Motorcyclist Comparo: Sumo Supermoto

Large, Powerful And Not Exactly What They Seem

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Kevin Wing

Power comes from an air-cooled, 90-degree idea that has been evolving since Dr. T decided to spin Desmodue cams with Uniroyal Powergrip belts nearly three decades ago. Though it inhales though a smaller, more restrictive airbox than the Multistrada, paring rear-wheel output to 78 bhp at 7600 rpm, the 1078cc dual-plug twin dispenses every pony in the sort of strict, linear fashion that delivers a steady stream of thrust. Euro 3-compliant emissions make for an overly abrupt off-idle transition that gets worse when heated rush-hour traffic pushes the oil temp to 230 degrees. New friction material and lighter springs make the dry clutch easier to deal with, but it still squeals and grabs after 20-30 minutes of urban stop-and-go. We'd gladly shelve our "Loud clutches save lives" T-shirts for the Multistrada 1100's better-behaved wet clutch.

Though it comes up short against the stronger Germanic twins, the 440-lb. Ducati is lighter and lower than either one, and that exemplary chassis keeps things close in the twisty bits with more momentum and cornering speed. With most of that weight biased toward a front wheel that feels like it's right under your chin, the 'Motard lets you use cornering trajectories that bigger bikes can't. That wide bar provides enough leverage to transition from dead vertical to peg-down lean angles in a heartbeat, but watch it: The brake pedal and/or shift lever are next, which means it's time to ease up before the Bridgestone radials lose interest. The front BT014's relatively blunt profile makes steering slightly slower and less accurate than it could be. And we'd swap the stock brake pads for something with more bite. Either that or swallow hard and part with $14,495 for the up-market S-model, complete with stronger Brembo Monobloc front calipers, lighter forged Marchesini wheels, stickier Pirelli radials, nifty ride-height adjuster and strategically placed flashes of carbon fiber that help shave 7 lbs. and justify that stiffer bottom line.

If you can live without the racy bits and flashy designer labels, the standard model is anything but for $11,995. If your devotion to Adriano, Marcello and Bruno is expressed by a Societa Scientifica Radio Brevetti Ducati 1926 tattoo where only certain medical professionals will ever see it, slip into stickier rubber and more aggressive brake pads-and maybe some suspension work if you're feeling flush-and you've got an exceedingly capable, visually stunning, fairly practical Italian in the garage. For the more open minded in the audience, BMW and KTM have some persuasive alternatives you might want to look at.

Off The Record
Brent "Beavis" Avis

These bikes couldn't be more different, yet none of them could be classified as anything else. The BMW and Buell are effectively throwaways, even though I had my moments of passion on both. The HP2 is too pricey and hard-core for me while the XB12STT is too large for my garbage can. Meanwhile, KTM's more comfortable, all-around capable 990 Adventure slays twisty roads as well as the 950 SMR. That leaves the Ducati, which I'd take if only because it says what it is on its fuel tank. It's pretty, it works as well as anything else here and for just a few bucks can be made into an absolute hooner of whatever I think a supermoto should be.

Age: 31
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 185 lbs.
Inseam: 34 in.

BMW HP2 Megamoto

Megamoto? Like the bad-tempered lummox that trashes Tokyo and then has a go at Godzilla in Godzilla vs. Megalon, BMW's most unlikely sportbike is a little intimidating at first. But don't be afraid: Unlike the 44,000-ton napalm-spitting guardian of Seatopia, Megamoto's considerable powers are used only for good. Still, for anyone who was shocked by BMW's original HP2 Enduro, the best way to approach $20,520 is confidently, and downwind.

There's about 40 percent less suspension travel at either end, with a conventional hlins shock in place of the strange Enduro's weird-Alice Continental air spring. For those tall enough to straddle a seat 35 inches above pavement-about an inch lower than the Enduro version-the Mega feels like a gigantic mutant dirtbike: wide bars, firm, skinny seat and sawtooth steel footpegs. Most of what happens from there is-shall we say?-un-expected. The 1170cc boxer-twin gains 8 bhp in the translation to pavement duty, mostly from the addition of a dual-chamber Akrapovic muffler and bumping compression to 12.0:1. The 104-bhp result flattens everything else here in a straight line, pushing the 450-lb. aberration through the quarter-mile in 11.26 seconds at 122.6 mph.

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