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2014 KTM 1190 Adventure: MD Ride Review, Part 1

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We have covered the new KTM 1190 Adventure quite extensively, including a report direct from the European press launch, and a riding impression from Gabe and some of his friends in Northern California. Take a look back at those articles for the technical details or wait for part 2 of this review. As with most significant new models, I prefer to test them myself here in Southern California. I have just begun testing the 1190 Adventure, and will provide a more extensive Part 2 to this review.

This bike has a great reputation already, and so far it seems well deserved. Riding the bike on Southern California freeways, the engine is simply fantastic. KTM rates the motor at 150 horsepower with 87 foot pounds of torque at the crank, and this is very believable once you twist the throttle a few times. The KTM 1190 Adventure is also very comfortable. Adventure bikes tend to be comfortable, but the 1190 Adventure has a particularly good seat, coupled with decent wind protection that does not buffet at the helmet level, something I had a problem with on several other adventure tourers.

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The electronically-adjustable suspension, which we will discuss in much greater detail in Part 2, seems to work extremely well. I have been riding around on the street in Street mode, with the suspension damping dialed for a rider plus luggage, to throw a little more weight on the front end for my 200 pound frame. This is working well, providing good comfort with good control.

I also took the 1190 Adventure into the dirt, something that can be pretty scary on some of the large displacement adventure tourers. The KTM 1190 Adventure, however, felt very balanced and even confidence-inspiring in the dirt. While in the dirt, I selected the Off-Road setting, which allowed me to spin the rear wheel a bit more than in Street mode. I was able to do some fairly long, controlled power slides, but when it came time to do a power slide for the photographer, the best place to do it was an extremely slippery area. This had hard-pack dirt covered by a thin layer of gravel (see the photo). Normally, this would present a challenge sliding even a small motocross bike, but the 1190 Adventure was relatively predictable despite the slick conditions. Very impressive, and not something I would try on just any large displacement motorcycle.

Frankly, I am really enjoying the 1190 Adventure so far, and will provide a much more detailed report in Part 2. This is quite a motorcycle.

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59 Comments

  1. malvesty says:

    we took the 2013 version of this into Namibia for a week long tour on the dirt roads. Those roads are really hard core, everything from sharp thick gravel to sand to hectic corrugations. The Katoom ran very well, except on day four it starting losing power and investigation showed that the front wheel was throwing small shards of stone into the front facing air-filter, which proceeded to make holes in it.

    Result was a trashed motor, an unhappy owner and a bike that had to be trailed back to Cape Town. Most definitely a design fault that requires a correction or aftermarket solution.

  2. Emptybee says:

    Where’s Part 2?

  3. yamaha says:

    Hello! I’ve been reading your weblog for a while
    now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out
    from Lubbock Texas! Just wanted to mention keep up the great job!

  4. ham says:

    Lots of what you guys call ugly is what makes an adventure bike attractive to those of us who own them.

    I sat on this bike and like its feel. For those of you that are young and quick enough to still want 150 hp its just the answer. I am not able to handle that kind of danger anymore. So my Stelvio is just fine, and very fast, with supper low torque, heavy but center of gravity is so low its just not a problem…unless you drop it. I get 45 to 50 mpg two up loaded.

    So without riding this myself I have no idea as to center of gravity.

    I think I might check out one of those 690s though.

  5. Hair says:

    After looking at this thread. I cycled back out to the front page. There I could not help but notice the latest offering from Honda. I am not saying that the Honda offering is bad. Or that the KTM is good. But I will say that the two are very different from each other.

    • powermad says:

      I’ll say it. To quote Schwarzenegger, to the Honda “You are one ugly mother@@@@er.”

  6. motowarrior says:

    One more comment, I promise. I just read a road test on the new Porsche Turbo, one of the quickest production cars ever built, with a 0-60 time of 2.6 seconds and nearly 600 hp. I then read a road test of the KTM 1190, and it is quicker in the quarter mile than the Porsche Turbo (10.6 sec). So, if you only have one bike and you want one that is fast on the road, competent on the trail, and able to ride the world, this isn’t a bad choice. As a matter of fact, it may be the best choice.

