SOHC Norton Catalog
Visit Full
Online Catalog

Go Back to Homepage


Latest Addition - KTM 660 LC4 SMC


and - Silverstone New Era Racing

  Latest Update:     Last Updated : 03/05/10  

Some of you may remember that I had a 'Wanted' ad posted here about 2 months ago, saying that I was looking for a KTM or CCM Super Moto as a road toy.
Well about a month ago, having looked at about 15 bikes on E-Bay, eventually I spoke to someone in the Luton area who had a nice 2002 KTM 660 LC4 SMC, and after some deliberation - of which more in a moment, I parted with a very reasonable sum of dosh and now it is the latest toy in the Norman stable!


KTM  660

New Toy - Late 2002 KTM 660 LC4 SMC
A bit of a monster!


A bit about KTM's and Super Moto Models
First of all, my normal disclaimer - I don't know too much about this type of bike!
I am not an expert, but as is often the case, when I get a whim to own something I like to do a bit of homework, just so I have a rough idea of the different models and some idea of what I am looking at!
My mate Andy had been coming round on his CCM R30 Super Moto, which he has owned for the last year and the idea of a big single motocrosser style bike, but with fat road tyres (which is pretty much what a Super Moto is) quite appealed. I fancied something different for nipping down to the shops and about town - maybe the odd ride out - but more than anything, I just fancied a big single, which could make the front end go light!
Andy, like me, had fancied a KTM himself - as these are one of the top manufacturers of motorcrossers and supermotos and their quality is renowned, but as he himself admits, he is slightly short of leg and found them a bit too tall for him. I have never let practicality hinder me when I want something (ho hum), and I think they look great, so this was top of my list. The other big benefit with KTM's, is that they are all fitted with top quality White Power suspension (which I believe they bought, so they now own) and Brembo brakes - so in both handling and braking they are excellent.



Factory shot of off-road KTM 525 EXC


There are lots of different KTM single models, the most well known pure competition model being the EXC, which comes in a variety of cc sizes, the biggest being the 530EXC. I did fancy one of these, as they are very light and powerful, but as standard they only come in Motocross trim and are effectively a competition bike only. I did look at a couple converted to SuperMoto trim, but they were either too expensive, or I was just not sure about the history.
The 640 LC4 is the well known road going single and has been very successful since they were first introduce in 1998. Earlier versions (identified by black painted engines, later versions are grey\silver) have LC4 decals along the tank and I gather have many different small engine details from the later models. I did look at one of these, but its condition was not brilliant and I had heard stories about the earlier examples having problems.
The normal roadgoing versions are fitted with balance shaft, electric start and rear footrests for passengers. I looked at many of these, but I found they were still fetching prices of £2.5k or above for a 2003'ish model.

However, as well as the standard LC4 I found out there was an even more extreme version, called the LC4 SMC which is a competition version, devoid of many of the niceties of the normal version. The SMC has a slightly different chassis (swinging arm), the barest of electrics - i.e. no battery, no electric start and lights only on when the engine is running. Finally, unlike the standard LC4, the SMC does not have a balance shaft in the engine, so it is a bit rougher and more extreme. I also found out that there were two types of SMC the 620 SMC and the most extreme model of all - the 660 SMC.


Factory shot of standar KTM 640 LC4 - Approx 2003

The SMC is known though for also being the most pure and extreme of the LC4 range, supposedly awesome handling, due to the lighter chassis, and tree stump pulling power. When I started looking for KTM's I also found that for some strange reason they did not seem to fetch quite the same price as the standard LC4. It turns out the reason for this is that because they are (left) kickstart only and are renowned for being a total bitch to start! This put me off as well at first, I had tried a couple of KTM's out at my local dealer and the left mounted kickstart felt really weird - my mate Andy is reasonably used to it, but I am told they can be almost impossible to restart when semi-warm.

Anyway, I found this one (a late 2002 660 SMC) down near Luton and contacted the owner many weeks ago. By an amazing coincidence it turned out his father used to work for Vincent's! At the time I was quite involved with work, and the owner was truthful enough to tell me it was not entirely practical - for the reasons I describe above, but was in good condition. At the time I decided to let it go, but some weeks later found that it was back up for sale. It turns out the new buyer was in Germany and could not get to pick it up for some weeks, and had backed out. By this time I was getting sick of looking, so decided to take the plunge. Having talked to the owner in some detail, he sounded like a decent bloke and although the bike had scant service history, it sounded in good condition and had no known issues. I did the normal bartering and finally agreed a price. I also paid him a deposit, which I told him he could keep if when I got there it turned out I could not start the bloody thing - in which case I would walk away!

