When we first sampled the 1190 Adventure on Tenerife in the Canary Islands a year ago, we knew that KTM had made a huge leap forward in almost every aspect of performance. But sampling a bike on unfamiliar foreign territory and really putting the screws to it in your own backyard are entirely different. Here’s the question we set out to answer: Did our initial seat-of-the-pants impressions from the press launch agree with the cold, hard data of our testing procedures here at home?
The first thing we were dying to find out was if the 1190 packed as much of a punch as we suspected it did. So, first things first, before taking our standard Adventure for a ride, we strapped it down for some pulls on our Dynojet dyno. And the results didn’t disappoint. The 1,195cc, 75-degree, LC8 V-twin produced 128.8 hp at 9,360 rpm and 81.3 pound-feet of peak torque at 7,670 rpm. For comparison, last year’s 990 Adventure Baja made 89.7 hp and 56.7 pound-feet of torque, while the ADV class power leader, the more street-oriented Ducati Multistrada, makes 134 hp and 82 pound-feet.
Every other bike in the ADV class falls woefully short of the KTM in outright horsepower, BMW’s new liquid-cooled R1200GS included. So what does this mean in the real world? Well, this very dirt-worthy adventure bike sprints through the quarter-mile in 10.68 seconds at 128.71 mph and has a top speed over 150 mph. This from a bike that tiptoes through the desert like a jackrabbit!
With that data learned, we proceeded to put the 1190 Adventure through a battery of other tests and even a few dirt-oriented ones for the ABS. Just as importantly, we rode the bike in every type of environment we thought a rider might encounter: freeway, two-lane highways, urban commuting, twisty mountain roads, gravel roads, even some soft dunes.
The previous 990 Adventure was without peer among ADV bikes off-road, but it definitely couldn’t match the refinement of the competition when used for less-adventurous touring and street duty. As an on-road machine, the Adventure has been improved dramatically, virtually matching Ducati’s Multistrada in terms of engine, chassis, and braking performance, while not giving up much, if any, of the 990’s off-road capabilities. The standard KTM 1190 Adventure isn’t as adept in the dirt as its R sibling (Dec. 2013), which has off-road-oriented wheels, suspension, and geometry, but it’s damn close.
So what exactly makes the 1190 so good? Much of it has to do with the very effective electronics, which includes the latest Bosch 9ME ABS, lean-angle-sensing traction control, multiple power modes, and Electronic Damping System suspension that’s standard on all 1190s. But the new bike also has a great-handling chassis and more user-friendly features than the rough-but-ready 990 ever dreamed of. And that engine is really hard not to fall in love with, too.
What impresses us most about the 1190’s V-twin is just how flexible it is. Scroll through the intuitive and easy-to-navigate menus and select Street from the four ride-mode options and it delivers excellent around-town manners. The only time we felt anything other than clean, smooth fueling and mapping was at very low revs (under 2,000) in a taller gear than we should have been in. Otherwise, fuel delivery is crisp and responsive, with an awesome spread of torque (more than 60 pound-feet from 3,200 to 10,000 rpm) capped off by an exhilarating top-end rush.
Street is likely the mode owners will use most often, as it allows the same peak horsepower as Sport (150, KTM’s claim at the crankshaft) but provides more linear but less aggressive throttle response. When you find yourself on a curvy road, however, toggling over to Sport is worth it. Sharp, accurate fueling and instant gratification are the reward. Rain and Off-road modes are condition-specific, but we found that either of these settings (limited to a claimed 100 hp) are great choices around town, too. Rain provides maximum traction-control intervention and mellow throttle response. Off-road offers similar response but allows the rear wheel to spin at twice the rate of the front.
Switch the MTC system off and you really get a taste of the LC8’s sheer performance, as it no longer trims power to eliminate wheelies. First, second, or third gears are all good choices for going mono on the back wheel. In spite of this, power builds smoothly and controllably, leaving the rider with a good feel for what’s happening at the rear contact patch.
Hop into the adjustable saddle (34.3 inches low/35.0 high) and you’re greeted with very comfortable ergonomics. Bar and footpeg position, lever span, and windshield height can all be adjusted. Wind protection is very good and provides buffet-free flow in any setting. The only real complaint in terms of comfort is the seat foam, which is too soft and doesn’t provide enough support for longer days aboard this Austrian machine.
The electronic suspension provides a wide range of load and damping settings for most conditions. When riding at a fast clip with the optional touring cases ($1,199.98) loaded, we found that we needed to crank the preload to max to keep the centerstand from dragging when really heeled over. And when riding off-road, we selected max as well to avoid premature bottoming in the whoops. Otherwise, the settings proved to be very good for a variety of roads and paces.
“First, second, or third gears are all good choices for going mono on the back wheel.
Once the road gets kinky, the 1190 handles like a big supermoto machine. Part of this is due to its 490-pound dry weight, which undercuts every big ADV bike on the market by a significant amount, except for the Ducati Multistrada, which weighs 6 pounds less. What’s more, the 1190 is 15 pounds lighter than the 990 Baja, and the feel from its front end is excellent, with the wide bar providing leverage to flick the bike from side to side quickly, even with loaded bags.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of the 1190 ADV is the bike’s ABS. Bosch’s performance-oriented ABS is so good, in fact, that we left it active nearly 100 percent of the time. We even put off-road tester and recent Baja 1000 podium finisher Ryan Dudek in the saddle to see if he could outperform the Off-road setting in the dirt; the results may surprise you.
Without testing the new 1190 Adventure against its competition on common ground, we would be premature to declare it the most capable ADV on the market. But based on our early impressions and this bike’s amazing versatility in every conceivable environment, we are confident this KTM or its R-model brother will be the bike to beat in any upcoming Adventure shootout. In fact, this motorcycle does more things well in more conditions than any bike we’ve ever tested. It has near-sportbike performance on a winding road, offers comfort similar to that of more touring-oriented machines, and is capable of things off-road that no bike its size or power output should ever be capable of. KTM has forever expanded the definition of the all-around motorcycle.
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