Spirited conflict is essential to sus out the truth—and the battle for the best all-around large displacement travel enduro motorcycle has just taken an intriguing turn that will certainly benefit moto-adventurers around the world with a near endless array of options and higher spec performance.
Less than three months after BMW launched its totally revamped water-cooled R 1200 GS with the aim of accentuating its place as the founder and undisputed leader of the segment, KTM, the relatively small manufacturer from Mattighofen, Austria, has squarely targeted their latest release at the bread and butter of the BMW Motorrad line-up.
Enter the latest manifestation of the KTM 1190 Adventure—a totally new offering that packs massive horsepower, keen handling, and advanced technology into a jack-of-all-trades package. The previous incarnation of the KTM Adventure was based on a 990cc powerplant and large off-road style wheels—21 front; 18 rear. Although praised for its off-road travel capabilities, the 990 Adventure was often viewed as giving up substantial on-road prowess to the other offerings in the large dual sport space.
KTM engineers decided to solve the problem by creating two bikes—the 1190 Adventure focused on all-around travel enduro use, and the 1190 Adventure R that would incorporate the new features of the standard model, but wrapped in an off-road centric package with large wheels.
KTM unveiled the European-spec version of the standard model for a 200-mile street-tease through the high desert and mountains of Southern California that was nothing less than exhilarating, largely due to a host of high performance enhancements. The centerpiece and driving force behind the new KTM Adventure is the LC8 engine. The 1195cc 75-degree V-twin has been metamorphosed from a track-blistering 173 horsepower in RC8 R Superbike trim, to a strong, yet controllable, 150 horsepower designed for high performance on and off the tarmac.
Powering up the LC8 engine is a spine tingling experience all its own, and it revs so quickly with a twist of the fly-by-wire throttle that it leaves the impression that this motor may be more than a handful to control on the open road, let alone in off-piste riding terrain.
Fortunately, electronic assistance comes in several forms—most notably via KTM’s Motorcycle Traction Control (MTC) developed in partnership with Bosch and physically manifested as a featherweight sensor about the size of a matchbox. It offers Sport and Street mappings that deliver the full 150 horsepower, and Rain and Off-road settings that curb the power output at 100 horsepower. A slipper clutch is mated to the transmission to keep traction in check under aggressive downshifting conditions as well.
KTM again called on Bosch to develop a linked ABS braking system that automatically applies the rear brake when the front lever is actuated. It can also be switched to an Off-road mode that provides for additional slippage thresholds on the front and full lock up of the rear brake for more aggressive off-road riding.
Determined to not be electronically outdone by its competitors, the KTM 1190 Adventure includes an optional Electronic Damping System (EDS) that allows for four different spring preload settings in the rear shock, and three independently controlled damping settings as well.
Gone are the days of hand cranking the spring preload knob on the side of the road while your pillion stares at you with her arms crossed, or fiddling with a screw driver and counting aloud the number of clicks on rebound and compression adjusters.
Manipulating this cadre of electronic cohorts is accomplished quite simply with a large LCD display controlled by arrow, select, and back buttons on the right side of the handlebar. The rationale is that firmware updates can easily be performed by a local dealer, and that would allow for control of additional aftermarket items or new features without overcrowding the handlebar with specialized single-function controls. Instead, it becomes another menu option.
The downside to this simplicity is that you may find yourself distracted as you scroll through myriad menus and drill-downs while on the road. KTM’s answer to this is the ability to save favorite settings and create customized menus. Smart.
I spend a few minutes familiarizing myself with the multifunctional cockpit controls and select a combination of Sport setting for engine management and rear damping and Solo for rear spring preload and hit the tarmac.
Instantly, the superbike pedigree of the LC8 engine comes to life as this bike is fast! With 92 ft/lbs of torque at 7500 rpm, it revs quickly and pulls hard and smooth from gear to gear. Setting in 5th or 6th, both overdrive gears, the bike slides quietly with a comfortable hum.
The ergonomics fit my 5’ 9” frame perfectly, with the bars and pegs in the standard position and the seat in the low position. All three points are adjustable (including the position of the foot pegs) to fine-tune the cockpit seating for long haul adventures.
Coming upon a long stretch of twisty gravely tarmac, I quickly downshift and enjoy the quick handling chassis and the predictable but swift turn-in feel of the 120/70 front 19-inch Continental TrailAttack2 tire. Nimble road handling is a new and welcome sensation in the context of a KTM Adventure bike, and this type of elevated performance produces a virtuous cycle that leaves you craving more.
