2013 KTM 1190 Adventure R: What’s a Little Dirt and Mud?

Text: Ken Freund • Photography: Simon Cudby

Kraftfahrzeuge Trunkenpolz Mattighofen, or thankfully KTM for short, has replaced its 990 Adventure R model with the new 1190 Adventure R. Now that I’ve finally gotten the mud off my riding gear and it’s all dried out, let me tell you about the bike. The folks at Mattighofen made notable and worthwhile upgrades to the engine, electronics, chassis, handling, and comfort to produce a world-class adventure machine.

Powertrain and Performance

The 1190 R’s 75-degree, V-twin engine, which is based on KTM’s RC8 superbike power plant, has a claimed 150 hp at 7,500 rpm and 92 lb-ft of torque. Although the basic engine architecture is based on the RC8, the crank cases have been modified and a sight glass added for easy oil level checks. Those fancy DOHC four-valve heads use twin spark plugs for improved combustion and smooth running. Trick lightweight pistons reduce friction, and the crank, flywheels, and balance shaft were modified for better low-speed manners yet are able to rev quickly.

The R model’s “slipper” clutch helps prevent skidding on downshifts, increases pressure on the discs as revs rise, and allows softer clutch springs to be used. It’s easy to operate with smooth hydraulic actuation, and the six-speed gearbox has a low first-gear ratio that reduces the need for clutch slipping in slow-speed work. Sixth gear is tall for relaxed cruising at highway speeds.

On road, the most significant change is the potent engine, which has four drive modes: Sport, Street, Rain, and Enduro. The first two allow the rider access to the full 150 (claimed) hp; the latter two limit the engine’s output to about 100 hp. Each works well in the conditions it’s designed for, and you can barely feel the system operating as it does its job.

If you select Sport and give the throttle-by-wire a full twist to its limit, get ready for a strong rush of power from down low all the way to redline as the broad powerband thrusts you forward with wheelie-making acceleration. The revs rise quickly with a guttural wail from the engine, but the six-speed gearbox allows you to keep up with the need for rapid shifts.

Chassis and Handling

KTM uses a tubular steel trellis frame with an aluminum subframe. The R model’s fully adjustable WP suspension adds extra travel front and rear; 8.7 inches vs. 7.5 for the regular 1190. A steering damper is also standard. KTM’s electronically adjustable suspension (EDS) isn’t available on the 1190 R, but a readily accessible remote preload adjustment knob permits quick rear shock adjustments.

Bosch 9ME combined ABS is standard. It allows the rider to select Off-Road mode, which separates the brake lever and pedal and lets the rear tire skid while the front ABS still provides effective braking on loose surfaces.

The 1190 R’s chassis instills confidence, and the off-road traction control setting allows the rear wheel to spin about twice as fast as the front. This lets you look like a hero with those tail-out power slides without unceremoniously falling on your butt.

On some adventure bikes (especially early generations of ABS), brakes on loose dirt seem to barely apply and cause loooong stopping distances. On the 1190 R, you can brake hard without fear of losing the front end or taking what seems forever to stop. On pavement, the ABS also works really well in hauling the bike to a stop without drama, even in the rain.

Whenever the ignition is shut off, the ABS returns to its default Road setting, which can be annoying. I used the kill switch and left the ignition on when I wanted to pause briefly without going through the ABS reset drill. KTM’s Power Parts accessory division offers a slew of goodies to spice up the 1190 R, including a kit that allows the ABS to maintain its setting after a restart.

Wire wheels that can run tubeless tires are shod with 90/90-21 front and 150/70ZR18

rear, which makes it easy to find off-road tires. Test bikes were fitted with Continental TKC 80 tires for the serious off-road riding done during the introduction. These worked well in all but the deepest, slipperiest mud when the treads packed up (don’t ask what happened then), yet they had decent road manners. All 1190 Rs come standard with Conti’s TrailAttack 2 rubber, which is more pavement oriented.

The bike is surprisingly capable off-pavement. We rode most of the day on forest service trails and fire roads with a few narrow trails thrown in for good measure. Those Colorado storms that made the news were swirling around us as we made our way up to 11,000 feet in the Rockies. Despite its roughly quarter-ton heft (claimed wet weight is 518 lbs), I was able to maintain a good pace, even over rocks, ruts, and washboard bumps.

Features and Ergonomics

The manually adjustable windscreen provides good coverage with little buffeting at speed. Combined with the large front fairing, wind protection is quite good.

This bike was made for tall riders. The R model’s 35-inch fixed seat height is higher than the standard 1190’s, which can be adjusted from 33.8 to 34.5 inches. The saddle is wider than older KTM seats, but its firmness can be felt on a long ride. Riding position is similar to most dirt bikes and offers some adjustability.

Instrumentation consists of an analog tach with adjustable shift light and digital speedometer. An LCD includes gear indicator, coolant temp and fuel level, drive mode, and dual trip meters. To the left of the central meter is the onboard computer’s main display. It has 14 different menu pages (based on option level), which are manipulated by a switch on the left handlebar. There’s also a tire pressure monitoring system, which can warn the rider of a slow leak and impending trouble.

Final Thoughts

KTM says their 2014 U.S.-spec models will have a few minor differences from the Euro-
spec 2013 models we test rode. KTM’s 1190 Adventure R will compete with bikes such as Ducati’s Multistrada 1200, Triumph’s 1200 Adventure, and BMW’s R 1200 GS series. The 1190 R has a suggested retail price of $ 16,799, which isn’t cheap, but it is certainly price competitive in this 1200cc adventure bike niche. The bike is great fun as it comes, and KTM also offers some quality accessories that include heated grips, saddleboxes, tail trunks, and tankbags, which can transform the 1190 R into an excellent touring machine.