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2019 KTM 790 Adventure and 790 Adventure R: MD Ride Review

Comfort is excellent, even on longer trips, and vibration is very well controlled with little reaching the rider. The engine sound, both from the intake and the exhaust, is full of character and a pleasant companion on your trip.

Suspension performance on the standard 790 Adventure model from the non-adjustable fork and shock is good. Both the fork and the shock absorb bumps on-road without much drama, although it would be nice to be able to adjust compression as the settings are a compromise between the capabilities of this bike, which broadly range from highway cruising to trail riding. Damping isn’t harsh, but it is firm.

With the upright seating position and wide handlebars, together with the relatively low weight (claimed dry weight is 417 pounds), the 790 Adventure is easy to push through turns, and excellent feedback comes through the steel trellis frame from the tires. We were a bit concerned by the tall, narrow front tire (a 90/90-21) and its relatively small contact patch, but the bike stuck well when leaned through corners. We do think the smaller contact patch reduced the power and effectiveness of the front brake on the road, which was adequate but nothing more. This softer front brake, however, is an asset off-road.

Riding off-road, the stiffer suspension settings are a real asset on the standard Adventure. The bike feels stable and controlled in situations where larger adventure bikes can feel cumbersome and clumsy. The lower seat height helps with rider confidence, as well.

Switching our attention to the 790 Adventure R, it was immediately apparent when we rode this bike that the suspension quality is a big step up when compared to the standard model. Both the fork and shock feel extremely well-damped, both on the road and off. With all that travel (9.4″ at both ends), the high quality suspension combines plush absorption of smaller, choppy bumps with outstanding resistance to bottoming. There is very little stiction in the system, as well.

The other, immediate difference noticed when riding the 790 Adventure R is the much taller seat height. This bike may require tip toes at stop lights unless you are quite tall with a generous inseam. Although the suspension is superb off-road, the tall seat height can make slow, technical sections (where you might want to dab your feet) difficult. The 790 Adventure R, however, is right at home when ridden aggressively in rough off-road conditions … even jumps. Your skill level has to be quite high to exploit this.

On-road handling for the 790 Adventure R was surprisingly good, given its almost gangly height and more dirt-focused rubber. While engine performance is virtually identical to the standard model, the higher quality suspension tracks much more smoothly on tarmac, and the bike corners extremely well. It made us wonder what it would do with street rubber.

Wind protection is obviously better on the standard model, as the Adventure R has a much shorter windscreen. We didn’t have a big problem with helmet-level wind buffeting on either bike, however, but this could be entirely dependent upon how tall the rider is, i.e., how tall in the saddle. Seat comfort on the Adventure R is also good, although the shape of the seat on the standard model is more supportive on longer street rides, while the Adventure R seat shape allows the rider to move fore and aft more easily.

In the end, both the standard 790 Adventure and the 790 Adventure R represent outstanding efforts by KTM to move the middleweight adventure bike category to a new level. Engine performance is almost shockingly good … to the point where many riders will gain nothing, even on the street, from more horsepower and torque. The fuel economy (and range offered by the 5.3 gallon tank) is also excellent.

These are also comfortable bikes that handle well while offering good suspension action (particularly on the Adventure R) and braking. Aggressive use of the front brake on the street is limited somewhat, however, by the narrow contact patch of the tall, thin front tires.

KTM is at the cutting edge when it comes to electronics, and both of these bikes benefit from the latest, greatest rider aids, which are incorporated into the different ride modes. The traction control and ABS, as stated earlier, are assisted by information on lean angle and other active metrics (except where circumstances off-road make the rider safer, or faster, without their intervention). Optional accessories are offered, including heated grips, heated seat, and cruise control, as well as highly functional integration of your cell phone via bluetooth.

The standard 790 Adventure is priced at $12,499, while the Adventure R is $13,499. Take a look at KTM’s web site for additional information on the Adventure and the Adventure R.

See more of MD’s great photography: Instagram

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  1. Buzzard says:

    I own a 790 adventure and what a fun agile powerful motorcycle. My friends have ridden it and shake their heads.Take one on a test ride and you’ll see.

  2. Patrick McDonald says:

    Can’t buy one? There is one sitting on my local dealer’s sales floor. I think I will keep my 06 640 Adventure for a while. Not as smooth for sure, but it weighs 100 pounds less.

  3. Ham says:

    No need to get excited. You can’t buy one anyways.

  4. Neil says:

    Up in the Northeast it is Harleys everywhere. No one is commuting. No one is riding other bikes on the weekend compared to the zillions of cars. I like KTMs, but the Duke suspension was horrid over jarring bumps which to me is ridiculous in this day and age. Forget costs and give us high speed damping or don’t bother. The throttle was also an on off switch.

    • paquo says:

      i have been reading up on this bike and apparently you cant tune out sub 6k rpm leaness because of some new bosch ecu being used. no bueno

  5. gpokluda says:

    Been away from the internet for a week or so. When I first glimpsed this review, the KTM looked a lot like a TW200. Actually, this the the first KTM I would even consider buying if I were in the market for an ADV bike. The fuel tank design makes sense and the bike looks like it has the right bones. The look of the bike is even palatable.

