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ADV Bikes2015 KTM 1190 Adventure R Review

2015 KTM 1190 Adventure R Review

The king of off-road big bikes takes performance and versatility to a new level.

Published on 09.10.2015

In a liter-class ADV segment dominated by street-oriented machines, the KTM 1190 Adventure R stands apart with a clear focus on off-road performance. It leads the class in important off-road features like suspension travel, ground clearance and wheel size, and it’s also one of the lightest bikes in the top category. At 518 pounds (235kg) fully fueled it’s still a relatively large motorcycle for off-road use, but that hasn’t stopped skilled riders like Chris Birch from performing astonishing stunts on the big KTM Twin that make it appear to shrink to half its size.

Released as a new model in 2014, the KTM 1190 Adventure R offered a new level of comfort and sophistication far beyond the 990 Adventure R it replaced. The “R” model is the off-road-oriented version of the KTM 1190 Adventure with 1.2 inches (30mm) more suspension travel, a 21″/18″ wheel combination, standard crash bars, single-piece seat, a small enduro-style windscreen and fully-adjustable suspension.

While its primary mission is to perform in the dirt, the KTM 1190 Adventure R is no slouch on asphalt. Its 75° RC8 inspired 1195cc V-Twin packs nearly 150 horsepower — enough to blow away most of the competition with mid-10-second quarter mile times. A 6.1 gallon (23 liter) fuel tank, efficient twin-plug ignition system and smooth V-Twin engine make it an effective long-range touring mount as well.

The KTM 1190 Adventure R is a versatile machine that can handle anything from sport touring to trail rides.


Electronics Package

The KTM 1190 Adventure R is controlled by Bosch’s MSC (Motorcycle Stability Control) electronics package that combines Traction Control, ABS and Wheelie Control in an all-in-one system. Ride-by-wire enables four modes (Sport, Street, Rain, Offroad) that optimize MTC (Motorcycle Traction Control) and ABS (Anti-lock brakes) for different environments. Sport and Street modes unleash the full horsepower with more aggressive Traction Control intervention and softer throttle response in Street Mode.

KTM 1190 adventure r turn abs off and tc off

ABS and Traction Control can be turned off with just a few clicks on the LCD dash controller.

Rain and Offroad Modes drop power output down to a manageable 100 horsepower for low-traction conditions. A small amount of wheel spin and rear wheel lock-up are permitted in Offroad Mode so that riders can steer with the rear and back it into turns. Both Sport and Offroad Modes allow modest wheelies and lean angle sensors are used to fine tune Traction Control and ABS when the tire is on edge. For those that want an uninhibited riding experience, Traction Control and ABS can be turned off completely with just a few clicks on the digital dash controller.

Standard Equipment

A fully-adjustable WP suspension offers 8.7 inches (220mm) of travel and a generous 9.8 inches (250mm) of ground clearance. Chassis stability is improved during aggressive riding with a smooth downshifting slipper clutch and a non-adjustable steering damper.

KTM 1190 adventure r tubeless wheels brembo brakes

Choose to have your KTM 1190 Adventure R equipped with either the Continental Trail Attack II or TKC80 dual sport tires running on tubeless wire-spoked wheels.

Front braking on the 1190 is by radially mounted four-piston calipers with dual 320mm rotors; rear is 268mm single rotor. Moreover, KTM includes a Combined-ABS braking module that links both front and rear wheels together to help improve stability under hard braking. Choose at the dealer from either street-focused Continental Trail Attack II or off-road focused TKC80 dual sport tires, running on tubeless wire-spoked wheels.

The electronic LCD instrument cluster of the 1190 Adventure R is clean and easy to read with a home screen that can be customized with five favorite data points. Riders can keep an eye on engine revs with a large analog radial tachometer and a configurable warning light that lets you know exactly when it’s time to shift.

Ergonomics are configurable to accommodate many different body types with two handlebar clamp positions (forward/rearward), adjustable footpegs (high/back or low/forward) and adjustable brake and clutch levers. Taller handlebar clamps are available as an option for riders that want a more upright standing position off-road.

Seating is provided through a long flat single-piece seat that offers plenty of room for adjusting body position when riding off-road. Seat height is not adjustable on the “R” model but at 35 inches (890mm), riders 5’10” (1.78 meters) or taller can comfortably touch the ground. Leg room is more than adequate for 6 footers and the tank minimally splays the knees.

KTM 1190 adventure r sea
The 1190 R’s single-piece seat provides ample room to adjust body position off-road but feels a bit firm on long highway rides. Even so, it’s still a major improvement in comfort compared to the seat of its predecessor, the KTM 990 Adventure R.

