Fun - high-performance, lightweight fun - and I'm loving it! I'm sports bike through and through, but get me on one of these things and the nutter inside comes alive!

We ride 1000cc sports bikes on the road because they have status, they're fast, and they should be un-bloody-beatable. We all know that a 600 is as quick in the real world, but that doesn't matter, we want more. We need to be able to mention the size subtly in conversation, watch the jaws drop in awe at the stories of speed and sit back safe in the knowledge that we own the biggest and the best.

So what's the go here? There's some oik on a dirt bike stuck on my ass! I've the latest four-cylinder technology sliding sublimely beneath my one-piece leathers. I'm hanging off as far as I can and braking as late as I dare, but the guy behind is all over me - and having a laugh to boot! I'm concentrating on getting drive down out of the bends using, what is to me, precise manipulation of the throttle, desperately trying to pull a gap, when I make the ultimate mistake - I look in the mirror.

Gutted! He's yanking a balance-point wheelie, while maintaining the same gap! I swear into my helmet, take a second for composure and think for a moment - it's not a problem, I just need to try harder. No problem, there's a straight coming up ahead, he's had it. I get round the bend and open the throttle in second, the back of the GSXR lifts, compresses the rear tyre and we are into hyperdrive! Success, I feel like I'm cheating (and I probably am) but the gap opens and he's left in another part of the country!

I smile to myself. It doesn't seem fair, I like to beat people on equal terms, be faster in the bends, but at least I've won - or have I?

I brake for the next bend, it takes a lot of effort to pull a big bike up, but the GSXR maintains her dignity into the bend and I get ready to put her over for some knee-down action. The familiar scrape of slider on tarmac just adds to the salt in the motard rider's wounds; once I get through this corner, he'll be gone for good. Well he bloody well should be...


But no! As I start to get the bike upright and open up again, he's caught me! What the hell is going on? Time for a rethink, and maybe a play on one of these things. I want to swap bikes.

First impressions of a 2011 KTM 450 EXC with supermoto wheels - absolutely awesome!

If you've never ridden a dirt bike, and you're used to sports bikes, it might feel slightly alien. They're tall, and the bars will feel wide, but you'll find the bike light and oh so easy to chuck around - this is fun without even trying! Let's get it on...

Stroll on, this thing is so easy to ride fast that I'm convinced the speedo is still set up for the larger dirt wheels. It's absolutely standard, no suspension adjustments, not even a bigger front brake disc, and it is incredible! How long have we thought we needed rising-rate linkages on the rear suspension? The KTM has a shock bolted in the old fashioned way, but at no time does it become a problem; in fact, you wouldn't know.

Because the KTM is so easy to ride, my supermoto buddy has been left well and truly behind as he tries to get to grips with the GSXR. Happy with that! I'm pulling wheelies between bends, yanking the throttle back as hard and fast as I can, with no loss of traction; just instant drive out of every bend while leant right over. This is great! - until I hit a corner far too hard.


Suddenly my heart is banging, my brain not keeping up, and I grab the brakes momentarily while my foot instinctively goes down for extra support. The back slides and it looks like it's going pear-shaped; but relax, release the brake, drop the bike down and grab that throttle again. It actually feels mellow and, although the adrenalin is still flowing, I'm laughing at my near miss. A sports bike could have been in need of a new fairing by this point.

What have I learnt? Maybe I don't need a big sports bike after all. In the real world, 450cc is enough to beat, or at least stick with, the biggest on the roads we actually like to be on. I'm actually gutted to hand it back. The GSXR is a phenomenal tool, but feels heavy and slow to turn after the KTM. Supermoto fun is fast, exciting and intense, but somehow retains a sense of safeness too. I'm converted.

Anyone got a Husaberg 570 going cheap?

Ben Vaughan
Liking it sideways... well. On the KTM anyway.


Photography courtesy of William Course. C Copyright Billeigh Photography.


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