It wasn’t broke before and it certainly didn’t need fixing now, but KTM can’t afford to be complacent if it wants to keep the pressure on BMW.
This machine is up against the German’s R1200GS in the adventure-sports arena but where there’s a clear winner and loser in most competitions, in this instance, both manufactures are worthy champions for different reasons.
The KTM has one distinct advantage – its heart; and I don’t just mean the 999cc V-twin engine which now has an improved power delivery and a few extra horses, but the sporty soul of the bike.
KTM throttles can feel snatchy, they react instantly to the slightest input and sometimes, it can feel annoying. I began to associate that feeling with the colour orange like a Pavlov dog and bells until now. Although there’s a hint of the familiar throttle response in the latest model, it feels immediate rather than snatchy. There’s a subtle difference; and it’s a good one.
It’s rather like the increase in power. Nine brake horsepower isn’t going to set the world on fire, but the KTM smoulders with intent anyway. Indeed, the extra power is barely noticeable on an engine that’s like Marylyn Monroe – on paper the vital statistics look pretty good enough, but in reality they’re amazing! Whack the throttle wide open and marvel at how KTM has made 105 ordinary horsepower feel like stampeding stallions. It’s what the company stands for, it’s what we ride for, it’s orange-tipped fun, it’s at its core; its heart.
In a straight line, to the south of France and back, nothing can top BMW’s GS if adventure sports bikes are your thing. But for a shorter trip, the KTM is more than capable of holding a three-figure steady speed in relative comfort. The small screen does well to shield you from the elements and the hand guards deflect the blast from your knuckles. The seat, like the ride, isn’t as plush as a BMW but then you’d have to shove an engine in an armchair to match that.
Take the KTM to the twisties and it will dart through the countryside like a fly on acid, flitting from side to side and dashing at bends. That’s where it really comes into its own. The more corners I attacked, the more I wished I’d left my Gore-Tex pants at home and donned some knee sliders.
The Adventure is tall even in this class of high-rise bikes and the suspension travel is predictably longer too, but these aren’t limiting factors for Sunday afternoon scratching. And if you regularly ride in a pack, don’t concern yourself with incidentals like keeping up with your mate’s new Japanese sports bike. Tap into the KTM’s spirit and you won’t be left hanging like a tail-end-Charlie. Plus you can carry all the essentials in the available aftermarket luggage. Or buy a cargo net.
At a slower pace, things are just as natural. The bike will lollop around the countryside minding its own business and a practical steering lock complements the bike’s upright riding position and wide handlebars. Such a clear view and easy handling makes picking through a traffic jam as simple as joining a dot to dot and as effortless as breathing in and out.
With a name like Adventure, KTM doesn’t necessarily expect you to stick to the tarmac. I did, and so I left the ABS (now standard) fully activated. However, dirt busters take note; you can deactivate it with a touch of a button. Fierce brakes are as appropriate off-road as a stripper at a church wedding.
In the event of a dust-up, KTM has integrated protectors in the side panelling, but prevention’s better than cure, so the brakes are far from harsh in the first place. Hence it’s the only thing I questioned during my road ride. The Brembos do their job in the same way as some folk leave the office at 5pm and not a minute later, no matter what needs doing. They work and the standard is ok. But that’s all.
Other changes include a lockable glove compartment, and a new dash to mimic the SMT’s (Supermoto Traveller) which is another brilliant orange bike.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: KTM 990 Adventure, £10,895.
Engine: liquid-cooled V-twin of 999cc, producing 105bhp at 8,250rpm and 74 ft lb at 7,750rpm.
Transmission: chain drive through six-speed gearbox.
Dry weight: 209kg.
Seat height: 860mm.
Fuel capacity: 19.5 litres.