Even with new entrants in the space, the KTM 890 Adventure is arguably the market’s most performance-oriented middleweight travel enduro. Recognizing this, KTM product engineers decided to complement the bike’s current strengths with refinements in aerodynamics, comfort, and rider usability. Interestingly, they also skewed the focus of the standard 890 Adventure towards increased off-road capability, which fuels speculation that KTM was making room for a third, more street-focused 890 Adventure to round out the lineup.That means we get to punish the standard KTM 890 Adventure in some serious off-road conditions while evaluating the refinements made for 2023. Our test venue is the beautiful coastal alpine mountains surrounding the world-class Portuguese surf spot of Nazaré. A day of sunshine greeted us after a week of pouring rain, providing a gamut of dust-free conditions—firm wet sand, muddy rivulets, damp twisty tarmac, and cobble-strewn trails. Here are the Fast Facts you need to know about the skillfully refined 2023 KTM 890 Adventure.
Rally racing inspiration connects the dots of the KTM 890 Adventure aesthetic. Previous models of the 790 and 890 Adventure sport the headlight mask and radiator shrouds as independent body elements. Perhaps it was an homage to the mighty KTM 950 Super Enduro R from earlier this century, but aren’t adventure bikes idealized versions of rally bikes? KTM designers thought so. Using the 450 Rally Replica as a template, they connected the headlight mask to the body and buttressed support for the instrument tower. The result is a sleeker rally look, with a thinner, less bulky feel between the knees while riding.
The larger windscreen reduces wind fatigue both on and off the tarmac. At first glance, the rectangular cut-out of the windscreen could be confused for some sort of speakeasy door, but its application is 100 percent utilitarian. The near-vertical windscreen flows air through and around the rider envelope. This virtually eliminates wind buffeting at highway speeds and provides plenty of protection without the annoyance. Along with the beefed-up instrument tower, the larger windscreen facilitates mounting goodies, with a 12-volt socket and powered USB port to keep your GPS and smartphone topped up.
The five-inch TFT LCD instrument display is loaded with new firmware and is easily viewable whether seated or standing. The bright new dash is easy to see in all light conditions, and navigation is streamlined with colored iconography to augment the text. This eliminates the need to squint and read while underway. I toggled back and forth from the Rally Main screen, a simplified view with the rear-slip indicator setting taking center stage, to the Default Main screen, which is adorned with additional data widgets for tarmac touring.
The 5.3-gallon low-slung fuel tank gets added protection down low. When full, 60 percent of the fuel load is carried between the rider’s knees and the footpegs, effectively lowering the center of gravity and enabling unmatched off-road handling compared to traditionally mounted fuel cells. For 2023, KTM increased the engine and fuel tank protection with a wrap-around composite skin and aluminum guards. My test bike had visible scratches and road rash from a previous asphalt crash, and I was impressed at how well the new protection worked.
Seat foam density and thickness matter, and the 2023 KTM Adventure 890 gets it right. The two-piece adjustable seat enjoys a makeover. It has nearly a half-inch more foam without adding additional height to the seat. It has a firm but comfortable feel that never made me think about it. In the low position, the saddle is 33.1 inches from the ground, and 33.9 inches in the high setting. The seat is so narrow in the front to maximize access to the ground that, even with my 30-inch inseam, I preferred the higher seat setting. KTM PowerParts also offers a low one-piece Rally seat at 32.4 inches and a tall version at 34 inches.
With nearly eight inches of wheel travel front and rear, the standard KTM 890 Adventure can burn up the dirt. The 890 Adventure R model is the dirt lover’s weapon of choice, but the standard 890 Adventure comes with a compelling suspension package. The 43mm WP Apex fork has adjustable compression and rebound adjusters at the top of each fork tube, so adjustments can be made by hand while sitting on the bike. The standard fork settings are optimized for two-up touring and off-piste excursions. To my surprise, I didn’t feel the need to increase compression damping or make adjustments for spirited one-up fun. The WP Apex shock has adjustable rebound damping and spring preload, with a handy knob for sag adjustments to accommodate a pillion and luggage.
The 889cc parallel twin is unchanged, and that’s a good thing. With claimed 105 horsepower at 8000 rpm and 74 ft-lbs of torque at 6500 rpm, the 890 Adventure engine packs plenty of punch for a middle-weight travel enduro. Smooth clutch actuation and properly spaced gearing allow for precise low-speed maneuvers, as well as being comfortable at high speeds on the open road. My favorite test is doing steering-stop figure-8s in first gear by just modulating the clutch and using a little bit of throttle and peg pressure. The KTM 890 Adventure passes with flying colors.
