Deep down, I knew it had to happen, and a couple of weeks ago, it finally did. KTM rang me up and said they needed their 2021 KTM 890 Adventure R back. Press launches and short-term riding impressions are one thing. However, there’s nothing like a long-term test bike to really rack up the miles and the hard-fought experiences necessary to fully consummate the bond between bike and rider.
As far as I was concerned, the KTM 890 Adventure R was my perfect mate—the ideal partner for everything from extreme off-road adventures and coastal canyon carving, to running quick errands to the local market for a quart of eggnog. We did everything together.
So yes, it’s a bit of a teary-eyed goodbye. Between bouts of depression, let me take a deep breath and belt out the Fast Facts that you need to know about the highly capable and absolutely loveable 2021 KTM 890 Adventure R.
- The 2021 KTM Adventure 890 R replaces the short-lived 790 Adventure R. The 90cc bump in displacement (from 799cc to 889cc) and increased compression (from 12.7:1 to 13.5:1) is good for a claimed 100 peak horsepower at 8000 rpm and 74 ft-lbs of peak torque at 6500. That compares to 95 peak horsepower and 65 ft-lbs of torque from the 790 Adventure R. In addition to this, the new parallel-twin leverages an updated camshaft and lighter pistons, plus larger intake and exhaust valves, to create a broader power delivery profile. With all this engine output, this middleweight ADV motorcycle is challenging performance standards of the open-class adventure bike segment.
- The secret behind the impeccable handling of the KTM 890 Adventure R is the low-slung, rally-inspired fuel tank. No other ADV bike manufacturer is doing this, putting the KTM Adventure R in a class of one when it comes to off-road handling—the bulk of the fuel load is between the rider’s knees and the footpegs. In fact, I find that the sweet spot is at about 3.5 gallons of fuel; that’s when the center of gravity drops, and the 890 Adventure R can rail through sandy, rock-strewn chicanes.
- I averaged about 45 mpg flogging the throttle across a wide variety of terrain. With 5.3 gallons of fuel capacity, that puts the range right around 240 miles, although common sense would have you looking for a gas station around the 200-mile mark. But if your ride plan provides ready access to fuel—3.5 gallons still gives you about a 150-mile range—no need to top it up if you want to keep the center of gravity low. A fuel gauge that registers the top half of the fuel capacity should be on the R&D list. The gauge goes from full to half-full in a blink.
- Wire-spoke wheels and tubeless Continental Twinduro TKC 80 tires come standard on the 890 Adventure R. The TKC 80 is somewhat the gold standard for 50/50 dirt/street adventure riding. Of course, there are tires with a little more off-road grip or little more longevity, but the TKC80 is an excellent all-rounder and very predictable in all conditions. Air pressure is unique to everyone, but with just a backpack and sans any luggage, 26 psi up front and 22 in the back is my preferred setup for off-road adventure. I air up to 36/32 psi when back on the tarmac. Typically, I opt for ultra-heavy-duty inner tubes for more extreme off-road adventures, though I never got around to mounting them in the KTM 890 R. That said, I never experienced any slow air seepage or other issues with the stock tubeless setup.
- Unlike the standard KTM 890 Adventure, the one-piece seat on the R model is not adjustable. Fortunately, it suited me and my 30-inch inseam just fine. The stock seat won’t win any comfort awards, but it’s neutral to a point. That point was when I swapped seats with a friend who used a Seat Concepts aftermarket unit that is narrower and a bit taller, with more cushion. I loved the slimmer feel and the added cushion, giving it a more agile feel while maneuvering off-road, rather than the flatter seat of an Adventure bike, at least in the 60-mile section that I used it. Don’t overlook a seat upgrade if serious off-road adventures are your jam.
