Review: KTM 390 Adventure

For years, KTM has been building the most offroad-worthy bikes. They make use of the knowledge they’ve gained in the rally world to build a production bike with – just like any brand nowadays – the pieces they have in stock.

This way they’ve constructed a full 1290 line-up: from The Beast all the way up to the Super Adventure. The engine of the 790 Duke was the base for one of the most praised adventure bikes of recent years, the KTM 790 Adventure. Recently they repeated the trick with the 890 Duke.

Downsizing is a popular trend in the motorcycling world as well, because not everyone can afford an expensive motorcycle. Especially European constructors want to get a piece of the cake that we know as ‘growth markets’. When you’re present in one of those BRIC-countries, you’ll want to have the bike built over there to reduce costs. So KTM took the engine and the frame of the Duke 390 platform to India where the Bajaj factories gave birth to the KTM 390 Adventure.

For the last test ride of this year, I went out for a ride on this smallest adventurer from Mattighofen. During a staycation I travelled from the Ardennes to the coast, wondering how much of an adventure one could experience on this Indian Austrian. After all it’s “but a four hundred”.

I’m pretty confused when I stand next to it for the first time: is this the 390 or the 790? The 390 isn’t at all as small as I expected. The standard seat height measures 855 mm, half a centimeter higher than the 790 Adventure. The bodywork looks just as Continue reading

Review: KTM 1290 Super Duke GT

KTM has been producing one of the most radical supernakeds on the market for a couple of years now. The 1290 Super Duke R, nicknamed The Beast, received a complete make-over for 2020. A few years earlier though, someone at KTM must have seen some touring potential in the Super Duke: mount a windscreen, add a larger fuel tank, stick on some panniers and there you have it: the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT was born. At any other manufacturer you would be fired on the spot, but not at KTM. Over there even the touring machines are Ready to Race.

The GT’s 2020 model is still based on the previous generation Super Duke. The engineers merely pinched off some top-end power of the original beastly engine: it still delivers 175 bhp and 141 Newton meters of torque. More than enough to turn the GT into a proper rocket. One that is fit to travel in style. Even though the Kiska design is not everybody’s cup of tea, the GT stands out with its aggressive headlights that are flanked by LED cornering lights and blinkers that are integrated into the fuel tank. The wide shoulders and narrow hips are Continue reading

Long-distance test: KTM 790 Adventure

The longest Team Throttle test ever brought me from the Black Forest via the Dolomites to the French Alps. Then I circled the Gorges du Verdon and zigzagged through the Pyrenees. All together I covered 7042 km in 17 riding days.

I rode the most hyped bike of 2019: the KTM 790 Adventure. It turned into a story of love and hate, of rejection and attraction. But also a story of sheer ecstasy and high climaxes. And finally a story of regret. Regret that I had to say goodbye to this polarizing bike.

First impression

It didn’t start well, my relationship with this KTM. I had been eagerly looking forward to meet this new Austrian in person, but during our first rendezvous at the Brussels Motor Show early 2019, I was disappointed: I didn’t find it attractive and the bulging tank looked weird, like man-boobs. Was this the bike that would turn the adventure class upside down?

Luggage

My purpose during the trip was to camp as often as possible and cook myself on a regular basis. So I needed to take quite a bit of luggage.

KTM had equipped the 790 with plastic panniers. They look quite slick and are easy to install on the nicely integrated pannier racks. Unfortunately they open from the side and have a weirdly shaped interior, making it difficult to use their full capacity (35 liters on the left and 27 liters on the right).

Aluminum cases that open from the top may need a separate rack, but they’re much more convenient to use and you can tie stuff to the rack too. If you tie things to the passenger grips of the 790, it better be your lucky day. They’re open on one side, so a stretcher or strap slips off easily. Apart from that, they’re well designed and made of a pleasant non-slip material. Perfect for your duo or to maneuver the bike.

After some puzzling, three roll bags with camping material ended up on top of the passenger seat and the panniers were filled with lighter things.

Second impression

I got my second impression of the 790 Adventure during 400 kilometers of highway that marked the start of my trip. Together with Jean I rode from Luxembourg to the Black Forest in Germany. Biker buddy Tony joined us there for four riding days.

That stretch of highway didn’t make my second impression Continue reading

Review: KTM 1290 Super Adventure S

“Ready to race” the digital display of the KTM 1290 Super Adventure S announces when you press the start button. Not a lie, as the bike will soon prove. Did you expect something else, with 160 hp and 140 Nm? But before we talk about power, let’s first take a closer look at this bombshell.

The 1301 cc LC8 engine that created quite some excitement for the KTM 1290 Super Duke, was also used by the Mattighofen team for a sports-touring motorbike and an adventure bike. I tested the 1290 Super Duke GT, the sports-tourer, before. Time to get to know that adventure bike.

The KTM 1290 Super Adventure comes in an S and an R version. The R focuses more on offroad, with its spoked wheels, 21″ front wheel, higher seat and standard crash bars. The S aims at the asphalt, with cast wheels, 19″ front wheel and a lower, two-part, height-adjustable seat. I got to test the S for a week.

Brutal or subtle?

I remember from the 1290 Super Duke GT that it simply was a brute bike. In so many ways. Brute power, rough sounding exhaust, not always refined in handling. So I expected the same character from the 1290 Super Adventure S. And it immediately surprised me: Mr. Adventurer is more subtle than his sports-touring brother.

However, with its looks you’d assume the opposite. Especially the not particularly modest design of the headlight. Not everyone’s a fan of it. Me neither at first, but after a while, its distinctive and even photogenic nose grew on me. Finally a KTM adventure bike that comes close to that still good-looking 990 in terms of design.

A push on the start button generates quite some fuss. Caused by the optional Akrapovic exhaust. Its shortfall of subtlety has a Moses and the Red Sea effect in dense traffic. Or in this case: Orange Moses and the Car Sea.

And then it’s time to clamp the handlebars firmly – because maybe the bike throws you out of the saddle like a wild stallion – you open the throttle and … notice that this Super Adventure is extremely easy-going. There’s no sign of any brutality at all. Not yet.

The Super Adventure has four riding modes (Sport, Street, Rain and Offroad). Even in Sport, the Brussels city center at peak hour wasn’t a problem. Yes, the Sport mode has the harshest gas reaction, but you don’t necessarily need kid gloves to keep the KTM under control. Still, I found the Street mode more comfortable. I didn’t even try Rain (with 100 hp instead of 160) and Offroad.

Hard, harder, hardest

Fortunately, the 1290 Super Adventure doesn’t throw all the brutality overboard. Sporty driving is so easy and so tempting that a sixth sense for speed cameras would be a blessing. You go so fast so quickly, that it’s almost impossible to open the throttle completely. The (optional, perfectly working) quickshifter makes the explosive accelerations even more insane. And although the traction control was on, short wheelies couldn’t be avoided. The traction control, like the ABS, has cornering technology. A good thing.

Curves? Our Austrian friend Continue reading