Braking on wet tarmac is improved with upgraded cornering ABS. Finding the limit on wet tarmac is all about confidence, and this is an area where electronic assistance makes all the difference. The upgraded Bosch 9.3 MP system is fully integrated with the onboard 6D IMU that constantly monitors the motorcycle’s angle, pitch, speed, and behavior. This allows for maximum braking performance for the prevailing conditions. On the rain-soaked and moss-covered twisters above Nazaré, it was reassuring to know that if I got hamfisted, there was a safety net.
Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tires bump up the off-road fun factor. Perhaps my favorite 80/20 adventure rubber, the Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR, is a serious off-road upgrade to last year’s Avon AV54 Trailrider rubber. Fantastic on rain-soaked tarmac, the Pirellis handled everything that came their way—loose gravel, deep sand, slippery mud, and wet tarmac. The Scorpion Rally STR is an excellent compromise that allows for canyon carving, blasting through sand washes, and everything in between. With wire-spoked rims and 21-/18-inch wheel sizing, the STRs match the off-road prowess of the standard KTM 890 Adventure perfectly.
Riding modes and integrated traction control remain unchanged. I love Rally Mode, so I happily spent the majority of the test in Rally mode with my go-to settings—rear-slip traction control set to 2-3 to allow me to light up the rear tire for power-on turns with rear ABS turned off. If I encounter pavement for a short stint, I bump the traction control to 9 (most intrusive) and remember that the ABS is off. However, for real canyon carving, Street mode is the way to go, offering the full suite of power, traction control, and ABS.
New owners will have 1500 kilometers to enjoy all of the 2023 KTM 890 Adventure’s electronic options. That’s a little over 900 miles to have unlimited use of Rally mode, quickshifter, and cruise control before the firmware reverts to the options you selected at the dealer. It may be a little frustrating knowing that you have to pay extra to unlock features already supported by the motorcycle’s software and hardware. However, each mode costs money to develop, and KTM allows you the option of not paying for features you don’t want. I would skip the return trip to the dealer and purchase the full suite of electronic rider aids at the point of sale—you’ll want all of them.
Both Akrapovič and Remus slip-on mufflers are available as KTM PowerParts aftermarket options. I did not get the chance to ride a KTM 890 Adventure with the stock exhaust system, as all of the test bikes were fitted with either the Akrapovič or Remus models. According to feedback from KTM engineering, the Akropovič offers slightly more torque from closed throttle through initial acceleration than the Remus. However, the burly acoustic grunt of the Remus would get my hard-earned cash in a heartbeat. Neither exhaust is loud, but cracking the throttle from idle and aurally absorbing the harmonics of the Remus is a real treat. This is where I chose form over function.
The 2023 KTM 890 Adventure is available in two different colorways, with the price still a secret. Of course, orange is ubiquitous across the KTM lineup, but options are nice to have. In 2023, the 890 Adventure is available in classic orange with white side panels, or a stealthy black with grey paneling. The suggested MSRP has not been released yet, but KTM expects the new model to hit showroom floors this month.
I have a new appreciation for the standard model KTM 890 Adventure. With less ground clearance and lower seat height, it will handle better on the tarmac than the R—its more dirt-oriented sibling. Yet, when shod in aggressive knobbies, the standard model is a legitimate off-road contender. The R is still the king of off-road, but the 2023 KTM 890 Adventure takes the crown as the most versatile of the two.
Our first segment introduces you to the new Arch 1s. This latest, slightly more sporting American V-twin, adds to the original KRGT1 coming from the boutique manufacturer based in Hawthorne, Southern California. Senior Editor Nic de Sena rode through Malibu with Gard Hollinger, who co-founded Arch Motorcycle with his friend, Keanu Reeves. The 1s is a unique ride for sure, and Nic explains what makes the bike really stand out.
For the entertaining story behind Arch Motorcycle from Gard Hollinger himself, you must listen to his podcast episode on Motos & Friends HERE
The guest segment of Motos and Friends is brought to you by the faster and most technologically advanced, 2023 Suzuki Hayabusa—one of the most iconic sportbikes ever. Check it out in person at your local Suzuki dealer now, or visit suzukicycles.com to learn more.
In our second segment, Associate Editor Teejay Adams chats with Thom Beers, the former Chairman & CEO of Fremantle Media North America, responsible for American Idol and America’s Got Talent. Thom’s astonishing resume as a Producer, Director, and actor, includes narrating many, many of the shows he’s created.
His fertile imagination led to most of the really big reality TV shows, and of course for us in the motorcycle world, you’ll be interested to hear the genesis and story behind his Jesse James show, ‘Monster Garage’, as well as the ‘Biker Build Off’ and ‘Zombie Choppers’ TV shows. Teejay’s chat with Thom gives us some amazing insight into other areas of Thom’s career, including ‘Deadliest Catch’ and others.
You’d imagine that most of Thom’s time is spent sitting behind a desk and on his phone. Not so. His intense stories of capturing much of the content for these shows make for some hair-raising listening. I for one, was fascinated; I hope you are too.