Solid steel crash bars, a small skid plate and full wraparound hand guards complete the off-road protection for the bike. Other useful standard equipment are a hand-adjustable windscreen, centerstand, oversized 1-1/4″ bars, luggage rack and large exhaust heat shield.

Evaluation and Testing

We’ve had our long-term KTM 1190 Adventure R test bike over five months now and ridden more than 3,000 miles across California, Nevada and Arizona. From long-distance trips across the open desert fully loaded to fast technical trail rides with panniers off, we’ve pushed the bike to its limits on almost every type of off-road terrain. We’ve also had a chance to pound the pavement to see how well this “oversized dirt bike” performs on long stretches of highway and as a sport tourer on twisty backroads.

Inspecting the view from the KTM 1190 Adventure R
The KTM loves to be ridden fast and far, and it’s always a willing partner to go anywhere you dare to take it.

First Impressions

KTM’s mantra is “Ready to Race” and that’s the feeling you get when hoping on a KTM 1190 Adventure R for the first time. Thumbing the starter fires up the big V-Twin immediately into a rumbling idle. The hollow tone from the single exhaust lets you know the motor means business but without waking up the neighborhood. Steering is precise, throttle response is instantaneous and the riding position feels aggressive.

While most of the other liter-class ADV Bikes have a more relaxed laid back demeanor, the 1190 Adventure R wants to be ridden hard. It gives you an immediate sense of confidence to try things you might not normally attempt on other large ADV Bikes.

KTM 1190 adventure r jumping up the hill
There’s a demon inside KTM 1190 Adventure R that tempts you to do things you wouldn’t normally do on a 500-pound motorcycle.

On the Road

The KTM 1190 Adventure R is designed to be an off-road specialist but its upright seating position and nimble handling offer advantages in an urban environment as well. Precise fueling and a butter soft clutch ensure smooth and predictable slow-speed maneuvers. Shifting through the gears reveals one of the smoothest gearboxes available on any motorcycle we’ve tested.

Powerful linked brakes enable one-finger emergency stops and there’s plenty of ground clearance to hop curbs and access shortcuts that can scrub valuable minutes off your daily commute. It easily skirts through traffic with panniers off but we did notice a bit of engine heat on our legs at stop lights on hot summer days.

Once the asphalt turns twisty, the KTM really wakes up. Put it in Sport Mode and you’ll have the full power on tap with less Traction Control intrusion. The TKC 80s grip the pavement well for a 40% street / 60% off-road dual sport tire and allow you to ride at a fast pace. Overall, the bike is a joy to ride on twisty backroads and there is plenty of torque (92.2 lb.-ft.) to just cruise along in a single gear or give sport bike riders a surprise when you appear in their rear view mirrors.

KTM 1190 adventure r twisty asphalt backroads
Despite riding on TKC80 40/60 dual sport knobby tires, the “R” still excels on twisty asphalt roads.

On long highway rides, the comfort level is a major upgrade over its predecessor, the 990 Adventure R. Cruising comfortably at 85 mph for hours at a time is not a problem and there’s only a slight vibration in the bars. It feels more like a true street bike on the road, rather than a dirt bike on steroids. The seat is a bit on the firm side though and after a few hours on the highway, you may need to shift positions. Cruise Control is not available on the KTM 1190 Adventure.

When the small windscreen is adjusted to full height, it does a good job of deflecting the wind from your chin down but a slightly taller windscreen could easily be mounted without it becoming a nuisance off-road. Steering is precise and effortless lane changes seem to occur through thought alone. Passing power in top gear is more than adequate and if you down shift a few times, the acceleration at full throttle is mind numbing. Even when fully-loaded with panniers, the KTM can be ridden with aggression and extra weight from luggage or a passenger never seems to dampen the bike’s enormous power.

KTM 1190 adventure r wheelie
A sophisticated electronics package allows mere mortals to ride this SuperBike powered ADV Bike with confidence. Turn off Traction Control and put it in Sport Mode only if you really want to give yourself a scare.

In the Dirt

If you think it’s nuts to ride a 150 horsepower motorcycle in the dirt, then you’re probably right. That is why Offroad Mode on the 1190 Adventure R limits the motor to a manageable 100 horsepower. The mellower power output, lower seat height, slipper clutch, Traction Control and ABS all work together to turn the 1190 Adventure R into a much less intimidating bike off-road than the 990 Adventure R it replaced.

