2009 KTM 1190 RC8 R | Review

1190 RC8 R vs. Inline-Fours

KTM's 1190 RC8 R spent so many years being a concept--a V4 and then a V-twin--that no one knew whether this crazy orange design would ever see the light of day. KTM must be huge Ducati fans, as everything KTM has done with the 1190 RC8 R from the V-twin configuration, Ascari launch, and then Portimao launch, are all in the footsteps of the red giant from Bologna. But, was it a wise move, my dear Austrian friends? Isn't V4 the future now?

Those are questions yet to be answered, but one question I do know the answer to is whether the 1190 RC8 R is a Ducati killer or not. It definitely isn't, so today I'm comparing it to the liter inline-fours, and the latest 600cc in-line fours instead.

And it wouldn't stand a chance there, either, I hear you whisper? Well, it's not quite as clear-cut as that. Cornering on the brand new Bridgestone BT-003RS tires, the 1190 RC8 R leans with great willingness, and turning from an extreme left lean to an extreme right is the easiest thing in the world. Only the 2009 Kawasaki ZX-6R felt better in this area on Almeria.

I also felt that the Brembo monoblocks worked very precisely on the RC8 R with a supreme initial bite. The 43mm WP USD fork felt all right, but lacked the feedback of the Kawasaki. The new fully adjustable WP shock must have helped a lot at the rear, because the 1190 RC8 R could be fired very hard out of the corners without much of a rear-wheel slide. The KTM 1190 RC8 R can be ridden in second gear between the two straights, thanks to the plentiful low-end traction provided by the friendly V-twin torque.

The RC8 R does make mincemeat of all the 600s on the straights, but it loses hugely to the liter fours from third gear up on the straightaway. So, the late braking abilities need to be very good to stand a chance.

KTM claims 170 horsepower at 10,250 rpm and 91 ft/lbs of torque at 8,000 rpm, which should have been enough to stay a little closer to the mighty Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R down the straight. But, it's left for dead after 3 gears when I suspect the efficient Kawasaki Ram-air system really starts counting by adding another 12 horsepower making a total claimed 200 horsepower.

The Honda CBR1000RR and Suzuki GSX-R1000 beat the RC8 R too. Perhaps the Kawasaki claimed figures are closer to the reality than KTM's, but only a dyno test could prove it. The 1190 RC8 R has a 2mm larger bore than the RC8, and that results in an 1195cc displacement. It was good for a top speed of 150+ mph on the main straight where I constantly saw 168 mph on the ZX-10R's speedo.

The riding position felt like a sports tourer, but the rear can be raised 20mm. Looking at all the bikes in the paddock, the KTM 1190 RC8 R looks the raciest of them all, but once in the seat that changes. Those of you who know your KTM will know that the firm for many years has specialized in making world-class enduro bikes. Then KTM launches a superbike softer than Honda's CBR1000RR. Go figure.

The 2009 KTM RC8 R 1190 is still a very fast motorcycle though, but in the most extremely competitive segment, I'm rating it behind all the big four from Japan, as well as the Ducati 1198S and Aprilia RSV4. The KTM 1190 RC8 R is only almost famous and is not involved in any racing activity interesting enough to improve it fast enough to be counted.


As a stand-alone motorcycle, I'd have no problems putting my cash down for a 2009 KTM RC8 R 1190. I like both the performance and the Austrian madman design. You'll not be disappointed stepping up from a 600cc sportbike, but the RC8 is not a serious alternative to the liters just yet.



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