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Old 04-25-2006, 09:43 PM   #1
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Post The Newbie Guide To SuperMoto

The Newbie Guide To SuperMoto
Originally written by Michaeln, edited by XRsick50

Note: With the rising popularity of the SuperMoto niche, there have been a lot of threads asking basic questions about what it's all about. This article was originally written by a SuperMoto Enthusiast, Michaeln, and slightly updated by me. Although Michael has hung up the leathers, this is probably the best guide I've found for new SuperMoto riders. I'm hoping this will answer most of the newbie questions for those of you just getting started. I would encourage you to read through this article entirely before starting a new thread. You may just find the answer right here. Enjoy! -Dion

What is SuperMoto? A Brief History Lesson...

Back in the 1980s, there was a motorcycle racing series for TV called The SuperBikers. The idea was to come up with a type of racing that roadracers, dirt riders and motocross riders could all compete in, with the goal being to find out who were the best all-round riders. The bikes were mostly motocross bikes (converted to use 19" dirt track wheels) and flat track racers. The race courses were half asphalt, half dirt. The SuperBikers series was pretty much a commercial flop (it was made for TV and didn't have much viewership), and it died here in the United States.

Although U.S. audiences didn't seem impressed, the French thought it was great and they revived it as SuperMotard racing (SuperMotard is French for SuperBiker). The Europeans continued to evolve the sport and technology into what is today known as SuperMoto.

In 1997, (about 12 years after the last "The SuperBikers" race), Don Canet of Cycle World magazine put together a race called "Return of The SuperBikers" here in the U.S.. Everyone had such a great time that it led to Don organizing "STTARS SuperTT" in an effort to attract dirt, TT, and roadracing riders to the sport.

Now, SuperMoto racing is gaining interest rapidly in the United States, with many local racing associations doing local series, and the AMA and The X-Games have even gotten involved, creating the national AMA Pro Racing SuperMoto Series and The X-Games SuperMoto Racing Series.


There's not much difference of "shop-talk" between SuperMoto and the rest of the motorcycle world. However, we do say a few things that's pretty specific. Here are a few:

SuperMoto - A type of motorcycle derived from a dirt bike chassis. These bikes are to be ridden on a partial asphalt and hard dirt surface and are distinctly known for their motors, wheels, tires, brakes, suspensions and riding style. SuperMotos should not be confused with adventure bikes, enduros or dual sports (although dual sports are often converted to SuperMotos).

Sportsman Class - A fully converted dirt bike to SuperMoto with the exception of the wheels, which are left stock. Knobby tires are replaced with dual sport or asphalt tires for ultimate traction. "Sportsman Class" refers to this particular style of SuperMoto in racing.

Backin'-it-in - One of the most distinct riding styles of SuperMoto. Developed to conquer the tight turns SuperMotos are exposed to, the fastest way around a turn is by sliding "through" it. It is accomplished by the combination of speed, lightening the rear with a lot of front brake, balancing the chassis with the rear brake, engaging the clutch and keeping it engaged, banging down 1-3 gears and feathering the clutch out. This will cause the rear wheel to spin slower than the bike is traveling and will "slide" the back end. With some lean, the bike will pitch out sideways. "Backin'-it-in" does NOT mean to slam on the rear brake and skid, as many people think.

Thumper - A single-cylinder, 4 stroke motorcycle. Most SuperMotos are thumpers with the exception of the Aprilia V-Twin.

Motard - Short for "SuperMotard" which is the French term for "SuperBiker". The label has been shortened and the worldwide term is now "SuperMoto".

Cut Slicks - As the term implies, this is when racers cut grooves into their race slicks with a special heat tool to aid them in manuevering in dirt sections of the race track.

Big Brakes - Usually refers to the front brake on a SuperMoto, whereas a "Big Brake" conversion consists of replacing the stock dirt bike rotor with a much larger and stronger rotor. A "Big Brake" conversion will also entail repositioning or replacing the brake caliper to make up for the larger rotor. More positive stopping on a SuperMoto is essential to the riding style.

17's - A very distinctive feature of a SuperMoto, this term refer's to the 17" wheels that replace the stock wheels on a dirtbike during a conversion. A much more detailed explanation is found in further reading.

Foot-out/Foot Forward - Another riding style in SuperMoto, adopted from flattrack and dirt riding. Most riders adopt this style (as opposed to "dragging knee") to keep the front end of the motorcycle weighted. SuperMoto riding is a very "loose" riding style, and as long as there is traction on the front tire, the rear end can move about i.e. "backin'-it-in". Keeping your "foot-out/foot forward" toward the inside of the turn can also help keep the sliding rear end from getting away from you. The inside of the opposite leg is usually firmly planted on the side of the gas tank.

Elbows Up - Yet another riding style in SuperMoto. When leaning a sportbike to turn during fast riding, riders will lower the center of gravity by dropping their elbow and body ("hanging off") toward the inside of the turn and "pulling" their bike through the turn. This will often follow up with a lowered and outward knee, and sometimes dragging on a knee puck.

