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Supermoto street bikes, also called motards, are a hybrid class of street bikes with dirt bike design and style. Most have some limited off-road capability, but they are meant for street.
This class of motorcycles continues to expand in 2011 and got started when Supermoto racing started to be televised about 25 or 30 years ago. Those original races featured famous riders from all types of motorcycle racing competing on semi-paved courses with a few jumps mixed to make it more interesting.
The motocross bikes those guys rode in the day had wide sport-bike tires on them, giving their widened front forks and rear swingarms a strong stance that was appealing to the fans, yours truly included. No ultra skinny featherweight mx stuff. Put those sportbike tires on, stretch the bike’s width, and beef up everything including the engine size. That’s where it gets interesting.
Today, the Supermoto / Motard style continues to be in fashion with several players in the streetbike market. Aprilia Dorsoduro, Ducati Hypermotard and the KTM Supermoto lead the pack in power and features. Many riders select motard motorcycles for commuting, so power is not the critical feature when selecting a motard. As with any motorcycle, what matters is how you comfortable you feel on the bike and whether the bike suits your riding needs.
One of the top new motard motorcycles for 2011 is the Aprilia Dorsoduro 1200. It has plenty of power (130 bhp) and torque (115 Nm) from the 1200 cc liquid cooled v-twin engine. The Dorsoduro has 3 different engine tuning settings covering sport, touring or rain riding conditions. Other high tech features on this Aprilia include adjustable traction control that can be turned off, anti-lock braking system that can also be turned off, and ride-by-wire throttle control. The Sachs suspension is fully adjustable in front (43 mm upside down forks) and rear (has piggyback reservoir).
The 2011 Aprilia Dorsoduro 750 is no slouch either. The 750 cc liquid cooled v-twin engine cranks out 92 hp and 82 Nm torque through a 6 speed gearbox and 17 inch z-rated tires. This one also comes with ride-by-wire technology and the 3 riding modes to select from. Price for the 2011 Dorsoduro 750 is around $9599 USD.
Ducati does not settle for producing plain old motard motorcycles, they make the Hypermotard. Well, anyway it’s radical name for a radical series of bikes. Ducati’s “entry level” motard is the new 796 Hypermotard. The 796 actually has an 803 cc air cooled twin cylinder engine (has an oil cooler) that puts out 81 hp t 8000 rpm and approx 56 lbs-ft torque at 6250 rpm. Transmission is a 6 speed with a wet clutch. Dry weight is rated at 366 pounds. It comes with some top-shelf equipment such as Brembo brakes, Marzocchi upside down forks, and 17 inch z-rated Pirelli Diablo Rosso tires. The 2011 Hypermotard 796 is priced around $9995 USD, while the Hypermotard 1100 Evo is at around $14,495.
KTM is one of the original manufacturers of, if not the original, Supermoto motorcycles. The KTM Supermoto street offering in 2010 consists of the 690 SMC, the 990 Supermoto T (touring) and 990 Supermoto R (sport model). While their 690 has a single cylinder, their 990 has a 75 degree v-twin (actually 999 cc displacement). Both engines are liquid cooled.
KTM motorcycles do have a great reputation, especially for racing, but they don’t come cheap. The 690 SMC lists for around $10,298 USD and the 990 Supermoto lists for $13,998 USD. Also, not cheap is the oil change on the 690. The factory recommended Motorex fully synthetic 10w60 oil often has to be special ordered, so plan your oil changes accordingly. The more popular motorcycle parts stores, such as Motorcycle Superstore and Cycle Gear can get it to you within just a few days. The 990 calls for 10w50, which some dealers do stock.
On the other, more affordable end of the Supermoto motorcycle spectrum for 2011 is the Yamaha WR250X. Yamaha says it is not exactly a Supermoto, but we say close enough. One thing interesting about the Yamaha is that it is rated at 71 mpg. It’d be hard to have as much fun on anything else that gets that kind of fuel mileage. Priced at $6590 USD, the WR comes with fuel injected 250cc engine with 6 speed transmission and 17 inch street tires. It weighs 302 pounds with full 1.9 gallon tank.
Also in the smaller engine displacement motard class is the Honda CRF230M. It has a 223cc engine fed by a 30mm CV carburetor and drives a 6 speed transmission and 17 inch Dunlop Arrowmax tires. The CRF230M weighs just 276 pounds with a full (2.3 gallon) tank of fuel. New 2009 models remain available priced new around $5399 USD, which is more than a grand less than the Yamaha. Black is the only color for this Honda motard.
Kawasaki’s bike in the 250 class to go against the Honda and Yamaha is the KLX250SF. The liquid cooled 249cc engine is fed thru a 34 mm Keihin carb. Transmission is a 6-speed driving 17 inch street tires. The 43 mm inverted forks, adjustable for compression and rebound, and give the blue Kawi a muscular look up front. Weight is 302 pounds with a full 2 gallon tank. Price for the 2010 model is $4999 USD.
Suzuki offers the DRZ400SM as their supermoto entry. New 2009 Suzukis are still available and are priced at $6699. Engine is a 4 valve, liquid cooled 398cc fed by a 36mm Mikuni CV carburetor driving a 5 speed transmission. The handlebar on the DRZ is actually a tapered aluminum Renthal, which is nice to have for a motard. This Suzuki weighs in at 321 pounds with a full 2.6 gallon tank. Color choices are white or black.
Husqvarna motorcycles has several sizes of “supermotard” motorcycles in their latest line up. The SMS 630 is the main attraction for street. The engine in the 630 is actually a fuel-injected 600 cc single featuring a 100 mm cylinder bore size. This motard features upside down adjustable Marzocchi forks, Brembo brakes, 17 inch Pirelli Diablo tires, Tommaselli tapered handlebar, and weighs in at 348 pounds. List price for the SMS 630 is $8,999 USD.
So, would we recommend supermoto motard motorcycles for commuting? The answer is yes. This class of streetbike is definitely worth checking out, but in general, they are not for everyone. Tall seat heights and long legged suspension may not work well for shorter riders that have a lot of traffic lights along their commute route, but there are usually compromises to be made when it comes to having more fun than a lot of other motorcycle riders might be having on their commute.
Long distance riders may want to think about the small fuel tanks on some of these models that limit you to only about 75 to 100 miles between fill-ups. The lack of wind protection and storage space also limits touring unless you add on some aftermarket upgrades. The main idea with a supermoto, motard, or whatever you want to call them, is to have fun riding. That’s what they’re all about.