KTM 890 SMT (2023 - on) Review | MCN

The KTM 890 SMT is a sports tourer that is based on a supermoto motorbike with added touches of comfort and practicality like its tall screen.

KTM’s original 990 SMT earned a cult following thanks a seemingly-odd mix of touring bike practicality with supermoto attitude and agility, that made for a great all-rounder with bags of character from the daftest bike ever to be mounted with panniers… Vibration Motor Coin

KTM 890 SMT (2023 - on) Review | MCN

KTM has repeated the formula with the new 890 SMT, applying something of a supermoto transformation to the basic chassis and engine of the KTM 890 Adventure R.

There’s a little more work involved than just a set of 17” cast-alloy wheels: suspension at both ends is built specifically for the SMT, losing 50mm of travel fore and aft but gaining extra fork length to keep the bike’s geometry correct when losing four-inches of front rim size.

There are small changes to the front end geometry, but the 890 SMT does share its KTM-branded J.Juan radial four-piston calipers with the Adventure R. Discs are the same diameter but a different offset.

Styling is different, with a stubby high front fender as standard (a low-mount mudguard is available as an option too), and a 4.8-litre smaller fuel tank that loses some of the low-slung ‘saddlebag’ portions, in order to move the centre of gravity slightly higher and improve agility.

The result is very reminiscent of the original 990 SMT – it has decent comfort from the lofty riding position, and is well-suited to knocking out miles on motorways as well as taking advantage of the slim, agile build in traffic. The 890 SMT would make a decent everyday commuter. That’s the ‘T’ in SMT covered pretty well.

The other side – and, in fairness, the dominant part of its character – is the bit justifying the ‘SM’. True supermotos may be derived from motocross bikes, but the ’motard treatment on an adventure bike creates a similarly potent hooligan tool that’ll blat along any backroad, no matter the surface, at a decent rate and put a goofy grin on your face while it’s doing it.

The fully-adjustable WP suspension has 180mm of travel at both ends, and with standard settings it delivers decent comfort whilst maintaining support for brisk rides, and delivering good feedback from the grippy Michelin Power GP tyres, which are definitely more sports than touring.

There’s likely to be a wear and wet-grip penalty with this rubber compared to the sensible, all-round tyres fitted to most of its rivals, but the 890 SMT is the best equipped when it comes to hooning. You’d expect no less from a company that declares itself ‘Ready to Race’ at every opportunity.

The suspension is not electronic, so you don’t have the option of simply pushing buttons to adapt the bike to your mood and the road, as you can on the Yamaha Tracer 9 GT+, or BMW F900XR optioned with semi-active springy bits.

The KTM has a remote rear preload adjuster you can turn by hand though, and the fork’s damping adjusters have finger-turn adjusters too: one leg takes care of compression, the other rebound, so everything is in front of you and the work of moments to adjust.

There are three suggested settings printed under the seat – Comfort, Standard and Sport – so you don’t necessarily need to be a set-up ace to tweak the bike for different loads and riding.

We found that an extra half-turn of preload and three clicks on both fork damping adjusters was enough to tune out some of the underdamped feel it has when you ride harder on stock settings, instil it with more feel and reduce pitching, as well as springing back when you release the brakes, still maintaining a satisfactory level of shock absorption over rough, torn roads.

Set as such, the SMT offers the kind of forgiving ride on unfamiliar and variable-quality roads you’d get with an adventure bike, but with the extra grip and willingness to be treated with a bit of aggression of a good naked bike.

KTM’s guide rider on our first ride was an ex-supermoto champ, pushing the bike down and sticking a foot out on the winding roads of Sardinia, while I alternated between simply sitting still, sitting high and taking advantage of the vision to thread through faster curves, and hanging off in a sportier style where the road was better-surfaced and the radius of tighter corners clear to see. It feels comfortable and natural whatever your style and level of riding commitment.

J.Juan’s four-pot calipers have progressive response, underpinned by strong outright power and good feel that allows you to moderate braking input. Some might gripe that it isn’t equipped with fancier Brembos, and it’s true, the calipers do look lower-rent, as does the conventional, non-radial master cylinder.

Too strong a brake would be counter-productive with such long travel forks: you’d be blowing through the travel on a regular basis. They feel appropriate for the bike. The grip and suspension support on our test meant the ABS wasn’t troubled. It’s a switchable system with a ‘Supermoto’ mode, that disables intervention on the rear only.

The engine is in the same state of tune as the 890 Adventure, with 104bhp rather than the 115bhp in the 890 Duke. KTM chose this version for its torque advantage up to 7500rpm (compared to the naked), as well as better low-rev manners.