To turn a SuperMoto at speed, it is the complete opposite. Keeping the weight on the front (allowing the rear to ride loose) and keeping the "foot out/foot forward", SuperMoto riders "push" the bike underneath them. In order to accomplish this, the rider will raise his/her outside elbow and extend their inside arm.

Last edited by SVsick50; 12-01-2007 at 07:33 AM..
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Old 04-25-2006, 09:49 PM   #2
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The Basics of SuperMoto Motorcycles

Many riders take SuperMoto to the various karting tracks available for an inexpensive trackday. However, there is increasing interest in SuperMoto-style bikes for street riding because these bikes make just about the perfect street bike.

SuperMotos have the following, general advantages:

1) Their upright seating position is comfortable and provides great visibility. In the city you can see over traffic, and in the twisties you can see over obstructions on many corners (like tall weeds), giving you a preview of the corner coming up that you wouldn't see on a racer-tuck sportbike. On steep bumpy downhills, you don't have all that weight on the handlebars that you have on a sportbike

2) They're narrow. This makes them easy to maneuver and move around on. They're perfect for lane-splitting.

3) They're simple in design and technology. Virtually all SuperMotos are thumpers (single cylinder engines) with either liquid or air cooling. They're very low-tech, and very reliable.

4) They're light. Most street SuperMotos weigh less than 300lbs. The average sportbike is well over 400lbs.

5) They're powerful... at least in the range that is the most useful to most riders. Thumper power characteristics tend to feature lots of low and midrange torque, with horsepower ranging from 40 to 60 on street motors. That may not sound like a lot, but the power to weight ratio is quite favorable, and SuperMotos are also geared low (most top out at around 100MPH). The gearing and the light weight make the most of the engines, and from 0-80MPH they are as fast as all but the hairiest sportbikes.

6) They have powerful brakes. SuperMotos usually have a 320mm single disc with a 4 pot caliper in the front, giving the ability to do stoppies with one finger on the lever. That's a LOT of brake for the weight of the bike.

7) They have long travel suspension. SuperMotos are based on motocross and enduro bikes, and most have 10-12 inches of travel front and rear. This makes the ride very plush over nasty surfaces.

8) They're quick handling. The light weight with the 17 inch wheels and sticky tires makes SuperMotos formidable weapons in the twisties. The twistier and rougher the road, the more advantage a SuperMoto has.

9) They're relatively immune to crash damage. SuperMotos are based on dirt bikes, and dirt bikes are designed to crash well. Most of the time when a SuperMoto goes down, you just pick it back up (the engine will even probably still be running) get back on and ride away. The same minor lowside on a sportbike would result in hundreds of dollars worth of rashed plastic and broken parts.

10) They're very cheap to insure. Most insurance companies seem to consider SuperMotos (even factory ones like the KTM) to be medium displacement dirtbikes, and so they don't get penalized with exhorbitant rates like sportbikes do. Check with your agent, I think you'll be very pleasantly surprised.

SuperMotos have some drawbacks, too:

1) They have limited fuel capacity. Most have 2.5 to 3 gallon tanks. You'll be looking for a gas station after about 80 miles. There are increased capacity aftermarket tanks available for about $200 that will extend the range to about 160 miles.

2) They have uncomfortable seats. Since most SuperMotos are based on mx and enduro bikes, the seats are not well-suited to long periods of sitting. SuperMoto riders can often be seen standing on the pegs. That's not being done to show off, it's being done to get some circulation back into the old gluteus maximus. The seats are seldom an issue when riding in the twisties though, because you spend so much time moving around on the bike, and you're going too fast to notice the butt pain anyway.

3) They lack of wind protection. SuperMotos don't have fairings or windshields. The flip side of this is that since they don't, they aren't there to break and get replaced in a crash.

4) They have little to no passenger accommodations. Some SuperMotos do have passenger pegs, but carrying a passenger on a bike that already has such a light front end really doesn't work very well. These bikes are designed for a single rider.

5) They vibrate. No way around that. Most have some type of counterbalancer in the engine to reduce the vibration that gets transmitted to the rider, and some work better than others. That being said, the vibration doesn't bother me as much as the high frequency vibration that inline four cylinder engines on sportbikes put out.

How Can You Get A SuperMoto?

There are several ways... buy a factory-built SuperMoto, convert a street legal dirtbike/dual-sport, or go through the process of converting a motocross bike.

Factory SuperMotos
Several European and Japanese manufacturers produce street legal SuperMotos: KTM, MZ, Vertemati, VOR, Husqvarna, CCM, Husaberg, and others. They tend to sell for $7,000 to over $10,000. The street bikes are barely disguised racebikes (Vertemati), some have electric start and a full compliment of DOT lighting. One of the more popular factory built bikes is the Suzuki DRZ-400SM.

