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  • April 30, 2014
  • Dirck Edge
  • Chris Rubino and Dirck Edge

2014 KTM 1190 Adventure: MD Ride Review, Part 2


Following up on Part 1 of our report, we have put several hundred miles on the 1190 Adventure, primarily on the street. There will be a Part 3 report focusing primarily on this bike’s ability off road.

The 2014 KTM 1190 Adventure continues to impress us. We are big fans of the ergonomics of larger adventure tourers, which typically include a fairly upright seating position with plenty of leg room and relatively decent wind protection. These bikes tend to be very comfortable on the street, and the KTM is no different.


The big 1190 Adventure handles extremely well. KTM incorporated a sophisticated electronically adjustable suspension system that we discussed at some length in the original report from the European press launch. Plenty of optional settings are available, but I found that selecting damping preset for rider plus luggage helps balance my 200 pounds effectively, and throw a bit more weight onto the front wheel, which is something I prefer in any event.

The sophistication doesn’t stop with the electronically adjustable suspension. The Bosch MSC assistance package found on the 1190 Adventure is quite a step forward in terms of integrated rider safety electronics, which controls braking and together with the MTC traction control features, can effectively prevent the rider from losing traction while leaned over and applying too much brake or too much throttle.

The toggle switch near the left hand grip provides a simple and logical means of controlling all this electronic sophistication. The rider can select four general riding modes, including Sport, Street, Rain and Off-Road. These not only correspond to the level of traction control offered by the system, they affect throttle response and power output, as well. Sport and Street have a maximum of 150 crank horsepower, according to KTM, while the Rain and Off-Road settings, in addition to providing for different levels of permitted wheel slippage, limit horsepower to 100.


The 1190 adventure has just been a blast to ride, in every respect. Offering good comfort, including reasonably good wind protection (although not the best in the class), its big v-twin responds smoothly, predictably and with great authority. The chassis instills huge confidence in the rider by providing excellent feedback from both the front and rear contact patches, with great high speed stability (a steering damper is incorporated) and sporty responses to inputs the rider makes to the wide handlebars. This bike does it all!

Power builds in a smooth, linear fashion from very low rpm. This bike is quick to accelerate when asked virtually everywhere above idle through the horsepower peak at roughly 9500 rpm. Peak power feels like a superbike from just a few years ago, wanting to lift the front wheel through the first three gears. Together with the low rpm flexibility of a more docile big twin, the engine is close to ideal.


The seat is tall. Even in the shorter of the two available positions (at a claimed 34.3 inches), this 5 foot 11 inch test rider was on tiptoes most of the time. Not ideal, particularly off-road. The trade-off is excellent leg room from the saddle, and good ground clearance to compensate for the massive lean angles this bike is capable of.

KTM has incorporated the latest generation in adventure touring tires, including a 120 mm wide 19 inch front, which is much more capable of retaining grip at large lean angles on the street versus the older 110 mm wide 19 inch tires that were the only thing available just a few years ago. The wider front tire seems to help in the dirt, as well.

We will wrap up our review of the 2014 KTM 1190 Adventure in Part 3 with more thoughts on its street performance and a look at its performance off-road.



  1. paul246 says:

    A seat height of 34.3″ isn’t really too bad. My XR650L was 37″ and with an inseam of 31″ I could easily get both of my boot’s toe boxes firmly on the pavement. When riding off-road trails I paid a bit more attention and was at the ready to slide my butt across the seat in the required direction to afford a full foot down on uneven terrain. Not that big of a deal.

    • ze says:

      Yes, the XR is very high but it’s light, only 160kg (wet) and with soft shocks it will lower when you seat.
      It will be very different with the 240kg wet from the KTM …

  2. jabe says:

    Why do so many people complain about the seat height of a bike they have intentions of buying?

    • jabe says:

      I mean, NO intentions of buying.

      • Snake says:

        Because you utterly and completely miss the point, which does not seem surprising.

        We WOULD consider buying the bike, but the seat height is what removes it from our consideration. But, much worse than that, the constant release of new street motorcycles with uncalled-for seat heights has created a trend: each manufacturer seeks to outdo the others by introducing a model with yet higher sests, as the masses have been brainwashed by the media that “more seat height=more overall capabilities!”. Seat height has come to be used as a measure of absolute off-road abilities, so ‘the more the merrier’ has now become the chorus.

        Even though the majority of ADV bikes never see true off road duty, and that’s a provable statistic.

