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KTM’ street bike lineup has always sort of confused me. As for dirt bikes with a license plate and adventure bikes, you can bet that I am all about those kind of rides. But when it comes to the pure street machines from Austria, well I just don’t look at them like as something I would likely own.
I know they are great performers, but not really targeted at someone who already owns an orange bike. KTM enduro bikes are the every man’s ride. Look around, it is getting harder and harder to find any other color in the crowd. They are the jack of all trades and do it well. On the other hand, KTM street bikes seem very hard edge and narrow focus. Hardly a bike for the masses. Personally I think it is a matter of Ducati envy.
Then there is the sexy new 1190 R. Wow what a machine! You don’t have to talk very hard to get people excited about that one. But here is the rub; the standard 1190 Adventure is even better. It really isn’t much of a contest. In almost every measure of practical ride experience, you get more from the standard.
I am sure I already have a couple of readers up in arms decrying heresy. The “R” model has all the suspension and macho dirty bike looks. How can the demure (wimpy looking?) standard be so good? For anything just short of full hardcore dirt bike mode, the standard has the upper hand. For that full hardcore dirt bike stuff, I am probably going to choose something a bit lighter on its toes anyway.
Here are a few of the reasons
shorter travel suspension lowers the center of gravity and gives lower seat height and better handling, 30mm difference in travel and seat height.
standard gets an amazing electronic suspension package, to change settings just push the button and it really works
KTM claims the standard is 5kg lighter than the R
adjustable seat height
19″/17″ wheel combination gives best choices for handling, a noticeable difference on the street over the 21″/18″ shod R model, ADV sizes still available too
adjustable foot pegs
adjustable larger wind screen, although I confess I found the smaller R screen better for my size, no buffeting
luggage rack and pannier mounts
engine traction management modes that allow anywhere from 100 to 150hp – sport, street, offroad, rain, and fully off
Other cool things common with both models are the sophisticated ABS system, fan and handguards. Frankly there is so much techno stuff between the two models, it is a bit hard for me to keep up on it all. But you can see that the specs on the Adventure standard are pretty strong, not just for an adventure bike, but for any bike period.
So let’s get back to talking about KTM street bikes. Here is a bike that I really get. It speaks to me for sure. Not just as an adventure bike, but as a fantastic street bike. Once on board, this one just flys down the road and shows not a hint of adventure bike size and girth. It feels like an open class standard. I am not up enough on street bike chatter to even know what the top open class standard is right now, but the Adventure would surely be right at the top of the class. But at 150hp, it occurs to me that this is probably the fastest motorcycle I have ever ridden.
So now that I am in tune with the bike, it leaves me wondering about KTM’s marketing plan. The R model looks so sexy that I would instantly gravitate towards it for an ADV bike. But the standard model is the kind of all around street bike that I would own. To call it an ADV bike is almost too narrow of a scope. It is a jack of all trades kind of bike too. To be fair, KTM calls both 1190 models “Travel” bikes, but I am not sure that makes the impression any clearer. Suffice it to say that “adventure” is just one of the things this 1190 is really good at.
I spent a week wandering around the back roads of San Diego county on the Adventure. We did some two up time also. The lasting impressions are power and smooth ride. There is gobs of power everywhere. Passing slower traffic is nothing more than a snap of the fingers. With the ABS and traction control, there is little that the rider can do to upset the chassis. Brake power is KTM strong. I could see an SE version of the R with one disc removed. You would hardly notice it. The KTM literature claims that the ABS is lean sensitive also.
I really enjoyed the ride time but confess to not pushing things too hard on the tarmac. My test rides on the two Adventures came with a subtle plea not to crash them. I got a good giggle when I saw another 1190R model press bike sitting in the KTM shop with a good case of road rash.
Like the R, the thumb control for the ride modes and screen takes a while to learn. It can be distracting at first, so make sure not to get too focused on it while riding. My only real complaint was with the night time vision of the display screen. In the daytime it is fine, but at night, my slightly aged eyes just see a blur of light across the dash. The orange back light may not be the best choice.
The 120/70 ZR 19 and 170/60 ZR 17 wheels are the same as the new BMW R1200 GS. Other claimed specs for the GS (versus Adventure) are; 125hp (148hp), 238kg dry weight (212kg), 5.3gl fuel (6.0gl), 467lbs max payload (440lbs), 33.5″ seat (33.8″)
I think I spent more time consciously slowing down than anything else, the speed comes so quick and smooth that it is deceiving. But this is ride all day kind of comfort too. I did get a little buffeting from the larger screen. Running it in the low position was best for my height. I am not super finicky about seats, but this one is slightly better than the R model. Passenger comfort is considerably better except for the grab handles that push into the passenger bum. The seats are interchangeable, so if you want the ability to move around more on the one piece R seat,it is available.
The KTM 1190 Adventure is a great all around bike and probably better suited to most real world riding than the R model. It is a wonderful street bike, so much fun to ride. I have talked with a few of the industry types who have had the chance to ride both and found that they had similar feelings. My hope is that the somewhat matronly styling of the standard model doesn’t leave it playing perpetual understudy to the flashy R model. It really deserves to stand in its own light.