KTM’s 1190 Adventure proves worthy companion for all kinds of exploring.
I am never quite sure where to start when it comes to talking about adventure bikes. It is a world of relative values, not so much absolutes. Much depends on the perspective and expectations each rider brings to the table. In the dirt bike realm it is certainly much easier to say what works and what doesn’t.
When it comes to testing the 1190, I had one real lingering question from our short time testing the previous year model. Just how well does it work off road? The sexy R model gets all the attention in that department. But as I talked with more riders and considered the possibilities, it seemed that there were a few good arguments for considering the standard adventure as the best all around ADV mount.
The first question is, just how dirty do you want your ADV bike to be anyway? I love fire roading. I love having that freedom to reach the end of the pavement and just keep going without any hesitation. I want to go right to the end of the road. But once the road ends, that is about as far as I expect to go. After that, I want something smaller like a KTM 500exc.
I guess don’t see single track and ADV as really belonging in the same sentence. Now, I have watched the videos of Chris Birch doing all kinds of wild things on his 1190R and that is fantastic. But it won’t ever be me doing that. I am not looking to attempt single track on the big bike.
For the street side, the 1190 Adventure we already know to be an amazing package. Once on tarmac, the feel is pure street. Power, handing, brakes, electronic systems are on par with some of the best in class for big bore standards.
About the 1190 Adventure
The heart of the big KTM is the 1195cc 75 degree V twin motor. It features all of the high tech features that are so common on the new bikes, such as the box-in-box piston design, DLC coated parts, sophisticated ignition system and long 9,000 mile service intervals. The 1190 produces 150 horsepower. Switchable ride modes can bring that down to 100 horse for off road and rain modes.
The electronics package features both ABS and MCS traction control that can be manually adjusted to suit conditions: street, rain or off road. These controls are so sophisticated that they even compensate for lean angle. Perhaps no where is the electronic performance more obvious than off road where limited wheel spin and aggressive braking power afforded by the ABS seem to magically keep the big bike in control.
In street mode, the front brake is linked to the rear to provide the best possible stopping power. In off road mode, this link is disabled and the rear wheel can be deliberately locked to allow slide for better steering control.
The tubeless spoke wheels are 19″/17″ combination. The spoke rims are claimed to be more durable for hard use than cast rims. Tire pressure monitors are also included. The stock Continental Attack 2 tires are clearly a street biased choice.
Unique to the Adventure is the EDS Electronic Damping System suspension. There are 4 different pre-programmed settings for load and 3 for comfort level (sport to soft). With just a push of the button the suspension can be customized to the ride. There is 190mm (7.5″) of travel at each end. Ground clearance is 8.6″.
The cockpit is an impressive array of displays. This is paired with the left side thumb switch cluster that scrolls through the display screens and provides access to all the mode options. Some modes, such as traction control, require the motor to be off to access. I guess this is to avoid the possibility of accidently unwanted changes while riding. The instruments are a gray on gray scheme which become gray on orange at night. The contrast can be difficult to read in some sunny conditions. The night time display is mostly just a blur to my eyes.
There is a standard steering stabilizer mounted to the lower triple clamp. The distinctive open lattice design swingarm is said to produce optimum strength and flex characteristics. Also new are the LED daytime running lights. The array of 12 bulbs replaces the low beam during daytime use, all controlled via automatic sensor.
I decided that the only set up real change that was needed for my use was a front tire. The stock Conti is not very aggressive looking for the dirt. I would need something more confidence inspiring. To that end I went with the Conti TKC80. This is a popular tire and comes in the correct 120/70 B 19 tubeless size.
I ordered this tire online and actually got the order wrong the first time. It can be a bit confusing looking at all the size options and making sure to get the tubeless version. It didn’t help that the tire was back ordered nearly everywhere in the country. I finally went directly to the Continental tire site to make sure I had the exact part number.
I had never changed a modern tubeless motorcycle tire, so I decided to give it a go on my own. The first thing I discovered is that the 1190 center stand does not balance the bike. It needs some hefty weight to keep the rear held down. After scratching my head a bit I chose to run a tie down from the luggage rack to the rear bumper of the van to hold the bike in place. It worked fine.
I watch a Youtube video for instructions on breaking the bead. It is a little bit of a tedious process, but I was able to accomplish it with standard tire irons, the same Ty Davis model I use for mousses. Basically the technique is to use one iron to wedge the tire down and a second iron, faced the opposite direction, to work directly against the bead. It takes some time and patience because it seems that nothing is being accomplished. But after a few minutes of work, it popped right down.
Other than putting a few scratches on the painted rim, I was able to get the whole job done without too much effort. But I change a couple of tires nearly every week, so I may be more in practice than the average home mechanic.
Off To Mexico
Nothing says adventure bike to me more than Baja. There are endless miles of dirt roads. Many of the paved roads are hardly any better than the dirt. So I partnered up with Dean Potts of Bonanza Plumbing fame, you have probably seen his riders in Baja or the WORCS series. He would ride his dual sported 450xcw so we could really focus on rougher tracks.
Jumping into the dirt on the big bike always brings a bit of apprehension, simply because I only do it a couple of times a year. But the 1190 had me feeling at home in the dirt in no time. The TKC80 gave me good vibes from the get go. With the exception of one or two stretches of deep sand I felt in complete control.
As for the rear, the Attack 2 was not bad. With all the fly-by-wire throttle, traction control and ABS the 1190 is amazingly well controlled. It sort of goes against the grain for me, I want bikes to be simple. But there is no arguing with the performance in this case. The sophistication of the ABS is so far beyond the old 990 or 690. Those systems were worthless in the dirt. But the Bosch 9ME C-ABS system is a big leap forward. It enhances dirt performance and does a lot to overcome lack of grip by the tires.