        So for people who are NOT interested in the appearance of off road abilities, because we damn well know we will never truly use it, or for people who do not want a high seat due to light body weight (small static sag whilst seated) or short inseams, we are screwed: the manufacturers are so busy chasing the Golden Ring of high sears /increased ground clearance that very few new motorcycle models are being released that do NOT have those two characteristics. Leaving US with fewer and fewer new motorcycle model that fit our agenda to choose from each year.

        So, from us, I say a sarcastic “Thanks” for making your personal tastes the (seemingly) only one that ‘matters’.

        • Daytona James says:

          I’m 6’2″ so rarely chime in on these discussions – I have no problem with high seat heights. In fact, with my knees being what they are, taller = longer ride.
          Snake, do I detect some sour grapes? If you actually believe that any major motorcycle manufacturer’s marketing activities culminate with ‘the more, the merrier’ where seat height is concerned, I think perhaps your cheese may have slipped off your cracker. Seat height on any bike is a major design criteria which commands immense scrutiny long before prototype stage. Exhaustive marketing studies are done for each model, bell curves are plotted to ensure suitability for the highest possible population demographic. Despite what you think, they want to sell YOU a bike.
          On the other hand, you may just be right. The fine folks at the Mattighofen factory may have just decided – ‘Let’s make our Adventure bike just a bit too big for Snake.’ (in heavy Schwartzenegger-ish accent)

  3. Asphanaut says:

    This review is very accurate. I’m still breaking mine in but can say this is the funniest, fastest, confidence inspiring, comfortable, and passenger-friendly bike I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding – cruisers to track bikes. The motor is awesome and full of character (in a good way) the suspension and 19″ front wheel soak up bumps and gravel in real-world, mid-corner canyon carving. In short it puts the back in function.

    • Asphanaut says:

      I meant “funniest” not “funniest”

      • Asphanaut says:

        Ok something going on with spell checker… It’s changing “f u n n e s t” to, we’ll, you know.

  4. Dug says:

    I read a lot of comments stating that people buy top shelf adventure bikes for the way it makes them look.. status symbol? These bikes, especially the KTM is a bike that places “do” over “show”. Many Harley riders seem to place image over capability. I had a Harley chick diss my Weestrom as a minibike, although the mere 650 can outrun the heavy chunk of pretty metal that makes her feel superior. Being 6′ 4″ & 250, the KTM is a perfect fit. I’d love to board it and explore the country leaving the posers and their ridiculous egos behind.

  5. Bones says:

    Unless I get surgical leg extensions, I am pretty certain that this is another great bike that’s way too tall for this 5′ 7″ rider. <>

    • mkv says:

      Sorry guy being 5’5″ this bike fits me perfect. If you are worried about having both feet down then you shouldn’t be riding. I sat on one at the dealership a while back with the seat on the low setting and can comfortable put one foot down and be stable.

  6. Vulcan-Hawk says:

    I only have about 3,000 miles on a 2014 1190 Adventure. At 5’11”, I have had no issues with seat height, on or off road. Just traded a 2008 1200GS. I concur with an earlier poster that the BMW and KTM rise to the top of class after test riding the Tiger, Multistrada, BMW, and KTM – the KTM has the ideal balance of on-off road ability, blazing speed and reliability. BMW is a great touring machine and very capable in its own right. Its the golden age of ADV bikes!

  7. Sean says:

    Looks like KTM did a great job building a true adventure bike.

  8. Tommy See says:

    I love this new KTM but $$$$ keeps me on the Wee. Adventure bikes are so much fun to tour on.

  9. RichBinAZ says:

    I seem to remember that Citroen and a few other cars had ride height adjustment.
    For all these bikes with super high seats, it be nice if they either automatically squatted to a lower height at speeds below 5mph, or you could hit a button to make it do that.
    With all this suspension sophistication and up front cost, that should be do’able.

    For the money spent it should be compliant to the rider, not the other way around

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “it be nice if they either automatically squatted to a lower height at speeds below 5mph, or you could hit a button to make it do that.”

      Houston, we have (solution) to problem.

  10. stinkywheels says:

    I’ve taught (or had to) many people to ride and the ground touching is the biggest reason for the Harley popularity (along with image). It’s much more important how it sits and rides rather than how it is in the parking lot or stoplight. BUUUUT, having to dismount to back it up a bit and slide your rear over to plant one foot well is something that come with experience and most folks don’t want to invest the brain cells when they can be cooler and as poor with most cruisers. It is an issue, but not a deal breaker to me, others not so much.

