The KTM 890 SMT:

Multiple Personality Disorder.

Words: Séan Hendley, Jason Wessels, Don Fourie

Pics: René Swart


SO! The KTM 950 SM, (for SuperMotard), and the KTM 990 SMT, (for SuperMoto-T) are both the centre of tales of wonder, excitement, folklore and quite a bit of woe thrown in for good measure. The woe bit being for the “Oh how I wish I had bought one/never sold mine/still had the balls to ride one…..”. Mention any big bore KTM SuperMotard and you immediately imagine a terrifyingly powerful malevolent machine that would separate the men from the boys and the wannabes from the real riders. So when we heard there was a new SMT in town and saw all the published KTM promo information, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on it and find out more about it… 

Reading through the spec sheet only served to whet our appetites even more, just look at this: 

Torque at 100 Nm, Power at 77kW coupled to a 6-speed transmission, Supermoto ABS allowing the rider to lock the rear wheel at will, Michelin Power GP tyres wrapping the super lightweight 17 inch alloys, twin 320mm front rotors clamped down on 4 pot callipers and force fed by an axial master cylinder up front. 

A 260mm rear disc that’s hooked up by a twin pot floating calliper – so that the 890 SMT stops even harder than it accelerates. All by J Juan.

Then they’ve chucked in some hotly reworked WP Apex front suspension with rebound, compression and damping adjusters. Out back, also from WP, the shock has rebound damping adjusters and an easy-to-use hand adjuster for pre-load on the spring. There are three suggested settings printed under the seat – Comfort, Standard and Sport – so you don’t necessarily need to be a mechanic to set the bike for different loads and riding.

However, that is not the spicy bit of the new SMT, the electronics is where all the fun stuff starts happening. We all know that the KTM riders’ modes and aids are specifically developed to enhance the rider’s enjoyment as well as add to safety with bits and bobs like ABS, MTC and their in-house engineered Rider Modes. And they’re all here on the SMT. Jam it into SuperMoto mode and you can switch most of it off – if you have the riding skill. We won’t bore you with too much info – you can look it all up, but suffice it to say that if you can think of an electronic something… this bike probably has it. And it works, please read Jason’s comments. And we are really sorry that we didn’t get the pictures…


 Looking at all the marketing pics we decided we needed to get the SMT down to our local short track, Formula K, which is designed as a Motard track, where we also get a proper Super Motard rider to give it a decent whirl. It’s all in the name you see – SMT is an abbreviation for Super Motard. We roped in Jason Wessels and Donovan Fourie and told them to be spectacular on it. And… we got some quite mixed reactions from them, so we decided to investigate further and stuck Séan on it and pointed him at some open roads. After about a week, he came back with a grin, because he actually started to understand what the 890 SMT is really all about.

Séan Says:

Back in the Eighties when I was in high school, we had to study a film called “The Five of Me” for English class. It’s a story about a chap that had five totally different personalities that would take over for different situations in his life. Swinging a leg over this tall and seemingly awkward machine, a bit like me I suppose, I really did not gel with it immediately. Now bear with me…

Very capable track bike – Personality No.1. 

To me, the bike seemed like a bit of an afterthought from KTM, a bit of “What have we got left in the parts bin, lets chuck something together before the Boss finds out.” Well, you know it is going to be good anyway – it is still a KTM after all. It seemed as though they had just taken the basics of an 890 Adventure, bolted on some road wheels and chopped the windshield down. I have to admit though, I was expecting, or more accurately – hoping for something styled more along the lines of the 690 Enduro R with road wheels and tyres and a beefy motor. 

Watching Jason and Don run it around the FK track, with two very different riding styles, it did seem very capable as a Super Motard on a short twisty track. My interest was now piqued.

Traffic jam dodging weapon of note – Personality No.2. 

After the day at the track I rode it back to the office through some seriously horrible afternoon rush hour traffic along snake road under the N12 highway, which felt like one thousand cars per square centimetre all trying to crush into the same spot. And this is where I really started understanding and enjoying the SMT. 