The MCS traction control is interesting. For the most part I found that I liked the street mode best. This allows almost no wheel spin, compared to the off road mode that will allow the rear wheel to spin twice as fast as the front before kicking in. In street mode, the “no spin” simply equaled a super smooth ride. You can actually hear the delay in throttle when you give it too much. You might be able to pick up the sound in the ride video.
For dry conditions on rough dirt roads this is a great set up. I was able to just concentrate on the ride and have fun. In the wet or mud, a rear tire would certainly be called for too. There is not really anything for side grip on the stock tire. But all in all the 1190 worked as well or even better than I expected. I was always more comfortable than on a 990. It feels so much smaller and more agile.
For suspension settings, I settled on solo rider with baggage for load and sport mode for comfort setting. Overall these settings worked well. Once I decided on them, I didn’t make any changes. I used the same for street and dirt. The Adventure is quite smooth on the dirt and mild rough spots. It is probably best to keep the pace mellow enough keep the wheels on the ground.
Riding behind me, Dean commented on how much action seemed to be going on at the rear wheel, lots of movement. But at the seat level the bike consistently stayed very smooth. The suspension seems to be doing its job well. The 1190 will never feel like a 450, but I was surprised at times to think how much it reminded me of the 690 Enduro in the dirt. Much of handing is not that far off and the suspension is probably smoother in most conditions.
As for comparisons, certainly the 1190 R model would probably do better in rough conditions. The larger 21″ front wheel should track better. The longer travel suspension might handle more. But on the other hand, it doesn’t have the electronic suspension and may not handle as well in all around conditions.
Another plus for the standard is the lower seat height and center of gravity. The spec sheet show the R model as 30mm (1.18″) taller at seat and ground clearance. As the seat heights are adjustable, that is not an absolute number. But you can see the standard model is a bit lower and that would have a positive effect on most handling.
For dirt riding I ran the seat in the lower position. Overall seating is okay, but I am not quite sure I found the exact spot to make me happy for long miles on the street. The adjustable wind screen gives a bit of protection, but also left me with just a bit of buffeting at the helmet. It is also just a tad tall when standing in the dirt. I might consider swapping it for the tiny R model screen. Regardless, it is still much better than the old 990 screen, I would routinely hit my helmet on it off road.
The bar position is also a little low for standing. It was better once I removed the foot peg rubbers. I would want to look into some risers, like those from Rox Speed, for my own use.
Once out on the tarmac, it is just a flip of the switch to sport mode to get the 1190 motor back into full song at 150 horse. No, you don’t really need it, but it sure is fun. Actually, putting the motor in street mode, instead of sport, gives a bit more torque and nearly all shifting becomes superfluous. Third and fourth gear will handle everything from 0 to 90 mph.
The KTM is just an amazing street bike. Considering it does such an admirable job in the dirt, it seems to lose all notions of ADV bike once it hits the pavement. It is pure street in feel and very fun.
Our test bike came to us with about 9,000 miles on the odometer. I have added about another 1k to that. Everything seems to be holding up well. It looks and feels like new. It has developed a small oil weep near the sidestand, but I have not had a chance to inspect it closely to determine the cause. The fuel gauge was not working properly when we first got the bike, but seems to have cured itself over the last few tanks of gas.
The time with the KTM 1190 Adventure has been very positive. I think there are some good reasons to consider it over the flashy R model. But then again, the flash may just be the real selling point. Either way, it is a great riding bike, both on and off road. It will do everything I expect of it with both style and performance. If I want to do more in the dirt, I will just choose a smaller bike. As for the road, there isn’t much the 1190 won’t do with ease.
Bottom line, as I like to say, it just makes me want to go out and ride. That is about all I can ask from a bike.
|Engine Type||2-cylinder, 4-stroke, V 75°|
|Bore / Stroke||105 mm / 69 mm|
|Starter / Battery||Electric starter / 12V, 11.2Ah|
|Carburetor/Fuel Management||Keihin EFI, throttle body|
|Control||4 V / DOHC|
|Lubrication||Pressure lubrication with 3 Eaton pumps|
|Gear Ratios||12:35 15:32 18:30 20:27 24:27 27:26|
|Clutch||PASC slipper clutch, hydraulically operated|
|Ignition||Keihin EMS with Ride-By-Wire, double ignition|
|Frame||Chromium-Molybdenum-Steel trellis frame, powder coated|
|Subframe||Aluminum, powder coated|
|Front Suspension||WP-USD Ø 48 mm (4860 ROTA SPLIT)|
|Rear Suspension||WP-PDS Monoshock (4614 WAD EDS)|
|Suspension Travel Front/Rear||190 mm / 7.48 in; 190 mm / 7.48 in|
|Front/Rear Brakes||Disc Brake Ø 320 mm / 12.6 in; 267 mm / 10.51 in|
|Front/Rear Rims||Spoked wheels with aluminum tubeless rims|
|Front/Rear Tires||120/70-19; 170/60-17|
|Chain||X-Ring 5/8 x 5/16 in|
|Silencer||Stainless steel, catalytic converter|
|Steering Head Angle||26°|
|Wheel Base||1,560 ± 15 mm / 61.42 ± 0.6 in|
|Ground Clearance||220 mm / 8.66 in|
|Seat Height (adj where available)||860 mm / 33.85 in; 875 mm / 34.4 in|
|Tank Capacity, Approx.||23 L / 6.08 gal (3.5 L / 0.93 gal reserve)|
|Weight Without Fuel, Approx.||217 kg / 478 lb|