|Road Rockets: 2010 KTM Street Bike Lineup, American Motorcyclist, January, 2010|
Tarmacmay not be the first word that springs to mind at the mention of KTM, but three new offerings are nudging the Austrian manufacturer further into the on-road realm.
For 2010, the new top their performance heap is the RC8 R, a 170 horsepower spinoff of the two year-old RC8 superbike. The angular bike houses a slightly enlarged 1,195cc twin powerplant producing 15 more horsepower than its predecessor. The six-speed gearbox has been revamped for smoother shifting, and a slipper clutch is incorporated for track duty. Top shelf four-piston Brembo monoblocs also gain 11 percent in thickness to help handle the brutalities of racing.
As substantiated by a day spent lapping Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, KTM has diligently honed the road manners of their new flagship, infusing fatigue-free ergonomics, facile handling, and fierce acceleration into the distinctive superbike. For starters, the seat/peg/handgrip relationship is far more accommodating than the bike's sharp-edged lines might suggest, and feedback feels intuitive; stiffened WP suspension components with revised geometry and lightweight Marchesinis yield quicksilver turn-in and strong mid-corner stability. Progressive power production peaks at a shrieking 10,250 rpm. Likewise, Brembo binders produce indefatigable stops, while slower speed maneuvers reveal a manageable throttle response, and snarling but unobtrusive notes emanating from the underslung exhaust.
On a milder but nonetheless compelling note, KTM's 990 SM R is an orange-framed supermoto with enough punch to gobble Laguna Seca with alacrity. Tucked in the heart of the naked bike's athletic outline is a 999cc 75ˇ twin that produces 115 horsepower and 71.5 lb-ft of torque, routing exhaust through twin stainless steel cans. The bike's chromoly trellis frame weighs a mere 21.6 pounds and merges with WP inverted forks and a rear monoshock which enable the forged Marchesini wheels to travel a generous 160mm up front, and 180mm at the rear. Twin-disc 4-piston 305mm Brembos and a single 240mm unit at the rear effectively counteract the bike's momentum.
Track time on the 990 SM R reveals an upright posture, which allows for commanding leverage of the shot-peened aluminum handlebar. Though steering is significantly (and unsurprisingly) slower than the RC8 R's, the SM R proves entirely entertaining on Laguna's 2.24 mile, 11 turn course. The torquey twin allows for plenty of front-end lightness, and a well-positioned rear brake lever stays true to the bike's supermoto DNA.
Described by KTM brass as Ňan extended range supermoto,Ó the new 990 SM T utilizes the same 999cc powerplant as the SM R, but adds an extra gallon of fuel capacity (for a total of 5.02 gallons), and standard soft bags. Adding approximately 16 pounds (for a total of 432 pounds without fuel), the SM T's cupped saddle offered a comfortable perch during a brief ride on Laureles Grade, a twisting canyon road connecting the racetrack to Carmel Valley. An erect seating position enables revealing perspective from the 33.6 inch tall saddle, and handling feels nimble and flickable, aided by light controls and a slick shifter.
If these three new road offerings are any indication, the same diligence KTM has applied to their dirtbikes is being successfully translated to the street, which should satiate performance enthusiasts looking for distinctive ways to roll down the road.