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Not Done Yet: KTM’s Thirst for Power


Two of the most amazing motorcycles we have tested recently come from KTM, including the 1290 Super Duke R and the 1190 Adventure. Engine performance for both bikes is at the top of their respective classes. The Super Duke R, for instance, brings a new level of engine performance to the production Naked category.

So it is no secret that KTM is targeting class-leading performance in virtually every category on the street. Together with the announcement that KTM will contest the MotoGP championship beginning in 2017, news of a new superbike to replace the v-twin 1190 RC8 R has surfaced.

KTM’s MotoGP machine will be a 1,000 cc v-four. No surprise, really, as this engine configuration already predominates in MotoGP. To go along with its MotoGP ambitions, you can expect KTM to introduce a v-four superbike sometime next year.

Spy photos have even emerged of a more powerful Adventure bike containing a version of the 1290 R engine! Since the current 1190 Adventure is already plenty fast (pictured above), this new development might be overkill. Then again, overkill seems to be a KTM trait.

Will KTM eventually go after the Kawasaki ZX-14R and the Suzuki Hayabusa. We wouldn’t be surprised.


  1. Brett M says:

    They may chase more power – it’ll just mean more grenades on the street. KTM still doesn’t seem to have nailed performance and true reliability. But it’s early days for their street bikes.

  2. Norm G. says:

    re: “KTM’s Thirst for Power…”

    …is insatiable.

  3. scott from NY says:

    The “too much power” argument will go on as long as there are motorcycle riders. At age 61, the crotch rockets and power cruisers are behind me, and it’s hard to imagine having more fun than riding my 1970 Honda CL175 or my 2000 Kawie W650, which probably sounds incredibly boring to you go fast guys. I did road race my GPz550 and terrorized the local populace back in my Kaw triple days, so I do know what you’re talking about. Are there guys that never outgrow the need for HP? Of course, there’s just not too many of them.
    If you live long enough and are willing to embrace all motorcycles, you’ll have the most fun of all.

  4. Chris says:

    Great to see KTM getting in to moto gp, the more the merrier.I have been riding KTM off roader’s for 30 years and I remember telling people that this company is really going to be a contender and yes they certainly have become that .

  5. Gronde says:

    That drivetrain would go great in a proper sport touring bike. You know, something that not intended to go off-road but excels at eating miles with sporting intentions. I like KTM but hope they broaden their appeal.

    • Tommy says:

      I demo rode a 2013 1190 ADV and it reminded me of the 3 years I put on a 990 Super Duke and why I sold it. The similarity was in the coarseness of the engine. I always knew it was there at any speed. Didn’t buzz the bars or foot pegs. But I felt and heard it. And for me it got tiresome. The other issue I had with the SD was that I could not find a throttle lock (Vista Cruise, for example) that could be adapted to it. For long distance applications such as sport touring, some way to lock the throttle (or cruise control) is almost a necessity. Otherwise, I really liked the SD and KTM.

  6. Stuki Moi says:

    They need a new SM-T to go with that motor, rather than just hopping up an Adv.

    I have the 1190, and the biggest impediments to using all the power already available, is the heavy ass wheels necessary to handle KTM style offroad shenanigans; the lack of truly sticky rubber in 19″ sizes; the flexi flyer trellis and swing arm, which is magical at slower speeds, but gets increasingly less so as speeds increase; and the rotational and reciprocal inertia of the gigantic crank and other engine internals.

    Q3s on the 17″ Marchesinis from the Pikes Peak Multi would help a lot. But beyond that, the supposedly upcoming V4, with attendant stiffer aluminum (or Panigale like carbon) frame, will be necessary to stay at the front of the pack on dry pavement.

    • Bartolo Samanco says:

      Stuki, would you recommend the 1190 Adventure? I am replacing my Wee Strom and considering it, along with the 1200 GS. I’ve ridden both and love them both.

      • Stuki Moi says:

        I’m not the biggest fan of the telelever/paralever on the GS, so would rather get the KTM (Which I did…) The GS was also 5K more out the door when I bought mine. I got to ride the new Vstrom yesterday, and unless you’re going off road, or want a bike for not strictly functional reasons, it’s a more cohesive bike than the KTM.

        The KTM has even better suspension than the V, but it’s at least fully negated by the wheel/tire combo being twive the weight of the Vs. Even WPs finest have trouble controlling those giant, heavy spoked wheels with the 2″ thick rubber donuts that’s fitted OEM. Over washboard, the V kept the tires on the ground better than the KTM.