Offroad ABS works surprisingly well even in loose choppy trail conditions. After building up confidence with the system, we realized we could point the big KTM down steep rocky trails and the ABS would control the descent of the bike better than we could with it off. The Offroad ABS does allow a small amount of rear tire slide in turns for steering input but sometimes we felt it was a little too restrictive.

KTM 1190 adventure r descent
We preferred to leave ABS turned on most of the time off-road, even when attempting steep slick descents.

The 1190 Adventure R negotiates loose rocky terrain with relative ease. Although, occasionally ground clearance was an issue and getting the heavy bike unstuck when perched on a rock can take a bit of effort. But our test bike’s beefy 6mm thick optional aluminum skid plate provided excellent protection for the exhaust and underbelly of the bike.

Even big whoops don’t intimidate the 1190 Adventure R, especially with the built-in steering stabilizer that helps keep the bike pointed straight. The race-bred suspension is lively and responsive but we did bottom out on a few occasions when really pushing the bike.

Loose hill climbs, deep sand and mud are the exceptions when it’s better to turn traction control off. Momentum disappears as roost is ejected and the Traction Control gets overwhelmed. With Traction Control off, the 1190 Adventure R is more than capable of powering up loose hill climbs and floating through deep sand or mud.

KTM 1190 adventure r sliding sideways
Traction Control in Offroad Mode allows the rear wheel to spin up to 2x the speed of the front before intervening.
KTM 1190 adventure r hill climb
Powering up loose hill climbs sometimes requires turning Traction Control off to ensure forward momentum is not stalled.

The 1190 Adventure R will hustle down a tight single track trail but it’s in its element on flowing double track where its weight disappears. Even when loaded down with luggage, the bike is incredible at covering vast distances off-road and you can ride at a fast pace without the chassis getting upset.

Final Thoughts

For those Adventure Riders that put a premium on off-road performance but still want a comfortable long-distance travel bike, the 1190 Adventure R is a clear standout in the category. It’s one of the most versatile motorcycles ever produced and its off-road chops are currently unrivaled in the class. The new 2016 Honda Africa Twin, arriving at the end of the year, might be the only bike in the liter-class with a chance of catching the “R” off-road but the jury is still out until a comparison test can be performed.

What impressed us most, was that despite the KTM’s brute force power and significant size, the bike also instilled great confidence in intermediate riders that tested the bike. With the aid of the electronics, average riders improved their pace effortlessly both on and off-road, while safety increased at the same time. We were also amazed by how seamlessly the electronic aids intervened.

KTM 1190 adventure r lake silverwood climb
The KTM 1190 Adventure R in its element, eating up the miles on flowing double track trails.

After more than 3,000 miles of heavy handed riding, our KTM 1190 Adventure R test bike has been rock solid reliable. We’ll need more time on it before we can judge its long-term durability but it is nice knowing the first major service isn’t required until 18,600 miles (30,000 km). With a base price of $16,669, it’s in the middle of the pack in terms of pricing for 1200cc European Adventure Bikes. And with some of the most advanced electronics on the market and a long list of standard equipment included in that price, we think it’s well worth it.

Favorite Features:

  • Spot on fuel injection mapping.
  • Butter smooth shifts.
  • Eye-popping acceleration in Sport Mode with TC off.
  • Confidence Inspiring Electronic Aids both On and Off-Road.
Minor Gripes:

  • Seat is a bit firm for longer rides.
  • Windscreen could be larger for more wind protection.
  • Noticeable engine heat on hot summer days.

Off-Road-Focused Big-Bore ADV Bike Specs Comparison

Adventure Bike Models  HP  Wet Weight
Susp. Travel
Wheel Sizes
Seat Height
Fuel Capacity
 2013 KTM 990 Adventure R 113 502 9.7/9.7 21/18 35.6 5.3 $14,999
 2015 KTM 1190 Adventure R 148 518 8.7/8.7 21/18 35.0 6.1 $16,699
 2015 BMW R1200GS Adventure 125 573 8.3/8.7 19/17 35.0 7.9 $18,340*
 2016 Honda Africa Twin (ABS) 93.9 511 9.1/8.7 21/18 33.4 5.0 $12,999  
* Base model pricing.

KTM 1190 Adventure R Up Close:

KTM 1190 adventure r handlebar controls

Intuitive push-button handlebar controls allow easy adjustment of the electronic LCD dash even while riding. Heated grips are also a nice optional add on.

KTM 1190 Adventure R lcd instrument cluster

A well-appointed LCD instrument cluster includes a fuel gauge, clock, outside temp., engine temp., current gear indicator, a digital speedometer and more.