Converting Street-Legal Dual Sports
Another option is to get a street legal Dual Sport bike and convert it by installing 17 inch rims, sportbike tires, and a large brake in the front. Bikes suitable for this include the Honda XR650L, Suzuki DR650SE and Suzuki DR-Z400S.

Converting Off-Road Motorcycles
One of the more difficult and expensive paths is to take an offroad bike (enduro or mx) that is not street legal and go through the process of adding the equipment to make it street legal (you can get everything you need for this from Baja Designs and others), and then getting it plated through your state's Department of Motor Vehicles. Most of these types of conversions are race and/or track only bikes. It (street conversions) is no longer possible to do this in California, or at least very expensive and/or difficult. On top of that, you need to do the SuperMoto conversion (17 inch wheels, big front brake, and sportbike, supermoto specific tires, or racing slicks). Popular bikes for this type of conversion include the Honda XR/CRF650R, Honda XR/CRF450R, Honda XR/CRF250R and Yamaha WR450F.

SuperMoto Mini's
A fairly new aspect of SuperMoto, and a great way for beginner and younger SuperMoto Riders to get their feet wet, are SuperMoto Mini's. For the most part, these are not street legal motorcycles. However, there is an increasing popularity of these bikes, sweeping karting tracks (mentioned below) and giving the big bikes a run for their money. Honda XR/CRF100's, Honda XR/CRF150's, and Yamaha TTR125's seem to be the bikes of choice for this style of riding. And now, with the huge influx of Chinese-made, small displacement Japanese replica dirtbikes, most people can get started between $500-$1000.

Last edited by SVsick50; 04-26-2006 at 06:57 PM..
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Old 04-25-2006, 10:20 PM   #3
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Where Do I Get Conversion Parts?

As our motorcycle niche grows, so does the availability of SuperMoto conversion parts. Listed below are just to name some of the bigger players in SuperMoto parts.

Motostrano is your Bay Area SuperMoto racing and street parts specialists with a large selection of products for the SuperMoto rider/builder. Complete wheelsets, brake kits, plastic and accessory parts from any manufacturer producing products for SuperMoto. Lots of SuperMoto-specific gear, leathers, etc. They also carry complete conversion packages varying in price depending on your need.

Buchanan's Spoke & Rim specializes in all types of spoked motorcycle wheels, and they also manufacture the most popular brand of spokes used on SuperMoto wheels. Like East Coast Wheels, they'll build you complete wheelsets or lace up a set on your hubs.

East Coast Wheels can sell you complete wheelsets, brakes, tires, and tubes. They will also lace 17 inch rims to your stock hubs, or they will sell you rims & spokes and you can do it yourself.

Cycle Pro is owned by SuperMoto racer Brian Pecore and stocks EBC Supermoto disk kits and other SuperMoto parts and accessories.

Moto Master is the supplier of what are probably the most popular 320mm brake conversion kits for SuperMotos

SuperMoto Engineering makes Delrin® sliders for your SuperMoto's axles, pegs, and handlebars, axle blocks, carb kits, etc. SME is owned and run by BARF's very own HighSpeed.

70/30 by LockHart Phillips is a brand new distribution center carrying the finest of SuperMoto parts available.

Where Can I Find More Information?

SuperMoto Junkie is a discussion board dedicated to SuperMotos. It's one of the best sources for information about these bikes. is run by your's truly (XRsick50). A website completely dedicated to SuperMoto and Motard Motorcycles. Take a peek... you'll find videos, pics, product reviews, helpful links and a pretty sweet forum. We also host SuperMoto Trackdays, being the first non-school organization to host these types of events in California.

ThumperTalk has a very active SuperMoto forum with a lot of very knowledgable people.
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Old 04-25-2006, 10:25 PM   #4
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Wheels for SuperMotos - Sitting on 17's

Probably the most distinctive feature of SuperMotos is the wheels. There are "Sportsman" classes at the SuperMoto races where they run stock 18" or 19" rear and 21" front wheels with sticky street tires, and while those bikes are very fast and capable in the right hands, most don't consider them to be SuperMotos until the 17" wheels are on there.

There are three major types of 17" wheels for SuperMotos. Some people adapt cast sportbike wheels to fit, and others use custom-made spoked wheels. There are now very trick SuperMoto-specific cast wheels available too.

Cast Sportbike Wheels
Using sportbike wheels usually involves machining custom spacers to adapt it (not a job for the home handyman, but if you have a buddy who is a machinist it might not be a big deal). They have advantages: they're inexpensive (get them from a motorcycle wrecking yard), and they let you run without tubes (the tires used on SuperMotos are usually tubeless, but when you use them on spoked wheels you usually have to use tubes). Cast wheels are also frequently pretty heavy and easier to dent than the spoked wheels. Many purists don't like them on SuperMotos.