        Also, the frame/swingarm on the KTM feels flexier than the V. Which I suspect is one reason why the bike feels so incredibly alive and communicative for such a giant, where all competitors feel more wooden and dead. But once above 80, which is where the KTM motor really starts making the V’s motor feel a bit lacking, that flexiness, combined with the gyro effect of those huge, heavy wheels/tires and giant crank, makes it more effort to ride than the V…..

        Of course, if you’re banging around offroad the way stereotypical KTM’ers do, you need those stronger wheels. But otherwise, Zuk’s lighter touch approach kind of works better in the end.

        Excitement wise, there’s no contest, though. Just firing up the KTM in the morning and listening to it snarl back at you, is a pretty good stand in for testosterone replacement therapy 🙂 And pointless power can be fun…

        Engine wise, you’d have to get used to short shifting on the Zuk. The KTM has a similar powerband as the Wee; just doubled everywhere. And to the power band on the WR250R, just quadrupled everywhere. While the new V1000, has a powerband that feels more like a DRZ. All about short shifting, IOW. Even more so than the redline suggests, as it gets noticeably flat on top. I personally really like that endless revs feeling the Wee had, and the KTM retains that. While getting on the new V is a bit like coming off the WR and hopping on a DRZ. Of course, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, engines with cylinders as big as the V and KTM should be shortshifted to keep gyroscopic inertia from the crack at bay….. and for mileage reasons…… but that’s just more of the darned Zuk being so sensible again…

        Anyway, if you want the KTM, wait and see if 2015 has cruise. I guess you can do the same for the Suzuki. It’s the one thing I miss more than I thought I would. Throttle locks just don’t work as well on high strung engines with light flywheels and mucho engine braking, as they do on low stressed cruisers.

  7. ham says:

    If my Stelvio isn’t fast enough, accelerate hard enough, handle enough, then you are in the 1% of riders. I am not.

    • TF says:

      I looked hard at the Stelvio when shopping. It didn’t make the cut for two reasons:

      1. It weighs over one hundred pounds more than the Multi or the Adventure. You don’t have to be a one percenter to appreciate a lighter adventure bike.

      2. I only know of one Guzzi dealer in the entire state. Not a good scenario for a bike design to be ridden all over the entire state.

  8. Jeremy in TX says:

    My 950 Adventure has probably been my favorite bike to date. The engine always sounded and felt like something that had been hotrodded from the factory. And it could give a mean roost to anyone who dared to say that there was no such thing as a 500 lb dirt bike.

    • verve says:

      Mine too. Still, I don’t wan’t more power or more weight. It used to be, that KTM was “Ready to Race”, the 950 won the Paris-Dakar. Now its just Power First, at least for this class.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        Yes, I miss that 950. I ended up replacing it with a Buell Ulysses because I got such a great deal on the Buell, but that was a mistake. I liked the Buell, but it was nowhere near as exciting as the KTM.

        I didn’t think I would ever want more power than the 950 either. Until I rode the 990. And now the 1190.

  9. Lenz says:

    The KTM Adventure bikes are not just highly capable in the “fluid” dirt environment, they also provide a significantly less cramped, more ergonomically friendly riding position. I haven’t ridden the 1290 Super Duke / Beast however the vision I have seen of this bike with an average sized rider suggests a relatively upright body position along with significant bending of the knees.

    It makes sense to me for KTM to match the engine output of the 1290 Beast with the more relaxed and sustainable ergonomics of the current Adventure rolling chassis. Let the adrenaline flow …

  10. Matt Gustafson says:

    I miss the 990 SMT. I was ready to pull the trigger on one and suddenly it was discontinued. I believe I read it came down to the 990 engine not meeting emissions. My hope is that KTM will bring it back with the 1190 engine. I’ve looked at the Adventure, but its just too big and I prefer a more stripped down bike.

  11. Gronde says:

    That’s lot’s of power for a big dirt bike.

  12. Bart says:

    Demo’d both last Sat. The new Adventure is amazing, faster then hell, balanced, just plain works, and can do hyperdrive on asphalt. The electronics work really well, you have to be pushing it hard for them to intervene, but not obtrusive. I own 2 KTMs, a 950 and 250. 2 of the best bikes I’ve ever owned. Now have 1190 want disease! 2 wheeled life has never been better!

    • TF says:

      I am a long time KTM owner/fan as well…..more off road KTM’s than I can recount. I am a 2 stroke hold-out and am on about my 4th 250XCW.

