KTM Motorcycles 990 SM-T | DOIN’ TIME

Long-term update: Final recap of our 12 months with the SM-T.

WRIST: Marc Cook
MSRP (2013): $13,999
MILES: 15,340
MPG: 37
MODS: A sorrowful so long…sorta
UPDATE: 12

Has it been a year already? The relationship seems far too fleeting—and not for totally objective reasons. On the specs page, 107 horsepower motivating a 481-pound machine doesn't scan as awesome performance. And at $14K, the KTM Motorcycles 990 SM-T stands boot to boot with some pretty impressive hardware, which might explain why the SM-T is a fairly rare find on the road.

It was also the victim of KTM's relentless update cycle. With the 1190 Adventure coming on line in 2013, the new 1290 Super Duke R arriving in '14, and plans to spread the newer and more potent 1190/1290 engine throughout the orange-hued lineup, there is no place for the SM-T, though I keep hearing rumors of a replacement on the 1290 platform.

Completely geeky but totally practical, the Givi B33 Monokey top case practically lives on the KTM these days. It’s supported by an SW-Motech Steel Toprack liberated from a Yamaha FJR1300.

So, 2013 was the end of the line for the SM-T, and what a shame, since this has been a fantastic motorcycle to live with: daily commuting, weekend fun-seeking, touring, everything. KTM has built a charismatic generalist unlike anything else. Perhaps that’s a curse.

The KTM’s WP-built suspension feels great after 15K miles. A bout of front-brake pulsing was cured by deglazing the rotors.

So the SM-T is a conceptual tough sell; mechanically, it’s been anything but. Rugged and reliable, the KTM has given me no problems that I didn’t precipitate myself. (That nicked O-ring on the oil-filter cover was my fault, and caused a mess, but was easily repaired with a new part and some patience.) I would rate the 990 as slightly more challenging to work on than your typical Japanese machine—some of that because of the way the parts are layered and some because it’s just different. I’ve wrenched on European brands that are better and some Japanese bikes that are far, far worse. I can’t comment on the cost of dealer maintenance because it’s never been to see one.

The RK Excel chain has yet to be eaten by old sprockets.

Modifications, we’ve had a few. Efforts to remedy the KTM’s abrupt off-idle throttle response amounted to a G2 throttle tamer and updated injection/timing maps courtesy of TuneECU software. I can’t say enough about the capabilities and flexibility of the TuneECU deal. It allows you to make an amazing number of alterations to the ECU’s programming. Act responsibly, though, because you can wreak real havoc with incautious tweaking. To be safe, I used several maps found on the TuneECU site (tuneecu.com) and made subtle modifications to them, rather than starting fresh or building on the stock map. I admit to getting most of the way to happiness with the KTM’s responses, bridging the gap with my own adaptation.

SW-Motech’s centerstand is a must-have for easier bike maintenance.

Mods I would do again include the KTM heated grips, cut-down Givi windscreen, Twisted Throttle Denali LED driving lights, SW-Motech centerstand, and SW-Motech Steel Toprack to hold the Givi 33-liter top case that practically lives on the bike. I didn’t touch the engine beyond ECU programming, and I didn’t so much as contemplate modifying the WP suspension, which marks a first for me. In fact, the bike’s legs feel strong and fresh despite the miles.

Gripes? I’d like to have either more fuel capacity or lower consumption (or both), since the 5-gallon tank and 37-mpg average often left me looking for a station before I was ready to stop riding. And, um, well… That’s all I have on that front. I would happily ride this motorcycle every single day. And to make that possible, I’ll commit the ultimate journalist sin: Soon I’ll send a big check to KTM’s press office so this particular unit can live in my garage permanently.

Completely geeky but totally practical, the Givi B33 Monokey top case practically lives on the KTM these days. It’s supported by an SW-Motech Steel Toprack liberated from a Yamaha FJR1300.
The RK Excel chain has yet to be eaten by old sprockets.
SW-Motech’s centerstand is a must-have for easier bike maintenance.
The KTM’s WP-built suspension feels great after 15K miles. A bout of front-brake pulsing was cured by deglazing the rotors.