New Bike Evaluation: 2014 KTM 1190 Adventure

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The word adventure is tossed around quite a bit these days. We’ve referred to the entire genre of on-road/off-road longdistance bikes as adventure-tourers for years. And, of course, anyone who takes off on a motorcycle tour/vacation fancies himself to be out on an “adventure of a lifetime.” Look no further than RoadBike’s Tour story section to find American Adventures. Some manufacturers have adopted the word as a subtitle to certain bike models — for example, the BMW GS 1200 Adventure. But, truth be told, KTM has had a model named Adventure in its lineup for more than a decade and has presented a new distinction during its press presentation of this model, calling the category Travel Enduro.

It’s a shame that KTM didn’t introduce this bike under a new name. It deserves a different one. Too bad the moniker Streetfighter is already taken by another manufacturer. To look at the last few Adventure road-going touring bikes from KTM is like looking at ancient history. Its prior models look more like dirt bikes, with their long banana seats and skinny swingarms. Whereas this new 1190 is more akin to a factory streetfighter; it’s light, agile, extremely powerful, sans bodywork, and, most of all, fun!

2Just look at that trellis frame, angular headlight, and minifairing. The front fender is sportbike-like down close to the tire. There’s not a beak perched up high (usually just beneath the headlight nacelle). It looks to me like something from the streets of Europe and the pages of my other favorite motorcycle magazine, Streetfighters.

And the way this Adventure 1190 performs is more akin to a sportbike than a street-i-fied dirt bike. It has tons of lean angle on tap. I only touched a peg down once, and that was with the footrests situated in the lowest adjustable position on the recent KTM 1190 Adventure press ride in Tenerife, Canary Islands. So what is it? A KTM RC8 sportbike with a retuned, usable engine? A tall, naked-standard with lightweight wire wheels? An enduro bike on steroids rolling on high-speed asphalt tires? A comfortable troublemaker? Whatever you think it is by simply looking at it, you’re wrong. It needs to be ridden to be fully appreciated. But anyone who can easily recognize all its traits — and who can suppose it’s a handful of riding ecstasy — is already salivating for one. Yours truly included. For those of you out there who scoff and just don’t get it, I suggest you get on one and take a test ride yourself. Prepare to be amazed.

One of the points brought up in the technical presentation was that the 1190 Adventure is not simply an R&D project. It took three years to develop. Back in 1997, KTM had 95 selfdescribed “crazy guys” working in its research and development department. Today, 260 skilled and passionate technicians took part in bringing this model to market, and over 120,000 working hours were spent on developing the 1190 Adventure. KTM has a proven DNA and knowledge of off-road bikes, but off-road ability isn’t the main task of this bike: versatility, comfort, and ergonomics are. One other good point was brought up during the presentation: it’s hard to find anything cheap on the bike. So true.

SONY DSCKTM’s claims that the brand new 1190 Adventure is the lightest, sportiest, and most versatile travel enduro in the world —this will not be argued by me. It boasts 150 hp and a weight of only 507 pounds when fully fuelled. It comes loaded with the most sophisticated electronic systems, from the multistage, Combined ABS, four ride modes, and a multistaged traction control, to the optional, programmable electronic damping system. KTM started with the 75-degree, V-twin LC8 engine from the KTM 1190 RC8 R sportbike as a basis for the new Adventure. It actually measures 1195cc, and it’s already served five years of service in the KTM superbike. Immediate alterations included changing the first gear ratio to aid in launching a loaded bike. Some other minor tweaks were added to the ignition system and airbox, which resulted in 20 percent better fuel efficiency. A new slipper clutch eliminates rear-wheel chatter under deceleration while, at the same time, lowering manual clutch force. The electronic, ride-by-wire engine management system allows the rider to choose from four ride modes that utilize two different engine power mappings. Street and Sport serve up the full 150 hp of maximum power, and the Rain and Off-road settings provide only 100 hp of maximum power and a softer power delivery. While riding the 1190 Adventure in Street or Sport, I noticed a big kick at 6000 rpm and the engine is no slouch below that, but the 6000 punch is just a hoot. The engine redlines at 10250.

The ride-by-wire throttle valves of the electronic fuel injection system aren’t controlled by a mechanical cable. Rolling the twist grip feeds input to a computer, which in turn actuates the throttle blades. Unfortunately, one feature I didn’t find on the 1190 Adventure was electronic cruise control, which one might think would be easy to add to a bike with a ride-by-wire throttle. And you’d be right. When I questioned KTM reps about this omission, they told me that cruise control wouldn’t be useful in riding the twisties or the tight roads of Europe. However, I could definitely see a place for it on the open roads of America.

The 1190 Adventure’s four-valve cylinder heads with dual ignition carry two different sized spark plugs per cylinder that fire independently from each other for more efficient combustion. This results in more power, more torque, a smoother low end, and less fuel consumption. The exhaust system is formed completely from stainless steel and, in probably some of the best news for consumers, the engine service intervals are expanded to 15,000km (9,300 miles), and valve clearance adjustments are done at 30,000km (18,600 miles).