Custom Spoked Wheels
The custom spoked wheels are by far the most popular type for SuperMotos. They're stronger than cast wheels, and they have "the look" people want (virtually all SuperMoto racebikes use spoked wheels).

Rims - For street bikes, the normal sizes are 17" diameter with 3.5" width for the front and 17" diameter with 4.25" width for the rear. The most popular manufacturer is Excel, but the German Behr rims (used as original equipment on KTM and other Euro SuperMotos) and U.S. manufactured Sun rims are also used.

Spokes - Spokes are stainless steel heavy duty ones, usually either Buchanan or Bulldog brand. Some use conventional nipples and some use spline drive nipples (the spline drive nipples are less likely to get rounded off when the tension gets high).

Hubs - The hubs can be your stock hubs or billet aluminum hubs from Talon, Excel, RAD Manufacturing, Z-Hubs, and others. What many folks don't realize is that although the billet hubs are flashy and very strong, they are frequently significantly heavier than stock hubs, and the stock hubs are adequately strong (especially for street use where the bike is unlikely to be jumped as they are in SuperMoto racing).

Buy, or Build?
Most people buy ready-made wheelsets from one of the suppliers listed on our Conversion Parts Suppliers section. The cost ranges from around $900 to $1500 for a set of two complete wheels. You can have Excel or Sun rims laced to your stock hubs by several suppliers (Buchanan and East Coast Wheels offer this service, among others) for around $650 (you supply the hubs). You can also buy rims and spokes from those same suppliers and lace them yourself. It's not difficult, but the lacing / truing / tensioning process can take quite a bit of time. I did mine myself, and they turned out fine.

Cast SuperMoto Wheels
Marchesini has recently released SuperMoto-specific cast wheels. These are really designed for racebikes, because they are much wider in the rear than streetbikes need (5.5") and are also available in 16 1/2" and 17" fronts. I don't know of any DOT-legal tires suitable for the 16 1/2 (they're designed for slicks), and you'd have a tough time fitting that 5 1/2" rear on most street SuperMotos.

I mention them though because they do address three of the failings of the custom spoked wheels most folks use:

1) They're tubeless: The tubes we run in the normal SuperMoto wheels can weigh 2 pounds each, and the tires we run really aren't designed to have tubes in them. Tubeless is better.

2) They're light: A set of these is about 4 pounds lighter than a typical Excel / Talon wheelset.

3) They're maintenance-free: Typical rim / spoke / hub wire wheels require some periodic attention to keep them true and up to tension so you don't break spokes. These Marchesinis don't require any of that. If you combine the bling factor, no maintenance, light weight (4 pounds lighter plus 4 pounds of tubes is 8 pounds of savings), the $1400 price of these wheels starts looking reasonable. And keep in mind, that weight savings is rotating unsprung weight, which is the most important kind of weight to minimize for quicker turning, acceleration and stopping. You can get these wheels at Motostrano.
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Old 04-25-2006, 10:56 PM   #5
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Gearing is a rider's preference. You will meet riders who prefer and short gearing, and others who prefer a taller gearing. Are you commuting, weekend-warrior'ing it or track riding? This will all come into play when deciding on how to gear your bike.

Switching to 17" wheels will require a little math. If you want to keep the same gearing as you had with the stock wheels, you'll need to get new front and/or rear sprockets. Changing from an 18" rim with a tall dirt tire to a 17" rim with a low profile sportbike tire will change your gearing 10-15%, so you need to adjust accordingly with the proper sprockets.

Your speedometer and odometer will also be out of calibration if the speedo drive is off the front hub. There is usually no way to recalibrate the stock speedometer to account for this, so you either have to do some mental arithmetic while riding or install a digital bicycle speedometer that can be calibrated for the new rolling circumference.

Tires for SuperMotos

SuperMoto street bikes usually use sticky sportbike tires, or SuperMoto Specific Tires. The most common sizes are 120/70x17 for the front and either 150/60x17 or 160/60x17 for the rear. The 160 size looks "meaner" in the rear, but many bikes can't handle that size due to interference with the chain. It's not uncommon to actually "shave" the edge of the tire on the chain side to provide some clearance, but for most people the 150 size will fit and actually handles better.

Why do the 150's handle better? This is mostly due to the commonly used 4.25" rear rim width. The 160 size is simply too wide for the rim, and because it's not designed for that size rim the profile gets distorted. The distorted profile results in what is actually a smaller contact patch than the 150 gets on the same rim. The 150 will grip better and turn in easier. Still, the 160 has a poseur factor that many like. I use a 150 on my SuperMoto because the performance is more important to me than the look.

Tire Types
SuperMoto racebikes usually use racing slicks that are custom grooved at the track for the particular conditions of the track they'll be racing on that day. Slicks are illegal on the street though, so please use DOT-legal tires on your street bike!

