2009 KTM 990SMR review

Certainly the prettiest and definitely the fastest supermoto yet made, KTM’s new R-model is wonderfully wayward and has a price to match

Click to read: KTM 990 SMR owner reviews, KTM 990 SMR specs and to see the KTM 990 SMR image gallery.

If the SMT is a more rounded kind of KTM supermoto, then the SMR is the Austrian factory doing what they love best – balls out. This is KTM’s V-twin supermoto concept tweaked to the ‘nth degree, and they are clearly pleased with the result.

The combination of white bodywork and orange frame is gorgeous and, unlike previous KTMs, which (apparently) have been made with the same plastic you find in washing-up bowls, this one has an air of finish and class about it. There’s two of the biggest Brembo monobloc calipers you’ll ever see up front, lightweight 10-spoke Marchesini wheels, re-valved WP suspension, the 999cc LC8 engine remains untouched at 115bhp and a tiny 15-litre fuel tank. This puts the SMR’s range at a woefully short 70 miles.

We were lucky enough to ride the SMR on the twisting Portuguese roads and the infamous Portimao circuit just 45 minutes from Faro. I have to admit to being pathetically out of practice when it comes to riding circuits, and got myself in a terrible confusion about what to wear. It’s a supermoto, right, so I need one-piece leathers and motocross boots. Check. But to look the part I also need a motocross lid and goggles. Except we’re doing 140mph down the straights and now I can’t see. Shit. Turn peak on motocross helmet around so it acts as a spoiler (which is what super-fast Slovenian rider Ales Hlad (www.hlad96.com was doing, it looked cool so I thought I’d try it) and now my entire vision is distorted. I settled for riding like an old lady.

Which is no reflection on the SMR. It’s vintage KTM; fast, rampant and not in the least bit subtle. It sounds good; vibey and basic with a hint of rattle thrown in. The ride position is pure motocross. There’s nothing over the front apart from a stubby mudguard, and it begs to be thrashed. Like all big supermotos the SMR is wobbly at the bars – as I was overtaken by everyone down the straight you could watch the bars gently oscillate as they blasted past – but this is merely a by-product of big power, an upright ride stance and no wind protection.

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In the corners the SMR is slow-steering compared to a sportsbike, but with its wide bars that doesn’t matter and you can absolutely throw it in at the last minute and straight onto the pegs. Being over or undertaken by the lunatic Hlad showed just how incredibly versatile the SMR is. “Why do you roadriders take such sweeping lines?” asked the front-running World Supermoto rider as he sliced underneath everyone, hugging the inside line completely sideways at 240km/h but with the front wheel glued to the deck. He had a point. While the rest of us were taking traditional road-race lines and getting our knees down, he was riding classic supermoto and going faster than everyone else put together.

The Brembos haul the front of the SMR down with indecent haste and the WP forks keep it all beautifully controlled. The faster riders were curing some of the exit-corner wobbles by dialling in a little more compression damping into the rear shock, and at the bottom of Portimao’s crazy back hill the right footpeg was digging in with a clang and this too could be cured with some mild twiddling.

As a weekend toy it’s hard to knock the SMR. Apart from the price – at £10,695 it costs more than a new R1 and that makes it a hard sell in today’s market. But if you want a slice of pure KTM and something to piss off every single other road user, then the SMR is the weapon of choice. It’s just a shame that every one you’ll see on the road will be ridden by a bolt-upright tool in cheap leathers with absolutely no clue on how to use it properly. Such is life.


Price: £10,695
Engine: 999cc 75° V-twin DOHC
Power: 115bhp @ 9,000rpm
Torque: 78ft.lb @ 7,000rpm
Frame: Chro-moly trellis
Front suspension: USD WP 48mm forks, 160mm travel, fully adjustable
Rear suspension:  WP Monoshock, 180mm travel, fully adjustable
Front brake: Brembo monobloc calipers, 305mm discs
Rear brake: Single 240mm disc
Wheelbase: 1505mm
Seat height: 875mm
Weight: 189KG

Visordown rating: 4/5