It stops and turns on a 50c coin at 90 degrees left or right. This is where their reworked chassis geometry and WP Apex suspension is really noticeable. The whole bike is light and perfectly balanced, once I did the first housefly manoeuvre and realised how overly easy it was THE GAME WAS ON! I went looking for reasons to do that move again and again and again and… you get the picture, eventually some fool thought he was a clever and completely blocked me, fortunately I saw him in time and ducked 90 degrees left only to find myself faced with quite a tall kerb onto the walkway under the N12 bridge, a quick blip of the throttle combined with a flick of the clutch had me up on the walkway and terrifying pedestrians as I whipped past the traffic jam, popped off the sidewalk and tore across the intersection to the freedom of clear streets. 

Neutral, comfortable ergonomics, even for taller riders...

Personality No.3 – Mountain Pass Carver.

This 890 SMT is just so sure footed, agile and nimble and feels really light to ride without being flighty. By now, I was really starting to get into this machine. The next day was photo shoot time and some proper saddle time. We wandered off early in the morning to our favourite corners and a bit of tarmac. Newly tarred with a nice equal gradient corner and a fairly quiet road. Hitting the same bends time and time again at different speeds gives you a much more controlled environment to test a bike’s handling, stability and feedback. While the cameras were being set up, I dived into the first with a bit of reserved enthusiasm, turning around and coming through in the opposite direction gave me all the feel I needed. This iteration of the KTM has sublimely good handling, it goes exactly where you point it and does exactly what you expect it to do, no matter the level of your skill. It is so stable, so precise, so predictable that you just start pushing harder and harder. I need to do an ET trip on this bike and go carve up a bunch of mountain passes. Hard sweeping bends are where the 2023 KTM 890 SMT really shines.

Personality No.4 – Super Motard Tourer.

 Eventually, we had to get the bike back to KTM SA… after a week or so of every excuse to ride it. But I made sure I went Via the Via, the longest possible way around I could dream up. This all involved busy highways, B-roads, open country roads as well as a lot of urban and suburban riding. Incidentally, while we were paying attention, we got 199 km’s on 12.88lt’s of fuel, that works out to around 15.5 km’s per litre, which is ridiculously good considering at least half of those km’s were on a 20km old bike, (brand spanking new in other words), being bliksemed very hard around a track by to ‘Ou’s what knows’ and the rest by a chop who thinks the national speed limit should be readjusted to 200kmh. And the bike has a sensible tank size of just less than 16 litres, so we didn’t spend too much time at the fuel station.

The little screen keeps enough wind off to be comfortable, and as light as she is, the SMT is planted and stable in the Gauteng winter cross winds. Dipping through normal traffic is a non-event… A quick dodge that clown on the cell phone cutting in on me along the hard shoulder was actually quite alright, so I did it again. Long trips? For sure, this bike has lots of power, excellent road manners and is really comfortable – even for a tall guy like me. And I reckon, if you slapped on a taller windshield and some cool KTM luggage this would be great…. Watch what I do hereSuper Moto Tourer, and that Ladies and Gents is actually what SMT is an abbreviation of, understand that and you will fall in love with this bike. 


The cockpit is a lekker place to be...
Typical KTM wizardry

Personality No.5 – Hooligan Machine

But it doesn’t actually end there. If you are a significantly more talented rider than myself and…. this is a KTM SuperMotard/Moto Tourer after all, it is a big contender for the title of Hooligan Machine – 

I went from unimpressed, (maybe that should be uninformed), with the 2023 KTM 890 SMT to absolutely loving it in the space of some very quick kilometres. 

Go ride one for yourself and see if you disagree with me.

Some opinions from the track:

Jason Wessels gave the SMT a proper thrashing around Formula-K and this is what he had to say after doing countless laps around this very short circuit:

“This bike is definitely more a sports tourer than a Super Motard. It’s a very comfortable bike to ride, even for Lady riders provided they have long legs.The electronics package is brilliant and makes the bike very easy to ride. It has a very comfortable riding position and once you put the power down or use the modes with maximum power it is actually quite strong, I’m not sure what horse power it makes but it does leave black lines out of the turns.”

