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2014 KTM 1190 Adventure: MD Ride Review, Part 3

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KTM’s 1190 Adventure is a remarkable motorcycle, and we have taken our time evaluating every aspect of this machine. Beginning with our riding impression from the European press launch, we followed with parts 1 and 2 of a longer-term evaluation. In this part 3, we tried to ride the KTM 1190 Adventure aggressively off-road to see how well it responded.

Keep in mind that we are testing the standard version, and that KTM offers a more off-road capable version known as the 1190 Adventure R. The bike we tested has a 19 inch front wheel, as opposed to a 21 on the other model, and the tread pattern on the tires of our test unit is biased towards road use.

Nevertheless, we are very impressed with the ability of the big 1190 Adventure to tackle various off-road conditions with confidence.

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To begin with, we dialed the electronically adjustable suspension and traction control settings to “off-road”, which not only changes the suspension, but allows a bit more rear wheel spin and the ability to lock-up the rear wheel when we chose to.

The bike shows good balance and good chassis composure when ridden hard off-road. We are comparing the bike to other large displacement adventure tourers, of course, not full race enduro or motocross bikes.

KTM’s experience with dirt bikes really shows through in the details, both subtle and otherwise. The shape of the seat allows the rider to adjust his weight easily, both forwards and backwards, and side-to-side. This is extremely important to an experienced dirt rider, and is something we have found lacking in some of the other large enduros/adventurer tourers that come with a seat that essentially locks you into one position.

Even the shape of the body work on the KTM is designed to allow an off-road rider to move freely, adjusting his weight for different traction conditions. The position of the foot pegs also works well when riding off-road, because of where it centers the rider’s mass over the bike. Details like these are something competing manufacturers with primarily street bike experience frequently get wrong.

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The big 1190 Adventure, as we mentioned in one of our earlier reports, does prevent some movement forward on the seat (due to the tall gas tank) when trying to weight the front end of the bike, although to be fair, most large adventure tourers have this same problem. Overall, we found the bike balanced well enough that the rider could compensate for this, such as by spinning up the rear wheel to steer the bike by pivoting the back end where necessary.

The balance this big KTM shows off-road is underscored by the fact that the tires are road biased on this model. Frankly, we were a bit shocked we had as much grip as we did riding on the silty, hard-packed conditions found in Southern California this time of year. Credit here has to go to the whole package, including the chassis, suspension and all of the electronic wizardry KTM built into this bike.

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We even launched the big KTM off a few jumps. Although the suspension did bottom on some of the heavier landings, we did not notice any significant chassis flex from the roughly 500 pound machine. We were able to steer the bike accurately even when pounding it in this manner.

So, did KTM go soft on us by building this big, luxury adventure tourer? Or does the new 1190 Adventure retain the hard core racing pedigree KTM is known for? If you have the skills, the 1190 Adventure is ready to be pushed through rough terrain in a manner foreign to most other large displacement adventure tourers. We expect the 1190 Adventure R is even more capable off-road. We will ask KTM for a spin on the 1190 Adventure R and report back. For additional details and specifications, visit KTM’s web site here.

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94 Comments

  1. mark luciani says:

    Nice bike but would rather have a smaller 690R version or 450 that can do highway, gravel and tight stuff.

  2. Casatomasa says:

    I really like this site, as a dipped in the dirt desert racer still competing in the 50+ AARP class, I enjoy the different perspectives MD gives us in the motorcycle world from cruiser, sport touring, race replica, alt fuel, to now these “Adventure” bikes. Having owned many different brand of dirt bikes and presently own a KTM I can vow for the “dirt worthiness” of the brand. All that being said my idea of an “adventure bike” is probably as different as anyone else’s, but this bike being the best in its class is fantastic! Having experience with the 990 every issue I had with it has been addressed with the 1190 but one, weight. Why any one would produce a machine of this caliber and capability at this weight is beyond me. This bike off road will get dropped by even the best of us and up righting this beast on an off camber track or jeep trail will take exceptional effort. Loose a 100 lbs to start and I’m in otherwise it’s too expensive and heavy for me. KTM please downscale this bike so as to give the Triumph and BMW 800s something to really compete with. As it is now it’s a really fast, smooth and sophisticated graded road racer.

