What is a supermoto? Supermotos are unique motorcycles that combine the advantages of both street and dirt bikes. The majority of supermotos are lightweight dual-sport bikes or dirt bikes with smaller rims, street tires, stiffened suspensions, and a more advanced brake system. Besides custom supermotos, factory-built models are also gaining in popularity.
What Is a Supermoto?
This is a motorcycle that features a combination of dirt and street bike design. It offers the best of both worlds.
Supermoto racing was started by the ABC television network in 1979. The network’s main objective was to find the all-around best motorcycle racer. It created superbike races that combined paved road racing with jumps of motocross and dirt riding. The sport became known as a supermoto.
This motocross-style motorcycle usually features road-racing wheels as well as slick or slightly grooved tires. However, this bike shouldn’t be confused with a sportbike, which is another type of its own.
What Makes a Bike a Supermoto?
- Off-road motorcycle base
- Smaller, 17-inch (or 16.5-inch) rims
- Street tires
- Lowered and slightly stiffened suspensions
- Upgraded brake rotors and calipers
- Lights and mirrors (on street legal models)
Compared to other street motorcycles, supermotos have a lower top speed but they weigh much less and are more nimble. Therefore, they can quickly change directions and do various tricks with ease.
Supermoto riders typically wear a mix of off-road and road racing gear, including a motocross helmet, boots, and a road racing leather suit.
Where Did Supermotos Come From?
The origins of supermotos go back to the ‘70s when TV sports shows were dominated by the massively popular Wide World of Sports on ABC. In 1979, the network dreamed up a new TV show called “Superbikers,” which was actually an entirely new racing series.
The main idea behind this new show was to find the best of the best motorcycle racers who could even win on a mixed race track.
To do this, a radically new motorcycle track was created that combined road tracks, flat tracks, and motocross tracks. The riders chosen had been champions of various genres of motorcycle racing.
The bikes used in these competitions were christened “supermotos” and were very unique machines.
Before 1990, supermotos were modified 2-stroke dirt bikes that offered good jumping abilities and a great power-to-weight ratio.
The most well-known models were the Suzuki RMs, Yamaha YZs, and Honda CRs, with each of them being a 2-stroke single-cylinder dirt bike that displaced between 125cc and 500cc.
In 1991, Gilera introduced the Nordwest as the world’s first factory-built supermoto. In the following years, factory-built supermotos became more prevalent and were being marketed by major off-road manufacturers including Husaberg, Husqvarna, Kawasaki, CCM, and KTM.
Over the years supermotos became more powerful which allowed for faster top speeds and higher jumps.
Although supermotos were originally intended for racetracks, they quickly found their way onto public roads.
Today, supermotos represent an independent class of motorcycles, which are gaining in popularity, especially among younger riders.
Why is it Called Supermoto?
The name supermoto probably comes from combining superbike and motocross. This is no coincidence since supermotos race on a “mixed” track that is created by combining superbikes and motocross race tracks.
Superbikes are also known as supermotard bikes in Europe. This weird name comes from French since in this language motard means biker.
This name was derived from the title of the original ABC TV show named “Superbikers.”
What is the Point of a Supermoto Bike?
The main idea behind supermotos was to create a universal, “all-around” motorcycle that can be raced on both on- and off-road tracks. There is no other motorcycle that performs as well on a mixed race track.
In supermoto racing, the machines have a lower chance of reaching high speeds and quick accelerations, so the skill of the racers is often more important than the performance of their bikes.
What is a Supermoto Bike Good for?
Although it’s originally designed to be a racing motorcycle, supermotos are good for pleasure riding as well. Thanks to its lightweight chassis and nimble attitude, supermotos are great at doing tricks including huge jumps, wheelies, stoppies, drifts, power slides, and are even used for stunt riding.
But only on a closed track, of course!
Less reckless drivers also enjoy the freedom and thrill of supermotos since these machines are fun to ride in the hills, or just around town.
What’s the Difference Between a Supermoto and a Dirt Bike?
To help you decide what to buy (or simply satisfy your curiosity), we’ve outlined the key alterations below.
