2013 KTM 1190 Adventure: Pure Fun

Text: Florian Neuhauser • Photography: KTM

The fact that KTM has been dominating the off-road circuit for years is evident by a sea of orange commonly seen along motocross tracks and trails across the country. With the all-new and versatile 1190 Adventure, the Austrian manufacturer brings the soul and character that defines its “Ready to Race” motto to the street.

The engineers in Mattighofen started with the concept three years ago. They wanted to create the lightest, most powerful, and versatile travel enduro they could. After about 120,000 working hours that included every department at KTM, the result (at 150 hp and only 507 pounds) is one of the most fun bikes on the market, and it has a wide range of uses.

Powertrain and Performance

At the heart of the Adventure lies the light-weight mill stemming from the 1190 RC8 R superbike. The 75-degree V-twin engine comes alive with classic KTM sound and without hesitation. Whereas the predecessor 990 Adventure used a conventional cable throttle, which had a rather twitchy character, the new incarnation now features a state-of-the-art, ride-by-wire system. It offers smooth power delivery and four riding modes to choose from via four buttons (up, down, back, and set) on the left side of the handlebar that manage the settings on the onboard computer. The large, square LCD display that is next to the tachometer makes it practical to navigate through the 14 menu pages, with the “Favorite” screen showing key information that can be customized. Some of the competitors’ riding mode controls and screens aren’t nearly as intuitive as the KTM’s.

“Sport” mode allows access to all 150 hp, and the traction control intervenes late. “Street” mode still has 150 hp, but it regulates it in a smoother manner. “Off-road” and “Rain” cut power to 100 hp, but where the latter has all safety technology on high alert, the “Off-road” mode allows 100 percent rear-wheel slippage at twice the wheel speed. In addition, ABS and traction control can be completely disengaged in all riding modes, unlike many other brands’ systems.

During testing, we noticed minor rear-wheel slippage on two occasions while accelerating hard out of corners before the traction control automatically actuated. This proves that it works as advertised. The air temperature was between 75 and 85 degrees while riding, and the roads were a mix of open and very tight curves. We did notice some engine heat rise through the seat as well as laterally to the legs.

The six-gear transmission worked well in extremely tight curves and at interstate speeds. The short first gear (for all you techies, 12:35) avoids having to ride the clutch in difficult terrain or in slow traffic. Most impressive is the centrifugally assisted clutch, however. By increasing pressure on the clutch discs in proportion to the engine torque, softer clutch springs can be used. The result is a clutch that can be pulled with one finger and contributes to the easy-to-ride and fun factor of the Adventure. Rear-wheel hop under forceful downshifting is also eliminated by the slipper clutch.

KTM’s engineers decided on an X-ring chain as the final-drive option. Good enough for the Dakar, good enough for everyday use! The chain helps keep weight down and avoids power loss.

The 1190 consumes approximately 20 percent less fuel than its predecessor, giving it another plus as a travel enduro.

Chassis and Handling

As this is a more street-oriented Adventure (the off-road Adventure R version is coming soon), it rides on a 19-inch, wire-spoke wheel in the front (as opposed to the 21-inch wheel used on the 990), and a 17-inch rear. The Continental Trail Attack 2 tires provided excellent grip even when toying around with the traction control turned off. They’re the first travel enduro tires rated for speeds in excess of 150 mph. In combination with KTM’s patented tubeless wire-spoke wheels, they add to the agile riding dynamic.

The male-slider front fork with 48mm tubes can be adjusted for preload, 25 clicks each for compression and rebound damping. The rear features a WP monoshock with the electronic-damping system (EDS). Via the onboard computer, the rider can choose four rear-spring pre-load settings (solo, solo with luggage, two-up, and two-up with luggage) and three damper settings (sport, street, and comfort). With the setting still on “sport” damping, my first ascent up El Teide Volcano’s badly damaged road was a hard and bumpy ride. After a quick 180 for a redo, the “comfort” setting provided a more comfortable ride.

Serious braking power is required for 150 horses. Dual, floating 320mm Brembo discs with two radial four-pot calipers and a radial master cylinder assure stopping in the front, while a floating, 268mm disc brake with a fixed two-pot caliper is put to work in the rear. Bosch 9ME C-ABS was developed in cooperation with KTM and comes standard. The biggest challenge, according to Bosch engineers, is controlling the KTM’s raw power.

Ergonomics and Features

The seat can be adjusted by 0.6 inches (33.8 to 34.4 inches or 860 to 875mm). The handlebar clamps can be mounted with a 0.4 inch (10mm) horizontal difference and the foot pegs can be moved 0.6 inches (15mm) up and back. The windshield can be adjusted by 1 inch (25mm) in height and 1.4 inches (36mm) back and forward by opening a clamp on both sides and then sliding the windshield to the desired position (which should not be done while riding). Even at highway speeds, the lowest position was the best for my 6-foot-2 inch height.

The 1190 Adventure comes standard with heavy-duty luggage mounting racks, and the optional cases are well made and offer additional tie-down points on the top. The right case’s size is reduced considerably because of the exhaust. Power can also be fed to the cases for lights and charging points.

Our test model was outfitted with the optional tire pressure monitoring system and heated grips, neither of which were needed during testing, but tried for function anyway.

Flo’s Lowdown

KTM will bring the Adventure to the U.S. in October, which will make it a 2014 model. It’s also expected that they will make minor updates, if any are needed, based on early market feedback. Prices will be announced in June. As a comparison, BMW’s new liquid-cooled R 1200 GS costs between $ 15,800 and ,870, the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring $ 19,995, and the Triumph Tiger Explorer starts at $ 15,699. Expect competitive pricing from the Austrians.

As a travel enduro, the Adventure can handle long days in the saddle. It also has the DNA to perform well on dirt roads and attack the twisties with aplomb. If you combine these characteristics with a low-curb weight, an adjustable seat height, and top-of-the-line components, then this motorcycle should be on your short-list of bikes to demo this year.