      I rode the 1190 Adventure but ended up buying a Multistrada. The KTM just didn’t do it for me like the Multi did. I also rode the 1290 SuperDuke. I took my driver’s license and ran from the dealer as quickly as I could!

      • Bartolo Samanco says:

        TF, would you please care to elaborate why you decided for the Multi instead of the Adventure?

        • TF says:

          There were several reasons really but first and foremost, my wife and I rode or sat on every adventure style bike we could find and she was most comfortable on the Multi. The KTM was second choice as she really liked “the orange one”, LOL! Other reasons:

          1. I found a really good deal on a gently used Multi S Sport.
          2. The Ohlins electronic suspension is awesome, especially when riding two up.
          3. I like the spread of power better on the Multi….more low end and mid as opposed to the KTM’s willingness to rev out. It is just more fun to twist the throttle on the Multi.
          4. I own another Ducati and have been very happy with the reliability. I was concerned about the reliability of the KTM although for no real reason other than my lack of experience. All the KTMs I have owned have been two stroke dirt bikes.
          5. The KTM felt more like a dirt bike the Multi which is OK as I have no plans to ride the Multi off road. The Multi had more of a sport touring feel, which is what we were after.

  13. VLJ says:

    The Super Duke R certainly packs a ton of punch, but I don’t see where it really “brings a new level of engine performance to the production Naked category,” not when the BMW S10000R tops it in nearly every test when it comes to outright HP, top speed, 1/4-mile times and slicker throttle response/fuel management. For that matter, the Aprilia Tuono V4R is right there as well, and both those bikes spot the KTM a full 30% displacement advantage. The KTM does boast higher torque figures as a result of that massively large motor, but that’s it, and even then it’s not like it runs away from the BMW anywhere on the tach.

    Definitely looking forward to their V4 Superbike, though, and I can’t imagine KTM throwing their hat in the Moto GP ring just to be a permanent backmarker. That company races to win, so they must have some notion that they’ll be able to compete against mighty Honda and Yamaha, and not just against Suzuki and Ducati.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “The KTM does boast higher torque figures as a result of that massively large motor, but that’s it”

      well there ya go. (Frankie Dunn) it does what it says on the box.

      re: “Definitely looking forward to their V4 Superbike”

      if your curious, look around now and you’ll see the engine. iirc, it’s a 75 degree V angle and it’s 10 years old. that’s right, it powered Kenny Robert’s Proton for all of 5 seconds at the tail end of the 990 era before it got yanked and sat on a shelf.

      re: “they must have some notion that they’ll be able to compete against mighty Honda and Yamaha”

      notion or delusion…?

      they will arrive and promptly get their throats ripped out. they couldn’t make a go in SSTK1000, not sure why they think they’d fair better in the top class of grandprix…? EVO SBK’s calling their name, odd that they can’t hear it.

    • TF says:

      Ride one. That’s all I can say. When you factor in comfort and ride-ability the 1290 will be hard to beat. Also, if you are a fan of v-twins, I can’t imagine there is a smoother and faster option.

      • VLJ says:

        The people who have ridden them all seem to think the BMW does in fact beat the 1290, particularly in ride-ability. They say the BMW gives up a bit to the Aprilia and KTM in terms of “character,” since it’s merely a smooth-as-silk I4 and not a growling V4 or thundering V-Twin, but that’s about it. Otherwise, it supposedly does just about everything slightly better, and it’s even a hair faster.

        • TF says:

          I have not ridden the BMW but have sat on a couple. It does not have the comfort of the KTM. I do own a couple v-twins and have ridden many others. The 1290 is an amazing engine regarding the amount of power and the delivery. I can’t imagine a smoother twin.

        • Stuki Moi says:

          The S1000 mill is less smooth than the Aprilia V4. Not even close. It makes better power, revs faster, has less gyro inertia and is much lighter, hence is the so far greatest mega-HP street bike motor in history, but it ain’t the smoothest by any means.

          When Motorrad puts it in the S1000F, or whatever they end up calling their upcoming Multistrada slayer, the era of the twins’ dominance of fast “real world” bikes, will most likely be definitively over. Unless BMW majorly screws up, that thing will whup the Multi, and any conceivable 1290 SMT replacement, all across any twisty stretch of pavement once the going gets fast and furious.

          • Norm G. says:

            Re: “the era of the twins’ dominance of fast “real world” bikes, will most likely be definitively over.”

            Never. if that were going to happen, it would’ve happened by now. Build all the i4’s you want, the twin faithful will continue to reject them.

