Buyer Guide: KTM 990 Adventure

While a brand new 990 Adventure’s a nice idea, the subtle nature of KTM’s update means the previous model is far from obsolete. And with prices now at 600 supersport money, the most versatile machine on the planet is within reach.

1. Old vs. New

The 2009 R model may be all-new but it’s not a replacement for the standard bike, more a hardcore alternative with more of an off-road bias. The previous Adventure has lower suspension than the R, making it easier to manage physically (seat height’s 860mm rather than a towering 915mm) and arguably handles better on the road, too. The R also lacks ABS where as many standard secondhand Adventures have the system. So while the new R is a headline grabber, the older bike’s a better choice for an awful lot of people.

2. Hotting it Up

If you wanted to make an old bike as good as the new R, you’d need to boost power by about 18bhp and get the suspension modified, all of which could cost more than £2,000. Perhaps the easiest way to get a similar feel is to shorten the gearing – a 16-tooth front sprocket is the favourite way to do this and it’s cheap too. Alternatively open exhausts will help yield a modest power increase.

3. What Goes Wrong With Them?

Nothing major goes wrong with the 990 Adventure, though plenty of owners say they find the throttle response too sharp and this makes for a jerky ride. Some bikes seem to be worse than others so a test ride’s a good idea. Some owners say a throttle cam (Redline Motorcycles, 01509 230001) do one for £79.99, or try KTM’s own version at £93. Others reckon fitting a Power Commander and getting it custom mapped makes a big difference, but that’s a procedure that’ll cost more like £400.

The 990 had quite a few recalls but any official dealer can see if they’ve been done by putting a bike’s reg number into their computer. We’ve heard of isolated problems with a few bikes. Most worrying is cam wear but that seems to be on the earlier 950s and it’s hard to detect without taking the engine apart. For that reason alone we’d go for a full service history bike from a dealer. The odd fluid leak’s not unheard off so check any bike over, especially around the side stand area. Clutches seem to give the odd niggle so feel for any potential problem. Official extras are expensive so if you fancy panniers and Akrapovic exhausts, try and get a bike with them already fitted.

4. Prices

As of November 2010, used values are fairly steady and the new bike shouldn’t hit them hard since it’s only subtly different as opposed to clearly better. A 2006 990 Adventure from a KTM dealer will cost between £5,000 and £6,500. A mint, low mileage 2008 bike with exhausts and/or genuine panniers will be more like £6,500 to £7,250.

5. Servicing

As with the RC8 a major service with valve clearances is due at 600 miles and every 9,000 miles subsequently, so factor that in if a bike you’re looking at needs doing soon. Minor services are every 4,500 miles.