Despite its wild looks and our desire for the British bike to win, the CCM is the one that feels least comfortable on the road mainly because it’s pretty much set up as an out and out race bike. The MZ has the durability, grip and handling to make an ideal first big bike, or winter commuter. But it’s the KTMs that really got us going. Both of them were finished to a standard well above the Japanese norm, and offered a real alternative to doing 140mph everywhere. In theory the LC4 was the most exciting – but we concluded it was just too hard-edged to live with except in very special circumstances. The Duke had no such trouble. A glorious motor, sweet handling chassis and exceptional design has produced a bike as thrilling and individual as the first 916.Try one if you can. We reckon Honda will build a version within two years.
Why no Japanese supermotos?
Good question – at one point there weren’t any Japanese V-twins either, but it was only a matter of time. MCN reporter Dale Lomas has built his own supermoto based on a 2000 Honda XR600 which he found for £2400 earlier this year. It had been used for London commuting! A pair of 17in Talon spoked wheels went straight in (they should do at £500), and a further £150 saw new pads, front disc, and front caliper bracket. " I race it in the national supermoto series, and can change the wheels back to original spec in ten minutes, " says Dale. " If you want to do it cheaper, try RGV wheels from a breaker and £40 worth of spacers from your local engineering shop. "
Several off road dealers offer made-to measure supermotos, often with full warranties. Among them:
FC Trott (0208 8635644): Suzuki DR400, Yamaha WR426, Husqvarna, KTM.
HM Racing (01689 859211): Yamaha.
The Off Road Centre, Mansfield : Honda, Kawasaki, Gas Gas, Husaberg.
Ride ’em sideways all the time.
Kev Smith, MCN tester and rear wheel steering artist, on those essential supermoto stunts
" You’re approaching, say, a second gear corner. Go down the box too fast, let the clutch out and give it some back brake. This means the back wheel is rotating a lot slower than it otherwise would, and the back end starts to slide gently to one side, so the bike’s already slightly turned before you even get to the corner. By the time you’re beginning to enter the corner the rear wheel should be going at the same speed as the front one, and you can corner in the usual way.
" If you just stamp on the back brake to get the bike sideways it’s too violent – you’ll flat spot the tyre and when the bike flicks back into line it’s like a highside. This way it slithers back into line gently.
" Of course, you have to know the right gear for the corner. But even if you get the gear wrong, just use another one. "
" Same as on the dirt: lots of throttle. However, if you start the bike sliding and think, Oh Christ, you’ll shut the throttle and poing! You’ll highside. Which hurts.
" It’s something you’ve got to learn, preferably by playing in the dirt on a motocrosser. On tarmac you’ve got to overcome grip, so it’s harder. "