  14. kent_skinner says:

    I got to ride a 690 Duke last weekend.
    Simply amazing. I’m kind of wishing I hadn’t ridden it, because I don’t have a spare 9k at the moment…

  15. john says:

    I buy new motorcycles, I recently bought a new ktm 500exc.

    I like they are adding hp. Some might not want it but I do. I own a new concours for the same reason.. two up with all 3 hard bags loaded and it still can pass like an icbm missile.

    I’m very interested in the 1290. I want the ability to go fast if needed.

  16. Eric says:

    Dirck – is it REALLY more fun to ride a slower bike fast than be humbled by a Superbike who’s capabilities exceed the skills 99.9% of us posses? A 1290R Adventure seems so far beyond what’s needed in the real world…

    But then, I ride a Guzzi and therefore have a somewhat different outlook on things.

    • Scotty says:

      Me too Eric – hp is just a number. I have enough.

    • stinkywheels says:

      I like the fact they’ve made mondo power, tamed it (with electronics), and it still sips it’s fuel. I just wouldn’t want to own one out of warranty. Sensors fail eventually, electronics age, replacement parts disappear. Too nice a bike to dismiss, too much money to depreciate.

    • Tim says:

      With traction control, high HP bikes are more manageable than ever. You really have to ride a high HP modern bike to appreciate just how civil they can be. Some of us even enjoy unleashing the beasts now and then.

      • Eric says:

        Tim – Oh, I’ve sampled and it’s absolutely amazing what modern control systems have done. Civil or not, I suspect I’d have a difficult time keeping my license with so much temptation in my right hand. I get in enough trouble with 90HP – can’t imagine what 160 would do to me…

    • Bartolo Samanco says:

      IMO, for me is not the power or how fast the Adventure goes, it is all that torque that goes with all those new fancy electronic controls for different situations that may be addictive.

  17. chase says:

    KTM management TOTALLY understands what motivates motorcycle riders to part with their money. They have been proving this in the offroad and now are ready to dominate the on road categories.

    • MGNorge says:

      Not to sound like an old fuddy-duddy, I’m fine with a fraction of the power that the most hyper bikes possess. At my age I like the trip and don’t need to scare myself silly or make a bad image of myself to any who care. I’m not saying you’re wrong in that power attracts, I’m just saying it isn’t the end all for all riders.

      • Tom R says:

        Well said. It is more fun to ride a “slow” bike fast than a fast bike slow.

        • Norm G. says:

          pretty sure Texas Jeremy (Burgess) covered this. what say you TJ…?

          • Scotty says:

            Not Aussie Jeremy Burgess????

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            Riding a slow bike fast still means you are going… SLOW.

            It is way more fun to ride a fast bike fast.

          • Gronde says:

            Riding a fast bike fast always gets me into trouble. Come to think of it, riding a slow bike fast has the same outcome!

          • Dave says:

            Very few people ride fast bikes fast and of those who do on the street, many die.

          • Snake says:

            @Jeremy in TX;

            Here’s a concept for you: just because you spent money does not give you a permit to break the law.

            Everyone speeds. But if you are speeding so flagrantly that (just about) any modern bike isn’t fast enough for you, you need to get to a RACE TRACK.

            The street not only isn’t a place for that you don’t have the right to do it simply because you put out money on a fast machine.

          • Norm G. says:

            Re: “Riding a slow bike fast still means you are going… SLOW.”

            And there it is.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            @ Snake

            You are being a bit presumptuous. At no point have I ever advocated unleashing the full potential of something like a 1290 SuperDuke on a public road. I actually do use a race track to really ride fast. But even using a fraction of an uber-bike’s potential is pure joy. Whether it is just a quick blip if the throttle to warp space-time and pass a herd of cruisers or some “responsible” law-breaking on a lonely road, it’s just more fun on a beast than a CBR300. You don’t have to like it, but that is my take on the matter.

          • Norm G. says:

            Re: “The street not only isn’t a place for that you don’t have the right to do it simply because you put out money on a fast machine.”

            Errr, did TJ say something about “street”…? If so I’m having a devil of a time finding it…? Price check in aisle 5…! (pimply face kid voice over intercom)

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “KTM management TOTALLY understands what motivates motorcycle riders to part with their money.”

      POWER seduces… that and cocktail drinks filled with Roofies.

    • chase says:

      It isn’t JUST power. I never said that. They understand the segments and don’t let the internal forces that water down product impact the final result nearly as much as other mfgs.

      That said. I ride fast bikes slowly all the time as long as the tuning is spot on no problem. It is WAY more fun to ride a bike knowing you can go fast if you want to.Maybe that’s just me?

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