We try to split them on road and track Con­tin­ued over

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - By Adam Child SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER

up­er­moto bikes were hugely pop­u­lar in the late 90s and early 2000s. Nearly ev­ery man­u­fac­turer pro­duced a ded­i­cated su­per­moto, and launched it along­side an avalanche of mar­ket­ing hype that promised own­ers a life of side­ways ac­tion and crossed-up drama. Bike mag­a­zines threw them­selves into the fun; they loved the idea of hooning about on en­duro bikes fit­ted with sticky 17in rub­ber and stonk­ing brakes.

I was one of those jour­nal­ists pulling wheel­ies and act­ing out the id­iot . And the sad truth of it is that it was, in the main, just that: act­ing. While some su­per­mo­tos were amus­ing for a short

Spe­riod and some very nice race bikes, es­pe­cially from Vertemati, linger in the mem­ory, most were im­prac­ti­cal, slow and didn’t live up to the hype. Not even close. Honda’s FMX 650 su­per­moto looked funky but its small fuel tank, hor­ri­ble rid­ing po­si­tion, painful seat and gut­less, vi­brat­ing en­gine were pretty typ­i­cal.

So, here we are, bang up to date, and the thought of rid­ing 500 miles on the mod­ern equiv­a­lent is as ap­peal­ing as shar­ing a bath with Rus­sell Grant. I was dread­ing my 90-mile com­mute back up to York­shire from the MCN of­fice in Peter­bor­ough.

How wrong I was. Fifty miles up the A1 on the Husq­varana 701 I found my­self cruis­ing eas­ily at 80mph – and I wasn’t be­ing vi­brated to death. I was as com­fort­able as you can be on a naked bike with a rel­a­tively nar­row seat, and a mil­lion miles from the agony I re­mem­ber from those old skool su­per­mo­tos. Fur­ther­more, the fuel light hadn’t come on yet and noth­ing had fallen off. Even the clocks were work­ing.

I de­cided to in­crease the pace a lit­tle to 90mph, un­think­able on an old Suzuki DRZ400, which would be on the brink of ex­plod­ing at this point, and again the 701 was un­fazed. Wind the throt­tle to the stop and the dig­i­tal speedo will show an in­di­cated 115mph even if you’re sat bolt up­right. Tuck into the race po­si­tion and it will pull to an in­di­cated 120mph, which is im­pres­sive for a sin­gle-cylin­der su­per­moto.

Near­ing home in East York­shire I started to think the fuel light must be faulty. The new 701 couldn’t have much left in its un­der-seat 13-litre fuel tank, surely? I de­cided to gam­ble and added a few more miles to my jour­ney home in or­der to push my the­ory. But no, the light even­tu­ally blinked on at 108 miles, mean­ing a guar­an­teed 100mile plus tank range even if you cruise above the speed limit.

This is not like the old su­per­moto days. And the KTM 690 SMC R is al­most as im­pres­sive as a ver­sa­tile road bike. Its fuel tank is a lit­tle smaller (down to a claimed 12 litres), the seat is a lit­tle firmer and feels nar­rower, while the ride isn’t as plush. But, un­sur­pris­ingly given their shared ori­gin, on the road there isn’t a huge dif­fer­ence be­tween the bikes. From the sad­dle, the big­gest dif­fer­ence is sim­ply that the KTM has a rev counter.

‘I was comfy, the fuel light hadn’t come on yet and noth­ing had fallen off’

So does this new­found prac­ti­cal­ity mean both bikes lack the su­per­moto’s es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent, fun?

Put it this way: if I owned ei­ther the 701 or 690 SMC R my li­cence would quickly be­come his­tory. I found it im­pos­si­ble to ride them with­out pop­ping onto the back wheel, which both do ef­fort­lessly in the first three gears. So to keep things le­gal we headed to Teesside race­track for fur­ther test­ing.

The KTM feels marginally more racy and is slightly eas­ier to fling around, but it was hard to split the bikes on track in any sig­nif­i­cant way. The weight dif­fer­ence be­tween them is just one (claimed) kilo and they even share the same Con­ti­at­tack SM rub­ber. But if I had the choice of rac­ing ei­ther bike it would be the KTM first. While they both share the same en­gine, power and torque the SMC R has a slightly more ag­gres­sive feel to it.

Which­ever bike you choose, fun is guar­an­teed as both, un­like their pre­de­ces­sors, live up to the su­per­moto hype and do so with­out be­ing in­tim­i­dat­ing. On a tight and twisty track like Mal­lory Park you wouldn’t be far be­hind a sports 600, they are that good. ABS comes as stan­dard, which is ex­cel­lent and not too in­tru­sive, and you don’t have to be an ex­pert to ride ei­ther bike. Al­ter­na­tively, if you’re an ex­pe­ri­enced su­per­moto pi­lot, you can switch off the ABS and have some side­ways fun.

We had such a laugh on both bikes I didn’t want to give ei­ther of them back. We nor­mally test bikes for around two weeks but I’m still whizzing around on the SMC R a month later and try­ing to ig­nore KTM’S calls.

The KTM gets an ana­logue rev counter Tail-mounted fuel tank will hold 12 litres Sin­gle cylin­der means just one ex­haust Husky gets hard­core, ba­sic LCD clocks The 701 squeezes in an ex­tra litre of fuel Ex­haust header will warm legs in win­ter Mo­tor­way cruisi

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