The windscreen is hand adjustable but takes two hands to position and lock in place.

The windscreen is hand adjustable but takes two hands to position and lock in place.

KTM 1190 adventure r arrowhead enduro windscreen

The windscreen is positioned far forward the and stays away of your helmet shield during aggressive off-road maneuvers.


KTM 1190 adventure r daytime running lights

LED daytime running lights give the KTM 1190 Adventure a striking appearance and increases visibility to other motorists.

KTM 1190 adventure r review heatshield

This large heat shield is standard equipment and helps keep your luggage from melting on the hot exhaust.


KTM 1190 adventure r skidplate withstood abuse

Our test bike came equipped with this optional 6 mm thick aluminum skid plate, which provided excellent protection for the exhaust and underbelly of the bike.

KTM 1190 adventure r touratech panniers

Touratech Zega Pro Panniers are available through the KTM Power Parts catalog.


serrated rally platform footpegs ktm 1190 adventure r

Optional KTM Rally Footpegs offer a larger platform and more aggressive serrated edges to make stand up riding more comfortable and increase grip.

ktm 1190 adventure r steel crashbars

Sturdy steel crashbar come standard on the KTM 1190 Adventure R and do a good job of protecting the bike.


Gear We Used

• Helmet: Shoei Hornet X2 – Matte Black
• Jacket: REV’IT! Sand 2 – Silver/Black
• Pants: REV’IT! Sand 2 – Silver/Black
• Gloves: REV’IT! Sand Pro – Silver/Black
• Boots: Alpinestars Tech 8

Photos by Stephen Gregory and Bill Lieras

Author: Rob Dabney

Rob Dabney started a lifelong obsession with motorcycles at the age of 15 when he purchased his first bike – a 1982 Honda MB5. Through his 20’s and 30’s he competed in off-road desert races, including the Baja 250, 500 and 1000. Eventually, his proclivity for exploration led him to dual sport and adventure riding. Rob’s never-ending quest to discover what’s around the next bend has taken him on Adventures in Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and throughout the American West. As a moto journalist, he enjoys inspiring others to seek adventure across horizons both near and far.

Author: Rob Dabney

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Eric A.
Eric A.
September 10, 2015 11:36 am

Great review!! I’ve been thinking about getting this bike for a while now but this just convinced me I need to take the plunge ASAP!

Bob Gibson
Bob Gibson
September 10, 2015 1:27 pm

Really enjoyed the read. Amazing what this bike can do.

September 10, 2015 4:28 pm

Fantastic bike. 3rd 1190 review this month from an online mag (two 1190’s and this one), yet still no 1299 reviews? Are review units in short supply?

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
September 10, 2015 4:35 pm
Reply to  Mark

Hi Mark. We just got our hands on a 1290 Super Adventure press bike recently. We are currently in the process of testing it. You can get a preview of some of the action by following us on Instagram. Here’s a recent photo from some of our recent testing. Yes you can take it off-road!

September 14, 2015 7:01 am

518 pounds is 235 kg, not 217. I got optimistic about the weight for a second.

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
September 14, 2015 8:40 am
Reply to  Adi

Hi Adi. Correct, 217 kg is without fuel.

Luis Heras
Luis Heras
September 15, 2015 6:15 am

Great review! I got it some months ago and it’s amazing. the only issue it has is the one you mention about the engine hot, I’m from Spain, so it’s a little bit tricky. A part of this it is incredible machine. I replaced my 990 with some doubts, but I’m very happy with the change.
by the way, you gave more info than the user manual 😉

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
September 15, 2015 7:57 am
Reply to  Luis Heras

Thanks Luis. I’m sure now that the weather is cooling off you’ll start to appreciate the heat coming off the engine. I was also skeptical going from a 990 R to the 1190 R. But in nearly every category the 1190 R has proven to be significantly better. Look for our off-road comparison between the two bikes coming up.

Luiz C ( Broqueio - KTManiacs)
Luiz C ( Broqueio - KTManiacs)
September 23, 2015 8:29 am

How I Wish that bike arrived in Brazil with a fair Price

September 23, 2015 2:36 pm

amazing what the bike can do, how about the rider on top ?

Matt Rodney
Matt Rodney
September 30, 2015 4:05 pm
Reply to  Eric

yup, props to the rider too!

Matt Rodney
Matt Rodney
September 23, 2015 11:20 pm

Beautiful machine. Step aside R1200GS!