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The smooth-shifting six-speed is a joy to operate and, as mentioned, the transmission’s first gear ratio has been shortened for slow speed operation on rough terrain without constantly riding the clutch. An added benefit is that a fully loaded 1190 Adventure can be ridden away from a stop with ease. The low-speed maneuverability is excellent. The bike wants to balance while standing still; I got the feeling that my breathing and heartbeat were the only things upsetting the balance at 0.5 mph. When riding in traffic, all the journalists would play the game “don’t put a foot down.” I got this. Just rub the rear brake and work the clutch friction zone, and the bike just crawls without any embarrassing sign of wobbling around.

The Adventure’s cool trellis frame is made from chromemoly steel for high-strength and weighs a mere 9.8 kilos (21.6 pounds). And the die-cast aluminum lattice swingarm is a work of art in my mind. Fully adjustable, high-end suspension comes from WP Suspension, which ensures top comfort while touring and top performance while tearing through the twisties. The upside-down front forks measure 48mm and can be fine-tuned via numerous adjustments (i.e. preload, 25 clicks compression, and 25 clicks rebound damping). At 4.68″ (190mm), the travel of the WP Suspension forks is shorter than in the former KTM Adventure bikes, reinforcing the notion that the 1190 Adventure was built more for twisty back roads and fast sweepers. Out back, the rear shock offers preload as well as rebound (25 clicks) adjustments.

SONY DSCOptional on the 1190 Adventure is the electronic damping system (EDS). A mode switch on the handlebar selects four rear spring preload settings: Solo, Solo with luggage, Two-up, and Two-up with luggage. There’s also three damper settings: Comfort, Street, and Sport. These damper settings correspond to the chosen spring preload — for example, in the Two-up spring preload mode, the Street damper setting will provide a noticeably stiffer damping than in Solo mode. And while some bikes need a steering damper to conceal suspension flaws, the 1190 Adventure carries a hydraulic steering damper from WP just in case the front end gets light thanks to that 150 hp on tap.

With all the high-tech wizardry, don’t expect the brakes to be plain Jane. Brembo stepped up and developed the newly combined C-ABS antilock brakes with integrated motorcycle traction control (MTC) with off-road function. C-ABS adds an amount of rear-wheel brake force to optimize braking. Not only can the system be disengaged, but it can be used in off-road mode that allows a higher degree of front wheel slippage as well as complete rear wheel lock-up for serious off-road riding. The MTC, which can also be disengaged, offers three different riding modes controlled by a switch on the left handlebar: minimum slippage in Street mode, controlled rear wheel spin in Sport mode, and up to 100 percent slippage in offroad. The brakes’ hardware is comprised of dual, floating, perforated 320mm Brembo discs with two radial four-pot calipers, and a radial master cylinder up front. And out back there’s a 268mm disc and a fixed two-pot caliper.

Once upon a time, tubeless wire wheels didn’t exist. Today, the KTM 1190 Adventure rolls on them. Instead of the 21″ and 18″ wheels of previous Adventure generations, this bike has a 19″ wire-spoke SONY DSCfront wheel, and a 17″ rear. The 1190 Adventure rolls on wire wheels with airtight rim wells that allow the use of tubeless tires. Patented by KTM, this design allows a conventional wire spoke configuration, giving the wheels a lot more stability than the competitors’ cross-spoke pattern or even cast-alloy wheels. Eliminating the tube lowers both the vehicle weight and unsprung masses. New Continental TrailAttack 2 tires are used as original equipment in 120/70ZR-19″ front and 170/60ZR-17″ rear proportions, and provide excellent grip on wet and dry surfaces with remarkable durability. These are the first travel enduro tires approved for top speeds in excess of 150 mph. One of my favorite features on any touring bike has got to be tire pressure monitoring systems, and KTM offers it as an option on the 1190 Adventure.

VDO supplies the instrumentation, which features an analog tach with an integrated, adjustable shift light and LCD. A digital speedometer is complemented by a digital clock, a gear indicator, bar displays for the coolant temperature, and fuel level, as well as readouts for the currently selected ride mode and EDS mode. To the left, a second LCD displays up to 14 different menu pages selected by four control keys of the mode switch on the left handlebar. A menu page can be set to display five favorite readouts.

An impact-resistant, polymer 6-gallon fuel tank ensures the 1190 Adventure will go long distances between stops. The comfy seat, footpegs with vibrationinsulated rubber pads, and adjustable ergonomics also help the rider go the distance. Seat height can be adjusted by 15mm, the handlebar clamps can be mounted in two different positions with a 10mm fore-aft difference, and the pegs can be altered 15mm both upward and to the rear in order to tailor the riding position. The windshield’s height can also be changed by 25mm as well as both forward and back by 36mm without tools. All 1190 Adventures come equipped to accept optional KTM luggage, and heated grips are optional.

1The KTM 1190 Adventure is scheduled to arrive stateside in autumn of 2013, and retail price and exact warranty specs are yet to be determined. When you think about all the high-tech features that brought the 1190 Adventure up to speed, many of the functions, including traction control, riding modes, ride-bywire, ABS, and tubeless wire wheels weren’t around on previous models. And yet, this bike is one of the best-equipped travel enduros available. This iteration of the Adventure presents just about anything a moto-traveler would want and KTM definitely benefited from not being the experimenters. It was able to plan the project and then reach out to vendors who were knowledgeable, like Bosch, and then spec the right parts. And while this might not be the first travel enduro-class bike on the market with all these features, I can say from firsthand experience that this package works flawlessly. This could well be the best Adventure to take you on your next adventure. RB

Story By Steve Lita Photos By Francesc Montero and Sebas Romero

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