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"Fast Bikes", May 1, 2013

KTM 1190 Adventure




Was it really only ten years ago that KTM launched its first big bore streetbike? Since the 950 Adventure appeared in 2003 the firm has unleashed a succession of brilliant V-twins. They’ve been raw, and crude at times, but above all they’ve been fast and fun like few other things on two wheels.

Throughout that time the Adventure has been ploughing its own furrow, maintaining a reputation for unmatched off-road ability, in the only big-bike category that has grown during the decade.

Trouble is, the adventure class might be growing but the new breed of rider rarely ventures far off-road. The Mattighofen crew knew that to increase their share of the pie they had to make the Adventure more of a streetbike, and more rider-friendly. But years of proud dirt- and sand-bashing tradition meant KTM wasn’t prepared to give up its unique selling point just like that.

The result: as in the past, the new Adventure comes in two forms, but now the differences between them are more pronounced. This latest standard model is the most road focused yet, with reduced suspension travel and 19-inch front, 17-inch rear tyre diameters. Meanwhile, the soon-to-be-released R version is from the traditional mould, complete with super-long travel suspension and dirt-friendly tyre combo of 21-inch front, 18-inch rear.

The new bike still looks like an Adventure, albeit with some obvious differences, including the two-piece seat and the larger screen (which is multi-adjustable). Inevitably it’s built like a basketball player. Even the adjustable seat’s lower, the 860mm setting will be tricky for short riders. At least the KTM is light by big adventure-bike standards, at 230kg fully fuelled.

Just minutes into the launch in Tenerife, it was obvious that this bike is far more refined than previous big KTMs. On narrow streets in the south of the Spanish island the bike’s flexible power delivery, flawless fuel injection and light clutch all impressed. Its new ride-by-wire injection system has four riding modes — Rain, Street, Sport and Off-Road — plus four-way adjustable traction control. Street and Sport give the full output of 150bhp at 9,500rpm; the other two modes give softer delivery to a max of 100bhp.

Throttle response was excellent in either Street or the more aggressive Sport mode, which gave a slightly sharper feel without being snatchy. Toggling the modes is easy, using the buttons on the left bar, in conjunction with an LCD screen that can be set to show a rider’s five favourite functions of the many available. Most of the time I kept it in Street or Sport. Either way the flexible power delivery allowed effortless main road cruising, with instant overtaking stomp available even with less than five grand on the tacho.

And when ridden harder this bike is addictively, gut-churningly rapid. The big motor is brilliantly smooth and free-revving, as happy up near the redline as it is grunting out of turns at 6,000rpm. Revving harder through the slick six-speed box had the KTM storming smoothly forward, the generally quiet exhaust note hardening as the bike tonked towards its 150mph-plus top speed.

I’d expected the Adventure to be fast, given that it’s powered by a mildly detuned RC8 R engine. But I hadn’t expected its chassis to deliver quite such a stunning blend of high-speed stability and light, agile handling. The way the KTM could be flicked into the tight turns on the twisty road through Tenerife’s lava fields was jaw-droppingly impressive. Of its class rivals only the Multistrada may keep up...

The launch Adventures were all fitted with KTM’s optional Electronic Damping System, which allowed me to firm up the suspension at the press of a button. (This costs £500, increasing the price from £12,595 to £13,095.) When the engine mode is set to Sport, suspension damping is automatically on Hard, though this can be changed independently, and without slowing down. I also added some preload by choosing the “rider plus luggage” load setting, which can only be done at walking pace or below.

Set up like that, the Adventure was firm and very well controlled for a bike with 190mm of suspension travel at each end. It also gripped very well thanks to its new generation Continental TrailAttack 2 tyres. And braking was superbly powerful. The Brembo radial system is linked, so adds some rear stopper when the handlebar lever is squeezed. An excellent ABS system topped it off nicely.

KTM’s development crew were also very keen to make the Adventure more versatile and practical, and in general they’ve done a good job. On the highway its screen was effective, even though I’m tall at 6’4". You can’t easily adjust it while riding. But when stationary you need only a few seconds to flick the levers at each side. Most riders should find enough vertical or horizontal movement to pretty much eliminate turbulence.

The riding position can be fine-tuned by adjusting handlebars and footrests, as well as the seat. The latter seemed firm but comfortable, though I didn’t ride far enough to check whether it stayed that way after a tankful of gas. KTM claims fuel economy is improved by 20 per cent — enough to get 200 miles from the enlarged, 23-litre tank.

