2009 KTM 990 Supermoto T - First Ride

A Kinder, Gentler Version Of Our Favorite Big-Bore Supermoto

By Roland Brown, Photography by Redeye, Herwig Peuker

The new Supermoto T is a distinctly different kind of machine from KTM, so different that marketing chief Thomas Kuttruf describes it as the biggest step in supermoto development since the advent of the breed. The "T" stands for travel (not touring), and while supermoto development has trended toward aggressive performance, this bike represents a move into the sport-touring zone, slotting between KTM's standard Supermoto and dual-purpose Adventure.

The T is based on the standard Supermoto, with the same 999cc engine, fuel injection and high-level, twin-pipe exhaust. The claimed output of 115 bhp at 9000 rpm is also unchanged. The 75-degree V-twin accelerates instantaneously, with enough grunt even at low rpm to send the bike thrapping forward eagerly with minimal stirring of the six-speed gearbox. Injection response is slightly snatchy at low revs, but not annoyingly so.

KTM's traditional chromoly steel frame is also retained, but the bodywork is almost completely redesigned, starting with the bigger, beak-like half-fairing. A small, near-vertical windscreen does an admirable job of diverting air from the rider's chest, albeit with a bit of turbulence. A new dual seat is broader, thicker and almost an inch nearer to terra firma, thanks to reduced-travel WP suspension. The slightly raised one-piece alloy handlebar gives a roomy, upright riding position, and the hand guards will no doubt be useful on a cold day, though they weren't needed on our test ride in southern Portugal.

Heading north toward the foothills saw us negotiating bends of every size and shape, over surfaces that were mostly good but had occasional damp or gravelly sections. The SM-T coped with everything nonchalantly, its shorter WP suspension offering distinctly tauter handling than the standard SM, while still having enough compliance to float over the bumps. At a claimed 432 pounds without fuel the SM-T is respectably light, too-though it's 11 lbs. heavier than the standard SM.

The Brembo braking components are unchanged from Supermoto spec, and these powerful stoppers helped exercise the suspension, especially after lunch when technicians dialed in the firmer "sport" settings. Even very hard braking was possible without the front end diving dramatically, or the rear squatting as I got back on the gas. Though lower, the T still offers generous ground clearance. The only real drawback, handling-wise, was lack of grip from the ContiSportAttack tires, designed more for long life than grip.

Heading out for a second lap of the route, I was glad to be sitting on a gel seat that was infinitely more luxurious than the thin slice of foam typically provided by KTM. The fairing helped make the ride effortless, too, especially when the digital speedo reached 145 mph. My T remained impressively stable at that speed, though an identical bike with a smaller, lighter rider got into a weave above about 135 mph. High cruising speeds will inevitably drop the fuel range, but that should be less of an issue on this bike with its expanded, 5-gallon tank.

Several practical features add to the T's appeal. Along with a luggage rack with built-in passenger grab handles, the bike has mounts built into its silencer heat-shields for a pair of purpose-built accessory saddlebags, and tank and tail packs are also available. The 990 Supermoto T does a fine job of enhancing KTM's traditional attributes with increased versatility. In fact, this bike works so well that the Austrian company might consider altering its corporate slogan, "Ready to Race." This KTM is just plain "Ready to Ride."

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