Supermotos are unique motorcycles that combine the advantages of both street and dirt bikes. The majority of supermotos are lightweight dual-sport bikes or dirt bikes with smaller rims, street tires, stiffened suspensions, and a more advanced brake system. Besides custom supermotos, factory-built models are also gaining in popularity.
If you want to find out more about these popular motorcycles, this post is for you.
We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled all you need to know under one roof!
What is a Supermoto Bike?
What Makes a Bike a Supermoto?
Simply put, a supermoto is a hybrid motorcycle that can be used in both on and off-road conditions.
When it comes to supermotos, there are two distinct categories. The original supermotos are race-intended motorcycles converted from a dirt bike that utilize some non-street-legal components like a racing exhaust system and slick tires. They also typically lack lights, mirrors, indicators, and a charging system.
In contrast, street-legal supermotos have all the aforementioned components. These machines are often purpose-built factory supermotos or converted from a dual-sport motorcycle.
What makes a bike a supermoto? In a nutshell, the key features of supermotos are as follows:
- Off-road motorcycle base
- Smaller, 17-inch (or 16.5-inch) rims
- Street tires
- Lowered and slightly stiffened suspensions
- Upgraded brake rotors and calipers
- Lights and mirrors (on street legal models)
Compared to other street motorcycles, supermotos have a lower top speed but they weigh much less and are more nimble. Therefore, they can quickly change directions and do various tricks with ease.
Supermoto riders typically wear a mix of off-road and road racing gear, including a motocross helmet, boots, and a road racing leather suit.
Where did Supermotos Come from?
The origins of supermotos go back to the ‘70s when TV sports shows were dominated by the massively popular Wide World of Sports on ABC. In 1979, the network dreamed up a new TV show called “Superbikers,” which was actually an entirely new racing series.
The main idea behind this new show was to find the best of the best motorcycle racers who could even win on a mixed race track.
To do this, a radically new motorcycle track was created that combined road tracks, flat tracks, and motocross tracks. The riders chosen had been champions of various genres of motorcycle racing.
The bikes used in these competitions were christened “supermotos” and were very unique machines.
Before 1990, supermotos were modified 2-stroke dirt bikes that offered good jumping abilities and a great power-to-weight ratio.
The most well-known models were the Suzuki RMs, Yamaha YZs, and Honda CRs, with each of them being a 2-stroke single-cylinder dirt bike that displaced between 125cc and 500cc.
In 1991, Gilera introduced the Nordwest as the world’s first factory-built supermoto. In the following years, factory-built supermotos became more prevalent and were being marketed by major off-road manufacturers including Husaberg, Husqvarna, Kawasaki, CCM, and KTM.
Over the years supermotos became more powerful which allowed for faster top speeds and higher jumps.
Although supermotos were originally intended for racetracks, they quickly found their way onto public roads.
Today, supermotos represent an independent class of motorcycles, which are gaining in popularity, especially among younger riders.
Why is it Called Supermoto?
The name supermoto probably comes from combining superbike and motocross. This is no coincidence since supermotos race on a “mixed” track that is created by combining superbikes and motocross race tracks.
Superbikes are also known as supermotard bikes in Europe. This weird name comes from French since in this language motard means biker.
This name was derived from the title of the original ABC TV show named “Superbikers.”
What is the Point of a Supermoto Bike?
The main idea behind supermotos was to create a universal, “all-around” motorcycle that can be raced on both on- and off-road tracks. There is no other motorcycle that performs as well on a mixed race track.
In supermoto racing, the machines have a lower chance of reaching high speeds and quick accelerations, so the skill of the racers is often more important than the performance of their bikes.
What is a Supermoto Bike Good for?
Although it’s originally designed to be a racing motorcycle, supermotos are good for pleasure riding as well. Thanks to its lightweight chassis and nimble attitude, supermotos are great at doing tricks including huge jumps, wheelies, stoppies, drifts, power slides, and are even used for stunt riding.
