2013 KTM 1190 Adventure First Ride

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It’s awesome, and, no, you can’t get one. Yet. KTM has been hyping the Adventure 1190 for almost a year since it broke cover just before the INTERMOT show last September. While the 2013 models hit the dealership floors overseas, the US models will not be available until December or January. KTM invited MotoUSA to sample the standard Euro-spec 2013 1190 Adventure on some choice Southern California backroads – to make our American readers even more envious of what might be the new king of the adventure-touring category. It’s almost too much to bear, isn’t it?

KTM started with a clean sheet when designing the 1190 Adventure. Gone is the tried and true, dirt-heavy heritage of the Adventure 950 and 990 models. Although over 40,000 examples of the now discontinued archetype were sold, the Austrian machine’s sales were being left in the dust by more modern and feature-laden competitors such as the BMW R1200GS and the Ducati Multistrada 1200. Now the 1190 comes to battle with a hefty arsenal of traction control, ABS and electronically-adjustable suspension.

Powering the 1190 Adventure is a 75-degree V-Twin based on KTM’s RC8 superbike. A claimed 150 horsepower puts it in the same rarified air as the always-potent Multistrada. And while the basic engine architecture is RC8-esque, a laundry list of changes are made to this new Adventure Twin. Modified engine cases work better for the Adventure’s configuration and a site glass was added for easy oil checks. A revised DOHC four-valve head features dual spark plugs for increased fuel combustion and smoothness. Diamond-like carbon-coated finger followers actuate the valves for longer wear and less friction. A lightweight FI style box-in-box piston has small hard-anodized skirts further reducing friction. The crankshaft, flywheel and balancer shaft have also been reworked for low rpm manners and the ability to rev quickly.

Fueling the Adventure’s mill is a pair of 52mm throttle bodies controlled via ride-by-wire. A servomotor controlled by the throttle tube actuates the single butterflies rather than a cable. The use of this tech allows for four modes of traction control (MTC). The MTC unit measures and processes both front and rear wheel speed, lean angle, longitudinal and lateral acceleration along with engine management data and the ride-by-wire control to reduce power output for optimum traction. Rather than cutting ignition or fuel to meter the power, the throttle opening is varied for a less intrusive power cut. Sport and Street mode allow for 150 hp but some wheel spin is allowed in Sport. Off-road mode reduces output to 100 horses and will let the rear wheel spin up in the dirt up to twice the speed of the front for a natural dirt feeling. Rain mode allows puts out 100 hp but cuts out all rear wheel slippage. Additionally you can turn the MTC system completely off.

The 1190’s frame is a trellis style chromoly unit that weighs in at just 21.7 pounds. The lazercut and robot-welded round tubing is designed to give a sportbike feel with touring comfort. An aluminum lattice design swingarm is optimized for the correct amount of flex and rigidity for ADV use. A replaceable aluminum subframe cuts weight even further.

Attached at both ends of the lightweight chassis is KTM’s Electronic Damping System that allows the rider to adjust the WP suspension via a handlebar-mounted switch. Three damping modes are available: Comfort, Street and Sport. Each level firms up the ride with Sport being the most taut. Damping selection can be done on the fly, while preload suspension adjustments must be done while stopped. Four electronically-adjusted preload settings are available for one rider, one rider with luggage, rider and passenger, and rider and passenger with luggage.

A Bosch 9ME C-ABS (combined ABS) system co-developed with KTM handles the metering of the dual front Brembo radial four-piston calipers squeezing 320 floating discs and the two-piston Brembo unit at the back. The combined system will add

The 2013 KTM 1190 Adventures gauges are easy to read.
Changing riding modes  damping settings  ABS modes and suspension preload is easy with the four buttons on the left side of the handlebars.

rear braking pressure if only the front is applied to aid in directional stability. Three ABS modes are available: Street, Off-Road and Off. Street mode is the full ABS with combined braking. Off-road disengages the C-ABS and also turns the ABS off to the rear wheel for more control in the dirt. Additionally, more front wheel slippage is allowed in Off-Road before the system kicks in.

All of this tech is controlled via a four-button handlebar switch unit and a multiscreen display on the left side of the gauge cluster. Changing modes, preload and damping is simple and straightforward without multilayer menus like other machines. Go to the screen that corresponds with what you want to change and with a couple of presses of the buttons you are good to go. All system systems should be this easy. Another screen next to the large, center-mounted tach displays mph, fuel gauge, gear indicator, engine temp and currently selected mode. The black LCD characters are easy to read on the orange background, but I would have preferred a larger gear indicator.

This review will only be covering the on-road performance on the 1190 Adventure, as the route planned for us didn’t include any dirt whatsoever. Yes, I understand, what kind of ADV bike test doesn’t include off-road. We have to make do with the cards we are dealt. Soon as we get our hands on a long-term test unit, rest assured dirt duty will be our first priority.

On the road, the 1190 delivers shocking performance. With 150 horsepower on tap, I expected a rocket. And it is. Power comes on smooth and strong at the first crack of the ride-by-wire throttle with a torque that yanks out of corners. Rev it further and the rush builds dramatically, especially between 7500 and 10,000 rpm.

Sport mode allows the slightest bit of wheel slip before reigning in the power, but when it does it is not intrusive. If fact, most of the time you wont even feel it. The system is so smooth at controlling the throttle butterflies all you feel is slightly less acceleration than expected. The only real indication that the MTC is being activated is the TC light flickering at the bottom of the main gauge. The calibration is so good I was able to hit the apex and snap the throttle open as fast as I could. It just sorts everything out with no fuss, metering just the right amount of juice to the remarkably grippyContinental ContiTrailAttack 2 tire. Street mode is remarkable too, although you don’t quite as an aggressive feel when exiting the corners. It is a truly impressive system; hopefully it will be adapted to the RC8 soon.

At cruising speeds, the engine is smooth for a V-Twin with only the slightest hint of vibrations. Even when lugged the engine chugs along without any roughness that you would expect out of a high performance 75-degree V. Up on top, however, things do get a little buzzy but not enough to be annoying or distracting. Overall, this engine is the best KTM has ever put on the street, by a long shot.

Rowing through the gears is precise and the revised ratios work well the intended usage of the Adventure. First gear is short for techinacal off-road riding, but it also works well for city and traffic duty. Both 5th and 6th gear are overdrive ratios for highway and long distance comfort and fuel economy. The sweet spot, however, is working 2nd, 3rd and 4th for spirited romps. Clutch feel is typical high-quality KTM/Brembo fare, and the Power Assist Slipper Clutch makes downshifts before a corner drama free. Or the slipper clutch can make that same situation a blast. Turn off the ABS, downshift three gears, stab the rear brake and drop the clutch and you will be rewarded with a predicable and controlled supermoto slide.