Sportbike Tires
Until quite recently, most street SuperMoto riders used sportbike tires like the Michelin Pilot Powers, Dunlop D208, Metzeler Sportec M1, or Pirelli Diablo or Diablo Corsa. Those tires are designed for sportbikes with their higher weight, horsepower and speeds. Who needs a 150MPH rated tire on a bike that will seldom see over 80MPH? SuperMotos often have a hard time getting them up to the temperature where they work best.

Rain Tires
Another popular choice is DOT-legal rain tires such as the Pirelli MT60R and MT60RS and Avon Pro-Extreme AV49/50 Rain. Some folks like them because they work a bit better in dirt. Not surprisingly, they are also absolutely awesome in wet / rainy conditions, so if you ride in the rain a lot you might want to consider them.

Rain tires are very soft and sticky, but unfortunately they wear out quickly on dry pavement. I got less than 800 street miles out of an Avon rain rear tire before it was almost bald and had lost much of its grip through excessive heat cycling. They're also pretty expensive and usually not available at your local dealer.

SuperMoto-specific Tires
Earlier, I noted the problem with the more heavily constructed sportbike tires. They're overbuilt for SuperMoto use, relatively heavy and hard to get up to proper temperature on a SuperMoto. Fortunately, due to the increasing popularity of SuperMotos on the street, some manufacturers are starting to produce SuperMoto-specific tire models.

These tires are usually "H" rated (130MPH), use stickier rubber compounds that come up to temperature more easily, and use a more flexible and lighter carcass. The lighter weight is important, because tires are "rotating unsprung weight". The more of that you have, the slower your bike can change direction, accelerate and stop.

Two examples of these new SuperMoto-specific tires are the Avon Distanzia in 120/70x17, 150/60x17, and 160/60x17, and the Continental Contiforce (available in the same sizes as the Avon).

Note that there may be confusion at your dealer about Distanzias. Until very recently, Distanzias were manufactured and marketed as a high mileage dual-sport tire. All of them except for the H-rated 120/70x17, 150/60x17, and 160/60x17 sizes still are. Rest assured that if you buy one of those three sizes in the H-rated version, you are getting the soft, sticky SuperMoto version I've described here.

Both the Contiforce and Distanzia are available from Motostrano and other tire vendors.

Although all the popular SuperMoto tires are tubeless (ie: designed to be used without tubes), if you run them on spoked wheels you will most likely have to use tubes in them, because normal spoked wheels would let the air leak out around the holes where the spokes enter the rims. Tubes in the proper sizes for your SuperMoto should be available wherever you got your wheels.

There are currently some alternatives to using tubes. One company has tubless spoked wheels under development, but I don't believe they are for sale yet. You can also get a kit from Motostrano that will convert your spoked wheels to tubeless.

Before leaving the subject of tubes... because the spokes can abrade your tubes and cause flats, it's common on dirtbike wheels to use "rim strips", which are like big rubber bands with a hole in them for the valve stem. They go around your wheels and cover the ends of the spokes. It can be difficult to find rim strips of the right size to cover the spoke ends on the wider 17" diameter SuperMoto wheels, though, and because of that most people just use a couple wraps of duct tape around the rim instead. It's cheap, and it works... but if you don't do something, your spokes will tear up your tubes.

Brakes for SuperMotos - Lose the Dirtbike Brakes!

SuperMoto conversions are usually based on dirtbikes (enduros or motocrossers), and those bikes have woefully inadequate front brakes for SuperMoto use. Dirtbike brakes are designed to be weak and lightweight, because it is much easier to lock up your brakes in the dirt. On a SuperMoto, those brakes will overheat and fade in spirited riding conditions. So, if you are converting a dirtbike, you need to address upgrading at least the front brake. Also, good braking systmes is what allows SuperMoto riders to "back-it-in" (or slide the rear into a turn), which is defining riding style of these motorcycles!

Upgrading Your Front Brake - Using Your Stock Caliper
The cheapest way to upgrade your front brake is to use your stock front brake caliper with a bracket that offsets it so it can be used with a large rotor. 320mm rotors are the standard for SuperMotos, and they usually just use one, mounted on the left side. Manufacturers such as Motomaster and EBC offer kits containing an oversized (320mm) rotor and a billet aluminum offset bracket. These kits run from around $150 to almost $400, and are really quite adequate for street use as long as you use good DOT4 or 5.1 (not DOT 5!) brake fluid, stainless steel brake line and give it a good bleeding job.

Race Grade Brake Systems
For maximum braking power, you can install kits that include a 4 or 6 piston caliper (most stock calipers have only 2 pistons), a full floating 320mm rotor, and sometimes even a radial master cylinder. They're manufactured by such names as Beringer, Motomaster, Brembo, and Braking USA, and can be purchased through the suppliers listed on our Suppliers page.

These setups are much more expensive, and run in the $600-$1000 range. In my opinion, brakes like this are gross overkill for street SuperMotos, but they are definitely ultra high quality, have a huge "bling factor", and they will truly give you the capability for one finger stoppies. Just be careful and don't grab a big handful in a panic, or you will quickly learn just how well SuperMotos survive crashes. I recommend riding with one or two fingers covering the front brake lever so you aren't as likely to grab with all four fingers.