But only on a closed track, of course!
Less reckless drivers also enjoy the freedom and thrill of supermotos since these machines are fun to ride in the hills, or just around town.
What’s the Difference Between a Supermoto and a Dirt Bike?
As a rule of thumb, the main differences between a dirt bike and a supermoto are that the latter features smaller, 17-inch rims with street tires. For optimal performance and safety, supermotos often have stiffened and lowered suspensions and upgraded brake systems.
Street-legal models are equipped with the required features like mirrors and lights to be street legal.
What’s the Difference Between a Supermoto Bike and a Dual Sport?
Contrary to popular belief, supermotos and dual sport motorcycles are not the same breeds. Supermotos are race-intended machines that feature a lower ground clearance, smaller rims, street tires, improved brakes, and a lot of sporty features. In contrast, dual sport bikes come with larger wheels, off-road tires, and provide more comfortable rides.
However, some dual sport motorcycle owners simply replace the wheels on their bikes, which turns them into “recreational” supermotos.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and talk about the specifications of supermotos in detail!
What CC are Supermoto Bikes?
In the world of supermoto racing, the most common engine classes are as follows:
Smaller bikes up to 300cc usually feature 2-stroke engine technology, while the 400-550cc classes usually mean 4-stroke engines.
When it comes to recreational riding, the most popular custom-built supermotos are usually based on 250-450cc dirt bikes or 400-700cc dual sport motorcycles.
As far as factory-built supermotos go, these machines are typically powered by 400-1000cc 4-stroke engines.
Yes, that’s right, certain models like the KTM 990 SM T and the Ducati Hypermotard 939 have a displacement of 900-1000cc. However, they are a completely different species than the lightweight, dirt bike-based supermotos.
How Much HP Does a Supermoto Have?
The engine power of dirt-bike-based supermotos varies between 35 and 60 HP with an average of 45 HP:
- 125cc: 35-40 HP
- 250cc: 40-45 HP
- 300cc: 40-47 HP
- 400cc: 45-55 HP
- 450cc: 55-60 HP
In contrast, the performance factory-built 4-stroke supermotos start at about 40 HP and goes up to a whopping 115 HP.
- Suzuki DR400SM: 39 HP
- Husqvarna FS 450: 63 HP
- Husqvarna 701 Supermoto: 74 HP
- Ducati Hypermotard 939: 113 HP
- KTM 990 SM: 114 HP
Which Supermoto is the Most Powerful?
The most powerful factory supermotos can be found among 1000cc bikes like the Ducati Hypermotard 939 and the KTM 990 SM with 113-114 HP engines. If you are looking for a dirt-bike-based supermoto, you should take a closer look at the 450cc class, which produces 55-60 HP.
If you are looking for something really powerful, it’s recommended that you locate and convert a used Honda CR500. This 500cc, 2-stroke dirt bike produced 59 HP but was capable of doing wheelies in 3rd gear with ease!
How Fast do Supermoto Bikes Go?
You can expect the top speed of a dirt-bike-based supermoto to be in the ballpark of 60-120 mph. The top speed of the 250cc machines is anywhere from 60 to 90 mph, while their 400-450cc brothers can even reach 80-120 mph under ideal circumstances. The fastest supermotos are arguably the big-inch factory-built machines that top out at 130-150 mph.
The maximum speed of a supermoto depends on many factors like the wheel size, gearing, or other features of the bike.
- Husqvarna FS 450: 85 mph
- Suzuki DR400SM: 94 mph
- Husqvarna 701 Supermoto: 120 mph
- Aprilia Dorsoduro 750: 135 mph
- KTM 990 SM: 143 mph
- Ducati Hypermotard 939: 145 mph
How Big are Supermoto Rims?
Most supermotos run on 17-inch rims, while some of them feature smaller, 16.5-inch rims.
