I dreamed a dream of supermoto...
April 22, 2013 12:24 PM   Subscribe

After a few years break from motorcycling, I’m finally in a position where I have the time and finances to get back into it. I have a junky old sportbike that I’m looking to upgrade sometime in the next 6 months. Last night, I had an incredibly vivid dream about a supermoto bike. I woke up wondering if this kind of bike would actually make more sense for me than a sportbike. Supermotos are light, tough, and everywhere I hear they're tons of fun. I don’t need the top speed of a sportbike, nor do I want the fragile, expensive plastics. I’ll be using the bike mostly for urban commuting. Your thoughts on making the switch? Which models should I be looking for in the used bike market?

After my dream of last night, I’m pretty excited about the possibility of trading my sportbike for a supermoto (budget for the new toy is about $3500 Canadian). One problem is that I’m 5’3” and weigh 110 pounds. Can I get a supermoto that has a low enough seat height for me to ride it? I don’t know exactly what my inseam is, but I’m fine riding full height sportbikes with stock suspension settings (I can get one foot down flat, or tippy toe with both feet). If height is going to be a problem no matter what model, how badly does lowering a supermoto affect the handling and suspension?

In addition to being low enough, the bike needs to have enough top end speed. I want to commute to work on it, which involves a short section of highway. Would changing the gearing be an easy fix? Finally, is the maintenance going to be a huge pain with a supermoto? How long do they last if well maintained?

I should clarify that I'd like to stick to supermotos that are kitted out from the factory, not conversions from dirtbikes. I also think I want to stay away from anything that needs kickstarting. I’ve never done it, and fear that it would result in tipping myself and the bike over. Anything else I haven’t thought of?
posted by keep it under cover to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Gearing will be a bike-by-bike issue. Check for co-ops in your town to reduce costs.

lowering is the same, but any supermoto bike has a loooong way to go down before you'd be scraping pegs on a commute.

Kawasaki super sherpa is one I would take a look at [used], and also the whole 'enduro' or 'dual sport' world seems to be full of people with your same outlook.
[The normal king of enduro is the klr650 but that is super tall]

Budget some money for a lugage rack and you can commute is style without carrying everything on your back. I've seen people weld a bar on that can fit a bicycle pannier which gives you much cheaper luggage options than motorcycle-specific stuff does.

A kickstarter will get you to work more reliably than a battery, but I understand the reluctance. Try kickstarting some bikes at a dealership and hopefully they'll show you a good technique.
posted by Acari at 12:38 PM on April 22, 2013

As Acari points out the KLR650 is the normal answer to this question, but it's tall. You can lower it and get a lower seat, but it's still going to be tall for someone 5'3". But a used one will have the right price, and can handle up to about 70mph.

The Super Sherpa is another good choice, but will be less freeway-capable. Probably still fine for your commute, but you might have to tweak the gearing.

The KLRWorld forums would be a good place to ask if you're looking for help on the KLR or the Sherpa. Lots of friendly folks there, plus regional forums where people post bikes they see for sale. There are members from Canada, so depending on where you are, you could probably find someone local to help you shop.

The other thing about the KLR is that there are zillions of aftermarket farkles you can buy.

The Honda XR 650 and Suzuki DR650 are other ones to look for used. They're both going to be freeway-capable, but neither has quite as much history as the KLR, or quite as many farkles available.
posted by DaveP at 2:09 PM on April 22, 2013

I'm 5'4" and covet the KLR650 Acari mentions, but it's much too tall for me stock. Although I think models after '08 are lower by a couple of inches; I haven't tried those. I've ridden the Honda XR450 for some off-road stuff and it was too tall for my taste to be a daily rider.

A helpful resource is Motorcycle Ergonomics, where you can plug in a model, plus your height and inseam, and see a picture of a rider with your specs on the bike (feet on ground, off, etc.).
posted by cocoagirl at 2:32 PM on April 22, 2013

Best answer: The KLR is a great bike and bombproof, but it's not a supermoto. I'd suggest a used KTM Duke (the original one), but finding one at your price point is probably going to be a challenge. You might have better luck looking for a Suzuki DR-Z400SM.
posted by asterix at 3:00 PM on April 22, 2013

Response by poster: Sorry to threadsit, but I'd like to clarify that I'll be riding this bike exclusively on paved streets. I'm not adventurous enough to hit trails on two wheels... not yet, anyway! As you can see, my budget is pretty limited so I'd rather not spend a big chunk of it switching out the wheels and tires, hence my preference for a factory supermoto. Sorry if that wasn't clear in my question. Thanks asterix, I'll definitely look into that Suzuki.

cocoagirl, that website is awesome! I'm having way too much fun putting the little green dude on different bikes.
posted by keep it under cover at 3:09 PM on April 22, 2013

Response by poster: Argh... "hence my preference for a factory supermoto rather than a dualsport or enduro" is what I mean. I'd rather not have knobby tires.
posted by keep it under cover at 3:29 PM on April 22, 2013

check out the Kawasaki Versys, it is a V twin that is already kinda a supermoto. I almost got one but ended up with a KLR650 for a few years. It was a great bike and the only problem I ever had was a dead battery from not riding it enough (which is my fault and the reason I sold it-it deserved a better owner than me). However I am 6'-2" and that bike was pretty tall even for me. The seat was also not the best for long trips on the highway, and the fairing wasn't great at keeping, well, anything off me at highway speeds. It was great on twisty narrow roads and forest service roads here in Oregon however, plenty of power for the interstate and great mileage (60+ mpg).
posted by bartonlong at 3:59 PM on April 22, 2013

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