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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

2021 KTM 890 Adventure R: MD Ride Review – First Impressions

This is a brief report on our 2021 KTM 890 Adventure R test bike. We have only put 100 miles, or so, on the bike at this point. All of those miles have been on the street. Nevertheless, we have a few distinct first impressions we would like to relate to our readers before posting a full review.

You may recall that we have put several thousand miles on a KTM 790 Adventure that MD chose to modify as a project bike. You can find Part 3 of that project bike series here. Our familiarity with the 790 made contrasts with the 890 stand out.

Before we discuss our first impressions of the 890 Adventure R, here is KTM’s list of significant changes between this model and the older 790:


  • New 889 cc engine with an added 90 cc of displacement
  • Engine featuring 20% more rotating masses
  • More power and torque
  • Reinforced clutch
  • Improved ABS and Traction Control
  • Reworked shifting for faster gear changes
  • Updated Quickshifter+ (optional)
  • New handlebar switch for Cruise Control function
  • Chassis upgrades with aluminum steering head tube and lighter subframe
  • Reworked front and rear brakes
  • New suspension settings 

The biggest news, of course, is the larger displacement engine. A significant increase in low-end and mid-range power is very noticeable, although the 790 seems to rev out on top a bit better. The other thing that jumped out at us during our first ride was the performance of the new brakes.

The new front brake is much stronger than the one found on the 790. The difference was striking, and that additional power is combined with better feel at the brake lever. The rear brake is also noticeably stronger, but here it could be a slight negative as it seems to bite very hard, which could make the rear brake difficult to modulate, particularly in the dirt.

Since we are testing the 890 R rather than the standard model, the tires are knobbies with a decided focus on dirt riding. Nevertheless, these Continental TKC 80 tires held on reasonably well when asked to carve up some twisty tarmac. We did notice some slipping, of course, but the 890’s ABS and traction control stepped in to keep things safe … quite impressively, actually.

We will be doing a lot more testing of the 890 Adventure R, and will provide a more comprehensive report, which will include dirt riding impressions and action photos. Stay tuned.


  1. Tommy D says:

    I traded my 790 ADV-R for the 890 Rally. It was a fool and his money being separated more than a required step up in performance. Here are my top observations between the 790 R and the 890 Rally.

    The additional 20% flywheel mass has two important features that it clearly adds to the bike over the 790. First is low speed chugging. The 790 required rev and clutch slip like a two stroke to go slow in tight off road situations. The 790 would flame out easily if revs dropped. Those familiar with two strokes understand. The 890 doesn’t do that. It behaves like a typical four stroke. Let the clutch out and chug. It doesn’t stall. The second feature is feel for rear wheel traction while sliding the rear around corners. Big flywheels slow the acceleration of the rear wheel in a slide. This flat-tracker feature of a heavier flywheel makes slides more predictable. On the 790 it would start to slide and then there was little feel as the wheel speed would go from traction to slip and then overspeed quite quickly. The 890 makes it makes it much easier to dial in your slide with the throttle and not your IMU.

    The power is noticeable everywhere. Low end power just off idle for clutch less chugging, to mid range front wheel lifting power, to highway passing power. You can feel the added poke.

    The Rally suspension takes higher speed hits better than the stock R version. I have a blown out rocky section that would deflect and kick out of line on the stock R where the Rally told me to go faster. Do I need that? NO. I should probably slow down and minimize risk but it is nice to know that the suspension can soak up unforeseen big hits.

    If you have a deal on a 790 R or own a 790 R then there is no reason to upgrade unless the low speed flame out of the 790 is frustrating you to no end and you need the crawl mode the power band/flywheel of the 890 delivers. Do I enjoy the rear wheel feel and the added low end power? Yes but not enough to justify the money. The 790 R is an awesome bike. The 890 is a bit more awesomer. It’s just not at another level.

    Regarding 690/701 vs 790/890… There are bikes at every range of cc that can do highways speeds. To get hour plus highway comfort while still enjoying an off road section the 790/890 is the perfect blend for me. I have owned a 350EXC-F, 701 and now the 790R and 890Rally. The 350 was so dirt focused that I hated it for more than 15 minutes on the street. The 690/701 didn’t improve comfort that much over the 350 and it sucked off road compared to the 350. The 690 and 701 trick you to believing its a bigger EXC. You’ll find yourself wishing you didn’t try hero sections that are really for the sub 230lbs range of bikes. The 790/890 bikes are all day comfortable when set up for you. They can also do every trail the 690/701 can clean. They also tell you NOT to try hero sections that the little bikes find hard. This makes for a fun off road experience that has you aiming for kickers and catching air like you are on a 350 while easily riding highway miles to access trails you have never ridden to before.

    • todd says:

      Wait, are you saying that the 790 / 890 is better off-road or just that it’s so obviously not suited to the stuff the 350 is good at so you don’t try?

      Again, comfort is easily remedied and I would rather be slightly uncomfortable on the easy part of the ride than suffer through the tough parts. The thought of a 450+ Lb bike off road does not sound as appealing as a 330 lb bike when climbing along a trail.

