KTM RC8 Launch - first riding impressions

John Cantlie fires back his first impressions of KTM's new superbike from Ascari test track

More sophisticated than a Ducati, says Cantlie

Akrapovic exhaust is an aftermarket extra

RC8 ... looks great in white

TWO EDITOR John Cantlie has just ridden KTM's new RC8 superbike at the exclusive Ascari test track in southern Spain. Here are John's initial impressions of the Austrian manufacturer's new V-twin superbike.

First impressions on the road

“Having seen both bikes in the flesh I tell you, you wouldn’t even look at the orange paint scheme once you have seen the white one. It’s stunning. But both bikes just ooze quality and style.

To ride despite looking all angular and short the RC8 is actually really roomy. For a tall person like myself (over 6-foot) there is plenty of space to move around the bike. When you ride it the bike feels classy. The suspension has that feel and subtleness that you only get with real quality, it’s very impressive.

The engine feels very good but the slight problem is it feels as tight as hell. My bike only has 140kmn on it from new and needs to loosen up a bit. But that aside the motor breaks down to above and below 6,000rpm. Below it has loads of smooth mid-range. It’s surprisingly unvibey, and has a very sophisticated feel about it. Above it really flies. It revs out to 10,500rpm and feels like the old 998R and 996R with rich V-twin power. It’s not a smooth power curve, if you get it to third gear in a wheelie you can feel the front rise an fall as it goes through the various power curves and would probably benefit from a Power Commander. But it’s fast, exciting and great fun. But not totally hassle free.

A few people, myself included, have found a bit of a problem with the gearbox jumping out of gear between first and second but this could be due to the newness of the engines.

The brakes are absolutely outrageous, insanely strong.

As a road bike it’s exactly what a superbike needs to be. It’s fun, involving and not intimidating at all. But it’s still very rapid, even though it doesn’t feel it. I found myself doing over 240kpm almost by accident! Compared to the older Ducatis, such as the 998 and 999s, it feels a much more sophisticated bike.”

First impressions on the race track

The RC8 is a totally different animal on the track - it comes alive, like this is where it was meant to be.

Around Ascari's incredibly sinuous turns, the RC8 is rampant. Once you keep it between 7-10,000, using just the shift light to change up, the bike is very fast. And the handling that was so good on the road is bloody electric on the track!

I'm out for another session. If I could just remember how to be fast again, I'd be the happiest man alive!