Versatility is the name of the Supermoto game, and the 2021 KTM 450 SMR will allow you to ride moto style or road race style, and still get the same lap times.
Supermoto riding is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on. I’m yet to meet a rider who isn’t completely smitten the first time they try it. Some fall so in love they sell everything and go all-in on the only all-aspect form of motorcycle sport. The last few years have been the most beneficial for the sport of supermoto since the glory days of the early 2000s. Husqvarna can be largely thanked for this resurgence with the splendid FS450 (I own one. Love it). And now KTM has decided to get back into the game proper with the KTM SMR 450.
To be fair, KTM owns Husqvarna, so in reality, they always kept a toe in the water. But now the orange brigade is back in full force. The 2021 KTM 450 SMR is essentially a KTM 450 SX-F motocross weapon in fancy dress. It runs the same 450cc motor with the identical cylinder head, titanium inlet and exhaust valves, cams, piston, conrod, crank and gearbox. However, the SMR is fitted with a Suter slipper clutch to stop you from locking the rear wheel under when downshifting into corners. Trust me. You want this slipper clutch. It makes downshifts even more fun than upshifts.
You also get the same base chromium molybdenum steel frame, aluminum subframe and swingarm. The majority of the bodywork is also the same on the SMR, except for the shorter front guard than the 450 SX-F.
Where the two bikes differ is in the suspension, brakes and wheels. WP still supplies the suspension in the 48mm inverted fork, but the sit-in triple-clamps with a steeper offset. The forks have been lowered, giving you 11.2 inches of wheel travel compared to the SX-F’s 12.2 inches. And at the back, the WP shock will give you 10.4 inches of travel. Compared to 11.8 inches for the SX-F.
As for the brakes, you get one half of a superbike set-up in the Brembo radial master-cylinder and Brembo M50 radially-mounted four-piston caliper squeezing a Galfter 310 mm disc up front. While at the rear you get a 220 mm rotor and single-piston caliper.
The orange show rolls on 16.5-inch front and 17-inch rear Alpina tubeless spokes wheels shod with Bridgestone racing slicks (V02). Oh, and you get switchable traction control and two-variable engine maps. One for lower and one for higher rpm performance.
Horny is a gross understatement when describing the SMR 450. In practice, the SMR is the kind of motorcycle that will make heroes out of the ordinary rider. And a God out of the professional. Being a long, tall dirtbike on slicks, it’s extremely forgiving and encourages you to brake later and later. While the power delivery is fast and furious, yet at the same time, not abrupt.
A large part of what makes it so good under brakes is the Suter slipper clutch. Which keeps the rear wheel from locking and allows the rider to explore backing the rear in on the rear brake. Just like Pol Espargaro does so well.
In the dirt, the suspension is plush but not overly soft. If anything, a rider of my 190 lb frame will need at least two springs heavier on the rear to help corner exit stability. But for an out-of-the-box motorcycle, the KTM 450 SMR is as close to race-ready as you can get.
You’ve got a machine underneath you that will allow you to ride moto style, or road race style. And still get the same lap times. Versatility is the name of the supermoto game. Which makes it such an integral training tool for the world’s best riders.
If you’re like me and want to just put gas in and go rip, this is probably the best bike on the market today.