- Ergonomically and dimensionally, the 890 Adventure R fits me and my 5′ 9″ frame perfectly. Although it looks wide at the bottom due to the bulging fuel tank around the footpegs, I had few issues threading the needle through rocky terrain. The rider triangle between the grips, seat, and pegs is comfortable for spirited sit-down riding across the tarmac or the dirt. In the standing position, the KTM is very responsive to input through the footpegs and slippage from the rear wheel, really making it a treat to hang loose on curvy fire roads. If you’re like me and like to ride on the balls of your feet when standing, the footpegs may feel a little far back. Again, the aftermarket and KTM PowerParts come to the rescue with a host of rally footpeg configurations.
- It’s the 21st century, and performance-enhancing electronics are not just a nice-to-have anymore. We all know the guy—the Luddite at the back of the pack that constantly reminds everyone of the glorious past and his knobby-shod, Panhead Harley with a kickstarter. But the truth today is that electronic rider aids have become indispensable for managing horsepower and delivering a high-performance experience to a wide swath of riders across a broad range of conditions. The 2021 KTM 890 Adventure R has the full complement of electronics, including lean-angle-sensitive ABS and traction control, plus configurable ride modes to match any situation. Street mode offers full power, with ABS and traction control optimized for the tarmac. Rain mode has a smoother throttle response and reduces output to 80 horses, plus early ABS and traction control intervention. Offroad mode delivers full power, smooth delivery, and optimizes ABS for the dirt.
- The KTM Adventure 890 R is an Adventure bike that you can jump—literally. The fully-adjustable 48mm WP Xplor front fork is absolutely phenomenal in whooped out, off-road conditions. It stays up in the stroke, provides reliable feedback without any harshness, wallowing, or abrupt bottoming. With three turns of spring-preload increase in the rear, the WP Xplor linkage-less PDS shock kept in step perfectly. Combine this performance with 9.4 inches of wheel travel—front and back—and now your focus can be on finding areas of the trail to air it out! I don’t remember this being part of the Adventure rider mentality just a few years ago!
- The KTM 890 Adventure comes standard with a universal ram-type steering damper. Mounted between the frame and triple clamp, the damper is a good entry-level unit. Ninety percent of riders will never really have an opinion about it either way. By default, the stock damper slows the overall steering making it feel predictable, although a little heavy. For top off-road performance, removing the stock damper and using an aftermarket unit—the Scotts Steering Stabilizer works wonders. The Scotts unit’s steering feel resembles that of a 500cc dual-sport bike while retaining the high-speed damping to safeguard against front wheel deflection or headshake on deceleration.
- High-performance braking is courtesy of Spanish component supplier J.Juan. Wait, who? Now owned by Brembo, J.Juan has been supplying MotoGP teams with braking components for years, so it is not new to the scene. Four-piston radially mounted calipers up front sport the KTM logo and are matched to 320mm rotors tethered with steel-braided hoses. Lever feel is excellent, with a nice initial bite and plenty of power. A two-piston floating caliper with a 260mm rotor is plenty powerful in the rear, capable of locking up the rear on asphalt or the dirt with ABS switched off or in Offroad mode. The rear brake performance on the old 790 was a bit inconsistent, but not so on the new 890. With intervention from the Bosch ABS system just barely perceptible, the braking package performs incredibly, whether ABS is on, off, or in Offroad mode.
- Without fuel, KTM claims the 890 Adventure R weighs in at 432 pounds. With the 5.3-gallon full tank topped up, we’re looking at roughly 464 pounds, which is very competitive amongst its middleweight rivals, and maybe even class-topping from a power-to-weight perspective.
- The Rally Pack is a $500 upgrade, but you definitely want this. The Rally Pack unlocks firmware that enables the already installed quickshifter to operate, as well as additional electronics. Rally Mode allows the rider to select throttle response and ABS settings, in addition to unlocking nine levels of on-the-fly traction control, from a super-safe level 9 to a power-sliding and barely perceptible level 1. I used levels 1-4 for off-road situations and bumped it up to level 9 on the wet tarmac. My go-to Rally setting is smooth Offroad throttle response and Offroad ABS, and traction control level 2 for dirt and wheeling on the tarmac, bumping up to level 9 if conditions get slippery. Adjusting it on the fly allows me to instantly compensate for tire wear and grip levels to ensure I’m getting optimal drive to fit the conditions and my aspirations.