    • todd says:

      You’re looking for a KLR. Every bit as capable as this bike for highway touring and a ton ( or at least a fraction of a ton) lighter and more capable off road.

      That is, unless you’re trying to impress you friends at the local coffee shop. In that case, this KTM is perfect for you.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        My friends are just as impressed on Black Gap Pass as they are at Starbucks.

      • casatomasa says:

        The KLR is a moon pig too, the answer would be the 690 but it’s lacking range, wind protection and multi cylinders for a smoother hyway ride. See where I’m going with this a do all dirty, unlike the KLR that can do everything but is good at nothing.

      • Asphanaut says:

        Nice. Tell a guy over 50, riding for year and still competing in races what he’s looking for. Now tell us what stocks we should buy and when to sell.

  3. ben says:

    these bikes cannot possibly handle anything more than a level gravel road, and nobody wants to actually ride them off road!!!!!! proof is here: http://youtu.be/JWIZfYQhgMc

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Like the review says, “If you have the skills …” Then get on the high-speed superslab and cruise for hundreds of miles in comfort. Awesome combination.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “proof is here”

      I was sold on the pics of O.G. Dirk backing it in and “bubba scrubbin”, but okay.

    • TomH says:

      Or you can use this as proof that you are wrong!

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWIZfYQhgMc

      • Mark says:

        Pro level rider with a set of knobbies on an amazing bike = great riding!
        I fanatasize I can ride my ktm350 like that, but I fall short.

        I love the idea of the KTM1190, and likely will have one some day.
        College for kids and retirement planning come first. In the mean time, my Tiger 1050 will serve me on the street and light duty fire roads of the Rockies, and my Dr650 will be my adventure bike.
        Ride on!

    • tom says:

      That video is amazing, to me at least. And, for people who have no intent to ride on that kind of terrain, this type of motorcycle is still excellent for fire roads with the occasional ruts. And even on pavement they offer excellent ergonomics. This type of bike ought to out-sell all other types.

    • Austin ZZR 1200 says:

      that…clip…is…amazing!!!! Totally inspired

  4. XR650L says:

    You can claim “dirt worthy” all you want but in the real world that pig is going down fast if you try running it through mud or any moist and sticky soil. That is why true dual sports have so much clearance between the front tire and its fender. This bike’s front wheel will jam and become a skid real quick, trust me. I know an owner who had just that very (predictable) event happen. So, stay on dry dirt, like they did in this article, if you ride off pavement.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      “Dirt worthy” was the claim. Not “mud worthy” or “sticky soil worthy.” :-)

  5. Karlsbad says:

    It’s a beautiful Sunny day here on Vancouver Island so I am off to go ride the new DL1000 I am going to ride it up Island to our KTM dealer and put them side by side then decide which one comes home. wish me luck

    • Bob says:

      I took a look at the accessories list last night for the DL1000 and it might as well have been a list from Honda…pricewise. $1400 for the molded side cases and another 250 for the mounts. Yikes. $310 for heated grips which look exactly like the Kawasaki version which really sucks. I have the Oxford Heaterz now…much better. The fog light setup, lights bars and mounts will set you back $1000. There’s better options for that setup anyway.

      Other than that, the DL looks like a decent bike. Not much of a dash in this day and age and not as advanced in TC and ABS as many others but still ahead of what Honda is offering…nada until the VFR800 comes out. MPGs should be excellent as it doesn’t have more HP than is really necessary. Tubeless cast wheels are a bonus as the KTM has a goofy rubber insert in their rim (not TUbliss system) that is hit or miss with long term sealing ability, judging by the 640′s long term reports.

    • Asphanaut says:

      Be sure to let us know how your ride turns out!