“I am really impressed with the difference in Rider Modes, the amount of difference in horsepower from one to the next…. Wow! It was like night and day, I especially liked it in the more aggressive and powerful modes, for a little 890 it has very impressive power. The quick shifter is exceptionally smooth and works really, really well.The only thing I really missed was an auto blip. I’m  not sure if it is an add on or if I have missed it. The gearbox is silky smooth. I know that the quickshifter is a ‘line of sight magnetic unit’, but I actually think it is more the gearbox itself that is so smooth. Back tracking a bit to the electronics packages, the traction control and slip control on this bike is absolutely amazing, something I have never really felt or experienced before, and I’ll try to explain…  Obviously on the Motards we want to slide them as much as we can into the turn. We had the slip control set to about 50%, so as soon as I was sliding it actually brought the bike back…. Back in a straight line, it did three opposite locks and it ended up straight!”

“I just had to put my foot down on the outside just because that is the way my weight was directed when I stopped. By rights I should have definitely been on my way to hospital right now. I have never felt anything like it before! It’s almost as though the bike took over from me and controlled the problem without me having to do anything! It literally saved my arse, a wonderful innovation for a less experienced rider. I really, really have never experienced anything like that before, for that little while I wasn’t in control and the electronics took over, this new technology….. (as he slowly shakes his head in amazement and runs out of words).”

But overall this is a great all-rounder bike, everything you need to do on a bike you can do it, it easily hops pavements, nips through traffic and I reckon on a nice open, sweeping track like Phakisa or Kyalami this bike would be absolutely brilliant.

Then Donovan Fourie gave it a good wringing around that same bit of petrol head heaven, only too happy still to have a bike to ride after Jason was saved by the bike, and in his own words: 

“The problem with these sorts of bikes is that it is a compromise. Soooo, they are kinda trying to put Supermoto and touring in the same bike. Supermoto is racey and hardcore and fast. Touring is not, it is the exact opposite. They’re taking two very different things and making them one, it’s like they want it to be a librarian as well as a stripper…. 

And it is very difficult trying to get both together in one package. Around this track it is fun, but it isn’t going to break any lap records, but it is fun. I think I would have liked better brakes on this track. I suspect these brakes would last a long time but they don’t quite have the grip for the very tight Go-Kart track we’re on today. This, however, is absolutely the type of bike I would love to ride between Harties and Sandton every day.I live in Harties and often have to go through to Jo’Burg for business. I mean, that R512, 511 and all of those roads, this would be absolutely fantastic, this motor is fantastic. 

In terms of a big 890 it handles really, really well and it will be nice and comfortable…. Slightly less stripper, more librarian.”

So, there you have it.

A stripper. A librarian. A commuter. A fun bike for the track. A.sports tourer.

A bike for just about every application. 

Get down to your local KTM dealer. 

We believe there are very limited numbers of these Baby’s coming into S.A.


2023 KTM 890 SMT Specs


Engine: Liquid-cooled parallel twin; 4 valves/cyl.

Displacement: 889cc

Transmission/Final Drive: 6-speed/chain

Claimed Horsepower: 105 hp @ 8,000 rpm

Claimed Torque: 73.8 lb.-ft. @ 6,500 rpm

Fuel System: Electronic fuel injection, DKK Dell’Orto 46mm throttle bodies

Clutch: PASC slipper; cable operated.

Frame: Chromium-molybdenum steel

Front Suspension: 43mm WP Apex, compression and rebound adjustable; 7.1 in. travel

Rear Suspension: WP Apex monoshock, preload and rebound damping adjustable; 7.1 in. travel

Front Brake: 4-piston radial-mounted caliper, dual 320mm discs w/ Cornering ABS

Rear Brake: 2-piston floating caliper, 260mm disc w/ Cornering ABS

Wheels, Front/Rear: Cast aluminum; 17 x 3.5 in. / 17 x 5.5 in.

Tyres, Front/Rear: Michelin Power GP; 120/70-17 / 180/55-17

Rake/Trail: 25.8°/4.4 in.

Wheelbase: 59.1 in.

Seat Height: 33.9 in.

Fuel Capacity: 15.89 litres

Claimed Wet Weight: 206KG’s.

Contact: ktm.com

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top