Supermotos typically run smaller, 17” wheels front and rear, unlike dirt bikes which usually have larger wheels at the front than the back. Supermoto wheels are smaller chiefly to give the bike a lower centre of gravity and reduce weight, improving the handling on tarmac.
Different wheels mean different tyres, and rubber is one obvious area where supermotos are very different from their dirt bike cousins. Unlike the latter, which use knobbly, dirt-specific tyres, supermoto bikes wear slick or semi-slick road tyres. Although this gives them less grip on the dirt sections of the track, that lost time is easily regained on the faster tarmac portions.
Grippier tyres naturally means that larger, more powerful brakes are needed. Compared to dirt bikes, supermotos feature upgraded calipers and discs for increased stopping power, allowing the rider to take full advantage of the increased grip on offer.
Lower ride height & stiffer suspension
Again, because supermoto bikes spend the majority of their lives on tarmac, their suspension setup borrows from both dirt and sport bikes. Offering a blend of both extremes, supermoto bikes have lower, stiffer suspension than dirt bikes – although still a far cry from a sport bike setup. They do still need to be able to land jumps, after all!
Specialised features push the price of supermoto bikes above those of dirt bikes, although there are exceptions to this rule. For many, the higher price is well worth paying; supermoto bikes aren’t just more competitive in their namesake sport, they’re a lot of fun on the road too. Just make sure you choose a model with lights and mirrors if you want to take it outside the circuit grounds.
What’s the Difference Between a Supermoto Bike and a Dual Sport?
Let’s take a closer look at the key features that differentiate these two types of motorcycles.
Dual-purpose motorcycles come equipped with a 21-inch front tire and an 18- to 19-inch rear tire. This uniquely designed tire is meant for carving the bike on dirt, and it holds your line a little better.
For example, if you hit a rock, the tire is not going to bounce out of the way. Apart from the size, dual-purpose tires are equipped with a full tread depth pattern that is uniquely made for demanding off-road riding or racing. It yields outstanding traction on every surface from soft single-track trails to hard-packed fire roads.
When dealing with dual-purpose tires, you have to pay close attention to the metrics. The metrics or ratio range from 90/10, 70/30, 80/20, 60/40, 40/60, 50/50, 20/80, 30/70, or 10/90. You need the ideal street to off-road ratio for the best performance on and off-road.
There is no need to give up precision handling while riding on the highway for exceptional off-road competence if you are planning to spend less time on the dirt trails. If you are not sure, you can always go with a 50/50 dual-sport tire for the best of both worlds.
Supermoto bikes come equipped with 16.5-inch to 17-inch tires. Supermoto tires tend to track and find all rocks and obstacles.
You will feel the bumps on your handlebars. But if you put a supermotard on the street, the large width in the front tire will give you a lot of grip to play with. Supermotard tires are usually designed with traction skin to provide a safe and short break-in. They have a revolutionary tread surface, which means they don’t need tire-release agents.
If you are planning to use your supermoto off-road most of the time, then you will need 17-inch street tires and dirt bike street wheels.
Verdict: As far as tire size, design, and versatility are concerned, dual sports win this category.
Supermoto bikes have big brake rotors, usually 310 mm or 320 mm. A bigger rotor offers maximum surface area as opposed to a smaller rotor.
A supermotard is going to tow itself to a stop a lot faster when you squeeze on the brakes because the maximum grip is produced with the initial bite. Thereafter, the level of grip will fall. A larger brake rotor offers a larger surface area for heat dissipation, which helps cool the rotor earlier. This ensures you have superior braking power, especially on the street.
Dual-sport bikes have small brake rotors, which means less braking power. The front brake feel can be mushy and it may appear as if the motorcycle doesn’t want to stop. But again, you have to think, where is a dual-purpose bike meant to be?
If you are in the dirt with a big, bitey front brake rotor like the one on a supermotard, you may lock your front tire up too quickly and end up throwing yourself off the bike. The small rotor allows you to brake slowly on those dirty trails for maximum control. But here is the thing, the small rotor may not provide bitey braking power on the street as would large rotors.
Verdict: Supermoto wins as far as superior braking power is concerned.
