First Ride: 10 Things to Know About the KTM 1090 Adventure R
Key takeaways from the KTM 1090 Adventure R US Press Launch and ride.
For several years KTM’s 1190 Adventure R was considered the best off-road model of the current crop of Big-Bore Adventure Bikes. While the 1190 Adventure R was a great sales success for KTM, some held off on making a purchase, never completely satisfied with the discontinuation of the 990 Adventure R and the move toward a heavier, pricier, more street-focused model.
With the release of the 1090 Adventure R, KTM may have something to appease the dirt aficionados. At first glance, the bike looks identical to the 1190 Adventure R (other than new colors and badging) — its dimensions, frame, wheels, lighting and bodywork all remain the same. But there is a lot that has changed underneath the skin. KTM has been hard at work developing its latest “R” model with a goal of making it simpler, lighter, better suspended and more-affordable than the 1190 Adventure R it replaces. All while trying not to screw up what was already a great bike.
Last week we got an opportunity to evaluate this new model during the U.S. KTM 1090 Adventure R Press Launch held in scenic Warner Springs, CA. After spending two days testing the bike riding over 260 miles on everything from deep sand and whoops to rutted out jeep trails and twisty backroads, we learned this isn’t just a de-tuned KTM 1190 Adventure R and there is a reason for every decision KTM made with this bike. Here are 10 key takeaways from our KTM 1090 Adventure R test:
1. The Engine Is Completely Revised
KTM left nothing untouched on the 1090 Adventure R’s LC8 V-Twin motor, fitting it with its own unique crankshaft, cylinder heads, pistons, rods, balancing shaft and flywheel. While it may have the same displacement as the European-only 1050 Adventure (now discontinued), the internals are completely different.
The 1090 Adventure R motor was designed from the ground up with smoother, more-tractable power in mind. And with new Euro 4 noise and emission standards on the horizon, KTM had to find ways to make the engine even more efficient. The Compression Ratio is higher than the 1190’s, jumping from 12.5:1 to 13:1, and a heavier flywheel was added. Intake velocity stacks and fuel mappings were optimize for better throttle response. The new engine produces 125 peak horsepower, down from the 1190’s 150 horsepower, but the 1090’s 80 ft-lbs of torque starts even lower in the RPM range for improved slow-speed traction in the dirt.
2. KTM Reaps the Benefits of Downsizing
So why did KTM downsize to a 1090 instead of staying with the 1190? KTM wanted to move toward the mid-size market following recent trends that favor smaller, lighter-weight adventure bikes. Going down also creates greater separation between the 1090 and 1290 models on the sales floor. But KTM had other good reasons in mind that would benefit customers.
Sometimes less power is a good thing in the dirt. By reducing displacement from 1195cc to 1050cc (145cc total) and adding a new counter balancer, KTM gave the 1090 Adventure R engine better traction and more usable power. A motor with less rotational mass also requires less effort during changes of direction for improved handling characteristics. Furthermore, smaller engines give off less heat (something the 1190 was known for) and offer improved fuel efficiency. KTM claims they’re getting an additional 5-7 miles out of each tankful during testing compared to the 1190 Adventure.
Going down in displacement also provided an opportunity to shave weight off the engine, 14 pounds to be exact. In an effort to shave weight, KTM also removed the center stand and eliminated some of the non-essential electronics. KTM’s weight reduction measures have resulted in a bike they claim weighs 22 pounds less than the 1190 Adventure R. Claimed “Ready to Ride Weight Without Fuel” is 456 pounds (207 kg). Interestingly enough, that puts it right about the same weight as the last 990 Adventure R.
3. The 1190 Adventure’s Power Isn’t Missed
The KTM 1190 Adventure generated an impressive amount of power that made it capable of 10-second quarter mile times. While the bike’s supersonic top end is thrilling, that extra juice is rarely ever used under normal adventure touring scenarios. The 1190’s electronics regularly curb power output to keep the front wheel on the ground under hard acceleration on the street and 150 horsepower is simply overkill in the dirt. Most 1190 riders choose to ride with the OffRoad Mode setting in the dirt that reduces power output to a more-manageable 100 horses.
Both the 1090 and 1190 Adventure utilize the same 100-hp OffRoad Mode, giving them equal power in the dirt. On the street, the 1090 is still insanely fast. Traction Control regularly kicks in to keep things under control and it feels like it accelerates just as hard up until the higher RPMs where the 1090’s motor tapers off slightly. OK, we’ll admit the 1090 struggles a bit more than the 1190 with third-gear power wheelies. But is that really a big compromise? We’ll gladly take the 1090’s more-usable power, along with the weight savings and lower fuel consumption over the sound and fury of the 1190 Adventure.
