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Topic: 2013 KTM 990 SM-T ABS review (Initial impressions and musings)  (Read 51664 times)

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Windblown
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Motorcycles: '04 Concours - '03 FZ1 - '05 KTM 525 - '09 CRF250X - '13 KTM 990 SM-T - '07 Yamaha R6S
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« on: May 13, 2013, 04:25:52 pm »

Last Thursday I pulled the trigger on a new 2013 KTM 990 SM-T.  Here's the zero mile bike just after being unloaded from my truck, complete with the Mini-Pearl style sticker still attached to the factory sidebags. Smile

http://i41.photobucket.com/albums/e269/Windblown101/KTM990/sideshot_zps3dfec87b.jpg

After a several short rides with a cool down period inbetween a few days later it was time for a quick oil change and get it loaded for some time on a track where I could really find out how me and the bike were going to get along.

http://i41.photobucket.com/albums/e269/Windblown101/KTM990/ktmtruck2_zpsc60e20af.jpg

The following are my opinions based on my short time with the bike:

Engine:  The engine is extremely compact compared to many V-twins of similar CC, in part due to the (beefy) external oil reservoir tucked low and in front of the motor. Various dyno charts on the net show the engine in stock trim laying down about 103hp peak to the rear wheel.  This is not a high strung fire breather.  It's a high strung tractor. Smile A wee bit raw - but in a pleasing way to me. The power comes on smoothly unless you twist the grip quickly while in too high a gear, in which case the engine will register it's complaint with a bit of bucking to get you to click down a gear or two.  There is no dramatic "hit" along the way to redline - twist the throttle and your greeted with a grunty shove on down the road. Twist it hard enough and you may get a view of the sky.   The engine really smoothes out and hums along without intruding at all around 3800 rpm. Over 5000 rpm the engine is smooth and strong however vibes become more apparent, if you're busy chucking the motorcycle through corners you won't notice it, if you're droning along you most definitely will. However at highway speeds the engine purrs right around 4000rpm in the sweet spot for low vibes.  Personal note: Redline comes quickly to an ear more accustomed to the sound of an inline4. It will take a bit to get myself reprogrammed.

http://i41.photobucket.com/albums/e269/Windblown101/KTM990/ktmmotor2_zps5d800ccf.jpg

http://i41.photobucket.com/albums/e269/Windblown101/KTM990/ktmmotor_zps4daebf83.jpg


Fueling: The often mentioned sensitivity in the right hand control is undeniable.  It's easy to overcome this issue in normal riding simply by being smooth with the clutch, something anyone who has ridden a dirt bike is familiar with and used to.  The issue becomes a bit more difficult to control when scratching corners with a desire to be in the sweet spot in the RPMS on exit. Any change in throttle position when in the motor is humming along will be immediately greeted by a surge forward or a feeling that you just hit the brakes. Not a huge issue until your leaned over near your maximum comfort level. Then it gets a bit dicey.  It's not that the fueling is that bad compared to many modern inline 4's, it's just that the on/off nature of modern fuel injection is agrivated even more on a thumper or twin.   I'll post more on my impressions of the fueling after a few mods in this department.

Chassis/suspension:  The chassis and suspension work well together to form an alliance that keeps the bike well in check. The suspension is top shelf componants from WP. Forks are adjustable for pre-load, compression, and rebound. Shock is adjustable for hi & low speed compression, rebound, and preload. I found the steering to be light and neutral, bump absorption, and willingness to change direction in corners good to excellent. The best praise I can give any bike this one well deserves: The bike never gave me a single "moment" during my trackday where it seemed to want to do something I hadn't asked nor wanted it to do. And I didn't spend a great deal of time with fiddling with it when I arrived at the track. I simply set the clickers to where KTM recomended them for "Sport" and they worked great for me (I weigh about 190 lbs in full gear).

http://i41.photobucket.com/albums/e269/Windblown101/KTM990/rearsuspension2_zps675804fb.jpg

