Review: 2023 KTM 890 Adventure
KTM chose Portugal as the place to show off the 2023 base model of the 890 Adventure. It couldn’t have been more suitable. The country’s winding paved roads, interlaced with various off-road sections, run the gamut from skittish hard-pack to lush loam, from deep sand to tree-lined rock-strewn access roads, providing a perfect test bed to appreciate the bike’s changes.
At first glance, the most obvious change for the 890 Adventure is the redesigned bodywork, which comes in two colors—essentially black on black with KTM orange accents, or black on KTM orange. Borrowing design cues from KTM’s Rally bike, the 890 Adventure cuts an impressive stance. The flow of lines is balanced and attractive, yet exudes an all-business demeanor with a strong emphasis on the brand’s off-road pedigree.
KTM engineers have crafted a fuel tank with an extremely low center of gravity, which straddles the engine, carrying fully 60% of its 5.3-gallon capacity between the rider’s knees and feet. Yet the tank doesn’t bulge the aesthetics of the bike or impose on the rider’s limbs. Removing the weight of fuel from up high makes the bike a more compliant partner off-road. Protecting the fuel cell and engine is a combination of wrap-around skin and aluminum guards.
Throwing a Leg Over
Immediately noticeable upon putting a leg over the 890 Adventure is the new seat, with 10% more padding than last year—and a decidedly more comfortable shape—which will accommodate a wide range of riders with its 33.85-inch standard height, easily lowered to the alternative low setting of 33.07 inches. With a narrow tank-seat juncture, leg reach to the ground is unobstructed, which provides confidence in any situation when you have to put your foot down.
The cockpit ergonomics provide a relaxed but functional seat-to-peg configuration with an equally well laid-out reach to the controls. The bend of the bar contributes to a very comfortable riding position.
The five-inch TFT LCD display is easy to locate at a glance while riding and is laden with a plethora of useful information. It boasts a simplified Rally mode as well as the highly functional default/normal mode, both clearly visible day and night. The fairing stanchions have been beefed up to accommodate additional weight when adding after-market navigation elements.
Powertrain and Performance
At the heart of the 890 Adventure is the smoothly pulsating liquid-cooled, eight-valve compact (LC8c) 889cc parallel-twin engine. KTM has completely assuaged the notion of a parallel-twin configuration being docile or underperforming. The engine revs up quickly with an excellent, immediate, and predictable throttle response. Multi-level traction control greatly assists the bike’s ability to useably tract its claimed 105 hp (at 8,000 rpm) and 74 lb-ft of torque (at 6,500 rpm). The performance level effectively redefines exactly what a middle-class adventure bike is capable of. My bike was fitted with an Akrapovič slip-on, which gave the 890 an alluring, throaty exhaust note, completely squelching any ideas that a parallel-twin can’t sound great.
From the moment you drop the clutch and get rolling on the new 890 Adventure, there’s a feeling of lightness—not only in the bike’s weight, but the pull of the clutch, the touch required to shift, and especially its behavior. The front end tracks beautifully to where the eyes go, granting an intuitiveness that invites confidence. All of these elements are nicely balanced in a synergy of engineering that makes you forget you have 474 pounds of motorcycle beneath you.
This ease of riding carried over to the first transition to dirt, immediately introducing the 890’s impressive stability and sharp handling in the rough, especially on skittish loose gravel on hard-packed transition roads. Matching the comfortable seated riding position is the ease at which you can stand up. It’s an almost second-nature act, which makes traversing varied terrain effortless and non-fatiguing even when constantly standing up and sitting down.
Due to heavy rains in the previous days, there were sections of slippery clay and wet grass. More than once, they had me getting out of shape, only for me to easily correct myself with the slightest of body movements. The bike’s slim profile responds more like a motocross machine than that of an adventure bike. Being able to cancel the ABS on the rear wheel allows the rider to skid the back end to help initiate corner entry.
The adjustable, multi-level traction control allows the bike to tract over loose terrain at low revs, even on hills, as opposed to wicking the throttle and spinning up the rear wheel. The power of the 890 is enough to carry you through sections a gear high if you so choose, with plenty of pull available right off the bottom to get up and moving in a hurry.
The large rectangular cut-out in the middle of the tall windscreen is the result of aerodynamic testing to eliminate cockpit turbulence. It works. Even at freeway speeds (and above) there are virtually no vortices or wind battering against the rider.
