First Ride: James Whitham's KTM RC8R review

TWO's James Whitham reports back from the launch of KTM's sharp new RC8R

Whitham's Onboard Lap - RC8R

Parkalgarve circuit in southern Portugal is the world’s newest top level race track. When I was out there last November to commentate on the WSB round, workmen were still putting the finishing touches to the place, so much so that the paint in our sound booth was still wet! . . . By the time we got home we smelled like solvent abusers! Every rider I’ve spoken to since who’ve ridden round the place say it rates among the most exciting race tracks anywhere. I’d been choking for a bash round it ever since, and it didn’t disappoint ...neither did KTM’s new flagship sports bike.

Although at first glance the RC8R looks very like the standard RC8, KTM have put a lot of effort into both addressing a couple of major gripes that have dogged the standard machine, and to making the bike sharper, leaner, and a whole lot more track focused. And most of the tweaks have worked well.

A complete reworking of the gearbox and selector mechanism has sorted the biggest complaint leveled at the original bike, and although still not quite as slick and idiot proof as the best Japanese gearboxes, it’s now infinitely better than it was and perfectly adequate, I only missed two gears all day and one of those was my fault.

Some customers also thought the fuelling was a bit notchy, especially low down ...Well not any more it isn’t! The R version pulls cleanly from pretty much any revs right up to the 10500 rpm limiter. It is however quite sensitive to throttle opening lower in the rev range, you have to be quite accurate with your right hand mid corner so as not to get too much power going to the rear wheel. For this reason the bike comes supplied with a second twist-grip tube that has an eccentric cable pull. The first 15% of movement of the twist grip gives less cable movement and then reverts to normal ...This canny mechanical solution is simple, takes only five minutes to fit, and was very effective ...especially in the wet.

Riding round this mental rollercoaster of a circuit on the RC8R was a real buzz. It’s a bike you feel at home on straight away. The torquey, pull from nowt V-twin motor allows you to concentrate on where you’re going instead of having to worry about being in exactly the right gear or part of the rev range. The chassis is equally as forgiving. Sharp but not unstable.

After every session, wet or dry I got off this bike with a smile on my face, although, I have to admit, splashing round a saturated track on street tyres did make me a bit nervous ...Having KTM’s new baby coming back to the garage with turf hanging out of the fairing on the back of a pick-up wouldn‘t have made me very popular!

Read the full report and tech-specs in this months TWO