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990's big brake
3:52pm Tuesday 22nd February 2011 in Motorcycle News
TWO years after its first launch, KTM is now presenting the ABS version of the popular 990 SMT.
It’s taken these last 12 months because the Austrians have worked really hard on developing the ABS, something that they consider a necessary evil.
That may seem like a long time, but the results are astonishing. There are quite a few ABS systems on the market that reduce braking pressure too soon which can have a negative impact on your riding experience: not ideal for sporty riders who like to feel in control. So KTM have worked together with Bosch on the ABS system that’s now available on the SMT. It may have taken them two years but they’ve done a really thorough job.
First of all, the SMT ABS weighs only 1kg more than its non-equipped sibling. And although the whole hardware computer unit is only the size of an apple, it’s still very smart. Both wheels are monitored separately and the sensors are activated per two centimetres that each wheel rolls. This makes the system not only very fast, but it also means that it can react very precisely, constantly recalculating the wheel speeds front and rear to retain a maximum brake pressure and speed reduction to prevent locked wheels.
Enginewise, only the cylinder head has been slightly revised which only affects the service intervals. Valve clearance now has to be checked at 15,000km which shaves a few pennies off your bill.
The engine feels great, from 2,000rpm onwards it reacts directly, swiftly and powerfully. For the first 15 miles or so, I hardly pull past 5,000rpm, using the smooth gearbox to exploit the torque.
Peak torque however is only reached at 7,000rpm. Add another 2,000rpm and peak horse power kicks in with 116bhp.
Despite its size, the SMT feels light. It steers well, tips in quickly and slices through corners with composure and precision and without any sign of nervousness or instability.
The wide handlebars help to lay the bike on full lean effortlessly, or stick it upright again when exiting the corners.
The afternoon’s drying asphalt is a call to attack the twisties with more aggression and the SMT provides a rewarding and faultless ride. The only points of criticism are the engine vibrations in the foot pegs and the fact that the fuel reserve light starts to shine after only 125 miles.
But what about the brakes? At first they feel very direct, without being overly aggressive and the ABS never hampers feedback or feel.
A separate photo location gives us the opportunity to brake as hard as possible and KTM reassure us that we won’t end up with a skywards SMT.
According to KTM, the lack of ABS on the STM was the biggest criticism they’ve had over the past two years. Nevertheless, they’ve sold 5,000 units worldwide and after only a couple of months, orders superseded production. According to them, they needed to wait these last two years to ensure that the ABS only added to the riding experience of the SMT 990, and that’s clearly the case.
And for those of you that still have your doubts, it’s disengaged with a simple press of the button.