It’s great for flowing riding, short-shifting and living in the 4000-7000rpm range, but will spin out further or hang on to revs between turns when you want. Throttle response is sharp in Sport mode, and a touch more refined in Street, with no trace of ill manners despite its Euro5 compliance.

One criticism is the lack of engine braking – stringing together a sequence of turns, it would be handy to simply roll off to slow down a bit and load the front tyre, but the 890 SMT just runs on, so even small decreases in speed require a touch of brake.

It’s relatively minor, and otherwise the engine is adaptable to most situations in the SMT’s span of abilities from sensible to stupid. It’ll cruise at high motorway speeds without strain, and the fuel consumption readout on the dash suggested 50mpg despite a day of riding not conducive to economy.

We feel that’s probably optimistic, but low-40s is about right. The LC8c engine is known to be efficient when ridden more sensibly in other KTM/Husqvarna models – expect to get into the 50s on a long run, or more if you’re very sparing with the throttle.

There is a noticeable buzzing vibration at certain points in the rev range, though not at speeds you’d expect to hold for a long period, so it’s rarely intrusive in normal use.

If you’re a fan of the old 990SM (or big V-twins in general), you might find the parallel-cylinder configuration a bit less characterful: partly due to the different characteristics of the layout, partly due to the levels of refinement demanded by modern homologation standards.

But then, the 990 SMT had poor low-rpm manners and dreadful fuel consumption, and made similar peak power, so it’s swings and roundabouts…

Early iterations of LC8c-powered models (the Duke 790 and Adventure 790) suffered a number of issues: later revisions as the engine grew to the current 890 configuration have helped iron out the bugs present at launch, though quality control issues can still niggle KTMs.

Electronic gripes tend to be the most common, although that’s not uncommon with bikes in general with the multitude of digital components demanded these days. They’ve come a long way from the early 2000s when they their road models still felt (and were built) like dirt bikes however, and fit/finish is very good too.

Even the catalyser-stuffed exhaust looks neat enough, though you’ll note the bike in our images was fitted with the optional Akrapovic silencer (£996), which is road legal and makes minimal difference to engine output.

Yamaha’s Tracer 9 is significantly cheaper, at £11,010, though its cycle parts are less sporty and not at high-quality as those found on the SMT. The Yamaha Tracer 9 GT (£13,110) comes with KYB semi-active suspension, panniers and heated grips as standard, and while it isn’t quite as potent as the KTM when the going gets twisty, it’s still a great deal of fun and highly competent whatever you ask of it.

BMW’s F900XR starts from £10,350, and while it needs some options to match the KTM’s stock spec, it’ll still come to over £1000 less – and that’s with niceties such as heated grips, which push the KTM’s price up even further. It’s worth noting if you don’t opt for the enhanced menus and electronic features, they are still available for the first 1500km (930 miles) in ‘Demo mode’, before they’re withdrawn.

The quickshifter, menus and connectivity are very good, so it’ll be a tough come-down for owners who’ve experienced them: fiscal fortitude will be required to avoid heading back to the dealer for the £859 all-encompassing ‘Tech Pack’ to be reenabled.

The 890 is well-specced in terms of engine and chassis parts, but as mentioned before the electronic functionality is mostly optional extras, and it doesn’t come with creature comforts like heated grips either.

USB and 12v sockets are fitted on the inner fairing trim as standard. Matching an SMT’s spec to a Tracer 9 GT brings the asking price to £14,605.

High-quality (though non-electronic) suspension and tyres count in its favour. Brand snobs may wish for Brembo calipers and a radial master cylinder too.

The options catalogue is comprehensive – everything from orange-anodised alloy trinkets to an Akrapovic silencer. Fans of the KTM 990 SMT’s soft panniers will note that only hard plastic or aluminium boxes are currently offered (the boxes and racks are carried over from the 890 Adventure catalogue) – a more lightweight bolt-on luggage option similar to the old soft-shell cases is under development according to KTM.

2023: New model, derived from KTM 890 Adventure R.

1 owner has reviewed their KTM 890 SMT (2023 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your KTM 890 SMT (2023 - on)

You have to purchase blue tooth at an additional cost. It’s a bit cheap skate on such a fun bike. Best bike I’ve owned. Sticks to the road going round bends like it is on rails. Just a fun, comfortable, quick bike.

890 is enough on uk roads.

No problems to date. Only just had first Service.

Buying experience: Dealer - part ex bike for £12499 plus £800 quid for tech pack.

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KTM 890 SMT (2023 - on) Review | MCN

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