KTM 2023 KTM 790 Adventure review: on and off road with Chinese-built ADV

A 790 Adventure motorcycle jumping through the air

The KTM 790 is back, but this time as a more affordable, Chinese-made counterpart for the 890 - we've ridden it both on and off road in the UK

A few years ago, the KTM 790 range of bikes disappeared, making way for a new range of ‘890’ machines. Fast forward to 2023, and the 790 is back, but this time at a lower tier in the range, giving punters the option of a similar bike to a ‘full fat’ 890 at a reduced cost. We've ridden the bike for hundreds of miles on road, and also tried the 790 at an off-road proving ground. 

Speaking of costs, KTM has sought to make the new 790 motorcycles cheaper to make and thus cheaper to get hold of, by leaning on its CFMoto production partnership. As part of the same agreement that allows the Chinese brand to use KTM-designed engines, CFMoto is making all 790 KTMs in a dedicated factory in Hangzhou.

Despite having smaller engines and a little less power, the 790 bikes get much of the same technology as their bigger brothers and sound awfully familiar on paper, but at a more attainable price. But how do they work out in reality? Are they poor relations, or a great way to experience middleweight KTM kicks for a bit less cash? We've ridden the 790 Adventure on the road here in the UK, and also off-road, at the Sweet Lamb Motorsport Complex in Wales. To jump directly to the off-road review, hit the jump link below.

2023 KTM 790 Adventure off-road review

KTM 790 Aventure engine, chassis and technology

As the name implies, the 790 range of bikes uses smaller engines than their 890 siblings. It’s pretty much the same engine as the one that powers the discontinued 790 bikes, but now made in China, rather than Austria. It’s still a parallel twin with a 270-degree crankshaft to give an offset firing order and in turn V-twin characteristics, and it develops 94bhp at 8,000rpm and 65lb ft at 6,600rpm, compared to 103bhp at 8,000rpm and 74lb ft at 6,500rpm from the 890’s 899cc motor. 

Not the hugest drop, then, and there is one way that the 790 lump has the edge over the bigger unit - it can be restricted to 47bhp for those on A2 licenses, which you can’t do with the 890 bikes. 

The engine is a stressed member of the tubular chromo steel frame, from which KTM has hung non-adjustable 43mm WP Apex forks with 200mm of travel. There’s 200mm travel at the rear, too, from the preload-adjustable WP Apex monoshock. The seat height is 840mm, placing the 790 on the more accessible side of the Adventure bike spectrum. 

And now for the controversial part. Yes, when you ride out of the dealer in your 790 Adventure, it’ll be packed full of fancy tech features - including Motor Slip Regulation, the ‘Quickshifter+’ and cruise control - that will disappear after 930 miles unless you cough up. It’s a trial period, and after it’s finished, you can either have the lot by spending £859.87 on the Tech Pack, or buy individual features like the Quickshifter+ for £361.51. 

It’s a shrewd move from KTM, as after you’ve experienced those bits for the best part of 1,000 miles, you might well want to keep some or all of them. In some ways, it’s handy to have some time to test the features out and see if you actually want or need them, and to have the option to upgrade whenever you want, but we can see why the scheme irks some buyers. 

There’s plenty of riding tech you don’t have to pay extra for, including an upshift-only quickshifter, off-road mode ABS, a trio of rider modes (Road, Rain, Off-Road) and lean-sensitive traction control, all working from a six-axis IMU. 

KTM 790 Adventure price and availability 

The on-the-road price for the KTM 790 Adventure is £9,999 OTR. KTM currently offers the 790 Adventure on a PCP with 4.9 per cent APR. On a 48-month term with a deposit of £3,000, that works out at £64.11 a month, with an optional final payment of £5,110.63. It’s available now. 

Compare that price to the 2023 890 Adventure and you’re making a significant saving of £2,000, and once your 1,000 miles trial period is up you can take that saving and cash it in for the extra goodies and still pocket nearly a grand to spend on some ADV kit and clothing.