Brake Pads
You can further improve your braking power and "feel" by upgrading your brake pads. The high-end braking systems usually come with very good pads, but if you are using your stock caliper I recommend installing a set of EBC"MXS" sintered metallic pads. They provide more initial "bite" and better stopping power than the stock pads. The good news is that they are cheap (about $25) and easy to install.

Stainless/Kevlar® Brake Lines
Stock rubber brake lines can make your brakes feel mushy and soft even when the system has been properly bled. This is because under the stresses of hard braking, the rubber lines will actually expand, wasting braking power. I am a firm believer in upgrading your brake lines to use either braided stainless steel or Kevlar® lines that don't expand under hard braking. These lines are made by such companies as Galfer, Spiegler and Goodridge, and are available from the suppliers we've listed.

Make sure if you get braided stainless lines that they are covered with a plastic coating, because the stainless steel lines can act like a file and saw through things they rub against. I think nowadays all of the stainless steel lines have a coating on them (and you can even get them in different colors), but make sure the ones you buy have the coating / covering. Kevlar® lines don't have this problem. Once you try good brake lines, you'll never want to use the stock rubber ones again.

Brake Fluid
You should routinely flush your brakes and replace your brake fluid (once a year is a good interval), but most people don't. Brake fluid is "hygroscopic", ie: it absorbs water out of the air. That's why new brake fluid is usually a light amber color and old fluid turns black. As it absorbs more water, it gets darker and darker. When brake fluid has absorbed water, the water can actually boil in your calipers when they get hot under heavy braking conditions. When this happens, the water turns to steam, and steam is compressable (brake fluid is not), and you'll lose either some or all of your braking power just when you need it most!

OK, now that I've scared you into paying attention to your brake fluid and you're going to change it (you'll need to do this anyway when you install your new brake lines), you need to buy good fluid. First check the manufacturer's recommendations for your brake system and use what they specify. If they don't specify, use either DOT 4 or DOT 5.1 fluid from a new, sealed container (brake fluid will even absorb water from the air inside a closed container that's been sitting on the shelf). Do not buy DOT 5 brake fluid unless that is what the mfg of your braking system has specified. DOT 5 is silicone-based, and while it is not hygroscopic, it is not compatible with DOT 4 and DOT 5 fluids. Don't use it!

I'm not going to go into the specifics of draining and flushing and bleeding your brake system, as there are plenty of resources about that on the web. The important thing is to do it... don't ignore your brakes!

Rear Brakes
You can do all the things mentioned above to your rear brakes too (with the exception of using a 320mm rotor), but aside from flushing and bleeding them and making sure you have good pads and the above mention brake lines. More and more SuperMoto riders are starting to hone their rear brakes as much as their front brakes.


Assuming you have already done the basic conversion of your dirtbike into a SuperMoto, there are some additional items you might want to consider adding or changing.

Front Fender
Standard front fenders on dirtbikes are well-designed for riding in the dirt and the muck. They're long and wide and are contoured to go above a 21" wheel. Problem is, they are really ugly on a SuperMoto bike with a 17" front wheel. Several manufacturers such as Acerbis, Maier and Cycra now make front fenders that match the stock plastic colors, but are shorter and are contoured to work with the 17" wheel.

Crash Protection

Let's face it... SuperMotos bring out the hooligan in all of us. When you start riding one, you'll be tempted to do wheelies, stoppies, backing it in to a corner, and generally going pretty fast. You'll become addicted to spanking sportbikes on goat trails. And at some point, you'll probably crash. SuperMotos do crash well, but there are some items you can install that will help to protect it even more.

Your hands are very vulnerable in a crash. There are stories of riders getting their hand pinned under a handlebar end and sliding to the extent fingers got ground off. That's NASTY! You can provide some good protection for your hands by installing handguards on your handlebars. They cover your hands and levers in the event of a crash and protect them both as long as you remember to hang onto the grips when you go down.

Sportbikes use frame sliders, and SuperMotos can use sliders too. At a minimum, you should consider axle sliders. Axle sliders will keep the ends of your forks and your swingarm from getting scratched up if you lay the bike down. Many racing organizations and tracks are REQUIRING the use of sliders for SuperMoto bikes due to the damage these bikes cause to the pavement as they are crashing. Don't be cheap... just get them!

Skateboard Wheel Sliders - There are two basic types of axle sliders. When SuperMoto first started getting popular, some bright soul figured out that by affixing skateboard wheels to the ends of his axles, he could provide some crash protection. If your axles are hollow (most are), all you need is 4 skateboard wheels, some washers and nuts, and a couple lengths of threaded rod. You stick the threaded rod through your axles and mount the skateboard wheels on both sides with nuts and washers. It works, but I think they're cheesy looking, and the nuts and threaded rod tend to be good for only one crash before they're all bent up and scratched.

