I’ve ridden street bikes and dirt bikes for a long time. I really, really enjoy motorcycles. Interestingly, in all the time I have been riding I have had zero interest in riding on a track or competing.
That changed when I recently reconnected with a high-school friend of mine on Facebook. He looked at my photos and saw some pictures from my motorcycle trips. He had started racing supermoto this season and suggested I come out and give it a shot. Now, supermoto in the past had never appealed to me. Street tires on a dirtbike? Worst of both worlds I thought. I was adamant that I’d rather have a nice dirtbike and a nice streetbike, not a bastardization of the two. Also, I thought supermoto bikes looked goofy and out of place.
That all changed when I saw the Aprilia SXV (VDB version):
Now that is a sexy bike! Once I saw the bike I started saving my pennies for the plain-jane Aprilia (the VDB version is way too rare). I lucked out and randomly found a once-in-a-lifetime deal on a used one. It is because I have so much fun acting like a supermoto hooligan on my Aprilia that I entertained my friend’s suggestion of racing.
He reminded me I’d need sliders to pass the bike technical inspection. The sliders do a couple of things. First, they protect the bike if you crash it. Second, they protect the track’s surface from getting gouged by the bikes when leaning over in a tight turn or during a crash. Luckily, the used bike I bought came with sliders. How convenient!
I went on the series website to see the other technical requirements. All vent and overflow hoses need to lead into a catch-can. This makes it so if your bike overheats or starts spewing oil for some reason it won’t end up on the track and cause a hazard for people behind you. I didn’t have a catch can so I decided to start searching around online for one. I also took stock of everything I needed to take off to convert the bike from street to track. Here’s how my bike looks with all the street legal trappings:
I realized I would have to pull off all the lights and mirrors. The prepwork I had to do started to seem a little daunting. Also, I began to get nervous about racing the Aprilia in general. Parts for it are pretty expensive and there aren’t many dealerships in the US. Most parts are generally twice the “standard” amount once you add in shipping. I realized my fear of crashing would probably make me slower than I normally would and make me pretty nervous while riding. So I hit craigslist.
Now, I’m somewhat of a craigslist-aholic. My roommates love to relate the time I found a large box of packing peanuts for free on craigslist and INSISTED we needed them. Needless to say I enjoyed searching for a cheap bike already set up for racing. I immediately noticed there was a clean 2003 KTM SMR 450 for sale for $3500. It looked very similar to this:
The bike had been raced previously so I knew it would have all the necessary modifications to pass tech inspection. Buying the bike seemed like a no-brainer and would make a large part of the uncertainty of entering a new sport go away.
Of course, I wasn’t just about to fork over $3500 for a sport that I didn’t even know I liked yet. I also knew that particular model and year of a bike was less-than desirable for a couple of reasons. First, it wasn’t street legal. Street legal ditbikes / supermotos demand a premium. Second, it had a red sticker. That means it can’t be made to be street legal at all–even if you added all the proper lights, horns, etc. Third, there were no dirt tires and rims, which means the bike couldn’t be used for trail riding unless a lot more money was invested. All those reasons make it so the market for the bike is restricted only to those racing supermoto, which I surmised was a small market indeed. I also noticed the bike had been posted for more than a week, so he was likely willing to deal. I really wanted to low-ball and offer him $2600. Instead I offered to take it off his hands for $3000. He didn’t bite, so I kept looking.
A couple of days later I found a 2006 KTM SMR 450. It was the same model bike but three years newer. The guy was selling it for $3600. I offered him $3000 and after some back and forth we settled on $3100. Though it was more than I wanted to spend, I knew if I didn’t like supermoto I could get most if not all of my money out of the bike.
The bike was in the north-east bay. I went to pick it up the day before the race:
The bike looked brand new and was all set up for racing! It only had 8 hours on the engine and there wasn’t even the normal scratches on the engine cases from boots:
The previous owner had also intricately drilled through and safety-wired all the bolts. The safety-wire prevents the bolts from dropping on the track if they happen to fall out due to engine vibration:
Such attention to detail is generally only seen on professionals’ bikes!
Of course, while I was picking up the bike it began to pour. I decided it probably wasn’t smart to have my first race on a new bike with race slicks in the rain. I flaked on my friend, informing him I’d make the next one.