2012 KTM 1190 RC8 R | First Ride

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2012 KTM Superbike Review

During a recent Dunlop tire test at the Rockingham circuit in England, I was able to perform some laps aboard the 2012 KTM RC8 1190 R.

The latest and third incarnation of KTM’s 1190 RC8, the 2012 model features a refined 173-horsepower version of the 1195cc V75. This is a three-horsepower increase compared to the last RC8 I tested, but besides the obvious horsepower gains, engine response and fueling is also much better.

First the looks; KTM’s home in Austria is far from India, but the 2012 KTM 1190 RC8 R radiates the same muscular stance of a tiger with its black and orange paint. And our test bike had a front racing fairing, creating even more of an aggressive look. Among a sea of GSX-R and R6 sportbikes also at the tire test, the new RC8 R certainly stood out.

Apart from our test bike having a race front fairing, and the mirrors and blinkers removed, the 1190 RC8 R is a legal street machine. But it quickly finds home on the track, and it was easy to notice that the 2012 1190 RC8 R is a better track tool than the previous model. Without a stutter, the engine provides hard and aggressive acceleration while being smoother than a tiger cub in the midrange.

The fuel injection and throttle response is now on par with the best superbikes, which in this case must be the Ducati 1198 SP, as the 1199 Panigale is a far different animal. Power to weight figures don’t quite favor the RC8 R orange menace, though, as the Ducati 1198 SP is much lighter (and much more expensive). Forget about the Ducati, and the KTM RC8 1190 R is a fantastic sportbike with great adjustability in the ergonomic areas and a fine chassis to hold it all together.

In the rain it was easy to feed enough revs in to get drive out of the corners without spinning wildly even as the big orange superbike has no traction control or any fancy electronics.

If you are one of those riders that owned a Ducati 999, Suzuki TL 1000 S or R, Aprilia RSV Mille or Honda RC51 back in the day, the RC8 1190 R is the ultimate version of all those combined, and the engine is pretty much the one the Aprilia Mille would feature today if Aprilia hadn’t gone the V4 route. If you look upon the RC8 in light of the pre-traction control era, then KTM has the ultimate superbike to offer.

Due to the wet conditions, I wasn’t allowed to trash the RC8 R around Rockingham as hard as I wanted too, even though every bone in my body ached to do so. Therefore, I am limited about what I can say about the handling at high speed, but I’m not one to waste any opportunity. I did chuck the orange tiger hard into Rockingham’s Tight Tarzan a couple of times with enough room in front of me to at least achieve maximum acceleration out of the corner and on to the start finish straight. During these quick sections, the bike handles optimally.

The Brembo radial caliper brakes are also powerful, but like the high-speed testing, I didn’t get to test them hard enough. As for the ergonomics, they felt perfect for my frame and I wouldn’t hesitate taking the RC8 1190 R out on a longer journey. But if I did, the 4.3-gallon fuel tank would be the biggest hindrance…I think it’s time for KTM to offer a proper sport touring machine taking the 1190 as basis.

2012 KTM 1190 RC8 R Conclusion

The KTM RC8 1190 R is a fantastic superbike for the roads, and is now miles better on the track. This new track performance was probably helped a lot by KTM’s IDM (German superbike championship) racing program.

The 2012 KTM 1190 RC8 R is not the most powerful, it’s not the lightest, and it’s not the fastest, but it doesn’t matter because it’s more than adequate in all areas. Not just a small improvement over the 2010 model makes the new RC8 R the perfect “old school” V-twin superbike.

2012 KTM RC8 1190 R Positives/Negatives

+ Great new throttle response and fueling
+ Good ergonomics for taller riders
+ V75 engine with a proper punch

– Not tested it hard enough for a justified minus really but it would be the lack of traction control and such electronics which to some doesn’t matter at all
– Small fuel tank

Photography: Danielle Boxall