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Jewel Sport - KTM 990SMR v Aprilia Dorsoduro

As a time and motion study, jewellery heists are a pretty profitable blag. What do you need? Simple innit, two fast, thuggish supermoto bikes with plenty of V-twin stomp. A KTM 990SMR and Aprilia Dorsoduro should be enough to get the job done

Our bike choice was pretty simple. Aprilia’s sexy new 750cc Dorsoduro and KTM’s brutish 990SMR. The jewellers? Well the capital’s Bond Street seems to be a particular favourite and there’s no better time to strike than right in the wake of a previous robbery. Insurance companies have coughed up, stock has been replenished and although security are jumpy, they’ll always be that way.

So with suitably anonymous clothing and a couple of big stuffa bags and rubber masks, we nipped into W1 to do a little bit of business.

Hacking through grid-locked traffic en-route from our East End lock-up to pay our chosen shop a visit, there’s little to split the two. When the going’s snarly, the super-slim-style Aprilia is the filter-king of the two, dodging, ducking and diving through rows of stationary traffic.

Dorsoduro means hard ridge and it really sums up the Aprilia’s seat rather succinctly.The taller, wider, longer KTM isn’t quite in the same bantam weight league and needs a lot more pre-planning, focus and, it has to be said, confidence. Damn it’s plush and comfy, though.

In fact dodging in and out of traffic queues on the way to the job highlights another KTM trait that takes a little getting used to – fuelling. The part-throttle fuelling manners of the 990SMR demands the utmost accuracy from the rider otherwise things can be a bit lurchy.

The best coping mechanism is to always have two fingers on the clutch to artificially soften the delivery – probably not good news for the clutch plates in the long run, but much better than losing that critical level of fine control.

But as soon as a gap in the traffic opens, the KTM romps ahead again. What a bloody engine. Just instant, grin-inducing thump right from the badoom-badoom tickover straight through to the red-line. In the lower three gears this power delivery is a fast way to looping over backwards if you get a bit giddy with the throttle cables. Much safer to keep throwing gears at it and ride the much safer middle reaches of the torque curve. After all, we don’t want to attract too much attention, do we?

You notice noise when you’re trying to keep a lo-pro, trust me on that one. The KTM’s after-market Akrapovic system is loud enough to trigger car alarms and with it the unwanted attentions of muscle-bound shop security. The Dorsoduro runs really stylised standard cans that form an integrated part of the bike’s aesthetics. But it’s still noisy for a stock system with a really hard-edged, almost metallic rasp to the exhaust noise. But at least with the twin tailpipes tucked in so neatly there’s no chance of burning a hole in my nylon Adidas swag bag. Now that would be a disaster…

Soon, we’re there. Bond Street isn’t really paved with gold but it comes close and we’ve lifted a few paving slabs, so’s to speak. Soon we’re done and outa there. We’re being tailed by a metallic green Mondeo with blues and twos in the grille and the occupants don’t look too impressed.

My riding partner-in-crime shoots a left down some stone steps. But the Aprilia’s got slightly more ground clearance forcing me and the KTM to take a block detour. No worries, the KTM’s outright speed makes up for the distance deficit. We’re making progress, hearts pounding, butterflies flapping. The Mondeo is already history.

Both these bikes haul up with one-finger power, enough to loft a rear wheel, especially when the dozy black cab driver U-turns without looking. Did you know they had a turning circle of just 25 feet? Bastards. Thankfully both bikes have a really tall and upright riding position so we know he’s going to cut across our path and we nip around his back end, into a bus lane and away towards the mayhem around Tower Bridge. The KTM leaves the smaller Aprilia in its wake on the faster bits where it can really stretch its big legs.
But with an extra 250cc and 21bhp more, would you really expect any different?

Fun Lovin' Criminals

The inspiration for our group test is reality itself. A spate of often brutal robberies in London involving motorbikes has made headlines in 2009.

The first, back in March, was fortuitously captured by a CNN camera man and as the baddies remained undetected the mass of publicity opened the floodgates for up to seventy copy-cat crimes.

Back in August, six motorcycles stopped outside the Mozafarian jewellery store in Knightsbridge and broke in. The salesman pressed the panic button to alert the police, but the feds were too slow.

The robbers, all wearing full face lids with black visors, took just 39 seconds to steal £2m of jewels including one necklace worth £500,000. The haul could have been even bigger, but they failed to smash their way into one display case containing a further £3 million of gems.

The only price that matters to us is the price of getting caught but to anyone wanting to buy either of these two bikes there’s a gulf between them. The Aprilia’s a whopping £4,700 less than the KTM and that, bearing in mind the two are locked together in a bark-busting tussle for the same city traffic space, is hard to justify.

A canal towpath offers a helicopter-dodging shortcut underneath a busy ring road. We stop to get our breath back and make a plan. After organising a rendezvous we split in opposite directions.

The terrain we ride is why we chose these bikes. Broken brick-strewn waste land, hard packed but un-metalled soil surface and varying gradients. Shopping trolleys, used tyres, the detritus of urban existence. It’s third gear stuff in the failing light. Both bikes have bright headlights but the amount of suspension travel means you more likely to be lighting up the underside of a flyover than the road ahead when the throttle’s jammed open.

Off-road quickly turns to cobbles in the sodium-lit backstreets. The long travel suspension on both bikes soaks up the kerbs and potholes a treat, the high riding positions are perfect for craning a better view over parked cars and low walls. On both bikes, just a quick jab of throttle is enough to loft the front wheel up a high kerb, a dab of back brake enough to tighten a line. Prime movers.

There is nothing on wheels that cuts across busy city traffic like these two babies. But we’re at our lock-up now and it’s time to ditch our rides, take the swag and run to the cross-channel helicopter. As both bikes sit ticking their protest at the epic one hour thrash across the capital, we’ve barely time to reflect on their brilliance.
But the contents of the holdalls are proof enough.

Verdict

Aprilia Dorsoduro

For: Top noise, very pretty and a lovely engine
Against: A bit short on bottom-end power, not the comfiest and should be a grand cheaper
Rating: 4/5

KTM 990SMR

For: Super-strong engine, strong brakes and fluid handling
Against: Bottom-end fuelling, poor tank range and a slightly cheeky price tag
Rating: 3/5

Specifications

KTM 990SMR
Price: £10695 Top speed: 143mph
Engine: 999cc, 8-valve, liquid-cooled twin
Bore & stroke:
101mm x 62.4mm Compression ratio: 11.5:1
Power:
113bhp @ 9000rpm Torque: 71ft.lbs @ 7000rpm
Front suspension: 48mm Telescopic forks Rear suspension: Monoshock
Front brakes: Four-piston Brembo calipers, 305mm discs
Rear brake:
Twin-piston Brembo caliper, 240mm disc
Dry weight: 189kg (416.6lbs) Seat height: 875mm Fuel capacity: 15 litres
Colour options: Orange/White

Aprilia Dorsoduro
Price:
£6599 Top speed: 135mph
Engine:
749.9cc, 8-valve, liquid-cooled twin
Bore & stroke: 92mm x 56.4mm Compression ratio: 11:1
Power:
92bhp @ 8750rpm Torque: 60.5lb.ft @ 4500rpm
Front suspension:
43mm telescopic fork Rear suspension: Monoshock
Front brakes:
Four-piston calipers, 320mm discs Rear brake: Single-piston caliper, 240mm disc
Dry weight: 186kg (410lbs) Seat height: 870mm Fuel capacity: 12 litres
Colour options: Black, Red