  6. Asphanaut says:

    I’ve never been happier to be a poseur than I’ve been since I bought one of these. What an awesome motorcycle. I freely admit I’ve got limited dirt riding experience but I needed something that gave me the same thrill as my sportbikes on the curvy roads here in the Bay Area – but that my wife could ride on without hitting me in the back of the head 25 times per mile while her gal pals rode behind my friends on their comfy beemers. I looked at all the sport tourers out there and test rode a few but they just didn’t do it for me. I took a test ride on this KTM and it felt right. It’s amazing how fast it can be pushed even in tight twisties. The 19″ inch front wheel just rides over mid corner bumps and pavement ripples when leaned way over – that would be more disconcerting on a sportbike. The bike has a great grin factor. My wife’s happy. It’s long distance comfortable. And maybe I’ll even take it out to Butcher Jones when I visit family in that area. Guess I just like to ride a great bike in a wide variety of situations. Man, it’s great to be a poseur. BTW, here’s a thought: if a guy were trying to impress all the “real bikers” (who aren’t poseurs) then why would they buy a bike that gets them derided for being a poseur? … maybe because they couldn’t care less what you poseur police think? So who’s the poseur now?

  7. TomH says:

    My Brother has a 2013 R model that he rides 2 up where others would struggle on a normal dirt bike. I have seen others ride them on a whooped out, rocky, hilly desert course. These bikes are dirt capable. I personally would have a hard time riding a bike this expensive where they are able to go but it is not my money.

    I ride a Buell Ulysses with over 50,000 miles. It had it’s share of gravel roads when my wife had her V-Strom. She bought a Victory Vision Tour and since she is my #1 riding partner the Buell does not get much gravel anymore. Since I love the upright ergos, comfort, handling, low maintenance, and motor the Buell stays.

    With all of the choices now is a great time to be a motorcycle rider. I say ride what makes you smile!

    • Asphanaut says:

      Great post, Tom

    • Karlsbad says:

      Loved my Buell got a little gun shy when Eric & Harley split so I sold it(Dumbass) looking for a new ride now and it will be a ADV now if I can just get a good deal on that KLIM jacket

      • todd says:

        I don’t know. You can buy a nice, clean Uly now for much less than what you sold yours for. I’d say you’re still ahead.

  8. MadMax3 says:

    Being a KTM, is the maintenance on this bike more involved than usual? More expensive than say, a V-strom? Special tools? CAN-BUS decoder?

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “is the maintenance on this bike more involved than usual?”

      prolly.

      re: “More expensive than say, a V-strom?”

      prolly.

      re: “Special tools?”

      prolly.

      re: “CAN-BUS decoder?”

      prolly.

  9. motowarrior says:

    Every time I read comments about how lame adventure bikes are, how no one rides them off road and how everyone who buys them are rich posers, I know I am reading comments written by those who have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. I have ridden bikes like these for decades, and all over the world thousands of other riders are out touring and exploring on them. They are all over Western and Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Africa, Australia, etc. America is finally discovering them, and soon you will begin to notice just how many of them are being actually ridden from Alaska to Argentina. Not all bikes are for all people, but this KTM and similar motorcycles are among the finest made for riding great distances in a spirited manner. It doesn’t get much better than that.

    • Tray says:

      Precisely.

    • Gary says:

      The question for me has always been: Is a bike like the R1200GS more off-road capable than, say, an R1200R? Is a V-Strom more off-road capable than an SV? Maybe a bit, but not much.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        There is some truth to that: Back in the day, I took my old SV650 everywhere I could get it to go with surprising results sometimes. But on the adventure-oriented bikes, you can ride them much harder when the going gets rough, are much less likely to break something expensive and can stand up with relative comfort for pretty long periods of time. Suspension travel, ground clearance and ergos – that’s the difference. And you’d be surprised how much a 19″ or especially a 21″ front wheel really lets you step things up.

        • Asphanaut says:

          right you are

        • Gary says:

          Yeah, bigger wheels are important. But to me the big thing is weight. I can’t really call a motorcycle “off road worthy” unless it weights less than 250 lbs. Otherwise it is a pig with lipstick.

          My opinion.

          • Tom R says:

            So if a rider on a bike bigger than 250 pounds roosted you in the dirt, would it be that the bike actually IS off road worthy?

