No half mea­sures

With space in the garage, and cash burn­ing a hole in his pocket, JB fi­nally in­dulges his de­sire for a proper su­per­moto

Performance Bikes (UK) - - OUR BIKES - JOHN BEN­NETT Pho­tog­ra­phy John Ben­nett

I WOULD LOVE to tell you all that the rea­son I love su­per­mo­tos and have em­barked on my lat­est dirt­bike-on-theroad build is be­cause of my gnarly mo­tocross back­ground, or a su­per­moto rac­ing ca­reer in my youth. How­ever, I’m afraid the truth is rather un­der­whelm­ing – I was con­verted af­ter try­ing a mate’s KTM 690 SMCR a few years ago and have never looked back. I’m at best aver­age off-road, and the only time I get side­ways is when I’m squeez­ing be­tween bikes in my crowded garage...

But, let’s get back on topic: sports­bikes and su­per­nakeds are fan­tas­tic things; I could never be with­out one. But rid­ing ei­ther in my neck of the woods can be as frus­trat­ing as it is sub­lime. You ei­ther do your rid­ing at dawn, or you have to con­tend with crowded roads and speed cam­eras, and if you are lucky enough to find a de­cent clear stretch of road it’s usu­ally full of pot­holes or ‘re­paired’ with loose chip­pings.

With su­per­mo­tos, none of that mat­ters: you don’t ride them on busy A-roads, you stick to the back roads. While you might have to dodge the odd group of cy­clists and be ready for a trac­tor here and there, it’s usu­ally quiet. The lanes are also mostly 60mph lim­its so in the re­mote cir­cum­stances where you might get spot­ted by a cop­per, it’s fairly un­likely you’ll be speed­ing any­way...

Four years since I bought my first su­per­moto, I’m still find­ing new lanes to play on; there is not a quicker way across the coun­try­side around here. But I’ve not had one for about a year: a Husq­varna 701 most re­cently, and a KTM 640 be­fore that, but th­ese are road-go­ing man­u­fac­turer-pro­duced bikes. A bit softer, heav­ier (and, in fair­ness, more re­li­able), but not the full ex­pe­ri­ence. I’ve re­cently sold an old project bike that wasn’t be­ing rid­den, in­stead just ty­ing up space and money, so I de­cided to put that right. For my next su­per­moto I wanted some­thing lairier, so it had to be a dirt­bike con­ver­sion.

I chose a 2017 KTM 500 EXC-F Six Days – a 520cc four stroke, which is fully road-le­gal but pre­dom­i­nantly de­signed for off-road use. It makes about 60bhp but only weighs a claimed 107kg. The Husky 701 is 145kg, with sim­i­lar power, so you can see the ben­e­fits.

Lots of peo­ple asked, ‘Why didn’t you get a two-stroke?’ The an­swer is very sim­ple. I love wheel­ies! The lat­est TPI in­jected two-stroke 300 is amaz­ing, and I was very tempted, but the lack of en­gine brak­ing makes wheel­ies harder to con­trol. The 500 has way more in­stant punch lower down the rev range for clutch­ing it up, so for full hooli­gan ef­fect, it has to be a big four-stroke for me.

It’s a sim­ple process to ditch the off-road gear: firstly you need a set of smaller di­am­e­ter but wider wheel rims. The 500 comes with a 21in front and 18in rear

with knob­blies on the ex­treme edge of road-le­gal­ity. Th­ese are amaz­ing on the dirt, but barely use­able on the road, and border­line-lethal on wet tar­mac...

So this set-up was ditched in favour of some rather gor­geous 17in SM Pro Wheels. I paid ex­tra for a cush drive in the rear hub to smooth the power de­liv­ery for street rid­ing. I went for a 17in front wheel rather than the 16.5in favoured in su­per­moto rac­ing, be­cause you can’t get road tyres in that size, and the choice is wider. I then shod them in Avon’s stick­i­est track­day rub­ber, the 3D Ex­treme. Yum...

Next on the shop­ping list was a brake up­grade. The stock brakes are fine in the mud, but the tiny disc and ba­sic caliper don’t have any­where near the bite and power you want on the road. I de­cided on the com­plete re­place­ment rac­ing set-up from Moto-Mas­ter – it’s a four-pot caliper with 320mm disc, and comes with an ap­pro­pri­ate mas­ter cylin­der, and all the lines and spacer brack­ets needed for the con­ver­sion. The brak­ing power through the front is im­pres­sive and stop­pies should be no prob­lem, should I ever work up the courage to risk a face­plant at­tempt­ing one...

So, that’s the ba­sics: road tyres, proper brakes. I could leave it there, but I’m not fin­ished, al­though funds are run­ning dry af­ter get­ting those ma­jor de­tails sorted. Next on the to-do list is an ex­haust, and then over the win­ter I will look to get the sus­pen­sion revalved, as it’s very soft as stan­dard. It’s per­fect for the de­mands of light off-road­ing, but it needs to be changed to work with sticker road rub­ber. That should keep me out of the wife’s hair for a while...

‘It’s a sim­ple process to ditch the off-road gear. Firstly you need smaller di­am­e­ter, wider rims’

Ben­nett’s new pur­chase is in a field of its own. See what we did there? Oh, for­get it...

Moto-Mas­ter four-pis­ton caliper and 320mm disc beef up the stop­ping power

Ev­ery­one knows a PB sticker is worth an ex­tra 5bhp

John’s EXC in stan­dard, ram­bler-both­er­ing spec

Sin­gle disc is all you need to haul up 107kg of KTM

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