790 Adventures are in UK dealers, and the bike is available in black, or white with an orange tank highlight.

KTM 790 Adventure review

The extra power of the 890 engine isn’t sorely missed here. The 790 is still a riot to pin wide open and bang through gears via the aggressive quickshifter. It’s one of the best sounding of the very many 270 crank twins out there right now, and one of the more audible ones in the sound-strangled Euro 5 landscape. It has that same sense of naughtiness to it as the 890s, even if it’s not quite as sweet a unit overall.  

It’s so eager it almost feels as though it should be topping out a bit higher, so don’t be surprised if you headbutt the limiter the first few times you twist the throttle fully. When you do hit the limiter, the screen aggressively flashes red - a nice touch. 

On that subject, the display is a cracker, with some nice thought going into the design, with the rev counter beginning with a semi-circular portion before stretching straight across the top, giving a clear view when you’re exploring the top end. The menus are well laid out and easy to navigate using the chunky controls on the left-hand grip.

We haven’t had a chance to properly stretch the suspension off-road just yet, but on the asphalt, it works brilliantly. Let’s face it - the surfaces of many B-roads are shite, so having a softer, longer-travel setup makes a great deal of sense. 

The 790 Adventure’s WP suspension soaks up lumps and bumps well, and yet, the bike still feels like a very effective tool for carving up a twisty road, even with the usual 21-inch front/18-inch rear adventure bike wheel arrangement. There’s some dive under braking, which is to be expected for something with 200mm of travel, and in any case, it’s nothing excessive. 

Those 21/19-inch wire wheels are shod in Pirelli Scorpion STR tyres, which sport some tread blocks that are chunky enough to look like they’ll make for a vague-feeling bike, but that isn’t the case. Big wheels does mean the 790 requires a bit of encouragement to tip in, but the bike changes direction nicely enough, helped by a dry weight of 199kg. 

There are only a few niggles, one being an issue for most ADVs - the non-adjustable screen isn’t much good for taller riders. The cut-out in the middle means there’s not much in the way of buffetting, but the screen is too short, so you’ll still be getting aggravated by wind blast on longer rides.

The rear brake lever is also tucked in relative to the right-hand peg, so it requires a bit of a twist of the foot to avoid missing it, but that’ll be less of a problem when wearing chunky ADV-spec boots. At lower speeds, there’s quite a heat soak from the engine toasting your thighs, in a similar fashion to the 890 lump. Finally, we experienced a few false neutrals when using the quickshifter, and not just during the first-to-second shift. This could be down to the lever position, and that’s a fairly easy fix for you or your KTM dealer when you pick the bike up.

These are all minor gripes. For the most part, the 790 Adventure is a very well-sorted bike for road riding, and based on our experiences with the 890 Adventure, we’re expecting to perform well on the rough stuff too. Although our initial taste of the bike was on the road, we have an extensive off-piste test planned, after which will update this review accordingly. 

KTM 790 Adventure Vs 890 Adventure

When picking up our 790 Adventure press bike, we had a sit on an 890 Adventure to get a direct build comparison. KTM has gone to great pains to explain that it’s in control of quality when it comes to its Chinese-built bikes, even noting that it has KTM staff on the production floor in Hangzhou. Our verdict? There’s nothing in it. 

The 790 Adventure feels no better or worse built than its bigger brother. The quality on both is decent, if not quite up to the standard of some rivals. So which should you get? The 790 makes a strong case for itself, coming in at around £2,000 cheaper than the 890, which would soften the blow should you fancy picking up some or all of the tech features enjoyed during the trial period. 

The colour options aren’t the same (white or black instead of orange or grey), but the body and frames are no different, and the five-inch TFT displays are shared across the two as well. The suspension sounds similar on paper, but there’s a greater level of adjustability with the 890’s setup, something that may sway people one way or the other dependant on how often they ride off-road.