Andy and I went down in my van the following Saturday and looked at it. It seemed reaonably original and straight, and is just how I like them, generally clean but not mint - after all I wanted this as a ride to work bike. Anyway, the owner managed to start the bike for me initially, and I went for a quick test ride - enough to tell me that the bike felt straight and ran well - and would be great fun!

KTM Engine
SMC 660 engine differs in detail from the standard LC4. You can just see behind the main cylinder, where the exhaust kink is, that there is an oil filter, along with another at the base, where the gear lever ends. On a standard LC4 there would be an electric starter where the top oil filter is
Unfortunately, that was the good part. When I got back he gave me the starting instructions and I tried myself. What a bloody nightmare! You have to stand on the left of the bike - sort of sidesaddle, holding the bike up and the handlebars on full right lock (if you put the sidestand down, it fouls the kickstart). You then follow normal british single procedure, re: decompression lever, and use your right leg on the left mounted kickstart - very weird. This is not helped any by the disadvantage that the top of the kickstart lever is not far off your groin area - very high! Anyway, I must have spent 5 minutes of fruitless kicking with no feel of life and the base of my foot aching awful - until eventually it fired into life, and even then it did not feel like it would.
I spent the next 10 minutes deliberating over wether I should walk away or not, and further kicking. I talked to the owner, and told him the problem (I think he had figured this for himself!) and that I was thinking this might be a - 'bridge too far'. Eventually I figured what it was worth to me (in money terms) to take the chance, and as there were a couple of other minor faults, we negotiated a final price (slightly less than the one I negotiated on the phone) and took the plunge.
KTM Engine
Engine of the 660 SMC, showing SOHC cam chain drive. Red bull can is the remote cylinder of the White Power rear shock. Note holes in airbox
Starting a KTM . . . Sometimes
Anyway, it is now about a month later, and I have to say I am in love with the bike!
Starting was initially a nightmare and on the first ride out I got stuck twice, where I could not start it for about 10 minutes. On both occasions I stood there on a hot day absolutely bathed in sweat, cursing the thing. I went round to my mate Andy's and couldent get it started then either. Eventually Andy had to take it from me and start it himself - oh the shame! I was thinking to myself that here I am - a middle aged, balding, slightly overweight (I've been on a diet!) bloke, on a young hooligans bike - I should really know better.
However, as I started to get used to the technique and the initially alien feel of standing on the left of the bike to start it, so I found that my success rate of starting within 5 kicks started to improve. This was helped massively when I realised that (unlike most british singles I have started), the KTM started much easier if you kept the throttle resolutely shut. Once I had figured this out I found that invariably it would start within 3 kicks, and sometimes on first kick.

I had some money left in hand after I bought the bike, which I figured even if I had bought a pup, I had enough money for a rebuild (there isent much else on the bike other than the engine!), but I wanted to ride it first for a while so that (a) if I couldent get on with it, I wouldent waste even more money on something I was not going to keep, and (b) so that I could try and figure out anything myself that definitely needed replacing, before it went in.
Well now I have owned and ridden it for a month, although it is not the quietest of engines, there certainly does not feel much wrong with it. I shall take it in for a full service shortly, to my local KTM dealers - Redline M\C's, at Loughborough, but I am hoping they will not find too much wrong with it. The SMC engine has two oil filters fitted, one in place of where the electric starter would be fitted on standard model LC4's.
KTM Wheel
Big disc and 4 pot Brembo caliper differentiates the Super Moto KTM's from the motocrossers, that have smaller discs and 21" knobbly wheels
KTM  from rear
Big KTM has wonderful presence, and does any bike look meaner from the rear? Notice the grey suede seat - very pretty, but may not be practical when it rains - we will see

Riding a KTM, Brrrrmm
Once I have actually started the bloody thing, and slumped on to it exhausted, I need a few moments to get my breath back - but then the fun begins! When at first you ride off on the bike, it does not feel that unmanageable, in fact it is very easy to ride. For the first couple of miles I take it easy, while letting the fully synthetic oil warm up and the first striking impression you get, is actually not what you would expect of a 660cc single - i.e. that of huge torque, but in fact quite a revvy motor, with what feels like very little flywheel effect (not suprising when you look carefully at the very small diameter crankcases). The other very noticeable trait is just how light and flickable it is - very much due to the fact that there is almost nothing on the bike, other than the barest needed to make it go, stop and handle. It only takes a mile or two before you cannot help but start flicking it into turns, and you are aware of the big, wide tyres on it, giving plenty of grip. You can also tell it has a motocrosser's geometry, because the front end gives you a very strange feeling of being very quick to turn in and skittish, while also feeling well planted - both at the same time.