This Adventure might not have the dirt focus of its predecessors, but on a short off-road ride it worked well enough. I selected Off-Road, which gives softer delivery, reduces the traction control, and modifies ABS on the front wheel while cutting it from the rear wheel.

With slightly less suspension travel than its predecessors (or the R model) it wasn’t quite as composed when jumping or bashing rocks. Those smooth looking TrailAttacks would probably have struggled in more demanding conditions. The KTM should be tough, too, especially its patented wire-spoke wheels.

Anyone planning serious off-road riding would presumably choose the R model, but the standard bike can be upgraded. Other accessories include aluminium panniers and top-box, taller screen, electrical socket and heated grips. Bolt on a few of those, and your excuses for not planning that round-the-world trip have just run out.

In fact it’s difficult to think of a bike that covers all the bases so spectacularly well. Ten years after the Adventure’s arrival, KTM’s change of direction has resulted in a stunning streetbike that’s fast, refined, sweet-handling and brilliantly versatile. If you like the idea of an adventure bike but don’t want to give up the performance and agility of a high-performance roadster, the Adventure is right up there alongside the Multistrada as a bike that really does it all.

Lion Heart

The heart of the beast, a modded RC8 lump gives us a glimpse into KTM’s future. This bike is fully electronically equipped, so will the next RC8 be, too?

Hello, Modern World!

Like most new and significant bikes, the Adventure is packed with electronic aids. Nearly obligatory traction-control comes as standard, as does ABS. There is also an option for electronic suspension adjustment, bringing it in line with the Multistrada.

R Pour Moi

The high-spec’ 1190 R differs from the stocker, by having wider ally bars, a non-adjustable seat height, much longer suspension travel, and 21" and 18" wheel diameters for better off-roading. If you’re desperate to go off-road, the R would be the one for you.

And There’s More

Other differences on the R is a smaller wind-screen, steel crash bars included as standard, a centre-stand and TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System). A WP steering damper ensures bars stay where you want them to be on both.

ENGINE The 75-degree, DOHC, liquid-cooled V-twin engine comes from the RC8 R, complete with 1,195cc capacity and twin-plug head design. It’s updated with valvegear lightweight and pistons whose skirts have a hard-anodised coating. Bottom-end changes include a redesigned gearbox with a lower first gear; and a new slipper clutch that incorporates a servo effect, allowing a much lighter lever action. Breathing is overhauled with a new airbox, longer intake trumpets, smaller and smoother intakes plus a new stainless steel exhaust, all aimed at maximising low-revs.

CHASSIS Like previous Adventures this one has a chrome-molybdenum tubular steel frame and aluminium swingarm. Suspension is by WP, with the 48mm forks and rear shock both multi-adjustable; electronically in the case of the more expensive of the two standard Adventure models. There’s 190mm of travel at each end. Wheels are wire spoked, in a patented design that KTM claims is stronger than cross-spoke layouts. Braking is by Brembo, with 320mm discs and four-pot radial calipers up front. The linked system applies the rear when the front lever is used.



Type | 1,195cc, liquid-cooled, 8v, V-twin

Bore x Stroke | 105 x 69mm

Compression | 12.5:1

Fuelling | Electronic fuel-injection

Claimed Power | 150bhp @ 9,500rpm

Claimed Torque | 125Nm @ 7500rpm


Frame | Chrome-molybdenum tubular steel

F Suspension | WP inverted front fork, fully adjustable

R Suspension | WP monoshock, fully adjustable

Front Brakes | Four-piston radial calipers, 320mm discs (ABS)

Rear Brakes | Twin-piston caliper, 276mm disc (ABS)


Wheelbase | 1,560mm

Seat Height | 860-875mm

Dry Weight | 212kg without fuel (230kg with full tank)

Fuel Capacity | 23 litres


Price | £12,595 (£13,095 with electronic suspension adjustment)

From | www.ktm.com/gb


RC8 modded motor


ABS as standard

Optional lecky suzzies





With stickier tyres, indeed


Only the Multi is even close


It’s a KTM: D’uh!


Better than its predecessors


Dynamically a stunner

Verdict 10/10

This is what adventure bikes should be all about. Crazy-fast and flickable yet practical on road, and tuff enough for off-road fun. No wonder they named a whole class of bike after it.



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