- The six-speed gearbox is spaced perfectly, and a breeze to operate with the optional quickshifter. The cable-actuated assist-and-slipper clutch has a nice, easy pull and provides grippy smooth performance for the rear end, avoiding any rear-wheel hop on hard braking and quick downshifts. The quickshifter is addictive, working with the ignition and butterfly valves to ensure precise rev-matching and clutchless shifting—up and down. It’s so good that it presents another problem—when you hop on one of your other bikes and try to start banging gear, then you really miss the KTM quickshifter!
- In addition to the Rally Pack, our 2021 KTM 890 Adventure R had the KTM Powerparts Touring Case Set. Constructed of plastic and aluminum, they offer a nice balance between weight and durability. We went down a few times off-road, and the cases survived unscathed. The keyed cases are quickly installed and removed, and require no unsightly mounting brackets. With a generous capacity of 62 liters, the $1000/pair Touring Cases are indispensable on trips. A built-in net prevents too much movement of the contents when riding on rough routes, making the convenient set essential for adventure touring.
- My aftermarket shopping list for the 890 Adventure R is pretty short. A Scotts Steering Stabilizer, perhaps a taller, slimmer Seat Concepts perch, and a set of rally pegs that are a bit wider and positioned slightly forward. Everything else, from electronics to engine performance and braking, ticks all the boxes for me in my quest for fun and adventure. Even the stock exhaust sounds great, though the KTM PowerParts Akrapovič muffler does look tempting. For long, high-speed pavement trips, the Touratech MRA Touring Windscreen should be helpful, as it’s 4.3 inches taller than stock.
- The 2021 KTM Adventure 890 R is arguably the most dominant off-road adventure bike ever built. With the caveat perhaps of the limited edition KTM 890 Adventure Rally model that I have yet to ride, no other ADV bike in any weight class comes close to the off-road prowess and capability of the KTM 890 Adventure R. As far as my relationship with this motorcycle, although now separated, we’re still an open book. Its absence from our test-bike fleet is sorely felt, but I’m optimistic for a long-term test bike in ’22! I see a project bike in my crystal ball.
Photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: Shoei Hornet X2 Sovereign
- Jacket + pants: Alpinestars Andes V3 Drystar
- Gloves: Alpinestars SMX-E
- Boots: Alpinestars Corozal ADV DS Oiled
2021 KTM 890 Adventure R Specs
- Type: Parallel twin
- Displacement: 889cc
- Bore x stroke: 90.7 x 68.8mm
- Maximum power: 100 horsepower @ 8000 rpm
- Maximum torque: 74 ft-lbs @ 6500 rpm
- Valvetrain: DOHC; 4 vpc
- Cooling: Liquid
- Transmission: 6-speed w/ optional quickshifter
- Clutch: Web multiplate w/ assist and slipper functions
- Final drive: Chain
- Frame: Steel trellis; load-bearing engine
- Front suspension: Fully adjustable WP Xplor 48mm inverted fork
- Front suspension travel: 9.4 inches
- Rear suspension Fully adjustable WP Xplor piggyback shock
- Rear suspension travel: 9.4 inches
- Wheels: Wire-spoke
- Front wheel: 21 x 2.5
- Rear wheel: 18 x 4.5
- Tires: Continental Twinduro TKC 80
- Front tire: 90/90 x 21
- Rear tire: 150/70 x 18
- Front brakes: 320mm discs w/ Brembo 4-piston calipers
- Rear brake: 260mm disc w/ Brembo caliper
- ABS: Switchable
DIMENSIONS and CACPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 60.2 inches
- Rake: 26.3 inches
- Seat height: 34.6 inches
- Fuel capacity: 5.3 gallons
- Curb weight: 464 pounds
2021 KTM 890 Adventure R Price: $14,199 MSRP ($15,699, as tested)
2021 KTM 890 Adventure R Photo Gallery