  7. zuki says:

    RE: “The design team at KTM seems to have avoided the traps of ugly tank flange, ugly headlight, ugly beak, and with spokes, so it’s definitely a winner!”

    It is a very good-looking adventure machine, indeed! I think my CB500X in ‘Pearl Himalayas White’ is a very attractive adventure-style machine as well. The KTM does have a tiny little beak if you look closely. It and the CB500X have cute little beaks unlike most of the others with beaks.

    I had an idea for another name to call these type of motorcycles:

    Well (basically) there are street bikes, and dirt bikes… maybe “Adventure” motorcycles could be called ‘dust’ bikes because more so than pure street bikes they like to wander down and explore those lonely, dusty roads. Some “Adventure” machines take on the role of dirt bike but that can be a bit too ambitious. :)

  8. Vrooom says:

    I like the bike, but I don’t have a lot of confidence in KTM’s ability to go 100K miles without major work. I expect a few valve adjustments and the expendables. I was in an 8000 mile rally with significant dirt in 2006 where 5 bikes completely failed, all of them KTMs. That’s perhaps too old to be relevant, and perhaps just random chance, but still their longevity and reliability worries me. I’d love to hear from some high mileage KTM riders who’ve had no problems, that might help (80K miles or higher).

    • Vroum_Ninou says:

      I don’t think you’ll find many people with relatively modern bikes and that kind of mileage. What I can tell you is that I have a 2009 SMT with 75k km (please note, km, not miles) on the clock. It has never left me stranded and these have been 75k km of pure riding joy.

      During that time I’ve had one breakdown: the alternator/regulator failed after around 40k km. So that was a regulator/alternator and a new battery (I put in a lithium one, saving 3kg in the process).

      The other major thing I did was change the clutch at around 55k km, not because it was worn but because it had developed some play and was rattling a little. That being said, the guy mechanic who changed it told me I could have kept on going with it.

      And now, at the 75k km maintenance I am going to preventively change the cam chain as it seems to be a bit loose. But the bike goes great.

      It does gulp oil though (it burns some and leaks some at the base of the cylinders but those gaskets will get changed during this cam chain operation).

    • Asphanaut says:

      I’ve got 150 miles on the 1190 that I bought a 3 days ago and it still runs like a dream. I’ll try to remember to post again 79,850 miles from now.

  9. Gman says:

    I’d like to see a comparison with the 2014 Suzuki DL-1000.

    • motowarrior says:

      There is a comparison with the DL 1000 and the BMW R1200GS in Cycle World this month. Without going into detail, the KTM was named the clear winner. I’m a long-time BMW rider and I believe that the new R1200GS is the finest bike of its type I have ever ridden. The Suzuki was cited as being a lot of bike for the money, but not in the same class with the others. After reading several review of the KTM, and speaking with a friend of mine who bought one, I would definitely have to give it serious consideration, even though I am predisposed to purchasing th BMW. Apparently the KTM is an amazing motorcycle.

      • adventure seeker says:

        I will ride any bike until it breaks. I usually don’t change bikes while riding highway and dirt. Yet, I’ll take a stock 1200GS before this KTM 1190.

    • Norm G. says:

      somebody’d have to sort the DL a turbo before the test could commence.

  10. todder says:

    Cruise control is my only showstopper.

    • todd says:

      I don’t get it. What is cruise control on a motorcycle and how would it work on an “adventure bike” or a gravel road? Are you suggesting some sort of device that maintains a constant speed on long, straight empty highways? Isn’t that what your hand does? Shouldn’t you be looking at a Goldwing instead?

      • todder says:

        I get bad hand cramps after long droning highway jaunts. Aftermarket throttle locks can be dangerous and cramp buster only kinda helps. Anything that can keep me on my motorcycle longer is definitely worth it.

        I’ve already got a Victory with cruise, but that’s no good on dirt trails. So yeah, give me my cruise control.

