Twisting the throttle of KTM’s new 1190 Adventure at its Steamboat Springs unveiling, I’m launched forward with the ferocity of a 150hp sport bike, re-moulded and sculpted into a bike as light and nimble as any 800cc-class adventurer from BMW or Triumph. That the factory demo rides are limited to the Colorado Rockies’ paved twisties is a joyful solace to those like myself who had hoped to take the 1190 off-road.
As an owner of KTM’s 690 Enduro R and 690 SMC, and frequent 990 Adventure borrower, the new bike boasts a much broader spread of power. On both the 690s and 990s, you’re shifting often to stay in the power band. Not so with the 1190, the 1195 cc engine derived from the RC8 super-sport revs to a much higher 12,000 rpm before bumping into the rev limiter.
North of 6,000 rpm the throttle response is extremely direct producing an instant rush of adrenaline-inducing power. It’s raw, visceral and aggressive, a true KTM. South of 6000rpm, you could convince yourself that this new KTM is akin to more docile offerings like the BMW R1200GS or Triumph 1200 Explorer. What the fly-by-wire throttle does is tame the lurching KTM-feel of past generations, where the bike is always on edge, and let you have the choice, ballistic hooliganism or smooth touring refinement. Across the board then, the 1190 is much less jerky and produces less vibration, even at high RPM.
Both 1190 and 1190 R share nice finishing details; an adjustable height windscreen, full-size cigarette socket, folding shift lever, adjustable clutch and front brake levers, and a nifty little stash box in the dash. Then there’s the size; the 1190 feels much more compact, sporty and nimble than the competing BMW R1200GS and Triumph Explorer models. The 1190 weighs in at a claimed 217 kg (478 lb) without fuel, but it masks the extra 10 kilos (22lbs) gained over the 990 phenomenally, the shorter standard model nearly convincing me it was an 800… until you watch the speedo go stratospheric.
The new trip computer with four buttons integrated into the lefthand switchgear is awesome. Tons of information is displayed right at your fingertips, including bonuses like a voltage meter and outside temperature gauge, while making adjusting the ABS, traction control, and suspension settings easy. You can even customize which bits of information are shown in the “Favorites” screen.
Unfortunately, you can’t turn off ABS while riding like on the new 2013 BMW R1200GS. The 1190’s ABS menus are, however, far more user friendly than those of the Triumph Explorer or Tiger 800, which always make me feel like I’m entering the cheat code for 30 extra lives in Nintendo’s Contra video game (up up, down down, left right, left right, B A, Select, Start…).
One of the most intriguing features is KTM’s new ABS technology. KTM claims that the 1190 Adventure is the first motorcycle to offer an “Offroad ABS” mode, which lets you lock up the rear wheel while retaining ABS on the front. A great idea for maintaining the ability to intentionally skid the rear while preventing the front end from washing out – a consistent problem associated with the mass of big-adventure bikes overpowering front braking traction. The linked braking system also decouples front and rear braking for off-road, which is a major advancement over similar systems from other brands.
Comparing the 1190 and 1190 R versions, you quickly realize that the “R” is not a direct upgrade over the standard; the bikes are built for two distinctly different purposes. The standard version has a more street-oriented 19” front/17” rear tire combination, two-piece height adjustable seat, shorter suspension, taller windscreen for touring, electronically adjustable suspension, and a tire pressure monitoring system. Crashbars are optional.
The “R” version has more dirt-oriented 21” front/18” rear wheels, one-piece low seat, taller suspension, shorter windscreen for dirt riding, and a more aggressive manually adjustable suspension. The “R” I rode seemed to lack a tire pressure monitor, although I got conflicting answers on whether this is missing from all “R” bikes when I asked KTM staff. The R’s longer travel suspension also lacks the “standard” bike’s electronic adjustability, a curious point leading one to wonder if KTM suspects the system may cause issues in aggressive adventure situations – Ed. Crashbars, however, are included.