Brakes: What can be said? The front brakes are monsters and will haul the bike down from speed in the blink of an eye and yet I felt like there was a direct connection between me and the forces working on the front tire. This was super confidence inspiring.  The rear brake is a hair bit weak IMHO, though since I hate an overly sensitive rear brake I wouldn't have it any other way! Note:  There have been reports of brake pads delaminating on these Brembo's used in KTMs as well as other manufacturers. I don't know if the issue has been resolved in new models or not. I will be keeping a close eye on the stock pads. The ABS system is very good. Perfect? Well no, but close. Better than what I had on my Yamaha FJR1300. At least as good if not better than what came on my Srpint 1050.  The key difference here was the ability to switch ABS on and off, unlike the other two.  I played with the easily switchable ABS system while at a recent trackday. What I found was that the ABS can be fooled into activating before it's really needed during extreme braking upon occasion, more so if braking bumps are involved.  This results in extending stopping distances slightly while the ABS sorts things out.  The ABS never let me down or caused me to run off the track, but in this one scenario the human brain still out performed the computer.

http://i41.photobucket.com/albums/e269/Windblown101/KTM990/ktmfrontbrakes_zpsb7b741e7.jpg


Ergos:  As one would expect this bike has a very upright seating position with lots of legroom. What a relief it is for aging joints to have a bit of leg room!  For my 6' frame the windscreen does a decent job of deflecting wind blast from the main chest area while leaving the helmet in mostly clean air. In mild temps this is great. In winter it may be a bit brisk.  The tank and side pieces attached to it flair out quite a bit and provide surprisingly good wind protection to the legs without  coming so far back into the cockpit as to cause any interference with my knees on my rather long legs with a 34" inseam. A bit more reach to the handlebars would be welcome for my long arms. The level of comfort is amazing overall.  The seat is wide and flat and at first I found it a bit too much so. Seat height is high by street standards, but even my daughter who is a shorty could manage to hold the bike up with one foot if she slid off to the side of the seat. I suspect the SMT seat may actually make the bike easier to reach the ground since it is reportedly narrower.  But even though the width of the seat seemed a bit excessive at first I have to admit that after several hours onboard my arse seemed happy with it. Wink

Controls and lighting: The instrument panel is Spartan and yet feeds the important information to you in an easy to read format. Speed and tach are easily readable and a temp gauge is present to let you know how the motor is feeling. On the left are three buttons to program the clock and such, as well as a much beloved button to activate and deactivate the ABS. There are a number of bright idiot lights for engine oil, low fuel, ABS, etc. ODO and 2 trip ODO's round and a clock round out the package. Missing in action is a gas gauge.  Lighting up front is fair to good but not stellar. I've never seen a KTM yet that I thought did a GREAT job on it's lighting. Perhaps in part due to their history in offroad bikes where lights were basically slapped on and considered disposable.  Evidentially they have opted not to spend a great deal of money on lighting. No LEDs for example for the rear signals or the rear light. I find this a little disappointing on a bike so well equipped otherwise with top shelf bits.

http://i41.photobucket.com/albums/e269/Windblown101/KTM990/insruments_zps7e77fb01.jpg

[IMG]http://i41.photobucket.com/albums/e269/Windblown101/KTM990/ktmrearlights_zpsa78e3ff3.jpg[/URL]

Storage:  This is not your fathers Goldwing and you won't be bringing along the kitchen sink without doing extensive mods.  The bike comes with enough under-seat storage to hold the very well equipped standard set of tools that come with the bike and a few more bits that you may wish to take along for emergency roadside maintenance or repairs. However, additions to what's already provided will likely be few. There isn't much you can't do with the factory supplied tool kit. The standard side bags are very light weight, yet not floppy like most aftermarket softbags. Let's call them "Semi-soft" bags. Regardless,  the good news is they seem very well built, very well secured to the bike, yet go on and off the bike in a snap. The bad news - yes, they're small and they are not waterproof (though I expect they are pretty water resistant). The well sized rear deck looks to be solidly built and fully able to withstand the rigors of a top box should one want one.

Maintenance: The only maintenance I've performed other than fluid checks is an oil change. Oil changes in KTMs are different than just about any other motorcycle on the planet.  As I also own a KTM525 I'm already familiar with the process. An oil change on the KTM 990 entails two drain bolts, 2 oil screens to be pulled and cleaned, and one long internal filter situated low on the left side of the motor. It's not a big deal to do. It's easier and quicker to do than some motorcycles with just a screw on external filter and one drain bolt. But the exta steps throw some folks off.