SuperMoto Engineering Axle Slider - The hot setup is a set of the neatly designed sliders from SuperMoto Engineering. These sliders are lightweight and very strong. The slider component is made of Delrin®, which is a very tough yet slippery plastic material. They use stainless steel threaded rod and gold anodized aluminum nuts and spacers. The nuts are recessed so they don't get torn up if the sliders hit the ground. Yes, they cost more than the cheesy skateboard wheels, but they really work well (don't ask me how I know this).

When you crash (notice I said "when", not "if"), the parts of your SuperMoto that hit the ground are usually the front fork ends and rear swingarm & axle, your pegs, and the ends of your handlebars. SuperMoto Engineering has sliders for all those points of contact.

SuperMoto Engineering Peg Slider - They're made of the same materials as the axle sliders, and will protect your footpegs. They also provide a great sliding surface when you are at extreme lean angles. I've seen many "peg-sliderless" riders crash from gouging their peg into the pavement.

SuperMoto Engineering Bar End Slider - Same materials again, and they are available in black or white. These'll save wear and tear on your handguards and handlebars.

Radiator Braces
If you have one of the SuperMotos with a liquid cooled engine, your radiators are vulnerable in a crash and they're very expensive to replace if they get torn up.

Fortunately, Works Connection has the solution for you. Their stainless steel radiator braces will reinforce your radiators and keep them from getting folded up when you crash.

Misc. items

There are many dress-up parts that SuperMoto riders like to purchase. Acerbis Headlights, graphics kits, Clarke/IMS large capacity fuel tanks, big handlebar kits, etc. These are all available through your local shop.

Last edited by SVsick50; 04-26-2006 at 06:59 PM..
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Old 04-25-2006, 11:40 PM   #6
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Gear for the Rider

As with any motorcycle, when you ride a SuperMoto you need protective gear. The traditional SuperMoto outfit consists of 1 or 2 piece leathers, boots, gloves, and helmet... just like on other motorcycles. But some of the specifics are different for SuperMotos.

Normal roadracing-style leathers work fine on a SuperMoto, but the fit is designed for a racer-tuck position and they usually have knee sliders (which you probably won't need if you are riding in the normal SuperMoto "foot forward" style). They also frequently have those aero humps that are particularly useless and silly on a bike that will seldom see more than 80MPH.

Manufacturers such as Alpinestars, GiMoto, AXO and Shift are now starting to produce SuperMoto-specific leathers, designed for the way we ride. They don't have knee sliders, and are cut for the upright seating position of a SuperMoto so they are more comfortable.

The Gimoto suits are particularly interesting in that they are available made from kangaroo skin, which is reputed to be much stronger and more abrasion-resistant and much lighter. We compared the weights of two suits, one was a traditional cowhide 2 piece, the other a Gimoto kangaroo skin 1 piece. The traditional suit weighed 10 pounds, while the Gimoto was only 5 1/2 pounds. That's the same as removing 4 1/2 pounds of weight from your motorcycle, and that's not all that easy to do.

SuperMoto Specific Riding Pants and Jackets
Troy Lee Designs (TLD) and Thor have been making SM specific riders gear, adopted from the look and fit of MX gear but put together to offer as much protection as race leathers. The pants are constructed of a combination of leather, ballistic nylon and spandex. The jackets are built in a "ballistic style, offering hard plastic in the elbows, forearms, shoulders, back and chest. You will often see riders wearing a MX style jersey over these jackets.

Many naive street riders will poke fun at your "dirt riding gear". Little do they know they this is some of the best crash protection money can buy.

Sure, you can wear your roadracing boots on a SuperMoto, but most folks wear motocross-style boots. The mx boots are stiffer, taller and more protective, and they have a sole that is designed for the "foot forward" style. They also have that "SuperMoto racer" look.

There are also now some SuperMoto-specific boots available from manufacturers such as Fly Racing and Sidi. In the case of the Sidi boot, it has replaceable scuff pads that slide smoothly on asphalt and dirt. I have seen some racers actually attach these sliders on MX boots, but not witnessed how long they've lasted or if they eventually got a nail through the bottom of their foot.

Although most SuperMoto riders use mx boots, we don't use mx gloves. Mx gloves are usually made of textiles and provide sufficient protection when you are riding in the dirt, but not when you go down on pavement. For that, you need leather, so most of us wear roadracing gloves. TLD, Alpinestars and others are now introducing SuperMoto specific gloves to their line.

Motocross / Offroad style helmets are the most popular helmets for SM, although since many folks come into SM riding from sportbiking, lots of people wear conventional full coverage closed face helmets. Either type works fine, but if you want "the look", you'll probably want an mx-style helmet. Don't forget that if you wear an open face dirt helmet, you'll need goggles too.

