KTM 990 Adventure (2006 - present) review

The all-rounder that's the best off-roader gets fuel injection and anti-lock brakes to appeal to the sensible crowd. Has the fun factor been banished too?

Ben Cope's picture
By Visordown on Thu, 25 Jun 2009 - 12:06

Details
Manufacturer:
KTM
Category:
Adventure
Price:
£ 8895
Overall
4
Need Insurance?
Strong engine and decent handling, for an adventure bike.
Lacks the GS' sheer range of extras.

I SUPPOSE IT'S fitting that the new version of KTM's first large capacity road bike is also its first model to be fitted with an ABS system. So what's the big idea and why is KTM getting all sensible on us?

Well, to capitalise on the recent sales explosion in the 'adventure' market, KTM also claims to have accident statistics to back up the validity of its actions, so does this mean that all its bikes will be adorned with stuttering stoppers? Time will tell. Other notable additions are of course 57cc to the engine capacity for some extra shove, and a Keihin fuel injection system that enables less stinky, Euro3-friendly emissions. The lower seat will have higher appeal but the other touches are minor and mainly cosmetic. I suppose it's also fitting that it's me on this launch, and I'm certainly more excited and apprehensive than any other journo here. Why? Well I'm a known devotee to the 950 (having completed 29,000 miles on my Adventure), and not a fan of fuel injection or ABS. The last non-950 KTM I rode was the Super Duke and we fell out after only half an hour over its inability to deliver smooth power from the off.

But more than that, I've clicked with the 950 in a way that I've failed to with most other modern bikes. I've deliberately neglected it. Over two years it's failed to rust, has always entertained me and never let me down. There's no bike I'd rather have. For these reasons, I'm suspicious of the non-smoking 990 with its smart-arse ABS, and I don't particularly want it coming round here messing with my good thing.

I spent the first 20 minutes of our brisk tour of Fuerteventura not really thinking about the bike, I was enjoying the awesome roads so much. The next 20 was spent assessing the advantage of the new motor, which isn't a hand-me-down from the Super Duke, but a re-working of the 950 lump with new cylinders and crankshaft. Though peak power is the same, it has a slight urgency that is present throughout the rev range, making overtaking easier and high speed progress more fluid.

The good news is that the fuel injection hadn't interrupted my concentration while I was forming an opinion. Yes, there's a hint of that classic snatching sensation while around town, but not enough to annoy me, and certainly not enough to spoil the ride once on the move. Venturing off road, that sensation increases unless a more gentle hand is applied to keep it running smoothly through tricky, low speed manoeuvres.

The ABS system is easily disabled by pressing a button on the dash for three seconds immediately after firing up the engine, the idea being that experienced off-roaders can enjoy their riding without interruption. I managed to forget to stop and perform this, and amusingly found I'd have crashed twice on loose shingle if I had.

Therein lies an interesting scenario. Am I the kind of rider who would shun ABS on Tarmac, but swear to it on dirt? For those that can't stomach ABS, consider the S version, which is still available without.

The new 990 Adventure has a bit more go and a bit more stop but, as you might expect, it feels much the same as its predecessor and is therefore still a great bike. Out with the creamy smooth old chugger and in with the new clean-living health freak. You can't stop progress.

I SUPPOSE IT'S fitting that the new version of KTM's first large capacity road bike is also its first model to be fitted with an ABS system. So what's the big idea and why is KTM getting all sensible on us?

Well, to capitalise on the recent sales explosion in the 'adventure' market, KTM also claims to have accident statistics to back up the validity of its actions, so does this mean that all its bikes will be adorned with stuttering stoppers? Time will tell. Other notable additions are of course 57cc to the engine capacity for some extra shove, and a Keihin fuel injection system that enables less stinky, Euro3-friendly emissions. The lower seat will have higher appeal but the other touches are minor and mainly cosmetic. I suppose it's also fitting that it's me on this launch, and I'm certainly more excited and apprehensive than any other journo here. Why? Well I'm a known devotee to the 950 (having completed 29,000 miles on my Adventure), and not a fan of fuel injection or ABS. The last non-950 KTM I rode was the Super Duke and we fell out after only half an hour over its inability to deliver smooth power from the off.

But more than that, I've clicked with the 950 in a way that I've failed to with most other modern bikes. I've deliberately neglected it. Over two years it's failed to rust, has always entertained me and never let me down. There's no bike I'd rather have. For these reasons, I'm suspicious of the non-smoking 990 with its smart-arse ABS, and I don't particularly want it coming round here messing with my good thing.