The 890 is equipped with four ride modes—road, rain, off-road, and rally. The degree of intervention from traction control, power, and ABS is programmable. Once you learn the process, switching between modes on-the-fly is an easy left-hand action. The ABS is integrated with the ride modes so, upon switching the mapping, the braking intervention is automatically changed as well. Rally mode accommodates both pavement and dirt well enough that you can actually leave it there if you find yourself transitioning continually between on-road and off.
The clutch has a very light feel and actuates with an even engagement consistently through the full travel of the lever. The smooth, effortless action is matched nicely to the six-speed transmission. The shifts are succinct, the ratios evenly spaced. The first gear is low enough to avoid too much slipping of the clutch at slow speeds while the sixth is nice and tall for freeway flying without buzzing the motor uncomfortably.
Over the entire day’s ride, I never noticed the seat, which says a lot about the redesign’s comfort level. It manages that fine line between firmness for support without being hard on the bottom over a full day of riding.
What is most impressive with the 890 Adventure is how well its power gets transmitted to the rear wheel. The chassis and suspension work in concert to create a proper union between the throttle hand and power delivery. I was continually impressed at the delightful punch available right off of idle, which carries all the way through to the rev limiter with no plateauing. A fun engine to have under you.
Frame, Suspension, Wheels, and Brakes
The chassis is made from powder-coated chromium-molybdenum steel with the LC8c engine integrated as a stressed member. The 890 is fitted with 43mm WP Apex forks which have easy-to-reach fork top compression and rebound adjusters, allowing for quick suspension adjustments. On the back end is an WP Apex shock which is fully adjustable with an easily accessible knob for setting sag. Suspension travel is claimed at 7.87 inches front and rear. The factory settings proved more than capable, providing a surprisingly plush ride on both pavement and in the various off-road sections I tackled. Despite hitting some potholes in early morning fog and then encountering deep ruts off-road, the forks or shock never bottomed.
The 890 Adventure employs an upgraded Bosch 9.3 MP system for fully integrated ABS, which monitors lean angle, pitch, and speed to provide a high degree of intervention for efficient and safe braking, especially on wet pavement. The actual braking hardware consists of dual 320mm discs on the front end, mated to Brembo four-piston calipers, while a single 260mm disc is wedded to a Brembo caliper on the rear. The end result is an impressive package of stopping power that is predictable enough to allow you to finesse your way through tricky sections of loose gravel or rocky surfaces without fear of unintentional locking, as well as effectively handling virtually any condition on-road.
All of the 890 Adventure’s technology and performance finds its way to the road surface via Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tires. Designated as an 80/20 tire, they are fitted to the KTM’s 21-inch front and 18-inch rear spoke wheels. Over the course of the day, where the previous week had seen downpours, we were treated to a variety of surfaces. The tires not only performed their off-road duties exceptionally well, they provided plenty of predictable grip on dry, as well as damp, twisting pavement.
The Bottom Line
The 890 Adventure’s brother, the Adventure R, steals its share of attention from ADV enthusiasts for its aggressive positioning. That said, the standard 890 Adventure is a capable mount that will handle a great deal of off-road situations admirably, with the kind of rideability we’ve come to expect from KTM. With slightly less ground clearance than the R, the 890 Adventure has the advantage of that lower seat height, which many riders will find appealing. A fully engaging adventure motorcycle, the standard 890 is $1,250 less than the R model.
This is where application, expectations, riding experience, and needs come into play. If you see yourself using a mid-sized adventure bike primarily on paved roads with occasional off-roading, the standard Adventure might be the better choice than the R—especially where seat height and price are concerned. You’ll still know full well the bike is capable of handling some serious off-road venturing.
The 2023 KTM 890 Adventure is a serious adventure travel bike, intended for a wide range of riding abilities and intent. With the generous offering of aftermarket accessories to tailor the machine to your exact needs, there’s a whole lot of adventuring to be had out there.
+ a truly impressive, performance-oriented
– learning curve in using all the electronic adjustments
Engine: liquid-cooled, parallel-twin, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4-valve
Power: 105hp @8,000rpm; 74lb-ft @6,500rpm (claimed)
Weight (wet): 474lbs
Seat Height: 33.9in standard, 33.1in low
Fuel Capacity: 5.3gal
Fuel Consumption: 52.3mpg (claimed)
Colors: black on black with orange accents, black and orange