  6. schrub says:

    I want to like this bike but virtually every time i read a story bout a KTM being used as an adventure bike out in the middle of nowhere, the electric fuel pump problems continually reappear, often causing major problems and delays. I just read one account where a KTM with a failed fuel pump problem had to be towed over a hundred miles by another bike to a shop that was “vaguely” capable of doing the repair but this was done only after the part was air freighted there ($$$$).

    Why is it that the Japanese dual sport bikes virtually never seem to have the same problem. You would think that KTM would have finally fixed this fault after all the complaints going back over a decade.

    • Ralph W. says:

      In tough conditions KTMs are more reliable than BMWs. That is because KTMs are built to handle tough conditions. BMWs aren’t. The big boxers are all about big hp and fancy gizmos. But both front and rear suspension systems break and their wheel rims are easily dented so the tubeless tires can’t hold air. The G series bikes have had a lot of problems with their Chinese engines (so the G650 was discontinued) and the F series uses engines from the same country. BMWs also have the worst reputation for electronics problems, maybe because they have so much of it.

      • Reginald Van Blunt says:

        There is a bigger story here than KTM and BMW refusal to acknowledge design/quality assurance failure. I call it the arrogance of design. BMW knew their boxer street bikes had a surging problem on constant throttle for 10 years and always refused service difficulty inputs, until it hurt sales. Their solution was to switch FI manufacturers after a decade, of unhappy customers. Money vs QA. BMW may be the worst in Motorcycling for reliability but others have done the same thing. A data bus on a motorcycle by design is unnecessary. The fancier the design, the more phantom problems are built in. The best product must have constant QA and a compulsion to always build the best. Forever.
        I have heard the same thing about brake bleeding, clutch pack thrust washers, etc with KTM.
        Feed back regarding product functional issues must be acted upon immediately. In the 80s Chrysler response time to problems was months. Nissan CA was 5 days. That included the decision to execute corrective action.

      • todd says:

        The original post was comparing KTM to Japanese dual purpose bikes, not BMW. I’d say it’s because of pride. The Japanese would take it very personal if they designed a bike that wasn’t perfect. The Europeans are very arrogant and in denial.

        • mickey says:

          What the Italians consider character, the Japanese consider design flaws and the Germans deny to their graves.

          Not sure who first penned that but it seems appropriate

        • ,jim says:

          My 2016 Africa Twin DCT suffered from intermittent stalling problems pulling away from stops. My dealer swapped out many parts trying to fix the issue, including the ECU, throttle bodies, etc., without luck. Finally they turned to Honda Corp. and told them I wanted the problem fixed permanently, ie., a new engine or bike. Honda said the stalling was a “characteristic of a big twin” and told me to pound sand basically. So much for Honda’s pride in its products.

          During my 2 year period of ownership the bike also suffered from a fuel pump failure, headlight switch failure, a broken DCT transmission and corroded spokes. Honda’s quality ain’t what it used to be.

      • Grover says:

        Ralph W – You must have watched “Long Way Round” where the BMW’s wern’t up to the task that they were designed for. Those big BMW’s have a place in motorcycling, it’s just not the actual outback under harsh conditions. They work great in town and on road trips.

        • Ralph W. says:

          I watched about half of “Long Way Round” before I got sick of Charlie Boringman’s constant whingeing. For most of us that would have been an exciting adventure, but he complained about everything. But I’ve also watched other travel documentaries and read a lot of stuff about troubles with BMWs. It disgusted me to see them, not just broken down, but actually broken in conditions other bikes would cope with easily.

          People who complain about KTM reliability are living in the past. Other brands have more problems. Any bike can potentially break down. If reliability is top priority, buy Japanese made bikes. But be wary of Japanese brands that have been made in other countries.

          • Peter says:

            No need to worry about Thailand made Japanese bikes – just fine. KTM makes interesting bikes, but even this one has problems that long term reviewers point out (weeping, electronic glitches). They’re still desirable, but go in with eyes wide open.

  7. ApriliaRST says:

    I do all the work on my own motorcycles, so bulletproof reliability is essential for me. Therefore, I will wait. My expectation is that a 70 hp motorcycle from another manufacturer will be still running as this one awaits repair. I’m not ready to race.

    • Tommy D says:

      I agree with you. I am waiting for the T7. Judging by the EU reports the T7 is designed with me in mind. Milder state of the engine, suspension action and price. Plus I think it looks better but that is personal preference. Want to hit the dirt at speed? I’ll choose a 2 stroke. No need for me to pretend I’m Chris Birch on a big bike.

  8. Rapier says:

    The combination of small size, light weight and power of this engine is a wonder. If it’s reliable is another story. The 10K redline with no complaints about the low end offroad is another wonder. So is 53mpg.

    KTM isn’t responsible I don’t think for the offset cranks on parallel twins but that was the real missing link because truth be told the character of those engines in 180 or 360 forms misses the mark for many.