I spent the first 20 minutes of our brisk tour of Fuerteventura not really thinking about the bike, I was enjoying the awesome roads so much. The next 20 was spent assessing the advantage of the new motor, which isn't a hand-me-down from the Super Duke, but a re-working of the 950 lump with new cylinders and crankshaft. Though peak power is the same, it has a slight urgency that is present throughout the rev range, making overtaking easier and high speed progress more fluid.

The good news is that the fuel injection hadn't interrupted my concentration while I was forming an opinion. Yes, there's a hint of that classic snatching sensation while around town, but not enough to annoy me, and certainly not enough to spoil the ride once on the move. Venturing off road, that sensation increases unless a more gentle hand is applied to keep it running smoothly through tricky, low speed manoeuvres.

The ABS system is easily disabled by pressing a button on the dash for three seconds immediately after firing up the engine, the idea being that experienced off-roaders can enjoy their riding without interruption. I managed to forget to stop and perform this, and amusingly found I'd have crashed twice on loose shingle if I had.

Therein lies an interesting scenario. Am I the kind of rider who would shun ABS on Tarmac, but swear to it on dirt? For those that can't stomach ABS, consider the S version, which is still available without.

The new 990 Adventure has a bit more go and a bit more stop but, as you might expect, it feels much the same as its predecessor and is therefore still a great bike. Out with the creamy smooth old chugger and in with the new clean-living health freak. You can't stop progress.

I SUPPOSE IT'S fitting that the new version of KTM's first large capacity road bike is also its first model to be fitted with an ABS system. So what's the big idea and why is KTM getting all sensible on us?

Well, to capitalise on the recent sales explosion in the 'adventure' market, KTM also claims to have accident statistics to back up the validity of its actions, so does this mean that all its bikes will be adorned with stuttering stoppers? Time will tell.
Other notable additions are of course 57cc to the engine capacity for some extra shove, and a Keihin fuel injection system that enables less stinky, Euro3-friendly emissions. The lower seat will have higher appeal but the other touches are minor and mainly cosmetic. I suppose it's also fitting that it's me on this launch, and I'm certainly more excited and apprehensive than any other journo here. Why? Well I'm a known devotee to the 950 (having completed 29,000 miles on my Adventure), and not a fan of fuel injection or ABS. The last non-950 KTM I rode was the Super Duke and we fell out after only half an hour over its inability to deliver smooth power from the off.

But more than that, I've clicked with the 950 in a way that I've failed to with most other modern bikes. I've deliberately neglected it. Over two years it's failed to rust, has always entertained me and never let me down. There's no bike I'd rather have. For these reasons, I'm suspicious of the non-smoking 990 with its smart-arse
ABS, and I don't particularly want it coming round here messing with my good thing.

I spent the first 20 minutes of our brisk tour of Fuerteventura not really thinking about the bike, I was enjoying the awesome roads so much. The next 20 was spent assessing the advantage of the new motor, which isn't a hand-me-down from the Super Duke, but a re-working of the 950 lump with new cylinders and crankshaft. Though peak power is the same, it has a slight urgency that is present throughout the rev range, making overtaking easier and high speed progress more fluid.

The good news is that the fuel injection hadn't interrupted my concentration while I was forming an opinion. Yes, there's a hint of that classic snatching sensation while around town, but not enough to annoy me, and certainly not enough to spoil the ride once on the move. Venturing off road, that sensation increases unless a more gentle hand is applied to keep it running smoothly through tricky, low speed manoeuvres.

The ABS system is easily disabled by pressing a button on the dash for three
seconds immediately after firing up the engine, the idea being that experienced
off-roaders can enjoy their riding without interruption. I managed to forget to stop and perform this, and amusingly found I'd have crashed twice on loose shingle if I had.

Therein lies an interesting scenario. Am I the kind of rider who would shun ABS on Tarmac, but swear to it on dirt? For those that can't stomach ABS, consider the
S version, which is still available without.

The new 990 Adventure has a bit more
go and a bit more stop but, as you might expect, it feels much the same as its
predecessor and is therefore still a great bike. Out with the creamy smooth old
chugger and in with the new clean-living health freak. You can't stop progress.

Score Breakdown
Overall
4
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