        • Hair says:

          And with FI bikes it’s seems like it’s pretty simple to add on. If KTM wants to compete with BMW then they have to consider the Adventure touring aspect of it. Which is lots of hwy miles and some dirt tracks just to keep things real. People want these bikes to not only take on just about everything that our modern roads toss at us. But to also be able to ride 1000 miles of slab then hit the high mountain passes. Just like ABS, throttle control works well in some conditions and not in others. I recently heard that the KTM Adventure rally will be in Taos, NM this fall. I live 60 miles from Taos. I would use cruise control on my bike when riding to the rally. And I would be using grin control when I hit the FRs in the Carson NF just out side of Taos.

  11. skybullet says:

    Smaller, lighter, even better handling? The 2013/14 690 Duke is available now at a dealer (maybe not too far from you). http://www.cycleworld.com/2013/08/28/2013-ktm-690-duke-first-ride-review-photos/
    Most riders won’t test ride or consider a 690 single because it is “too small”. Well maybe, if your riding includes a lot of time over 75 mph on straight roads. But, if you ride for the exhilaration you can only get from a super responsive bike that feels like part of you, try this bike!

    • hipsabad says:

      Your comment is the result of actual experience and wisdom in the world, rather than hypey bullshit and ego over-compensation that fills the unreal pages of the motorcycle press. I surmise that most folks will pass it by. That’s too bad.

    • Vroum_Ninou says:

      Amen to that. I have a Duke 390 and this thing is a blast in the mountains! So light and fun! Given that the 690 is only 10kg heavier and has an extra 25 hp, I’m really extremely tempted by one!

  12. John says:

    If this had a reasonable price and a 390 or 690 engine in it, and a reasonable seat height, I would be all over it.

    • todd says:

      I would be more drawn to those too. It would easily be 100 pounds lighter and cost 50% less without giving up 50% bike.

    • Hair says:

      So why don’t you just go out and buy a 690enduro R. Or one of the left over 990s. As far as a smaller displacement adventure bike goes. Lots and lots of people buy 250 through 510 cc bikes. They put a larger tank on them from one of the major suppliers of after market tanks. They adjust the suspension add soft luggage (which is better off road anyway) and roll. The small displacement KTMs are pretty robust. The larger tank gives them great range. Most time up around 200 miles. And these bikes are really fun off hwy.

      • todd says:

        Because I already have an XR650L and a Yamaha 360 enduro, among others. It’s gonna take a looong time before I wear those out and need to replace them.

  13. xlayn says:

    This machine has more power (and surely torque) than most 600 sportbikes, longer suspensions, and manage-able frame, I wonder what a just-sportbikes would say about it

  14. takehikes says:

    First one of these that actually is decent looking. I dont mind the big exhaust can but that front fender is odd. Nice bike.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “I dont mind the big exhaust can”

      i told her that when i married her, but she’s always reading that damn Cosmopolitan, Mademoiselle, and Vogue. they’ve got her self-conscious.

  15. Motorhead says:

    A big exhaust likely means freer flowing so more horsepower. The design team at KTM seems to have avoided the traps of ugly tank flange, ugly headlight, ugly beak, and with spokes, so it’s definitely a winner!

    • xlayn says:

      keep in mind that some of those (not) consessions came from the fact that the bike it’s not a total offroad machine; as you said a really nice machine.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “A big exhaust likely means freer flowing so more horsepower.”

      a big exhaust likely means more catalyst to meet ever tightening emissions.

    • VLJ says:

      That big exhaust can doesn’t mean it flows better. It usually means it’s more restricted, often including a catalytic converter. Take a look at the size of the BMW S1000RR’s exhaust. That bike makes much more HP than this KTM, and the exhaust can is nowhere near as big. For that matter, take a look at any MotoGP bike’s comparatively small exhaust system.

      • todd says:

        Bigger means more volume for quieter exhaust flow and lower restriction. How can a bigger anything be more restrictive? All bikes have cats now, some just carry them in other, hidden locations of the exhaust because, a) there’s more room to do so, and b) styling dictates a smaller can.

        • VLJ says:

          You just said the same thing I said. Quieter equals more restrictive, and including the cat in the can makes for a bigger can. If the sole goal is more HP, the can will never need to be nearly so large.

