KTM 990 SM-T | Doin' Time

Mods: K&N; air filter and Maxima coolant

KTM 990 SM T Doin Time
KTM 990 SM T Doin Time
KTM 990 SM T Doin TimeMarc Cook

WRIST: Marc Cook
MSRP (2013): $13,999
Miles: 9,472
MPG: 37
Mods: K&N; air filter, Maxima coolant

KTM 990 SM T Doin Time
Marc Cook taking on the job.Marc Cook

A phrase sometimes uttered by rueful owners is that KTM stands for "keeps taking money." Since the bike is actually quite reasonably priced, I assumed this comment comes from the maintenance side. Because of that, I was eager to jump into the SM-T's first major service, called for at 9,300 miles, to see if it's a lot more involved than my last Japanese bike or, perhaps, calling for super-spendy parts.

There are 45 items on the list, including a check of the valve clearances, replacement of all filters and both spark plugs, plus changing brake fluid and checking the level of the hydraulic clutch fluid. Once into the procedure, you notice that a lot of parts formerly on the bike are now on the bench. To get down to the cam covers, you must remove the airbox, the entire throttle-body assembly, and seemingly half the hoses and wires attached to the engine. KTM did a great job on accessibility and easing the removal process, but there's a lot to it because of the way the engine is packaged.

KTM 990 SM T Doin Time
Access panels on the airbox make it much easier to remove the throttle bodies, necessary to get to the valves.Marc Cook

Fortunately, all eight valves were in the middle of the allowable range. I was hoping one would be out so I could see for myself if KTM's hybrid cam-drive system made under-bucket shim replacement easier. (The cams are driven by a chain to an idler gear; the cams mesh directly with that gear.) I did have to order out for the unusual NGK LKAR8BI9 spark plugs; and, no, a cat didn't just walk across the keyboard. I also replaced the surprisingly dirty standard pleated-paper air filter element with a K&N; part (knfilters.com; $70).

I'm sure some savvy KTM owner has figured out how to get to the front cylinder without removing the radiator, but I'm not that smart, so I pulled it off and replaced the coolant with Maxima Cool-Aide (maximausa.com; $9) when it all went back together. Ironically, the manual doesn't call for coolant replacement until 18,600 miles. I checked the ECU for fault codes through the TuneECU software; none were found.

KTM 990 SM T Doin Time
Access to the engine is good at this stage. The radiator had to come off to get to the front cylinder head, though.Marc Cook

Altogether, I put about eight hours into the procedure, but some of that was given to preparing the bike for heated grips and a few other small mods. Compared to my old Suzuki GSX-R750 or SV650, the KTM is considerably more involved and demanding to work on, but it's better than some bikes I've had to wrench on—ZX-7R, I'm looking at you. But the best news is that the bike started right up and ran beautifully after the maintenance, and I didn't find a single leftover part on the bench.