The two-piece seat on the standard version has similar stand-over heights and footpeg-to-seat distances as the 2012 R1200GS. As a 6’2” guy with a 34” inseam, I strongly preferred the “high” seat position for riding comfort and still easily flat-footed the motorcycle. It was comfy, and at least for me, had perfect ergonomics.
The one-piece seat on the “R” version has a taller stand-over height than the two-piece seat in the “high” position, making it difficult for me to swing my leg over. Even with my 34” inseam, I couldn’t quite flat-foot the bike. It felt like the tallest bike I’ve ever hopped on, with the exception of the 690 Enduro R. Strangely, once riding, this one-piece seat feels more cramped, as the footpeg-to-seat distance is the same as that of the two-piece seat in the “low” position. The footpegs do have 15 mm of up and down and front to back adjustment via the mounts, but I’m dubious that’s enough.
The result of the tall suspension and one-piece seat on the “R” is a bike that only the tallest riders will feel comfortable standing over, yet those same riders may well feel cramped when seated. The thin padding on the one-piece seat also packed down to the seat pan by the end of the 20-minute ride, which doesn’t bode well for long distance comfort. In true KTM fashion, the R’s seat will only be comfortable when you’re standing on the pegs.
Also consistent with the brand’s previous big-bike outings, heat management remains an issue. While the weather was a pleasant 69F (20.5C), a significant amount of heat came through the seat, especially on the flatter one-piece “R” seat. My left butt cheek was well done rump roast after only 20 minutes, and several other test riders mentioned the same phenomenon. While KTM is proud that they offer an optional electrically heated seat, integrated heat shielding might be a better sell.
In addition, the large right-side exhaust makes usage of hard luggage problematic. Aftermarket flat-backed sidecases, like Twisted Throttle’s SW-Motech Trax EVO boxes and racks, will stick out quite a bit on the right, and the original KTM notched case holds next to nothing. The first aftermarket company to relocate or shrink that exhaust and bring the right case closer will be a hero.
The KTM 1190 Adventure and Adventure R offer distinctly different ride experiences for bikes that appear to vary so slightly on paper. If you want an ultra-comfy bike for pleasant long distance touring, BMW may still have KTM beat, but if you’re the kind of rider that wants to be a dirty long-distance hooligan and giggle the whole way at the terrifyingly fast throttle response, you have just found your motorcycle. Personally, I would choose the standard version for overall comfort, sporty handling, and versatility, but I saw plenty of riders drooling over the “R”.
Ultimately, the “standard” 1190 Adventure captures the power of a sport bike, and shows every indication of off-road prowess that will still have little competition from BMW or Triumph’s adventure offerings. For the more hard core off-roaders, the R awaits.
Life is full of difficult decisions, isn’t it?
Related Link: Twisted Throttle’s 1190 Adventure/R Accessory Selection.
About the Author: CEO and founder of Twisted Throttle, Erik Stephens’ exploits span the searing heat of South Africa, to the volcanic geology of Iceland, to the high plains of Patagonia for six continents of adventure riding experience.
Bike: 2014 KTM 1190 Adventure/R
- More Info: KTM’s 1190 Adventure R page
- MSRP: Adventure – $15,999 (predicted) / R – $16,799 USD
- Displacement: 1195 cc
- Engine type: Liquid-cooled V-twin
- Power (crank)*: 150 hp @ 9500 rpm
- Torque*: 92 ft-lb at 7500 rpm
- Tank Capacity: 26.5 litres
- Carburetion: EFI
- Final drive: Chain
- Front tire 120/70ZR-19
- Rear tire 170/60ZR-17
- Front tire (R): 90/90 V21
- Front tire (R): 150/70 ZR 18
- Stock tire: Continental Trail Attack 2
- Brakes, front: Twin 320 mm disc, with four-piston radial calipers
- Brakes, rear: Single 267 mm disc, twin-piston caliper
- Seat height (R): 890 mm
- Wheelbase: 1580 mm, +/- 10 mm
- Warranty: info n/a