      • Tommy D says:

        I choose trails that most 690 riders enjoy. I stay off trails that 690 riders would wish they had avoided. That extra 100lbs over a 350EXC might as well be 200lbs to me. Once you ride a two stroke even the 350EXC-F feels too heavy for trails around here. This extra weight has me appreciate the 890’s ability on trails that are challenging and avoid the pitfall of thinking its a slightly heavier dirt bike.

        The fun factor is that my 890 is a comfortable street bike that I can ride like my old 350. Sliding it through turns, launching it off kickers, timing a pogo to launch over a log are very similar in feel to my 350. Hill climbs are its weakness. I tend to study them for a line or avoid them as I know rider ability can’t overcome Newton’s 3rd law. Mud is another area where the mass of a motorcycle makes it so much harder to overcome. I might chance it on a 690 and regret it whereas the 890 has me smile and look for a go around.

  2. todd says:

    I don’t quite get it. The 690 / 701 Enduro weighs about a hundred pounds less so performance is pretty close – way more than needed – and capable of a stable 120 mph on the highway. That loss of weight means it makes a much better “adventure” bike and more manageable off road. The single is really smooth too and is much more unique and fun than a twin. Why spend more monies on the 790/890? What do people think they are gaining other than more weight and more debt?

    • jon says:

      ‘Capable of’. Rather different to being reasonably tolerable for several hundred miles a day of slab during an adventure ride.

      • todd says:

        So a windscreen and a long range seat should take care of that.

      • mickey says:

        I haven’t ridden in the dirt since 1989, but I don’t remember it being pleasurable enough to ride a couple hundred miles of slab on a marginally comfortable bike to do it. 50 miles or 75 miles…MAYBE.

        • todd says:

          I have a feeling that everyone is basing their opinions on a 1979 XL350. The 690 single is as smooth and powerful as many twins and has tremendous passing power at tap on the highway. I get that most dirt bikes don’t have the most comfortable seats or wind protection but that can easily be fixed and the extremely less weight of these bikes make finding aftermarket comfort bits a much more desirable option than negotiating a 450 pound bike off road

          • mickey says:

            For me it was 2 stroke DT Yamaha’s.

          • todd says:

            I still have a ‘72 RT-2 (DT360). It’s much smoother and torquier than my ‘75 XL350 bone shaker was. The 690 feels like an inline-four with three times the power compared to the old Honda.

          • paquo says:

            Yes the 690 is smooth and powerful but it’s a nervous twitchy mess on the freeway. I did ok with it on trails riding it like my drz-e. There really is no single answer to this

    • Steve M says:

      Went from an 1190R down to a 701. The 1190 was a fantastic machine but the 701 is more to my taste now. It has beaten my expectations on both the street and the dirt. I made the decision that anything with more than one cylinder is probably too much to pick up alone. The 701 will go up a canyon with the best of them and drop you like a hot rock in the dirt.

    • richard says:

      comfort..the 890 trumps the 690 for sure…purchasing the right bike for your intentions is key !

  3. Tim says:

    I’ve been seriously considering the 890 Adventure but some of the reviews I’ve read suggested the 790 wasn’t very comfortable as a long hauler, and long trips make up a big portion of the miles I ride. I’m not a big fan of hauling a bike to the mountains, I prefer to ride it there and there’s a lot of interstate between me and the mountains.

    While the R model clearly isn’t designed for the highway, I’m anxious to see your full impressions of it on the highway. One thing I like about the adventure is the ergonomics that seem to fit my short frame well.

  4. motorhead says:

    Between this 890 and all of Dirck’s upgrades on the 790, I may favor the Dirckycle 790. Not too grabby in the dirt, and a bit more engaging on the high end. Looking forward to more reviews, comparisons. Nice work, Dirck!

  5. Tom R says:

    20 percent more engine mass?! More weight?! Sacraligous!!

    • mickey says:

      Oh man, Mick’s going to go all ballistic on us.

      • Grover says:

        “”20% more rotating masses”
        Seems kind of high for a less than 9% increase in displacement.

      • Mick says:

        No I’m not. It’s basically like adding a flywheel weight. A lot of off road guys do that. Tommy D up there explains the benefits.

        My hard stop on these KTMs is the electronics packages. They would have to be made a lot more user friendly or at least provide a hard off switch, because they are so recalcitrant. The owner should be able to set it once and forget about it forever at the very least.

        These are not the new KLR. Not even the new KLR is the new KLR. The Yamaha 700 is. It even weighs less than the new super pork chop KLR. It has one electro gizmo and a hard switch to shut it off.

    • todd says:

      20% more ROTATING mass. This is helpful when negotiating technical off-road trails. It wouldn’t hurt if the bike lost 100 pounds in the rest of it though.

      • Slob says:

        Yep: the additional rotating mass helps to avoid stalling. Think of a Harley lump chugging at 1,500 rpm…

        • Grover says:

          While “20% more rotating masses” helps to keep the engine from stalling while you’re plodding around slowly, it does nothing to help acceleration or throttle response. Everything is a compromise in engineering.

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