A dirt bike for the street? What could go wrong?
What would you get if you took a race-spec dirt bike, put some 17-inch wheels on it, wrapped the wheels in street tires, equipped it with larger rotors and calipers, and made it street legal? You’d end up with a good way to lose your license, aka a supermoto.
Supermotos combine the best aspects of a dirt bike or dual sport motorcycle—tall saddle, high ground clearance, and handlebar—with bits found on modern sportbikes. This results in a bike that can go from a double jump to asphalt esses without hesitation. Great on the track, better on the street, supermotos are fantastic urban commuters because of their height and ability to soak up rough road conditions.
At Cycle World, we ride, test, and review all the latest supermotos so that you can find the best supermoto for you and your lifestyle. In fact, Cycle World’s own Don Canet was influential in growing supermoto’s popularity. So, whether you race around a track or commute to and from work, we’ve tested the best supermoto for you.
Supermotos—specifically supermoto racing—started as a new class where motorcyclists of different backgrounds could come together and compete to find the best all-around racer. In the late 1970s, Gavin Trippe—race promoter and motorcycle journalist—created supermotos with the show Superbikers. These races combined flat track, motocross, and roadracing on one track, with bikes that could handle jumps as well as tight turns on asphalt.
So what makes a supermoto a supermoto? At the heart are normally a cradle-frame chassis, long-travel suspension, and a single-cylinder 4 stroke engine. From there, you have 17-inch wheels—possibly a 16-1/2-inch front if the bike is race-oriented—and oversize rotors for hard braking on asphalt. Purists will contend that anything bigger than a 450cc single-cylinder is not a true supermoto, but supermoto-styled motorcycles like the Ducati Hypermotard push that envelope.
After the cancellation of the Superbikers television program, the demand for supermotos fell off, except in Europe. Still considered a niche in the United States—gaining popularity at events like Daytona Bike Week and Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, where they hold supermoto races—there has been an upturn in sentiment toward this style of bike.
For a true factory race-ready supermoto, your options are limited to a single bike: the Husqvarna FS 450. Its older brother, the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto, and cousin KTM 690 SMC R are street legal and not as stringent with their maintenance schedules. The dead-reliable—and unchanged since its inception—Suzuki DR-Z400SM is a great choice to get into supermoto riding with used bikes aplenty. The maxi motard Ducati Hypermotard 950 and Aprilia Dorsoduro 900 are two large supermoto offerings from Italy. If you want to go electric, Zero’s FXS Supermoto is a great pick with hot-swappable batteries.
If you don’t like any of the factory options, you can always buy a dirt bike or dual sport and convert it to a supermoto. Buy some spoke—or cast—wheels, wrap them in sticky rubber, upgrade your brakes, and get to riding.