          • todd says:

            Quieter has nothing to do with restriction. Cut open a modern muffler design and you’ll see no restrictions. Consider the exhaust on my BMW K75S. The bike is whisper quiet with the stock exhaust and many tests have shown that the stock K bike exhaust makes more power than any of the aftermarket loud pipes. Manufacturers spend lots of money to make the most efficient and quiet pipes possible (wave dynamics) whereas aftermarket companies just provide a short, straight through pipe that will actually reduce exhaust flow! Yes, it’s true.

          • VLJ says:

            No, it’s not true. At all.

      • paulysr says:

        as I understand it, for a given ammount of restriction/backpressure, a larger volume muffler will be quieter. same thing goes for an airbox (which is a muffler for the intake). I think a larger muffler will also have better acoustics, so it can sound better (deeper and fuller) while still being quiet. More HP is never the “sole goal” on a production street bike.

  16. Buckwheat says:

    I’d prefer shaft drive, but there’s no denying KTM has hit this one out of the park. I hope they sell a lot of ‘em and a huge aftermarket develops.

  17. skybullet says:

    Provologna, check out the 2012 and earlier 990 SMT if you like “understated” paint and graphics. http://dallas.craigslist.org/sdf/mcy/4407027449.html
    Hopefully KTM will offer a updated SMT with all the new electronics, no need to increase the 990 displacement to 1190, just include the engine/transmission improvements.
    KTM gave the SMT Zero advertising and promotion so it was a slow seller but what an amazing bike. My 2012 SMT needed only a Rick Mayer seat and a Throttle Tamer to be perfect for me.

    • Vroum_Ninou says:

      Yup! Amazing bike the SMT. Not sure if they’re going to revive it in upgraded form or if they consider that the 1290 SuperDuke R with the touring pack actually is the upgraded SMT…
      I have a 2009 SMT with 75k km from new and now also have a very fancy (orange frame!) 2013 one. I just had to get one! It was the last model year. So I should be set for a while and have time to see if KTM does indeed revive the SMT.

  18. Norm G. says:

    interesting swingarm. are those lower guards aluminium. we’ve gotta get jake in on this.

    • xlayn says:

      the swingarm look like the trademark extruded on the outside swingarm of KTM, what part do you find interesting, I may be overlooking something…

      • Norm G. says:

        no, that’s it. they’ve taken that design from their lower tier models and are moving to create some additional USP for the brand. good on ‘em.

  19. Seth says:

    Time for adv bikes to use 18″ x 3.5″ wheels in the FRONT. To many get-offs. Skinny 19″ front wheels provide less contact patch than dirtbike or DS using 21″ wheels.

    • motowarrior says:

      I’m not questioning your logic about the respective contact patches, but I have ridden adventure and dual sport bikes for years with 19″ & 21 ” front wheels without an incident. I actually find that the larger wheels are better when you find yourself in a turn riddled with potholes or other rough terrain, which you often encounter with adventure touring. When you choose or are forced to ride off road, there is no question that the larger wheels are better. I was riding overseas last year when I was guided down a trail that was supposed to be 2-3 km of rough gravel road. It turned out to be 34 km, and I was very pleased that my F800Gs had a 21″front wheel. There are tradeoff in all riding…

      • hipsabad says:

        you’re right, man. It’s not too many get-offs, it’s too many people rather be riding pavement. Aren’t these supposed to be “adventure”, haha, bikes after all?

      • motowarrior says:

        Dirck, I haven’t tried these Pirellis yet, but I have had good success with a variety of Metzler and Michelin adventure touring tires. Never had a problem with them in spirited mountain road riding, and they performed OK for trail riding. We have never had such a huge number of choices in adventure bikes and tires for them.

  20. Gronde says:

    What does it weigh? What does it cost?

    • DaveA says:

      Re-read the first paragraph where it talks about how teh bike has already had extensive coverage. Links are provided.

  21. Provologna says:

    The bike itself seems great. Graphic treatment, not so much. Apparently “understated” is not in KTM’s dictionary. At this price I suppose a few hundred dollars for a new paint scheme is acceptable.

  22. VLJ says:

    That thing is right up there among the largest exhaust cans ever.

  23. Thomas B says:

    You’re gonna want to keep that one. One of the greats. Love mine (R though)