With the 950SM it is more a case of why wouldn’t you want it than why would you want it! This is a simply fantastic bike that as well as being everyday comfortable and a brilliant tourer, is also a superb hooligan machine and a genuine back road weapon. All be it one with slightly soft and squishy suspension…
The SM arrived at a time when the whole adventure scene was starting to turn its focus from off-road to on-road. Machines such as the original Multistrada had demonstrated a year earlier that 17-inch wheels with road rubber rather than odd-sized off-road rims with chunky tyres work on adventure bikes and the ‘big supermoto’ scene was about to take off. And who better to exploit this new movement than supermoto specialists KTM? But, crucially, they did it with comfort in mind.
While its thumping V-twin engine is more than up for playing the fool, the key to the SM’s charm is the fact it doesn’t need to be going bonkers all the time. It’s physically quite a big bike (shorter riders may struggle a bit with its seat height) and that means loads of room and a nice and relaxed riding position. The SM is an effortless bike to ride for mile after mile as the suspension is touring soft and the engine vibe-free. But should you wish to go a bit silly, it is more than up for the challenge.
On back roads the SM is hysterical. Yes, it’s a bit weighty and the suspension a tad soft, but it is such an enjoyable machine to ride and the 17-inch wheels allow you to fit some proper sticky tyres. It’s a true KTM hooligan and loves pulling wheelies, as any supermoto worth its salt should, but the best thing about the SM is the fact it is a true jack of all trades and that makes it wonderful used buy.
The early carbed 950 bikes have a reputation for reliability, however they do need to be looked after. A good service history is always a bonus as KTM release rolling TIs (Technical Improvements) that only KTM dealers know about and will fit to the bikes. Checking the oil level on a 950 can be a fiddle due to its dry sump, so ensure the owner knows how to do this as they can drink a bit and running them low leads to big end issues. The LC8 needs a major valve clearance check and service at 9000 miles, which is a big bill, so always ensure this has been completed. Other than that, check the chassis around the footpeg area on the SM as the pegs mount directly to the frame and in an accident can crack the frame, and also inspect the engine for signs of flaking paint. Overall the SM is a very reliable bike, but they do need to be well looked after and can deteriorate quickly if abused.
The SM was essentially a modified 950 Adventure and stayed in 950 form until 2007 when both the Adventure and SM gained the new 990 engine with its fuel-injection replacing the 950’s carbs. Power went up from a claimed 96bhp to 116bhp and torque was also increased to 73ftlb from 69ftlb. The 990 was upgraded a few times with fairly subtle engine modifications before the SM was dropped in 2010 as the more touring inspired 990SMT with its larger front fairing and tall screen was introduced in 2009. This machine was dropped from the range in 2014 as the new breed of KTM 1190 adventure bikes took over. In 2009 KTM released a high spec 990SM called the 990SM R, which ran until 2013 and had a smaller tank and upgraded brakes and suspension.
The SM does hold its value quite well and is a popular second hand machine, although riders tend to go for the 990 over the 950, which is good news for fans of carbs! You can pick up a 950SM in a dealer for around £3800, which is decent value, while private sales are in the region of £3300. Prices for the 990SM start at £4500, so you are looking at a saving of close to £800 if you don’t mind sacrificing a bit of power and opt for a carbed 950..
http://www.ktmforum.co.uk - A UK-based KTM forum that caters for both road and off-road KTM models and has a useful section on the SM.
http://www.premierbikes.com - This Didcot-based KTM dealer is heavily into KTM’s 990 and 950 models and is a great source of information.
Engine: 942cc, water-cooled V-twin, 8v DOHC
Power: 95bhp @ 8,000rpm
Torque: 70ftlb @ 6,500rpm