In this difficult world economy, KTM is charging forward by spending liberally on the development of new models, and furthering its development of the street market. Its roots are in motocross and enduro, but the various Duke models, as well as this new large displacement adventure model, signal KTM’s intention to further expand its market share.
Although the KTM Adventure 990 has been around for a while (and is the top adventure model available in the U.S. this year), KTM’s real revolution in street legal adventure bikes is born with this new model, which inherits the engine from the superbike RC8 R. Available in Europe this year (likely in the U.S. next year), the 1190 Adventure is a highly sophisticated machine that does not yield state-of-the-art to any competitor. A well-managed 150 hp, with four switchable engine maps controlled from the left handgrip and ride- by-wire throttle, this big beast needs traction control and ABS, and it has these, as well. Going a step further, the new KTM 1190 Adventure is also available with electronic adjustment of the suspension (KTM refers to it as EDS).
All this electronic wizardry is mated to a very balanced chassis with a new level of long-distance comfort, something KTM has not previously been known for. Inviting ergonomics, ample wind protection and low vibration were not hallmarks of previous KTM efforts. The 1190 Adventure changes this.
We were given the opportunity to test the basic 1190 Adventure model (the “R” version will arrive in April) and we must say it was a pleasant surprise. The engine inherited from the superbike, of course, maintains its 75° cylinder angle and dry sump. Beyond this, many changes have been made to adapt the race motor to its new purpose in this model, including different cams, changes to the clutch, new pistons, alternator and starter.
Transmission ratios are different by necessity from the superbike, and first gear is much shorter to accommodate low-speed, off-road travel. Final drive is by chain (not a surprise for KTM) rather than shaft.
The four available engine maps provide noticeable differences in performance. They include a sports setting with the full 150 hp, a street mode with full power but slightly softer delivery, a rain mode that softens power and increases the intrusiveness of the traction control system, and finally an off-road mode with a 100 hp peak and a very smooth power delivery. Both traction control and ABS can be turned off by the rider.
To say that the 1190 Adventure has a healthy engine is a gross understatement. KTM claims 150 hp at 9500 RPM and 87 foot-pounds of torque at 7500 RPM. This monster is pulling around roughly 500 pounds of motorcycle with a full tank of gasoline … very light for the large adventure tourer class.
The frame is tubular steel with an aluminum swingarm. Electrically adjustable WP suspension is called EDS, allowing hydraulic adjustment of spring preload in four settings ranging from rider alone to rider with passenger and luggage. Within these settings there are three modes, including comfort, sport and street. Changes must be done at a stop.
Braking is courtesy of twin 320 mm front discs squeezed by four-piston radial mount Brembo calipers, together with a single rear disc. These are in a “combined ABS” system developed by Bosch.
So this big new 1190 Adventure has plenty of electronic options, all accessible from the left handgrip area. Reinforcing the commitment to long-range comfort and capability, the bike also has an enlarged fuel capacity, roughly 6 U.S. gallons. In keeping with this theme, the screen is adjustable both for height and angle, and the spoked wheels (19 inch front and 17 inch rear) mount tubeless tires.
I confess to being a fan of the old 990 Adventure that grew directly out of KTMs desert racing roots. It was certainly rough around the edges, but it was light and had a performance bent. As soon as I sat on the new bike, however, I could tell it was entirely new with little family resemblance.
The instrument cluster is very complete, legible and functions are controllable easily from the left-hand grip (engine maps, ABS, suspension settings, traction control, etc.). There is probably more information than you really need, including ambient temperature, the time the engine has been running, the distance traveled, fuel consumption rates, level of battery charge, oil level, etc., but this again shows KTM’s continuing evolution into a street bike manufacturer. Basically, everything on the 1190 feels a bit nicer than its predecessor, a bit more refined. The clutch is easy and smooth, shifting requires less effort (a six speed) and is more precise, while making less noise.
In the sport mode, the engine (which is full of character) is pretty aggressive in its power delivery. The spread of power is very broad, and you are left feeling that you have all the power you need virtually everywhere on the tachometer. Frankly, it was a mild shock to have 150 hp on a bike with high handlebars, traction control and a good level of comfort. The engine response is seamless and immediate. No hesitation whatsoever when you crack the throttle, but no surprises, either.
The powerful brakes and a slipper clutch make aggressive corner entries much easier to navigate than on previous big twins. The chassis exhibited good stability, but made twisty roads fun and direction changes easy. The bike feels more agile than your typical adventure bike designed for long-distance comfort.
The suspension, tuned for sport riding, provides good feedback, particularly from the front end. The shock was a tad bit harsh, however. Exiting corners with the bike still on its side, you have the confidence to begin opening the throttle early and the big motor launches you forward. Big fun, indeed.
This new KTM 1190 Adventure was born to conquer the category traditionally dominated by BMWs GS. It still has that performance edge, however, and this is where it distinguishes itself from the big BMW. After all, it is a KTM at heart, just easier to live with on long road trips. KTM appears to have another winner on their hands.