  11. Mike says:

    I’m not sure why so many are concerned about the seat height. At 5′ 11″ I’m not exactly tall. I’m currently on my third KTM, a 990 Adventure Dakar. I previously had a 625SXC and a 950 Super Enduro R with a 39″ seat height. Are folks so unstable as to need both feet flat on the ground to stop at a stop sign? Can’t you just touch one toe to the ground to balance the bike? If we all had to touch both feet flat on the ground while sitting on our bikes the entire off-road motorcycle industry would disappear.

    • Tim says:

      It’s not so much height as it is inseam. I’m 5-9 and my son is 6-0. We have the exact same inseam (31.5″). However, I mostly agree with your premise. I don’t need to get either foot flat on the ground but, when stopped on loose/soft ground and/or a slope, the more foot contact the better, IMO.

    • Mark says:

      With a 29 inch inseam (and 155 pounds) I a very used to not putting my feet flat on the ground. But balancing a 500+ pound bike, especially with a passenger, really sucks when you can’t at least put the balls of your feet down. I have 35 years or experience, but literally not being able to touch a part of both feet on the ground rules this bike out for me unless I lower it. Not easy to do on the linkless KTM system. I have owned a half dozen KTM dirt bikes.

      Hope that helps you understand why some are concerned.

    • Randy says:

      It’s that critical inch – offroad and you don’t have it, you are going down. If you kept your 950 SE at stock height I think you are in the minority!

  12. Tim says:

    This is, to my eye, the best looking of all the bikes in this segment. If/when I’m in the market for one, however, I doubt I’ll think it’s $5200 better looking than the new DL1000 – That’s a lot of gas and tires. The Suzuki is also 16 lbs. lighter. I guess I’d have to make do with “only” 91 HP and that shrimpy 33″ seat height.

  13. Don E. says:

    I’ll stick with my lowered Wee-Strom. Easy to touch the ground with a 30 inch inseam and up to 60 mpg on the road.

  14. KenRaleigh says:

    Too tall, Jones! When will KTM end this Tyranny of the Tall Guys? If 5’11” is tippeetoe, then I’m toast at 5’9. Is there anything more torturous than having your one big toe slip? Insance panic time!

    Otherwise, maybe this bike is the perfect all-arounder.

    Let’s see…maybe I could select a very soft suspension, which would give me a ton of static sag, which would allow me to reach the tarmac? Or maybe install a 17″ front? Yeah right.

    More sad news on the KTM seat heights: 2014 Superduke–32.8″ RC8–32.4″.

    I need boots with 2″ platform soles.


    • Tim says:

      I’m picturing Gene Simmons on the next “Long Way…” series.

    • Hair says:

      Most Adventure type bikes can be lowered. People have been lowering WP products for a very long time. I am confident that their currently several shops or will soon be several shops that can set this bike to any ride height that you want. All it takes is some spacers to stop the return and some shorter springs.

  15. Mars says:

    It seems that the “good” bikes are always just north of my wallet capacity. now that I can afford a $10,000.00 bike, they cost closer to $20,000.00.

    ah well, thank god for craigslist.

  16. motowarrior says:

    This bike is the true competition for the amazing new BMW R1200GS “Water Boxer.” You can’t go wrong with either bike, but the KTM does provide a bit more more street performance, while the BMW has a bit of an edge in touring utility and comfort. Those of you who have never given a big adventure bike a try as a sport tourer owe it to yourselves to try both bikes. I really think you will be impressed with their capabilities. There are other good choices in this category as well, but these two appear to be the cream of an excellent crop.

    • Blackcayman says:

      …unless you have a 31″ inseam

      • motowarrior says:

        No all bikes are for all people. Guys with 34″ inseams don’t do well on most cruisers…

        • Blackcayman says:

          right…yet we are constantly advised to give these ADV bikes a try if sport-touring is what you have in mind.

          SPORT-touring is exactly what “I” have in mind. That’s why I and so many like me want these manufacturers to build us a SPORT-touring bike, made for 100% street use. They have all the components ready, we just need a new frame and some Big Piston Forks. From reading the tea leaves on this subject, it looks like Yamaha will be giving us exactly that in the FJ-09 (FJR-09 please).

      • Randy says:

        Well, I have a 29.75″ inseam and this bike is OK for me (having sat on one). It’s more the electronic complexity and cost that puts me off.

  17. Starmag says:

    Dirck, you get to have all the fun. MD is a great website, you deserve it.

    • todder says:


    • Jim says:

      Indeed. Kudos to everyone at MD.

    • Dug says:

      Thanks for breaking down the review into sections that cover unique elements of the riding experience. It is good to see that the synopsis isn’t rushed. Look forward to reading your impression of off road characteristics in part 3.