William Asprey
William Asprey
October 4, 2015 9:27 pm

For we regulated mortals, 100kph is the top speed limit in our country, Australia, so much of the speed related technology is useless, but at the same time, 100kph on some of our desert roads would be impossible anyway…corrugations 1m deep for 600km. We would go for a 650 and a 30lt tank. It’s why the DR, XR’s and 650GS are so popular here. In our market KTM is way too much. You can also pick up a pretty good used 1150GS for $5-7k. $22k for an 1190 K is way too much.

March 21, 2016 7:53 am
Reply to  William Asprey

Yes, nanny doesn’t like us to go too fast, so 100-110 kph makes complete sense in a huge empty country where you can sometimes ride all day and only expect to see a handful of other road users. I got all excited about this new KTM until you injected that particular massive dose of commonsense into things.

March 5, 2016 9:32 pm

Great review, thank you.But I can not decide between 1190 Std and 1190 R. How much you you compromise on road abilities of 1190 R compared to 1190 Std? Or how much you you compromise off road abilities of 1190 Std compared to 1190 R.

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
March 6, 2016 8:24 am
Reply to  Antar

The R and the Standard 1190 are both very good off-road and on-road. The R can handle more aggressive off-road riding better because of the additional suspension travel and larger wheels. So if you are a serious off-road rider, go with the R. But the Standard 1190 has the electronically adjustable suspension which is really nice. You can change the suspension damping from sport/street/off-road with a click of a button. The R has a manually adjustable suspension which offers more fine tuning if you understand how to adjust the suspension, but it’s not as convenient. I think a lot of people that are not doing a lot of hardcore off-road riding would be happier riding the Standard 1190.

March 8, 2016 8:54 pm
Reply to  Rob Dabney

Thanks for the feedback Rob. I love and do offroad riding but I do not consider myself a hardcore offroad rider. So I will go with the standard version. I think standard version is also capable of doing offroad no worse than my previous ’06 GS.

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
March 8, 2016 9:38 pm
Reply to  Antar

Get a good set of dual sport tires in the 50/50 range a I’m sure you’ll be more than impressed with its off-road capability. Good luck with your purchase and write back and let us know how it goes!

Doug Chaney
Doug Chaney
May 23, 2016 12:44 am

I want one so damn bad! THIS sounds like/looks very much the motorcycle I have lusted for for decades. except MORE power than I could have dreamed of not long ago ..only one problem…now I am OLD and more fragile …damaged from past crashes too…DAMN! It’s like finding true love, the perfect young vibrant woman, except me being maybe too late to it to consummate even though she be fully willing and available and my having her dowry at hand…. The only upside is that there is no way I could have afforded this motorcycle when I was young enough and now I CAN…Maybe I will buy the damn thing even if it just sits way to much of the time….I don’t even have anyone to ride with anymore! …Is there any clubs of old farts riding these bikes around southern california?? I can hear my wife now saying “OH NO you don’t! Not with your mashed up body!” But hey, I am not bread winner anymore, if I die she is fine… I think she would roll over pretty easily…all boils down I guess to me convincing myself I would actually ride it …and that would take a club or something…some kind of riding agenda with dates and destinations…?

Mark Shurety
Mark Shurety
June 5, 2016 8:42 am
Reply to  Doug Chaney

Doug, I’m 53 and have had mine for 2 years and 30k km. It is heaven sent and even though my baptism has broken a tibia, fibia and two collar bones (which were my fault and could have been avoided) this bike will change your life. It will take you far off-road, yet let you keep with with the best sports bikes on road. It is the Range Rover Sport of 2 wheels. Magical.

Brad M
Brad M
August 25, 2016 9:01 am

Thanks for your in-depth reviews. I realize this is chalk-and-cheese, but how do you compare the handling of the KTM 1190 R with the guzzi stelvio you reviewed last year and the new africa twin? Curious if the 21 inch front wheel has an impact whatsoever…

Rob Dabney
Rob Dabney
August 25, 2016 12:59 pm
Reply to  Brad M

Much appreciated Brad. The KTM 1190 Adventure R is a big step forward in suspension performance over the Guzzi Stelvio. The KTM’s additional suspension travel and lower weight offers a big advantage on the trail in more technical terrain at faster speeds. The 21″ front wheel and 18″ rear help the KTM roll through deep sand and rocky terrain with more ease. Overall, it’s a smaller, lighter more compact bike that’s easier to manage on the rough stuff. But unless you are doing some of the more gnarly trails, you may not be able to use some of these advantages. So it depends on your riding style and what you are looking for. The Africa Twin is closer to the KTM 1190 Adventure R in performance but we haven’t had an opportunity to test them together to see how they match up. Good luck with your decision!


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