Unlike dirt bikes, supermotos have the same diameter wheel on the front and rear. Regarding tire width, supermotos usually have a 3.5-inch wide tire on the front while the rear tire typically averages between 4-5 inches in width.
Why are Supermoto Wheels So Small?
There are many advantages of having wheels with a smaller diameter (17”) on a supermoto, including:
- Lower center of gravity (better handling)
- Faster acceleration (smaller wheels rotate quickly)
- Less centrifugal force (easier to lean the bike)
- Wider tires provide a better grip
- Less weight
- Many performance street tires fit on 17” rims
Riding a Supermoto
Is a Supermoto Bike Street Legal?
The general rule is that many factory-built supermotos are street-legal since they are equipped with the required features (including lights, mirrors, horn, street-legal exhaust, etc.).
These machines are designed and marketed for the public rather than just professional racers.
Racing supermotos usually lack these components, which means they are not street legal.
Dirt bikes can be also turned into street-legal supermotos by installing these features, but that requires some skills.
Are Supermotos Hard to Ride?
Although they seem to be very aggressive machines, supermotos are fairly easy to ride.
They are much lighter than any other street bike, which translates to being easy-to-ride and having a forgiving attitude. Supermotos feature wide handlebars, which also make handling easier.
Another hidden advantage of supermotos is that they offer a lot of fun at lower speeds. Therefore, you don’t have to go fast for a thrilling ride!
Is a Supermoto a Good Beginner Bike?
Contrary to popular belief, a supermoto can be a great beginner bike. If you are looking for your first bike, you can’t go wrong with a supermoto, just focus on the smaller 250-400 cc engines and lower seat heights.
Larger machines are not only much faster but they are far heavier, and neither is a good point for a beginner!
Besides the weight and engine size, the seat height of the bike is no less important.
Due to their design, the seat height of supermotos averages between 32 and 40 inches, which is much higher than many other street motorcycles. (For example, the seat height of Harley-Davidsons is only 26-32 inches.)
If you can’t reach the ground safely and comfortably with both of your feet on a supermoto, this means that you should look for another beginner bike with a lower seat height.
It’s also highly recommended that you take the safety course before making your purchase.
Are Supermotos Good on the Highway?
Let’s face it, supermotos don’t do a good job on highways since they are not designed for high speeds. Riding a supermoto on a highway may be unsafe because it can be unstable, vibrate a lot, and offer zero protection against the wind and the elements.
Are Supermoto Bikes Good for Commuting?
Yes! A supermoto is a great choice for commuting, as long as you don’t have to ride it on the highways. In the city, a supermoto is an excellent choice because of its narrow design, wide handlebars, nimble behavior, and high riding position.
Also, its high-performance suspensions can effectively smooth out the bumps and potholes on the road.
The few drawbacks of these bikes are the fairly small fuel tank and their lack of storage capacity.
What is Supermoto Racing?
As the name suggests, supermoto racing is a competition for supermotos, which was surprisingly established by the ABC television network in the late ‘70s.
The main mission of this TV show was to find out who the best “all-around” rider was in the world of motorcycle racing.
Buying vs. Building a Supermoto
If you’ve fallen in love with supermotos, you have three different ways of getting one:
- Purchase a factory model
- Convert a dirt bike
- Convert a dual-sport bike
Let’s take a closer look at each option!
Purchasing a Factory Supermoto
There’s no question that the easiest way to get a supermoto is to invest in a factory-built model.
Today you can find a plethora of factory supermotos that displace anywhere from 400cc up to 1000cc.
These modern bikes are equipped with many bells and whistles including lights, mirrors, electronic riding modes, ABS, and even traction control. These advanced features ensure higher safety, which can be a big advantage for beginner riders.
Many riders agree that these modern bikes lack the original essence of supermotos since they are much heaver and less nimble than dirt-bike conversions.
How much does a factory supermoto cost?