4. The Electronics Package Is Trimmed Down
KTM has cut out several of the advanced electronic aids on the 1090 Adventure R model. The 1190’s Lean Angle-Sensing for ABS and Traction Control, Linked Braking and Tire Pressure Monitoring System have all been removed. KTM is making a calculated bet that off-road buyers are willing to sacrifice a few of the street-focused electronics in return for more simplicity, reduced costs and lower weight.
For those riders that are going to use the 1090 Adventure R for primarily off-road use, the reduced electronics are a welcome change. Especially, considering that many riders routinely turn off Traction Control and ABS when they hit the dirt. One new electronic aid that is a useful addition to the bike is KTM’s ATIR (automatic turn indicator reset) System. A lingering blinker isn’t just annoying to your friends behind you on the trail, but is a leading cause of cars turning in front of you on the street. ATIR automatically turns off your turn signal indicator after 10 seconds of movement and 150 meters of riding distance, which is something we could all probably use.
5. The Suspension Is Greatly Improved
KTM has been hard at work equipping the 1090 Adventure R with a new suspension. And thanks to the testing of Champion Off-Road Racer Quinn Cody, it’s one of the biggest improvements the bike has to offer. Starting in the rear, KTM pulled technology from their EXC off-road line adding a WP PDS (Progressive Damping System) shock. The progressive damping system delivers a more supple ride over smaller bumps with increased stiffness lower in the stroke for bigger hits.
In front, the 1090 Adventure R retains the same WP 48mm USD forks from the 1190 but with stiffer springs (increased from 5.5Nm to 6.5Nm) and improved valving. We noticed the stiffer springs help with bottoming resistance and give the front suspension better balance with the rear. Yet even with the stiffer fork springs, the 1090 has a more comfortable and compliant ride than the 1190 because of the improved valving. Both the front and rear suspension are also still fully adjustable with preload, rebound damping and compression damping settings.
6. It’s Even Better In the Dirt
A combination of the improved suspension, reduced weight and a smaller engine displacement results in a bike that feels significantly lighter than the 1190 Adventure R. The lighter feel and quick reactions helped us avoid obstacles in the road, which was a useful trait on the boulder-strewn trails (thanks to the recent rains in California) we were testing on. Its nimble handling allows you to ride along the edge of ruts without slipping down into them like you might on a heavier machine. Point it where you want to go and it goes there.
A more responsive, lively suspension makes the 1090 Adventure R a joy to ride in the rough stuff. The suspension’s suppleness makes small bumps disappear and thanks to new stiffer fork springs and progressive rear shock, bottoming occurs less frequently. When bottoming did occur on big g-outs during our test, it had a less-harsh feel than on the 1190. It does surprisingly well in deep sand too, especially considering we were riding with 32 pounds of air pressure in our TKC 80s. It floats on top of sand like a smaller bike and you can get both the front and rear wheels into a controlled slide through turns. If the front wheel begins to tuck, it’s usually recoverable.
The 1090’s more-tractable motor also paid dividends on the trail. A heavier flywheel and improved throttle response make it easier to lope through technical sections. Slow-speed fueling has come a long way from the days of the herky-jerky KTM 990 Adventure. Everything seems to come a little easier on the 1090 Adventure R, whether it’s getting the front wheel up over an obstacle or backing it into a turn, and you feel a lot less worn out after a long day of riding.
7. Ride Modes Are More Usable Off-Road
Both the 1090 and 1190 Adventure R come with 4 different ride modes; Rain, Street, OffRoad and Sport. Riding off-road on the KTM 1190 Adventure R tends to be limited to using just one of four ride modes: OffRoad Mode. That’s because riding in the dirt with its full power unleashed is like trying to stay on the back of a bucking horse. The improved throttle response and more tractable power of the 1090 allowed us to experiment with the ride modes and we found additional settings are now usable off-road. Here are some of the settings we liked in the dirt:
OffRoad Mode: If you are out on a casual ride or a novice off-road rider, your best option is to choose Offroad Mode with TC ON. This drops output to 100 horsepower and the off-road TC still lets you kick out the rear end but catches you before you go too far. The reduced power output and softer-hitting throttle response ensures good traction levels, and the electronics correct for most rider errors. Sit back and enjoy the view! If you want to get more aggressive with the throttle and steer with the rear, turn TC off and you’ll find the power is still very controllable.
