First ride: 2007 KTM 950 Super Enduro

After KTM's Super Duke and monster 950 Supermoto comes the 950 Super Enduro. Does the world really need a dirt bike this big?

Click to read: KTM 950 Super Enduro owners reviews, KTM 950 Super Enduro specs and to see the KTM 950 Super Enduro image gallery.

It's like this. You're on a 950cc V-twin. You're in third gear, you're powering out of a turn, and you've got the rear spinning. It's about two feet out of line. And it's staying out there, because you've planned this and you can do it. You are, my friend, rear wheel steering. And this really is you, not Valentino Rossi or Troy Bayliss, nor even Leon Haslam. No, it's you as it is me, average man.

The difference is you're on the gravel, not the Tarmac. But, even so, check you out: dude, that's a 950cc V-twin that you're riding all crossed up.

A KTM 950 Super Enduro to be precise. What the Super Enduro is, is easier to see than to describe. It's part super-sized enduro racer, part downsized super-trailie. The engine is that of the 950 Adventure, the carburetted predecessor of the 990 Adventure. And the chassis is also similar, but not identical, to the Adventure. You can count on a more relaxed steering head angle, significantly narrower rims and pukka suspension. It's obviously stripped for action too. But rest assured, with a monster 920mm seat height - even six-footers are going struggle - and an all-up weight barely shy of a fuelled-up litre sports bike's 200 kilos, this is still a f*ck-off big mutha. A friggin' leviathan.

Of course, its all very well building mad-as super enduro tools, but unless they offer something close to some utility, some usability for us paying punters, then they're likely to quickly become white elephants. So to see if the Super Enduro can offer anything to the British biker we took one, strapped a weekend bag on the back and headed off to deepest Wales for the Cambrian Rally (see our Quick guide, below).

I'll admit it took a whole 40-mile lap of the off-road course to get in tune with the bike, its size and
performance. But for the second lap we got into the groove. With knowledge of what was coming up
corners could be attacked, not negotiated, and clearly the Super Enduro responded well to a firm hand.

What comes with time in the saddle is an appreciation of the limitations as to what you can do off-road with the Super Enduro, although if you see the promotional videos of enduro-god Giovanni Sala bouncing one across the roof of Africa you may think otherwise (as clearly does Gio). But the truth is for mortal man with a normal appreciation of self-preservation then there's a limit. One limitation is the ability to get the front light for obstacles.

This is fine at slow speed, but getting the front light at 40mph when facing a sudden rock or wash-out isn't so easy. And in case you need to know, the penalties can be either a puncture (maybe with a dinged rim as well) or potentially an endo. Another limitation is wet grass and mud. On town and country tyres (worn ones at that) the Super Enduro was as useful as a GSX-R1000 - on this going it's a spoon-off waiting to happen. Finally there's the real world limitation of just how fast you should go off-road. World championship motocross tracks are carefully designed to limit top speeds to about 50mph at most.


Even enduro special tests tip a nod at safety by keeping the speed versus obstacle ratio sensible. But the Super Enduro can muster 80mph without too much effort and it's all too easy to find yourself in a serious situation that no man outside of the Dakar Rally should be contemplating.

But let's not get all nanny-state. Ridden accordingly, man, it's a hoot, and from this experience (the Cambrian), yes, you can get plenty of use out of this bike even in the UK.

And so what's it like? Well, yes, it does feel like a big bike. It may look pukka off-road, but compared to the average dirt bike it feels quite a bit wider, longer and of course heavier. It does everything well considering its bulk, but you do have to keep considering its bulk. When you shuffle forward for a corner you really notice how wide (and high) the front of the fuel tank is and so your extended leg is probably a good two feet off the ground when cornering, not skimming the dirt as it should be. And, as already said, despite the power, the bulk stops you pinging the front up for sudden obstacles (you just get wheelspin). It feels surprisingly front heavy, more so than its natural competition, BMW's HP2.

That said, it steers accurately and on fast trails it feels secure. The narrow rim sizes (particularly that 18-inch rear) will allow the fitting of proper dirt tyres, not the town and country sort we had fitted. And as one owner confirmed, this transforms the ride. But then you'll have to trailer (or van) the bike to the meeting. Oh, and is it top-heavy? Well, yes of course, you do have to concentrate when leaning it over in the gravel, but again - what do you expect? So in short, yes, at times it's a handful, but at the same time it's most probably the best big capacity dirt bike ever. Perhaps KTM just need to do an over-size cojones kit in their Power Wear catalogue for prospective owners.

The flip side to the bulk-power equation is the Super Enduro can do its own transportation. I rode it straight home from mid-Wales to deepest Kent in just five hours, without recourse to the M4. It'll cruise comfortably at 85mph and will even settle at 100mph if you don't mind a slight weave (and speeding tickets and possibly bans).

And it is comfortable. KTM have at last mastered the compliant saddle and despite the high and wide riding position the windblast is quite average. You can have fun on-road too - on this bike you can eyeball inter-city coach passengers as you ride past (same goes with lorry drivers) and car drivers are to be found down around your ankles.Where they deserve to be. And of course, it does huge second gear (and on) wheelies if you want. And on back roads, yes, it's a weapon.

It's even got a sensible tank range - pulling around 130 miles out of a 13-litre tank. The digital speedo's good too, with an odometer, two trip meters and a clock - all very easy to read and functional. The mirrors are very good by any standards and even the headlight is far more effective than it has a right to be. And getting back to performance, its got enough oomph for high speed overtakes without need for gear changes. And its properly robust too. After the Cambrian event we subjected the KTM to 1700 miles of commuting and trips like a run to the NEC and back. And it did them all without quibble. Despite its look, it's a genuine day-to-day proposition.

Hanging over it is the question: is it better than a BMW HP2? That's actually hard to pick, without a
genuine back-to-back test. It's at least the equal to it, especially given that it doesn't have those pointy-out cylinders, it doesn't compromise traditional off-road riding style (inside leg out for corners) or progress through tight rocky going. The feeling is, though, that it's close. Although being the best part of £3000 cheaper tips the balance firmly in the KTM's favour.

So after 2000-odd miles we could conclude several matters. Firstly, this is no fast but fragile racer - it's robust and good for anything. Secondly, thanks to dirt bike rallies it can offer a world of fun, even to the British rider.

KTM 950 Super Enduro specs

PRICE NEW - £8195
POWER - 98bhp
TORQUE - 66.4   
WEIGHT - 185kg
SEAT HEIGHT - 920mm   
0-60     - n/a