            Or is it that the other RIDER is more off road worthy?

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            The beauty of it is that you can have a blast on an ADV bike both off-road, in the twisties and at the track while at the same time having just as good or better a road bike as anything else out there. I use my bike for all of those purposes. We don’t buy bikes like this to have an off-road bike. We buy them to have a bike that can go off-road… and anywhere else we may feel like going. An adventure bike is a kit, not a tool, and it can be a blast if your skills are up to the challenge.

          • Gary says:

            Tom R … good point. A good rider on a mediocre bike trumps a mediocre rider on a great bike. I can’t do much about my riding ability. I’ll never be in the same league with Bubba Stewart, no matter what I ride.

            But I can buy a great dirt bike that is suited for off road.

          • Norm G. says:

            re: “The beauty of it is that you can have a blast on an ADV bike both off-road, in the twisties and at the track while at the same time having just as good or better a road bike as anything else out there. I use my bike for all of those purposes.”

            motorcycling’s leatherman.

          • Asphanaut says:

            What Jeremy in TX said. btw, I notice you mix the terms “off road worthy” and “dirt bike” as if they were synonyms. Just because KTM made a “dirt bike” / “off road worthy” bike that displaces 1190 cc’s and weighs in at about 500 lbs doesn’t mean anyone is discrediting the “even more off road worthiness” / even more dirty dirt bikiness of whatever you’ve got. No one is saying that the big KTM is motocross bike or that you’re an idiot for not having one. So really why the “pig with lipstick” comments? what’s all the fuss about?

        • tom says:

          Tire width is also important. In that Chris Birch video (see posts above) the tires are obviously knobby, and although I can’t tell for certain, they look to me like they are more narrow than the stock tires for this bike, i.e. more narrow than 120 and 170. I’m pretty certain that the stock tires on a CBR1000 (Hurricane) that I rode twenty-five years ago were more narrow than the stock tires on this bike.

        • motowarrior says:

          Let’s face it guys, in the end it’s the rider, not the bike. There are tons of videos showing Dakar quality riders doing things with big adventure bikes that we can’t imagine. There are also a bunch of videos showing guys with little skills and less training taking headers trying to do what they can’t. All I can say is that I have actually owned a number of big adventure bikes and I have ridden them on 6 continents. They were much better than street bikes when I had to ride them off road, but not nearly as good as real dirt bikes. They were, however, great to tour on. Those who keep slamming them are simply ignorant due to lack of personal experience. Or possibly a poor experience sure to lack of preparation. Either way…

          • Gary says:

            Aren’t those “big adventure bikes” 600cc singles?

            Fully agree that adventure bikes are great to tour on. I see them as a return to the standard motorbikes were so popular in the late 60s/early 70s.

      • DaveA says:

        Watch the video linked above by Ben and then tell us how an SV would do in that environment.

    • Karlsbad says:

      Dude relax I don’t think anyone called them lame I think the complete opposite myself, as a previous GS & Ulysses owner I can firsthand attest to the wonderful nature of these bikes. I mean whats not to like upright ergos lots of leg room more ground clearance than my first full on moto-cross bike sport bike like handling and all day long mile (or KM in my case)comfort. Every time I pass a cruiser I ask myself if they only knew. It is no wonder the GS reigns supreme in BMW’s world and if this latest bike is any indication of KTM’s commitment to the Adventure market you are right we will continue to see more ADV bikes all the time. The UJM is back but now it goes by the name of ADV and everyone from Aprilia Moto-Guzzi Triumph BMW KTM Suzuki Yamaha Honda…. have one or more they are everywhere. And yes Im sorry to say there will always be Poseurs always have been always will be. See you in the dirt
      Cheers

      • MGNorge says:

        People ride for different reasons. I once went back and forth with a Harley guy, or at least that’s how he portrayed himself online, who was all about respect. To him, respect was all important (boy, did his parents do a number on him) and a big Harley was the only way you were to get it! Didn’t seem to be anything about the ride but what it gained him in life. If he was true to his word I felt sorry for him. But it reminded me of the extremes to which some take things….rather like life itself.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “The UJM is back but now it goes by the name of ADV and everyone from Aprilia Moto-Guzzi Triumph BMW KTM Suzuki Yamaha Honda…. have one”

        no, not Honda.