Conclusion:  It's a bit (ok, a lot) early in my experience with this bike to make any definitive claims. For now I have to say it's the best balance of fun and comfort I have found in any motorcycle.  The number of boxes it checks for me in one package is pretty amazing. Time will tell hoe we get on in the long run.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2014, 01:38:10 am by Windblown » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2013, 05:15:20 pm »

nice pics and write up Thumbsup One hell of a bike it seems!!

As my Austrian co-workers would say, "Das ist gut"!

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« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2013, 08:34:33 pm »

:popcorn:
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« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2013, 08:38:11 pm »

 Drool
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« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2013, 02:10:19 pm »

Sure is a hot looking bike.  Drool :leghump: I saw one just like that at my local KTM dealer.  Congrats and keep us updated!
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« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2013, 05:12:11 pm »

What a great looking bike!  Thumbsup
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« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2013, 11:04:00 pm »

Definitely looking forward to the updates!
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« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2013, 07:52:48 am »

I demo'd one a couple of years ago and thought that it was a real hooligan tool. I recon my license would last maybe three weeks to a month at most before I'd lose it and/or be jailed. Everyone bar one guy who has bought an SM-T here has now got points on their previously clean licenses. Saying all that, I'm considering the KTM 1190 Adventure and it's as mad as a box of frogs too.  Lol
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« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2013, 11:48:12 pm »

Another update will be forth coming soon to cover the following subjects:

Tune ECU - affects on stock fueling.
The stock Conti Sport tires.
Adding Acropovic Exhaust.

Overall impressions after a couple of thousand miles.

And yes, for those wondering I still have my license... so far. Smile

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« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2013, 10:15:19 am »

Look forward to the reviews as the miles pile on :popcorn:  Been on my short list for awhile.  Just not sure I can go from a silky smooth four to a 2 cly.  
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« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2013, 03:33:30 am »

Luggage size is just right for a sport touring bike   Thumbsup

It'll teach you to get by with less.

See Mr. Smooth and Daniel Kalal's trip reports as a reference  Bigsmile
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« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2013, 07:03:45 pm »

So a couple of thousand miles have passed underneath the wheels and I've gotten to know the bike a bit...

"It's a KTM" should be a definition of some sort one finds when looking for a phrase that portrays joy and frustration all at the same time.  Wink


The bike produces grins every time I ride it. It's not as smooth nor as fast as my FZ1. But it's more fun to toss around AND more comfortable to ride. On my FZ1 I often feel the NEED to push in order to have fun. On the SM-T I can have a LOT of fun pushing, and still have fun and be content to take it down a couple of notches and just cruise.  The ever present thrumming vibes of the motor add rather than detract for me. They let me know I'm riding a bike not an electric train. Wink


1) Fueling part Deux: The fueling on this bike from the factory is very poor. I found the more I rode the more it annoyed me. So I got a OBDII cable, a copy of TuneECU and made things much better after some experimenting with various maps. Do NOT expect a KTM dealer to address these issues. They can't and won't, just like any bike from any manufacturer that has fuel injection issues ('06 yamaha, various Ducatis, etc).  The Tune ECU route is the cheapest fix, but time consuming. Other choices to address the fueling are a PCV5 and auto-tune (expensive) or a PCV5 and a trip to a good dyno tuner (also expensive).  

The Austrians have not yet figured out how to get past emissions requirements and still provide a smooth throttle.  Many 690 & 990 owners have gone down this road before me.  If you just want to ride down the street it's fine, but if you want to start exploring the bikes limits you better plan on addressing the fueling.

2) Engine character: This engine is in it's happy place from 4000 rpm and up. Lower is ok for 1st through 3rd if just maintaining speed. In higher gears less than 4000 rpm you can tell it's not where it wants to be.  There is a noticeable harmonic vibration that increases right about  5000 rpm but goes away by 5500 rpm.

3) Ergos: Bike is amazingly comfortable. I've always considered my FZ1 to be a pretty comfy couch for long days in the saddle however when I jumped on the FZ1 today I felt like I was being bent into the shape of a pretzel! The KTM has spoiled me.

So far my opinion is overwhelmingly positive. I feel like long days will be a non-issue on this bike even though 400 miles is as far as I've done in a single day so far.  The bike is hugely fun and that's why I ride.  Just as importantly I don't have to be flying like my hairs on fire in order to have that fun. Just a twist of the throttle coming out of a corner gets the grin factor lit up. I've had other bikes that are/were BIG fun to ride fast but sucked whenever your heartbeat dropped below 100 bpm. That is not an all-around bike to me. This one is though.