The front fork legs (Whitepower's best again) are of massive diameter and just soak up any bumps or lumps in the road - I read that the SMC versions are slightly larger in construction than the standard LC4, they certainly look huge. Regardless, you can go over sleeping policeman without realising they are there. I have never been particularly good at setting up modern suspension, but on this one there does not feel like there is anything that needs doing - it is a lovely supple ride and goes exactly where it is put.

Then, once I get to the outskirts of the next village from my own, everything feels good, so I decide to have a bit of fun and open the KTM up - Sheesshh! it about rips your arms out and the front end goes very light, in 2nd, 3rd and fourth gears and the digital speedo is measuring over the national speed limit very quickly. The acceleration is addictive and it is great fun to use it in conjunction with the brilliant handling to flick and squirt through nadgery sections of bends. It is difficult to imagine how a single cylinder bike can put up the performance comparable to a modern race replica - but up to 80mph this one seems pretty close - it's a real hoot.

KTM  rear hub
Unusual red hubs and nice stainless spokes on a hugely wide rear rim. That is a pretty serious rear tyre. Black bit on the rear spindle is a crash bobbin - I hope not to need them
It is not too long before I start to feel at home on the bike and am flicking it around with gay abandon, it just seems to go where you put it and it is lightning fast on the steering. That charateristic allayed to the tremendous power that the 660cc single cylinder is banging out (up to about 65 BHP is capable from a good SMC I gather) just leaves you with a big grin on your face.
After a couple more rides, I end up going to see a friend of mine, and find myself on a very open stretch of dual carriageway, where I can see the road ahead for a while. I accelerate away through the gears and decided to let it stay open for a bit longer than normal. Although the wind resistence without a fairing buffets me badly, it is not too long before the bike is clocking a 100mph on the digital speedo (the speedo's sensor is off the front wheel and feels pretty accurate). It doesent have a rev clock fitted, but I suspect it had a bit left in it - I would guess on its current gearing it would manage 110mph if really pushed.
Now a few weeks later, I am beginning to feel more at home with the bike and have got to know what feels best and most natural and what are not its strengths. Frankly, it is not the sort of bike for doing long rides on. The suede seat is very lightly padded and any more than 30 or 40 miles has you squirming around looking for a bit of backside that is not starting to ache! The other thing about it, being an unfaired bike with 'sit up and beg' handlebars, its ideal speed out on a run seems to be about 65 - 70 mph. Anything more than this and the wind resistence just seems to make it a bit too uncomfortable for any sort of distance.
This last point makes its overall riding traits quite unusual really - because I find that when I am hustling it through tight windy B roads, I can actually put a faster average speed and it is easy to find yourself frequently touching 80mph powering out of turns and feeling the suspension really working and the tyres digging in - while on a wide open road these benefits are not really there, so you are only aware of the wind pressure against you. Therefore I find it a paradox of the the normal Race Replica style, in that I go faster on the smaller roads!
KTM  Controls
'Cockpit' of the KTM, showing very simple digital speedo and 'computer' which only comes on once engine is running. It shows engine hours as well as MPH (so you know when to rebuild engine!). Fuel tank is tiny though

Silverstone - Forgotten Era racing
I was out in Dublin, Ireland the week after buying the bike with my day job, and was not able to get back at the weekend, due to the Icelandic volcano. I did get back the following weekend though and was due to be going on my first ride out this year - which Andy (on his CCM) and I decided would be Silverstone. Actually I thought it was for Historic Car racing, but checking the night before I realised that the car racing was only on the Saturday and it was bike racing on the Sunday, however, we thought it still would be a nice day out.

It was a nice trip, although on the way there I took partly motorway before meeting up with Andy then we went A5. It was this ride that showed up that, although the bike had no objection to trundling along at 75-80mph, the rider was less willing! I found that the wind resistence of an unfaired bike and sit up and beg riding style, made it tiresome at this speed and 65-70mph was easier.
Incidentally, on the way back Andy took us on a more cross country route home, using mostly B roads - fantastic!, this was what this type of bike was made for. It's ability to flick and turn and then that tremendous grunt as it launches itself out of turns is just a pure adrenlin rush. It is a little bit like having a double knocker Norton engine in the lightest of motocross frames!