A factory-built supermoto will cost you around $7,000 to $15,000, but most models average between $10,000-$13,000.
- 2022 Suzuki DR-Z400SM: $7,599
- 2022 KTM 450 SMR: $11,999
- 2022 KTM 690 SMC R: $12,499
- 2022 Husqvarna 701 Supermoto: $12,499
- 2022 Ducati Hypermotard 950: $13,495
- 2022 Hypermotard 950 RVE: $14,395
How do You Turn a Dirt Bike into a Supermoto?
If you are looking for a real supermoto, your only option is to purchase and convert a dirt bike. How do you do this?
In a nutshell, the major steps to turning a dirt bike into a supermoto are as follows:
- Install smaller, 17-inch rims with street tires
- Lower and stiffen the suspensions
- Upgrade the brake rotors and calipers
These are just the major steps since the list of the exact processes varies from one model to the next. You may want to do extensive research and consult with a professional before you jump into such a big project.
Also, if you want to build a street-legal supermoto, the bike will need some additional features, including:
- Tail light
- Brake light
- Street-legal exhaust
- Street-legal tires
- Charging system
The list of required features may vary depending on the local laws, so don’t forget to carefully check them to stay legal.
How much does a supermoto conversion cost?
A supermoto conversion may cost you anywhere from $2,000-$5,000 depending on the brand and the quality of parts you choose. If you are considering converting a new dirt bike, be prepared for an additional $8,000-$12,000 just for the base machine.
Can you turn any dirt bike into a supermoto?
The good news is that almost every dirt bike can be converted into a supermoto. The only question would be your budget and resources since these conversions don’t come cheap.
If you are looking for a racing supermoto, a dirt bike is the best base machine to choose.
But if you’re considering purchasing just a recreational supermoto, a dual-sport conversion can be a worthy alternative for you.
Can You Turn a Dual-Sport Bike into a Supermoto?
Dual-sport bikes can be turned into supermotos, and this conversion is typically much easier than turning a dirt bike into a supermoto. The key advantage of dual-sport motorcycles is that they already come from the factory as street legal machines, equipped with all the necessary features like mirrors and lights.
That’s why many popular factory supermotos are built on a dual-sport bike including the Suzuki DRZ400 and the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto. These machines are available in both supermoto and dual-sport configurations.
Many riders have two sets of wheels for their dual-sport bikes, the regular off-road and a smaller street set. This allows them to convert their bike into a supermoto and vice versa by simply replacing the wheels.
Compared to dirt bikes, dual-sport conversions are heavier and less sporty but they offer better reliability and durability.
Which Base Bike is Best for a Supermoto?
It’s hard to tell which is the “best” base bike for a supermoto conversion since this boils down to personal preferences.
But to give you a few examples, some of the best bikes for a supermoto conversion include:
- Suzuki DRZ400
- Honda CRF450R
- Honda CRF450X
- Yamaha WR450F
- Yamaha YZ426F
- Yamaha YZ450F
- KTM 450 SX-F
- Husqvarna FC350
Which Supermoto is the Most Reliable?
Many riders agree that the most reliable supermotos are Japanese bikes like the Yamaha WR450F or the Suzuki DRZ400.
When it comes to supermoto reliability, the general rules are as follows:
- The 4-strokes are more reliable than 2-strokes.
- The faster and more powerful models tend to be less reliable.
- The more reliable models are typically heavier.
- The more components and electronic features it has will reduce reliability.
Which Companies Make Supermotos?
The most well-known supermoto manufacturers include:
Does BMW make a supermoto?
Although BMW currently doesn’t offer a supermoto, the European manufacturer attempted to step into this market in the 2000s. The short-lived BMW supermoto was labeled the G650 Xmoto and was produced from 2007 through 2009.
Does Husqvarna make a supermoto?
Yes, to the greatest delight of many fans, Husqvarna still offers supermoto bikes off-the-shelf!