My recommendation to others: If spending a big chunk or change and then spending time working out nits and niggles is an abomination to you - don't by a KTM, it will piss you off.  If your motorcycling mindset is similar to the mindsets of the madmen engineers over at KTM buy this bike (or any KTM), there isn't anything else out there quite like it.


I love this bike, I hate this bike. "It's a ktm"  

Bigsmile
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« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2013, 10:55:36 am »



My recommendation to others: If spending a big chunk or change and then spending time working out nits and niggles is an abomination to you - don't by a KTM, it will piss you off.  If your motorcycling mindset is similar to the mindsets of the madmen engineers over at KTM buy this bike (or any KTM), there isn't anything else out there quite like it.


I love this bike, I hate this bike. "It's a ktm"  

Bigsmile


Ahhhhh. My KTM feelings exactly. (A bit exacerbated today, mind you, by electrical issues).

I'm glad I'm not alone!!
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« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2013, 11:08:03 am »

I generally love my 950 Supermoto (with 55K miles on it), except for the poorly designed fuel pump that craps out every 15K miles. My wallet doesn't love buying new rubber every 3-4K miles but it's big fun to ride in the twisties.

For the first 15 months of ownership, I pretty much hated my 530 EXC. Damn thing wouldn't start when hot which ruined pretty much every ride I took it on. I had done all the standard mods to make them run right, but mine wouldn't. Had two different mechanics look at it, but no joy (just wasted money). Then I checked the float height and saw it was high (rich). Adjusted the float height per the wisdom of the internet using a home-made tool and it's been running great ever since. So it's gone from mostly hate to mostly love this season. Leaving for a four-day (1000 mile) dual=sport ride in WV this weekend on it, so I guess I'm confident the bike is running well.

They're KTMs: imperfect, kick-ass motorcycles. The fixes/workarounds are usually well-known, so do the mods and the maintenance, then enjoy the ride!
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Windblown
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« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2013, 11:25:10 am »

Expatbrit: Good luck with the gremlins.



Leaving for a four-day (1000 mile) dual=sport ride in WV this weekend on it, so I guess I'm confident the bike is running well.



Have an awesome trip!  I still want to do a long trip on my 525.



They're KTMs: imperfect, kick-ass motorcycles.


Well put.  Lol

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« Reply #15 on: July 21, 2013, 08:30:21 pm »

Beautiful bike, I'm adding one like it to my garage very soon.  I'm glad I finally got a chance to check out the SMT as I had looked at everything from a Bonneville to a Road King as a potential replacement for my 950 Adventure.  
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« Reply #16 on: July 21, 2013, 11:17:57 pm »

I haven't had much time for riding lately. I've only managed to rack up a scant 3000 miles on the KTM so far. However the FedEx man brought me a present this past Friday in the form of a brand new KTM warranty approved Akropovic exhaust so I had to make time to get it onto the bike.

I got the exhaust installed yesterday. Installation was straight forward: Remove seat, rear luggage rack, rear side plastics, pannier mounts, and heat shields. Unbolt the exhaust and with a bit of work pull both cans and the y pipe out in one piece. Bolt on the new stuff and assemble in reverse. I then pulled out the DB-killers just for grins. I loaded the Akropovic fuel/ignition map and disabled the SAS using Tuneecu this morning went for a 300 mile ride.

The combination of the exhaust and the new mapping seriously transformed this bike! I can run much lower in rpms with a load on the engine and it remain smooth and not jerky.  Runs up to the limiter smoothly and quickly. A huge bonus is the excessive engine braking is gone which combined with the smoother on throttle action has completely eliminated the twitchy throttle response and has made the bike much more fun to ride in the twisty bits!

How loud is it you ask? Let's just say you won't forget to put your earplugs in with the db-killers out... Seriously, it's freaking loud. Like obnoxious Harley loud. I live in a super quiet rural community and I come home from work at 1am so I re-installed the DB-killers when I got home and expect they will remain installed. I know I'll lose a smidgen of performance with them in but I can live with that. The bike is SOOO much better in every way with this upgrade.  This is the bike as KTM designed it before they had to make changes to meet EPA regs. It's a serious pleasure to ride. If it hadn't been for some nasty afternoon thunderstorms I would have put a lot more than 300 miles on it today. Smile
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« Reply #17 on: July 28, 2013, 09:10:05 am »

Nice right-up and thread, I have lusted for one of these for some time, one is in the long term plan, just need to sell the Norge, don't tell Orson I'm already in the bad books for selling the LeMans.
You are spot on when it comes to your thoughts on KTM philosophy and dealers inability or resistance to take on the fueling issue's, not having the foresight to try and re-map myself I ended up selling my 08 Adventure it pissed mo off so much. It was fine when you were riding hard but try to sneak  around on trails and such, forget it
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« Reply #18 on: July 28, 2013, 09:46:59 am »

I've been keeping up with this thread and have been meaning to post for some time now.