You might have been at a dealership and saw someone pick one motorcycle type over another simply because of the difference in the front suspension. Fork orientation is a big factor when comparing dual-sport and supermoto bikes.
Dual sports are fitted with a right-side-up, standard, or conventional fork. On a standard fork, the chrome part called the stanchion is going to be up top clamped by the triple clamp. The thicker female section called the slider is going to be at the bottom. A right-side-up fork works better on a dual-purpose motorcycle because it is less rigid and highly off-road-friendly.
Supermoto motorcycles, on the other hand, come equipped with an inverted front fork. The thicker female section is clamped by the triple clamp and the stanchion is down below. The slider will be sliding up inside the massive tube.
Why do manufacturers do that? It is all about rigidity. When you hit the brakes on a supermotard with an inverted fork, you are going to get very little flexing. This unique fork design makes handling considerably better, making a supermoto more balanced.
By putting the lightweight components at the bottom, an upside-down design helps to reduce the unsprung weight suspended to the bike. The heavier slider with a bigger diameter attached to the body adds strength to the bike.
Verdict: A supermoto wins this category, thanks to the upside-down or inverted suspension.
The front suspension of a supermoto has almost the same travel as that of a dual-sport motorcycle. But a supermotard has less ground clearance compared to a dual-purpose because of the 17-inch tires in the front and rear. The 21-inch (front) and 19-inch (rear) of a dual-sport increase ground clearance.
Verdict: A dual-sport is the better option because it improves versatility, especially when riding over obstacles.
Knowing the differences between these two bikes is not enough; you need to know how much each design will cost you. A high-performing supermoto like Husqvarna 701 will cost you around $8,000 to $12,000. This is quite pricey if you are planning to buy a new motorcycle.
If you look at dual sports, such as the Yamaha WR250R, the price is highly budget-conscious. You can get it for approximately $6,700. However, you can find used supermotos and dual sports at a cheaper price of around $5,000.
Verdict: A dual-sport is a cheaper choice compared to a supermotard.
Which Supermoto is the Most Powerful?
The most powerful factory supermotos can be found among 1000cc bikes like the Ducati Hypermotard 939 and the KTM 990 SM with 113-114 HP engines. If you are looking for a dirt-bike-based supermoto, you should take a closer look at the 450cc class, which produces 55-60 HP.
If you are looking for something really powerful, it’s recommended that you locate and convert a used Honda CR500. This 500cc, 2-stroke dirt bike produced 59 HP but was capable of doing wheelies in 3rd gear with ease!
How Fast do Supermoto Bikes Go?
You can expect the top speed of a dirt-bike-based supermoto to be in the ballpark of 60-120 mph. The top speed of the 250cc machines is anywhere from 60 to 90 mph, while their 400-450cc brothers can even reach 80-120 mph under ideal circumstances. The fastest supermotos are arguably the big-inch factory-built machines that top out at 130-150 mph.
The maximum speed of a supermoto depends on many factors like the wheel size, gearing, or other features of the bike.
- Husqvarna FS 450: 85 mph
- Suzuki DR400SM: 94 mph
- Husqvarna 701 Supermoto: 120 mph
- Aprilia Dorsoduro 750: 135 mph
- KTM 990 SM: 143 mph
- Ducati Hypermotard 939: 145 mph
What is the point of a supermoto bike?
Supermoto bikes are essentially dirtbikes with slick tyres and upgraded suspension and brakes. Tracks are usually 75% asphalt (usually kart tracks) and with a 25% off road dirt section with jumps and berms. A lot of people skip the dirt and just ride on asphalt, so then its just like road racing.
What’s the difference between supermoto and motocross?
Firstly, motocross bikes are generally more versatile than their supermoto counterparts. They typically have more suspension travel and better dirt-oriented tires which allows them to be used for a variety of terrain types including jumps, turns, and rough off-road surfaces.
Are supermotos worth it?
The 17-inch wheels can let you carve up any corner on your favorite twisty road with confidence. And you’ll find that they’ll be just as happy on a racetrack. You have to hand it to the dirt bike manufacturers. They know how to build a bike that can take a fall and keep on ticking.
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