        • Karlsbad says:

          Norm I think everyone of these fit what most people would consider as a ADV bike. VFR1200X,NC700X,CB500X assuming we have established that a Triumph Tiger & a Yamaha Tenere are ADV bikes then I think these Honda’s fit the bill.

          • Norm G. says:

            re: “I think these Honda’s fit the bill.”

            not so much. we’re talking strictly top o’ the food chain, typhoon class, 32,000 tons submerged displacement 1200′s. neither the crosstourer nor crossrunner are in the states.

            meanwhile, BMW’s GS gets bigger, better, and continues to gain market share. in fact, Munich just sent Tokyo a fruit basket thanking them and their dealer network for waiting out yet another trend in the niche business of motorcycling.

  10. Mars says:

    That freaking exhaust can looks like a small Airstream trailer attached to the side. In all the discussions of price you failed to add the cost of getting rid of the 40 pound POS. So right away you can add $1,500.00 to the pricetag.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      What planet are you from?

      • Blackcayman says:

        a true “one liner”

      • Mars says:

        Apologies for being alien to your home world. It was an opinion. And it was an artistic one at that. So it’s really subjective.

        I was referring to one of those full-up exhaust replacements that often include a fuel management device and an airbox change as well as shop labor to install same. That doesn’t come to about fifteen hundred?

        At least my comment wasn’t a personal attack calling anyone’s heritage into question. Right? I mean – if THAT was the case, I’d be a jerk.

        • Dirck Edge says:

          Just playing with your user name “Mars”. Didn’t mean to upset you. Sorry.

  11. mkv says:

    Ok so who’s ranch is that and how well do you know those guys?

  12. Gronde says:

    I just rode rode through California and half of Arizona and didn’t see a single “adventure” bike. Perhaps they were all paralleling hwy 8 on the dirt roads? I did, however, see tons of Harley’s be ridden in high winds with sand blowing across the roads.

  13. Norm G. says:

    re: “We even launched the big KTM off a few jumps”

    should’ve hucked a heel clicker or superman seat grab.

  14. Tray says:

    Great bike! Put a driveshaft on it and a 25k mile service interval and I’ll buy it immediately. Until then it’s the Super Tenere for me.

    ps. Your tail bag was mounted backwards.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Thanks! I wondered why it worked so well. I hate it when it’s mounted correctly.

      • Max says:

        I concur that it is way easier to access while in the saddle when mounted incorrectly.

        • Tray says:

          Yeah, way easier. While you’re seated backwards.

          • Max says:

            Tray, I can access when stopped (or my passenger while motorcycle in motion) by simply turning around. Or you could mount it “correctly” and have to stop and get off the motorcycle to access it. Your choice.

          • Dirck Edge says:

            I prefer it mounted “backwards” even when off the bike.

      • Karlsbad says:

        looks aerodynamic to me

  15. scott says:

    I’d rather see someone buying a bike like this KTM, than another spendy, over-chromed cruiser bike. Even if most ADV bikes never see more than a dirt road, at least they’re out there on those dirt roads getting to places no chrome-plated garage queen could ever imagine…..and for a vast majority, that’s all the adventure required.

  16. Provologna says:

    My perfect adventure bike would be pretty much this minus about 100 lbs and certainly I could live with less engine performance.

    Can’t believe how great are these free bike tests/reviews.

  17. hipsabad says:

    More than 70%, I suspect. Bikes have for the most part (like most else), become a plaything of marketing departments, who fleece the ever gullible “consumer”. We were sold race replicas we couldn’t begin to fully utilize; we were marketed inefficient, outdated Harley-clones to make us look threatening in leather; and now we’re advertised this arrogant hardware that we can use to pretend we are roughing it solo on an epic journey. The ironic thing is that these bikes are the opposite of any true “adventure machines”: they’re like Hummers: designed to avoid actually having adventures, to protect from all contingencies. And moreover, as expensive as a car! First world problems for first world dupes! Human vanity has no end.