First, the quality of the review is better than anything I've read from any moto rag out there.  THIS is the kind of detail and writing I can't get enough of.  Well done!  

Next, while KTM street bikes (and some of their dirt bikes) have teething issues, I have found them to provide a brilliant balance of ergonomics,  sportiness, engine characteristics, and chassis.  Save the ST3/4 Ducati, all other bikes I've ridden have NOTHING on KTM when it comes to chassis and comfort.  Go compare a Monster to a Super Duke and the SD wins every time in an overall look.  IMO, the same holds true with the new Touring Hypermotard v. the SM-T.  

Finally, on fueling issues, my experiences have been different from most.  I never had any surging issues on any KTM I've spent quality time with.  I never had one problem with the Super Duke or RC8 (well, except that one time I was a little too hamfisted coming out of Rainey Corner  Embarassment Lol ).  However, on my 990 Adventure, I would occasionally have a "dead spot" when accelerating out of a corner.  I liken the feeling to trying to aggressively accelerate with a diesel car from a rolling start.  There can be a bit of hesitation.  

If these guys ever improve their dealer network, I would most definitely want to have another KTM in the garage some day soon.  But, for now, I'm quite enjoying gelling with the BMW boxer motor.  I just wish the BMW had a better chassis.  It's not bad, but it's no KTM.   Bigsmile  
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« Reply #19 on: July 28, 2013, 12:20:13 pm »


I just wish the BMW had a better chassis.  It's not bad, but it's no KTM.   Bigsmile  


Thanks the kind words. I'll do my best to keep things fairly straight.  

Engine: The engine still has an increase in vibes right around 5000 rpm that can be annoying if just cruising. Not an area it likes to live in when just tooling around.  Luckily that's an rpm that is not needed for cruising.

Speaking of the KTM chassis: I had a moment to give it an unexpected test the other day while running at a bit higher pace through the twisty bits than normal. I came into a right hander at about 40-50mph and because of my pace I dipped in tighter towards the apex than usual and there was a large patch of gravel waiting there for me I had failed to spot.  As I hit the apex the front tire entered the gravel and the bike started to push significantly to the outside followed by the rear swinging out slightly as well. Lean angle increased as the tires searched for grip and the suspension started to extend due to lack of force pushing back on them. As I cleared the gravel the front found traction, the forks smoothly re-compressed, and I found myself completing the corner as if nothing had happened. The chassis and suspension absorbed the abrupt changes in forces with extreme smoothness. I wish I could take credit for having "saved it" but the bike really did do all the work. I even laughed at myself a little for pushing the pace too hard as I came out of the corner... which is not my usual response to losing the front.

Coming up is a trip out to OH if all goes as planned. I may take the Conti-front and BT003 rear off and try some PR3's for this trip.

One last note on the exhaust: The combination of the Akropovics and the mapping resolved the issues as I mentioned. What I failed to mention as a point of reference is that this is the first bike (of several) that I've ever owned where I felt compelled to spend the money to put on an aftermarket exhaust to make the bike run properly.

Having owned mostly mass produced Japanese bikes I'm accustomed to motorcycles being very good out of the box. IMHO you simply cannot buy a KTM and expect it to operate as it should without some work.  My KTM 525 was the same way. That can be a tough pill to swallow when one drops north of 10k on a new machine.  They are just so bloody brilliant when the niggles are addressed. Smile

Still waiting on a SMR seat which I purchased to see how it would change the feel of the bike. The stock seat is very comfy yet I like the feel of a narrower seat on loose surfaces and when I want to move around a lot so I ordered one to try out.  
« Last Edit: July 28, 2013, 03:38:37 pm by Windblown » Logged

I may die with nothing to show for it but there will be a heck of a garage sale.
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