It’s a great addition to the range, opening up the option of a middleweight KTM ADV to a new set of buyers while looking like a tempting alternative to something like a Honda XL750 Transalp, Suzuki V-Strom 800DE or Yamaha Tenere 700. The fact that it’s built in China should put you off at all. 

2023 KTM 790 Adventure off-road review


After getting to grips with the relaunched 790 on the road, KTM extended us the opportunity to test it at the fantastic Sweet Lamb Motorsport Complex in Wales. It’s somewhere we’ve been before, when we got to grips with the KTM 890 Adventure R at its 2021 launch. 

As the main differences between this bike and the 890 Adventure lie within the engine and suspension, we were keen to see how it fared on the initial acclimatisation loop KTM had prepared. It’s fair to say that it wasn’t the most technical section Sweet Lamb has to offer, but it did play to the 790’s strengths and reaffirmed our belief that the parallel twin-powered adventure bikes from KTM are still the best handling options in the segment. 

The low centre of gravity, helped by that underslung fuel tank, creates a bike with perfect off-road handling dynamics. It’s a kind of all things to all riders package, and if you want to go head off into the unknown followed by a huge rooster tail, it will happily oblige. It’s just as adept should you be less inclined by heroic riding, and offers a level of balance and poise at low speed that I simply don’t think you can match.

The suspension system is, of course, from WP, and don’t think that because it’s a step down in the range it offers any less control. The 43mm WP Apex forks and rear shock allow for 200mm of travel front and rear, and the forks are a closed cartridge system meaning you still get that nice, plush and progressive feel regardless of how hard you are riding. You do forgo any adjustability at the front end, and only pre-load adjustment at the rear, but in all honesty, the only change we felt we needed to make to the bike was to remove the rubber inserts from the pegs.

After getting some content in the bag on the acclimatisation loop, we headed off to the aptly named ‘Bowl’, a football field-sized area with obstacles and training areas, a water crossing and a handful of small jumps. The only real thing we needed to find out there was how well the suspension handles coming back down to earth after a jump. The 890 Adventure is a star when coming into land, plush, unflustered and consistent in how it comes back down to earth. The 790 is just as good, and 12 stone of rider weight wasn’t troubling the bump-stops either.

The Bowl also highlighted one area where KTM has actually improved the new 790, and it's a change hidden deep in the bowels of the engine. The update comes in the form of a crank that is 20 per cent heavier than before. It’s a change that was implemented on the 890 Adventure when it was launched, and it massively boosted the bike’s low-end delivery. The original 790 Adventure wasn’t quite as forgiving, and you’d have to constantly modulate the clutch and throttle if you were attempting a technical climb.

The heavier crank removes much of the need for that, and now you can point the bike at pretty much any incline and on a whiff of throttle you’ll be carried to the top without any real fuss. That’s not something you could do on the original version.

KTM has also smartened up the electronics, throttle connection, gearbox and quickshifter. Back when we rode the original 790 all the points above felt a little bit half-finished. The gearbox and the quickshifter weren’t really friends, and the throttle connection could feel a bit glitchy and clumsy. Those elements have all been ironed out now, and the ABS, traction control and off-road-specific electronics all feel like a more complete and intuitive package.

All things considered, the new 790 Adventure is just as much of an off-road superstar as its bigger sibling is. It’ll flatter less experienced riders with its advanced off-road electronics and beautiful chassis, and allow more accomplished riders to push the boundaries of their ability when they turn the assistance systems off. Really the biggest talking point that people should be highlighting though is how KTM has managed to relaunch a model, improve it significantly compared to when it was first released, and make it cheaper. When launched the KTM 790 Adventure would set you back £11,099, and now it’s a shade under £10k at £9,999. In a world where pretty much everything is getting more expensive, a relaunched, improved and cheaper version of a bike is a very rare thing indeed.

2023 KTM 790 Adventure review

KTM 790 Adventure review | On and off-road on the relaunched middleweight