    Setting aside concerns about reliability and it’s KTM ugly, the standard might be the first bike I would recommend to others because it is truly a do it all machine.

  9. CrazyJoe says:

    A while back stuck on a job site we were standing around a talking about woman’s tops. Big, small, what have you. A older Jamaican gentleman that was pulling cable told us we had it all wrong. You see he said “They must be down to the elbow.”

    This gas tank is definitely down to the elbow.

  10. skybullet says:

    If KTM offered a version of the 790 Duke or Adventure that looked more like a Royal Enfield (Traditional styling) I think it would be the best seller. Combining state of the art performance with more appealing looks would cover the market.

    • bmbktmracer says:

      Agreed. The dull orange plasticky gray/white/black look is growing tiresome.

    • VLJ says:

      KTM has nothing retro in their model lineup, for the obvious reason that KTM has no classic older street bikes from which to draw inspiration. Also, unlike the best-looking retros such as the CB1100 and Royal Enfield, these bikes are liquid cooled. An extremely small and narrow, liquid-cooled, non-finned, industrial-looking parallel Twin is not exactly the best aesthetic starting point for a retro-styled machine.

      • bmbktmracer says:

        They can’t draw inspiration from other designs? I do get your point about the starting point, as proven by the Yamaha twin and triple “retro” models. Those are kind of like Whoopi in a white dress and blonde wig.

        • VLJ says:

          Nope, I don’t believe that KTM, whose motto is “Ready To Race,” would ever be willing to copy/borrow/pay homage to an antiquated stylistic design from another manufacturer. For better or for worse, KTM is wholly committed to producing modern, cutting-edge, uniquely KTM machines. They seem to have no interest whatsoever in looking backwards, especially if that should mean looking backwards into someone else’s garage.

  11. Ralph W. says:

    Well done, KTM! The 790 Adventure R is the most exciting adventure bike ever built, IMO. Everybody has their own idea of what an adventure bike should be. Until now I’ve only been interested in the singles for real adventure riding. All of the other adventure bikes with two or more cylinders are great road bikes but are not as capable off-road as I’d like. The Africa Twin was the best of them, but it has about the same power output with more weight than the 790 R. And to some of us, a high front fender is important.

    • paul says:

      Back In My Day… thanks for sharing!

    • CrazyJoe says:

      It must have been the sprung seat.

    • Ralph W. says:

      Thanks for that, Back In My Day. It is a very interesting collection of photos. It reminds me of my father and his brothers who used to go everywhere and do everything, including farm work, on their ‘50s British 350cc road bikes. But they couldn’t go a lot of places my mates and I did on our ‘70s Japanese trail bikes.

      The ‘still’ photos show us that they got there. But they don’t show how much trouble it was to get there, and get out again.

  12. bmbktmracer says:

    A paper bag with 3 holes and we’re all set.

  13. mickey says:

    Good numbers for an all around road bike.

    Lots of useful info on that dash although I really don’t care for bar graph tachs.

    Looks ok to me for the genre it is placed in.

  14. Mark R says:

    Adventure headlight with long windshield does have chicken rooster like qualities and turns me off it.
    Like it for inseam height.
    Put the ‘R’ fender setup on it, and after a couple years to work out the kinks (which i’d wait anyhow), I’ll put one in my garage.

  15. DP says:

    What is under that cowl on side of engine? In combination with long neck ending with bird-like headlight it looks like turkey to me. But, appearance is not everything, right?

  16. Reginald Van Blunt says:

    This looks like a perfect numbers bike, for the street. Weight, fuel capacity, sized for adults, CG, power and torque with a practical rack. Needs Metzler Tourance tires, curved front to back windscreen, slim slider protecters or none, conical mirrors, and a plain non graphics paint job. Helpful if under $10k. Very helpful.

  17. Jeremy says:

    Gotta hand it to KTM. When they decide to go after a particular market segment, they usually nail it. Seems like a lot of value for a middleweight adventure bike. Heck, even seems like a great value compared to all adventure bikes.

  18. Neal says:

    Pricing seems reasonable, right in line with the V85tt. I predict I’ll see a lot of these on the road around Atlanta. I doubt I’ll ever be shopping for an ADV but I spent my heard earned money on a new compact crossover, so who knows…

  19. Emoto says:

    That gas tank is wild. Not sure that “gas tank as crash bar” is a great idea.

    • ADStryker says:

      So far, judging from comments by folks who have ridden and dropped the 790 Adventure, the tank appears quite durable — as might be expected, given the toughness demonstrated by the 6.7-gallon plastic tank on the old 640 Adventure.

      • guu says:

        Also the 950/990 used this design since 2003 as have (other) Dakar race bikes before and after. Absolute non-issue.

  20. bob young says:

    On the graph, torque and horsepower should be equal at 5252 RPM.

    • SausageCreature says:

      And if torque were shown in pound feet, it would. However this graph shows torque in newton meters, so the point where they intersect will be different.

    • Tom K. says:

      Mixing SI and English units on the same graph is a bit like mélanger Français et Anglais in the same sentence, wouldn’t you say?

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