Street Mode: If you want to utilize the full 125 horsepower available, Steet Mode will give it to you with a softer hit than Sport Mode. This allows you to get even more aggressive and get more drive exiting corners. It’s an ideal setting if you are an experienced off-road rider wanting to go race pace. Just make sure to keep TC off or the computer will apply traction control mappings for the street.
Sport Mode: If you are feeling like a hooligan and you are an experience off-road rider, try putting it in Sport Mode. With the smoother power of the 1090 Adventure R, this setting is usable but still requires reasonable caution. The hard-hitting throttle response picks up that front wheel instantaneously. You can weight the suspension and crack the throttle to send the 1090 into the air off every rise. Roost your buddies into oblivion! This mode won’t make you a faster rider, but it is a lot of fun! Just remember to keep TC off or the computer will apply traction control mappings for the street.
8. It Hasn’t Lost A Step on the Street
Improving the off-road performance of any vehicle often comes with a trade off in on-road performance, and that was our fear with the 1090’s upgraded suspension. One of our favorite traits of the 1190 Adventure R is its sport bike-like handling. The 1190 Adventure R is capable of blistering pace on a winding backroad and doesn’t seem to be impacted much by its 21″/18″ wheel combo or the dual sport knobbies.
After two days of testing, we found the 1090 Adventure R hasn’t lost a step on asphalt, and it may be even better than the 1190. The new suspension, with its improved valving, helps keep the chassis stable with very little dive and squat under braking or acceleration. The light, balanced feel of the bike we experienced in the dirt translates over to the street, and the excellent fueling keeps the bike planted when you roll on or off the throttle through turns. The 1090 lost some of the advanced electronic rider aids that work well on the street like lean angle sensing for ABS and TC, and linked brakes but it makes up for it with its lighter weight, increased maneuverability and improved stability.
9. It Can Compete With the Africa Twin on Price
When Honda introduced the Africa Twin last year with a low starting MSRP of $12,999, it clearly put pressure on other manufacturers in the class. The Africa Twin seemed to be designed with the KTM 1190 Adventure R in its cross hairs, and while it may not match its features and performance, the $4,000 difference was hard to justify for some customers. KTM got the message and has taken strong cost cutting measures to get the new 1090 Adventure R down into a more competitive price range.
Following Honda’s lead, KTM has ditched the center stand — a decision that was probably motivated more by weight savings, but it does also reduce the MSRP in the process. Other cost cutting measures included removing some of the advanced electronics mentioned earlier. In addition, the 1190’s Brembo master cylinder has been replaced by a lower-spec unit and the 12-volt accessory plug has been removed.
These cost-cutting measures combine to bring the MSRP down to $14,699 for the 2017 KTM 1090 Adventure R — a price tag even lower than the last KTM 990 Adventure R produced at $14,999. The 2017 Honda Africa Twin is now $13,299 for non-DCT and $13,999 for the DCT version. Considering the more-sophisticated traction control, fuel maps, higher-spec components, included crash bars, adjustable windscreen, lighter weight, increased power and fuel range (just to name a few), the new price point puts the KTM solidly in contention.
10. Here’s What’s On Our Wishlist
While we like KTM’s decision to cut costs and weight by eliminating non-essential electronics for off-road riders, taking away the center stand may be a step too far with some that prefer to run tubes in their tubeless wheels. Finding a suitable rock and then heaving your 500-pound adventure bike over it when you’ve got a flat, can be a real chore and take valuable time out of your ride. For those that stick with the standard tubeless, not having a center stand may be less of a concern.
We also think any travel bike in this price range should come with a 12-volt accessory plug to charge electronics. Including a charging port probably doesn’t add much to the MSRP, but will no doubt cost a pretty penny when installed by the dealer. Other nice to haves would be a taller windscreen and possibly a bit more suspension travel (.5″ to 1.0″) to give the bike even more bump absorption. Realistically speaking, raising the seat height to accommodate more suspension travel would reduce the number of potential buyers with shorter inseams but it would please the hardcore off-road riders out there.
Video Highlights: KTM 1090 Adventure R Test
We left our 1090 Adventure R test realizing there is a lot more to this bike than meets the eye. And we are impressed that KTM was able to improve both the dirt and street performance of a bike that was arguably the most versatile big-bore Adventure Bike on the market. We can’t wait to get our hands on one for a longer-term evaluation. Stay tuned for more to come!
GEAR WE USED