Yep... at least one manufacturer has released a SuperMoto-specific helmet that combines the best characteristics of both helmet types. That helmet is the Arai XD. It looks like a dirt helmet, but has a clear visor / shield that you can raise up and it retracts beneath the visor. When it's up, it looks like a dirt helmet, but it gives you the wind / weather / bug protection of a closed face helmet when it's down. The XD is quite expensive (around $500), but it's in the same ballpark as other premium helmets.

Where to Ride?

Okay, you have the bike (all nice and converted to SuperMoto) and you have the gear (looking like a pro, right?)... now, where do you ride?

In Your Own Backyard
The obvious answer for the street rider is, well, the street. The Bay Area offers some of the most beautiful, twistiest, sweetest roads for SuperMoto bikes. With a SuperMoto bike, you can go through goat trails you wouldn't have dreamed of ever setting rubber down with your sportbike or standard. If you're unsure of where to go or new to the area, take a look at the local forums or log in to for detailed accounts of most of our local roads and beyond. Take advantage of what we have right here!

SuperMoto bikes are ridden on karting tracks unless a special track is built specifically for a race, usually for the big-buck pro races. There are some SuperMoto riders that ride bigger, faster bikes i.e. XR/CRF650R and are able to pounce the large tracks like Thunderhill and Buttonwillow. These riders, in fact, give the SV650 riders a run for their money in the AFM. However, we still thrive in small, tight and twisty environments:

1) Stockton Motorplex

2) Dixon Karting Track

3) Grange

4) Infineon Kart Track

SuperMoto Schools and Trackdays
The big player for the locals is WestCoast SuperMoto School. This school, like sportbike schools, offer a tiered system for street riders and racers to hone their skills. WestCoast SuperMoto is taught by some of the best riders and racers in the country. is currently the only organization to host non-school SuperMoto trackday events. The price is extremely reasonable and includes a catered lunch. I may be a little biased... since I was the one who started it! RichieB has become my partner in crime, and everybody has a blast at all of our events- rain or shine!

Dirt - Yes... we do it, too!
Although all of us ride on street tires, we like to occasionally play in the dirt. Some MX parks offer a "blue groove" surface which is very hard, compact dirt. In many cases, these surfaces offer just as much traction as asphalt. The fun part is, you get to practice jumping, berms, and learn how to ride in very loose conditions. Many, if not all, SuperMoto races have a dirt section. This is great practice and you definetely get the stares of MX riders thinking you're nuts for riding on the tires you're riding on! MetCalf MX Park in San Jose and Carnegie are the usual spots for local SM riders (yes... we do the hill climbs, too!).


Now that you're done reading about it... get out there and do it! We have a budding SuperMoto community right here in the Bay Area, and we all love to see newcomers get hooked. I hope this helped and sincerely hope to see you out there sliding that bike around! -XRsick50

Last edited by SVsick50; 04-26-2006 at 06:49 PM..
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Old 04-26-2006, 08:32 PM   #7
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Getting one of these is way up on my list.

I really want to convert a WR450F, but I guess you really cant anymore.

And dirtbikes are bloody expensive, for how simple they are. They're like the pickup trucks of the moto world, they dont seem to depreciate.
So here we here we go, now its time to decide, because a true believer's always ready to die.
If it's true what they say, then it doesnt matter anyway, and if it's not then you just threw it away.
The beginning of the end starts right about now, but we're gonna make it through somehow.
So in the end if you've always believed, then you better give it all when you give it to me.
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Old 04-26-2006, 08:46 PM   #8
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Basically what XRsick50 said.

Good writeup.
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Old 04-26-2006, 09:07 PM   #9
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Well done. I blew my entire wad of mojo on each post

edit- looks like our regular mojo'ing of this thread finally made it go gold! schweet
"WOW! This crash is going awesome!"---our very own Liam

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Old 04-28-2006, 07:26 PM   #10
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Thanks for the 411. I'm seriously considering a supermoto when I get settled in PA. I've narrowed down my choices to DRZ400sm or MZ Black Panther Baghira. Alot of good info.
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Old 05-02-2007, 04:53 PM   #11
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Awesome write-up!

Really helps newbie SM riders like myself with nothing but the sportbike experience to get into this particular brand of riding and see what it's all about!

Thanks very much!
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Old 05-04-2007, 07:41 PM   #12
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So Now I No Thank D Now Lets Go Race.
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Old 05-05-2007, 02:36 AM   #13
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if i had mojo to give, this would get it...awesome thread
I BARF long distance.
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Old 05-15-2007, 03:27 AM   #14
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Originally posted by deathbug74
if i had mojo to give, this would get it...awesome thread
mojo abounds

and it's gold!
I BARF long distance.
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Old 10-08-2007, 07:27 AM   #15
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hey guys great post. i'd love to see a bike buyers guide for the noobs. anything like that on here? saved hours of searching..

nobody ever listened to me until they didn't know who i was.
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