Not satisfied that I have fully tested the limits of lean and electronic assistance, I whack the throttle wide open mid-corner, with the only consequence being flashing yellow indicator in the cockpit informing me that the MTC traction control is engaging. The experience is smooth and predictable, without upsetting the bike, but it still allows acceleration that needed to be scrubbed before entering the next turn.
Enter the Bosch modulated Brembo-powered C-ABS braking system—the radially mounted four-pot calipers are plenty powerful and progressive to quickly slow the 1190 Adventure into compliance. However, the real stand-out was the effectiveness of the slipper clutch that kept the rear wheel on the pavement allowing for additional rear braking.
Unfortunately, but congruent with the spirit of safety and decreased corporate liability, MTC traction control and ABS braking cannot be disengaged while the bike is rolling faster than a walking pace. Additionally, rear spring preload adjustments require that the bike be virtually stopped as well before any changes can be made. Engine mapping can be done on the fly and changes take effect with a quick pull of the clutch and close of the throttle.
I found that my favorite sporty settings were those aptly named “Sport”. I also discovered that the Comfort damping mode coupled with the Solo preload adjustment made my backside very happy, though I quickly noticed that aggressive riding while in the softer settings would cause me to drag the ends of the center stand through corners. It is not an issue at all—simply a consequence of the pace and options that I had selected, A quick flash of my left thumb to reset to Sport damping and issue resolved.
After the brisk 200 miles of blissful chicanery on the KTM 1190 Adventure, I was left with a thoroughly exhilarating tarmac experience and hankering for more time in the saddle. In fact, I was a little disappointed in myself that I was unable to talk anyone into a little off-road excursion. Even with the 90/10 on-road bias of the Conti TrailAttack2 tires, I’m confident that the electronics would have provided for a very predictable casual off-road experience even in the absence of knobby block tires.
KTM promises that the US spec machine will be nearly identical with regard to power delivery mappings and that the biggest difference will be regulatory requirements around labeling, turn signals, and the like.
So the anticipation begins—awaiting the opportunity to truly test the mettle of the 2014 KTM 1190 Adventure, a more than welcome entrant into the large travel enduro segment, which is continually rewarding us, adventure riders, with higher performance and an enhanced experience.
Photography by Simon Cudby
Helmet: AGV AX-8 Dual Evo Tour
Jacket: Dainese G. Teren D-Dry
Gloves: Dainese KKH D-Dry
Pants: Dainese P. Teren D-Dry
Boots: Dainese Carroarmato Goretex
2014 KTM 1190 Adventure Specifications
Engine type…75-degree V-twin
Bore x stroke…105 x 69 mm
Power…150 hp @ 9500 rpm
Torque…92 ft/lbs @ 7500 rpm
Compression ratio…12.5 : 1
Starter / battery…Electric starter / 12 V, 11.2 Ah
Fuel system…Keihin EFI (throttle body 52 mm)
Control…4 V / DOHC
Lubrication…Pressure lubrication with 3 Eaton pumps
Engine oil…Motorex, SAE 10W-50
Primary drive…40 : 76
Final drive…17 : 42
Clutch…PASC slipper clutch, hydraulically operated
Engine management / ignition…Keihin EMS with RBW, double ignition
Traction control…MTC (3-Mode, disengageable)
Frame…Chromium-Molybdenum-Steel trellis frame, powder coated
Handlebar…Aluminum, tapered, Ø 28/22 mm
Front suspension…Adjustable WP USD, Ø 48 mm
Rear suspension…Adjustable WP Monoshock
Suspension travel front / rear…190 / 190 mm
Front brake…2 x Brembo four piston, radially bolted caliper, brake disc Ø 320 mm
Rear brake…Brembo two piston, fixed caliper, brake disc Ø 267 mm
ABS…Bosch 9ME Combined ABS (incl. off-road mode, disengageable)
wheels front / rear…Spoked wheels with aluminum tubeless rims, 3.5 x 19″; 5.0 x 17″
Tyres front / rear…120/70 ZR 19″; 170/60 ZR 17″
Chain…X-Ring 5/8 x 5/16″
Silencer…Stainless steel silencer with regulated catalytic converter
Wheel base…1,560 mm ± 10 mm
Ground clearance…220 mm
Seat height…860 / 875 mm
Tank capacity…approx. 6 gallons / 3.7 quarts reserve
Weight (ready to ride)…approx. 467 pounds (without fuel)