    • Bubba Satori says:

      Why so bitter, Debbie Downer?
      So much melodrama, angst and hot air masquerading as pseudo-philosophizing.
      Your sour grapes. Nobody likes them.
      The 1190 joins a great group of bikes in this category that many people buy and enjoy
      the way they want to use them, while you’re on the sidelines wringing your limp wrists, moaning and groaning how terrible these bikes are. Kinda sad, really.

      • Asphanaut says:

        lol. good one.

      • Daytona James says:

        Thank you Bubba… couldn’ta said it better myself. I’m very familiar with the limitations my VStrom 1000 has when my wife and I play adventure riders;

        https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-UaFaZp0jbiNVBmeTJSZi1KR00/edit?usp=sharing

        I recently test drove the new KTM when the KTM tour came through town and I can tell you with certainty, THAT bike is infinitely more capable of the riding we do. Those who call it a poser bike should try a little harder to keep their toys in the sandbox.

        If ya’ hipsabad, why does ya’ bellyache?

    • Ed says:

      Thou dost protest too much, methinks. Hipsbad – find a good psychiatrist and stick with them.

    • Gronde says:

      I agree 100%!

    • x-planer says:

      Cheer up hipsbad, life’s too short to wallow in piss every day.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Replace “We were sold” with “We want and buy”.

      I don’t know what your definition of an “adventure bike” is, but bikes like this do it for me. A lot of people tend to think that only a street-legal dirt bike can be an adventure bike. To me, that is no more an adventure bike than an HD Fat Boy for the same reason: it is too focused. Big adventure bikes like this KTM fit the bill nicely. I want to enjoy the highway, the backroads, the gravel roads, the off-roads and even the racetrack on occasion. I’ve been through some very rough terrain and roosted more than one DR650 into submission on my adventure bikes over the years.

      • Blackcayman says:

        “what choo mean “WE” white man?”

        before you young’ins protest too much – its a famous line

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “We were sold race replicas we couldn’t begin to fully utilize”

      why do I have to utilize it…? why can’t I park it in my garage and marvel at the engineering while sipping a cold beer…? huh, huh, riddle me that “bad-man”.

  18. todd says:

    I have an idea for the best “adventure bike, ever.” Picture a Goldwing pulling a trailer carrying a WR250F…

  19. xlayn says:

    I was going to say… oh yeah another “look at me, off road testing while the bike is parked” but close to botom-ing the 500+ pounds machine and those slides on dirt are something I would not pull out on caution…

    You have all my respect sir…..

    (yet still I would love to see someone do the Romaniacs on that machine to the end….)

  20. passion says:

    Suzuki is nothing close to the caliber or product of a KTM, try one and never go back.

    • Tim says:

      That’s one opinion. Mine is that the KTM is nothing close to being worth the extra $5,000 + over the Suzuki. Tried one. Loved it. Couldn’t justify the cost difference.

  21. passion says:

    is that tailbag on backwards?

  22. Karlsbad says:

    OK so I know the 70% are poseurs comment may be a little off I just didn’t want to offend the guys that think road construction or gravel roads actually constitute “Off Road”

  23. Karlsbad says:

    Love the bike for sure, can’t dismiss the pedigree either but here in Canada the thing is 6,000.00 more than the new DL1000, add the bags and a few other farkles and easily 7,500.00 more. That will buy a lot of tyres and all my services for the next 5 years. Of course I know the Suzuki is not in the same league as the KTM but really for 80% of what I will probably do (Not pretend I do)the Suzuki will do just fine. Both the BMW and the KTM are priced without a doubt to the shall we say more well heeled riders 70% of whom are poseurs and will never take the bike off road anyhow. Do I want one? hell yes who doesn’t but my pocket book says Suzuki.
    Cheers

  24. skybullet says:

    I like it, I really, really like it, BUT I am holding out for the lighter more street/touring oriented SMT version.

  25. Gabe says:

    Ha, ha! Who says white men can’t jump?