Anyway, the racing was very good and walking around the pits, as well as the expected collection of 1970's bikes - inlcuding a very nice and well used solo TZ750, there was also a fantastic selection of Ducati racing twins.
It turns out that as well as the other races, the Ducati 848 Challenge was being ran as part of the Forgotten Era schedule this season, and it was wonderful to see the very exotic italian machinery that was on display, many of them the very latest spec of Ducati, with loads of carbon fibre and exotic aftermarket parts.
Up on the pit lane, we saw one of the most professional teams there - the John Hackett Performance (JHP) crew, who were there with their two 848 Challenge riders and their two beautifully presented bikes.
JHP are my local (Coventry) Ducati dealers and are one of the best known Ducati dealerships in the country (see my Ducati section). I use them myself and was not suprised to see that they looked as professional at Silverstone as they look when you visit their showroom.
I did briefly talk with John Hackett himself - always a really nice bloke to talk to, and suprisingly he showed an interest in Manx Nortons as well - I think he fancies a go at Goodwood!
Team Cock
Team Cock - I kid you not!
One of the many Holland based teams present, and clearly a family ran team, because there was a diferent Cock on every bike . . .
The racing was good, even if the weather was of normal English inclemency. There was some sun, but as always at Silverstone, it was also quite cold and there was a bit of a wind blowing - particularly when up in the grandstand.
About 3.30pm we decided to make a move, but just as we were leaving the grandstand the heavens descended and it absolutely tipped it down with rain. Being a weather wimp these days I suggested we might as well get back under cover and watch the next race. As expected the current race was red flagged and everyone came in to change tyres. Within 15 minutes the shower had stopped and you could see the slight steaming of the track as it was already starting to dry. The next race was very entertaining to say the least!, we were in the grandstand at Copse (just after the start\finish straight) and when the flag dropped for the restart there was mayhem going into the first bend - Copse, as bikes went sliding everywhere. Luckily no riders were hurt, but over the the next few laps even more riders came a cropper at the same spot and eventually the marshals dident have any more energy for digging the bikes out of the kitty litter and just left the last couple there until the race finished. As Andy dryly remarked - there's a few quids worth of scrap exotica out there now!
To be fair, a couple of riders had made very impressive 'saves' as well and it was lucky that more dident end up coming off than there were. Anyway, on that note we decided to push off, as by the time that race had finished the track had pretty much dried anyway, so my internal 'fair weather rider' indicator was flashing green again, but a good day out!

A few pictures from Silverstone Forgotten Era below, but please bear in mind they were taken on my phone\blackberry thingy, so they might not be that brilliant:
KTM  Controls
Same TZ750, but left side this time, showing lovely endurance fuel filler cap. All you need is quick release endurance filler setup and then you could use it . . .
Nice and original TZ750 Yamaha. Awesome machine, and an engine I have very happy memories of, from back in my sidecar passengering days.
Ducati 1198
This is a - ehh -1198 I think!
Lovely brake lever - very trick
Ducati  Again
Another trick Ducati - there were lots like this on the day
Suzuki RG500
A little bit blurred but this was a very interesting blast from the past - I think it is a RG500 Suzuki - square 4, ala Barry Sheene and Pat Hennan.
And yes - that is all magnesium - exotic 1970's GP Bike
Ducati Pantah
Very pretty Pantah engined Ducati in a trick chassis. There were quite a few of these older Ducati's racing as well and some teams were running these as well as the modern 1198's etc
Nice picture of the JHP 848 Challenge riders with their bikes. They were just being interviewed when these photos were taken
Ugghh - we dident need to see that . . .
Rare shot of Andy and a fat ugly git, cruising for chicks. Ha ha.
  And Other Stuff?                                                        
Wel, I am building a 1937 roadgoing International at the moment, but progress is pitifully slow - but I cover what work I have been doing in another article.

I have not entered for any events this year, due to work commitments (I am spending a fair bit of time in London and Ireland at the moment and this looks to cotinue - when the devil drives etc . . .), but I would like to try and get both the doubleknocker setup sorted, and the 38 Racing Inter motor looked at - it is running weak at high revs. I might try and concentrate on a couple of practice sessions at Mallory.
Amazingly, I still have a couple of jobs left on the Big Plunger Manx, but I am in no rush on this. As I am sure everyone is aware, the club founder C.E. (Titch) Allen OBE BEM passed away recently. As well as being a great man, Titch was a very close friend and had been like a second father to me for the last 25 years. Well it is his memorial in the next week and Titch's son Steve has asked if I can bring the Big Plunger, as it was previously owned by Titch in another guise, as his Posing Outfit racing sidecar.

With this in mind, although it is still not quite ready to run, I have done a couple more jobs on it in the last couple of weeks and it is looking nice. I have now finished making an original plunger Manx style Megga and have replaced the straight thru pipe with this version - looks much better.
I took a couple of new photos of it this weekend, it is quite pretty:
Big Plunger
Timing side of1938 Big Plunger Manx - showing original type Megga exhaust
Big Plunger
Drive side of Big Plunger Manx - showing magnesium engine and oil tank to good effect
Bikes lined up
Got the bikes out for the first time this year last week - lots of dust on them. KTM makes the Nortons look small!
DOHC drive side
I bought a new camera recently, for taking photos for the website - I used it for this photo of the double knocker - the full size photo is 10 meg!

Go To Top Of Page