48bhp Torque 34ftlb Weight 122kg Top speed 110mph

Click to read: Husqvarna SM450R owner reviews

A smart example of a ready-made supermoto from one of the European niche brands. It’s more race than road but when released the bike was the best compromise between nutty and practical offered by the Swedish firm. It’s slim and purposeful with a higher revving, smoother engine than previous Huskys. Pin point handling and superb brakes complete the supermoto package. High maintenance, almost zero luxury although it does have an electric start but no ignition key and a weedy range from the nine litre tank.

Reliability can be patchy so best buy from a decent dealer. Long straights on full throttle can damage the engine so take care.

3. Yamaha YZF450

3. Yamaha YZF450

Engine 449cc, four valve, carb’d single Power NA Torque NA Weight 110kg Top speed NA

Like Honda’s CRF this is another fire breathing dirt bike which a handful of loons convert to supermoto spec. The engine’s much tougher than the Honda’s although the YZF’s gearbox can give trouble but that’s an easier job to rebuild. Pre 2006 bikes only had four gears which can be a hindrance. Like the CRF it’s a high maintenance bike but again, delivers the thrills to justify it.

If you’re looking for something special, the latest (2010) YZF450F has a radical new design with the engine ‘backwards’ so the fuel injection, itself a novelty on a competition dirt bike, is at the front and the exhaust at the back. The cylinder’s also inclined backwards for better weight distribution.

2. Honda CRF450

2. Honda CRF450

Engine 449cc, 4 valve, carb’d single Power 49bhp Torque 35ftlb Weight 120kg Top speed NA

Click to read: Honda CRF450R and CRF450X owner reviews

A full on competition dirt bike and that means it’s light, fast, furious and not for the feint of heart or spindly of forearm. Needs different wheels, tyres, brake, suspension and other mods to make it into a ‘moto and most are never 100% road legal. Spec is whatever you build it to.

There’s two models, the enduro ‘X’ which has an electric start, basic lighting and is slightly tamer than the motocross ‘R’. They’re fairly high maintenance and Honda recommend a new piston every 15 hours although some owners triple that with non-race use; just don’t forget the 600 mile oil changes.

It’s a bike which sticks to the original format – a quick dirtbike converted for road use. Proper fast and not for the inexperienced or idle.

1. Aprilia SVX550

1. Aprilia SVX550

Engine 549cc, 8 valve, injected V-twin Power 70bhp Torque NA Weight 128kg Top speed 115mph

Click to read: Aprilia SVX550 owner reviews

Real supermotos were always single cylinder bikes until the SVX appeared with two and cleaned up in racing.

The engine’s what makes the bike special. The extra cylinder means less vibration and more oomph but it’s an impressively compact and lightweight unit which makes its 70bhp (with race exhaust) amazing compared to bulkier V-twins like Suzuki’s SV650. This helps the bike weight in at a featherweight  128kg. Mix in rapid geometry and it’s an evil tool that’s madder than litre sports.

It’s more civilised than the lairy singles, come in full road trim and ‘only’ needs a service every 1800 miles although the 5500 mile check involves new pistons and more. If you’ve got the dosh, it’s the best combination of useable and loopy in today’s supermoto market. 450cc version available too.

Buying a supermoto

Buying a supermoto

Buying a supermoto

We're going in to potentially dangerous territory here. Ok, the softer bikes, typically from the Japanese manufacturers, are pretty reliable and tend to just get used as commuters and for everyday fun. But some of the more hard edged bikes, generally made by the smaller European marques, may have been ridden extremely hard by A-grade loonies. Stunts, racing and off road are all possibilities. And they can be be maintenance heavy bikes with plenty of reliability issues.

The safest option is to buy from a dealer but make sure you understand what the warranty covers and get it written down because they may class them as competition machines not road bikes and that gives you much less comeback if you do have problems.

Dedicated internet forums or supermoto Facebook groups often have bikes for sale and forums give you the chance to check out owners’ post history to see if they’ve had any problems with that machine. Don’t be afraid to ask simple, honest questions about any bike for sale, such as: 'Is there anything wrong with it?' or 'What have you used it for?'.

Think before you buy too. The softer Japanese bikes work well on the road but the edgier Euro offerings can be pretty impractical and older bikes may not have electric starts, oil changes scheduled for as often as every 200 miles, rock hard seats, loads of engine vibration and other rough edges. Don’t be too put off though; as machines for dicking about on there’s little that can touch them for raw fun.

Security

If you’ve got a supermoto you need good security as villains love them.

Disc lock: Motrax Vishas £39.99

Only good enough to stop a bike being ridden away as two lads can still lift it into a van. The Vishas is forged steel and thus very hard to break. Cheaper, cast alternatives may be opened in a few seconds with an easy technique.

Chain and padlock: Almax Series IV £149.95

Too heavy to carry round so it’s only any use at home or kept in a place you regularly park up. But no lock has such a reputation for toughness. Any security’s fallible but this chunky chappy will take more grief than pretty much any alternative before yielding. With Squire SS65CS Flagship Stronghold padlock.

Ground anchor: Immobiliser defiant £74.95

With one of these and an Almax series IV chain, you’re doing everything you can to protect your bike. A thief will need to be seriously tooled up and make a lot of noise to defeat these products.

Security marking: Datatag £75

There’s alternatives but Datatag is one of the most effective systems in operation as it uses several methods to mark parts. The Police understand it and we think they’re more likely to use it than other security marking systems.