First Ride: KTM 1190 Adventure review

Two-thirds of KTM's 260 technicians had a hand in the 1190 Adventure project. It's a big deal for KTM but will it be a bigger deal for the opposition?

Posted: 7 February 2013
by Ben Cope
In. Your. Face! But this is a KTM with a difference
Stripped bare you can see how tight a package the 1190 Adventure is
Fully adjustable WP suspension means it's totally at home on roads like this
Clocks are clean and clear. Note huge speed readout on right and additional info panel on left. Other manufacturers: take note
The Austrians might not have noticed the numberplate but the message wasn't lost on me

IT'S not often you see the word ‘mayhem’ in a manufacturer’s press kit, let alone in the introduction to an adventure bike but this is KTM and those orange fellas like to do things differently.

Using the same 1195cc engine that powers the RC8R superbike, mayhem definitely sounds like it’s a mere twist of the throttle and the surrender of a skinny rear tyre away but KTM were keen to stress that even though the 1190 Adventure has the highest power to weight ratio of any bikes in this sector, outright power was never on the drawing board; more versatility was the aim and not just in the engine but across the motorcycle as a whole.

The 1190 Adventure is the replacement to the successful and cult 990 Adventure, which ceased production at the end of last year after almost 10 years. When you look at the growing list of Adventure bikes, the 990 Adventure is arguably still the best bike for the type of riding these bikes pretend they get used for: unpaved roads. So it’s ironic then that in order to sell more bikes in this class, it’s versatility not unpaved road performance that really counts.

That versatility presents itself in many ways, from the less off-road biased wheel sizes (19/17 as opposed to the 21/18 on the 990), to the 23-litre tank (19.5-litres on the 990), to the adjustable seat height and the sophisticated electronics package. The 1190 Adventure features traction control, combined ABS, power modes and optional electronically adjustable suspension, which you’d only really expect to see on a top of the range superbike.

Looks are subjective and I rarely mention them but it does appear that KTM have made an effort to make this bike whisper ‘DO YOU WANT SOME?’ and by that I mean the aggressive angular lines and the expected bright orange have been softened off somewhat. It's not quite as brash. It doesn’t look like it’s going to spit in your face.

Sat on the bike, it feels tall but not unwieldy. At 860mm, it’s no higher than the 990 but 10mm taller than the 2012 1200GS and for comparison, just 40mm taller than a CBR600RR. At 212kg wet and around 230kg fully fuelled it feels lighter than its size would lead you to believe. KTM boast it has the best power to weight ratio in its class.

The clocks are big, bold and all-digital except for an analogue rev-counter; a great combination. On the left of the rev-counter is a digital panel that gives you in-depth readouts of everything from power and damping modes, to consumption, trip, air temperature and your current position in the Dakar, probably.

You can’t fail to notice how light the clutch is. The all-new slipper clutch features a ramp-action to hold the plates in place under load, meaning lighter springs can be used which translates into a lighter lever action. Just one finger needed.

Although the motor is from the RC8, it’s undergone some serious changes both in terms of hardware and software. The 1190 Adventure’s gearbox uses different ratios to the RC8; first gear is now shorter, making clutchless low-speed control more controlled while all the ratios have been shifted away from the RC8’s 170mph top end. The pistons have been redesigned too and borrow technology used in F1, the skirts use a coating that’s designed to reduce friction and helping the engine respond quicker.

It uses Ride by Wire and not a cable throttle, so throttle inputs are measured and processed by an ECU, adding more accuracy to the calibration of fuel/air ratios. That, coupled with dual spark plugs, results in improved low-end torque, throttle response and fuel economy.

The motor is a beauty. The large 105mm piston bore and short stroke declare that this is a fast-revving engine but although it can rev, it’s not rev-happy. Load it up at 20mph in fourth gear at 2,500rpm and after a momentary strain of the power train, the rev needle heads north with steely determination.

It’s really not as savage as I thought it would be. Afterall it’s essentially an RC8 engine with more torque but the MTC traction control constantly earns its keep, keeping you safety within the limits of traction.

There are four riding modes, Sport, Street and Rain and Off-Road. The first two deliver 150bhp while the others cap power at 100bhp, the levels of traction control intervention are also adjusted. Delivery too is softened off from Sport down to Off-Road.

Click to read page 2/2 of the KTM 1190 Adventure review.

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Discuss this story

Great review, I really want one but the seat is just to tall for my 30 inch legs...shame. Looking at the new GS as they do a low version but it's not going to be anywhere near as much fun.

Posted: 08/02/2013 at 06:59

Yep - I'll be road testing the road oriented version of this bike against a Ducati Multistrada back to back. Me too with the 30" inside leg, but I'll give it a go.

Posted: 08/02/2013 at 07:52

Really like the look of this bike. Wonder how it will be 2 up?

Local dealer has it marked up to £13,100; £600 more than a Multistrada.

Posted: 08/02/2013 at 10:29

I think this is for me. I'm a Ducati fan, want to buy the Multi, but this appears the biz. I have the 990 Adv and the build quality compares to a Honda.

Posted: 09/02/2013 at 12:09

Heck of a price, though. Do we need all this electronic stuff? The Tiger Sport will probably do everything that the Adventure market needs and just as well, I bet it comes in at under £10k. The new Aprilia Caponard looks interesting in this now congested market.

Posted: 10/02/2013 at 18:25

This for me looks a great bike. The 990 of old was getting dated and this one is modern with plenty of power and presence. The R version looks even more impressive to me at least. It is not cheap, agreed, but in the market it is in this seems a typical cost. the fly by wire throttle does not sit well, despite claims for more efficient engines fuelling and power delivery, I just like the idea of closing the throttle and killing the power with a bit of mechanical cable, but that is probably just me. WP suspension, V Twin engine, great looks and accessories make this a bike to have a serious look at and make some decisions about which piggy bank to raid for this year.

Posted: 13/02/2013 at 19:00

Just took one for a test drive today, a week ago I took the GS1200 water cooled for a test drive. They are both very good bikes but are also very different. I agree to the review above save for the gearbox which was not the best I've seen. But its so much fun, just ordered mine today.

Posted: 22/03/2013 at 20:43

Love the bike test rode one today, plenty of power and pin sharp handling. However at £13k it is just to expensive for me to change from my Tiger 1050, although this is a far superior bike.

As far as fly by wire goes the technology is years old and well proven in cars, it would not put me off buying this bike if I had the cash.

If you have the money buy one it is the best bike in it's class by a long way, the new R1200GS doesn't come close.

Posted: 05/04/2013 at 00:58

I took one for a test ride on Saturday, i really wanted to like this bike for its comfort and power as it would be the best of both worlds, it has a great motor, compliant suspension and gear box but THE WORST buffeting from a screen i have ever experienced, it started at 90kph and got so bad at 110-120 kph that i would never consider this bike as a serious purchase choice as any trip on a highway would be torture. How damn hard is it for a manufacture to change the shape of a piece of plastic! only one review from a magazine i read commented on this issue so i made certain a highway stretch was involved in the test ride.

Posted: 03/06/2013 at 03:58

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