For our 2023 KTM 890 Adventure R Review we need to start with a bit of a history lesson.  

Way back in the Spring of 2019, KTM introduced their all-new adventure bike, the 790 Adventure, a machine that was both much anticipated and ground-breaking in equal measure. While the other manufacturers were busy chasing the premier class market trying to chip away at BMW’s world domination, the 790 marked a completely different direction. 

Against a backdrop that started in the late 1990s with the equally ground-breaking 620 Adventure, the new middleweight built on all the success and development of the company’s adventure and competition machines. The 790 was like nothing we’d seen before and what’s more, the bike could back up the hype with a truly wonderful engine and impressive handling.

Of course, we are talking about that first 790 as if it was just one adventure bike. But in reality KTM’s new platform always offered two very similar yet different options. The 790 Adventure was described as  ‘the most off-road capable travel bike’, whereas the 790 Adventure R was ‘the most travel capable off-road bike’. Now although that might seem like a cunning marketing tautology, it was in fact a pretty clever way of defining exactly what each bike was intended for and best at, helping customers decide which bike to buy. 

For 2023, the new 890 Adventure and 890 Adventure R continue this theme once more and, having ridden both, we are happy to confirm in our KTM 890 Adventure R review that these adventure bikes do it very well. Which one should you choose? Now there’s a decision we can’t make for you! 

KTM 890 ADVENTURE R REVIEW
Adventure Ready! The awesome KTM 890 Adventure R. Image credit: Kiska GmbH

The latest incarnations of KTMs successful mid-sized adventure bikes launched in late 2022. The major changes to the engine had happened a few years previously. While the rest of the world had been cocooned and isolated by the COVID pandemic, the Austrian engineers had been working tirelessly behind the scenes. 

In the brief period in July 2020 when travel was temporarily possible once more, KTM revealed the new 890 KTM adventure that was to replace the original 790. While little of the bodywork and peripherals had been altered, the engine had received a major uplift – the larger capacity, new pistons and new throttle bodies delivering a heap more power and maybe more importantly much more torque, taking the 890 and 890 R to the next level. If you liked the 790, you were going to love the 890! 

From hobby riders to committed off-road addicts, the KTM 890 Adventure R was the go-to choice for serious adventure riders. No wonder Ride Expeditions chose the 2022 KTM 890 R as the adventure bike for their epic ’End of the World’ tours from the north of Chile to the south of Argentina at Ushuaia. For a trip like that, you need something special!

KTM 890 ADVENTURE R
The KTM 890 Adventure is the go-to choice for hobby riders to committed off-road addicts. Image credit: Rudi Schedl

THE NEW AND IMPROVED KTM 890 ADVENTURE

With the new engine ticking about every box and leaving both journalists and buyers suitably impressed, it was time for the next incarnation of the 890. Launched in Portugal in the late winter sun back in December 2022, the all new 890 takes things to the next level. It looks better, it handles better, and it feels better. It has all the tech that you will ever need. But more on that later.

At the centre of the KTM 890 Adventure, providing the massive class beating grunt, is the unfeasibly compact fuel injected, water cooled, DOHC parallel twin LC8 motor. It was once again developed alongside the version used in the 890 Duke and now 890 SMT. 

The bike runs massive 46mm Dell ‘Orto throttle bodies that run independently on each cylinder to deliver faultless fuelling and a huge 105 bhp and a similarly massive 100 nm of torque. When bikes such as Yamaha Tenere 700 pushing out a mere 74 ponies and an almost asthmatic 68nm of torque, you soon realise just how much ahead of the game KTM are. From flat out gravel pistes in South Africa to endless sweeping roads in South America, this motor has enough power for just about everything.

And being ahead of the competition probably matters more now than back in 2019 when the original 790 was launched as the mid-sized adventure sector continues to grow more than any other. While the Tenere might have been the major competition for the 790 at the end of the last decade, the post COVID-19 adventure bike market is stacked with contenders from large and small manufacturers, from the retro inspired Honda Transalp and the all new Suzuki V Strom 800 DE, the seriously sexy Ducati Desert X and KTM’s sister brand’s Husqvarna Norden 901. Staying at the top just got a whole lot harder.

THE WORLD'S GREATEST MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURES

From Cambodia to Colombia, Southeast Asia to South Africa, Ride Expeditions run world-class motorcycle tours in truly incredible locations. Want to find out more? Click the button below.

SPRINGS AND THINGS ON THE KTM 890s

While the motor on the KTM 890 is the same whether you choose the Adventure or the Adventure R, the main reason buyers have and continue to choose the R, aside from arguably sexier look and general stance, is the superior suspension on the more off-road focussed iteration.

The 890 R runs KTMs flagship XPlor units back and front, compared to the Apex units on the stock bike. In fairness to KTM, the suspension on the 890 Adventure has been seriously improved for 2023, with upgraded internals and a host of other improvements that take the more road going version to the next level. But for those with a serious requirement for the very best springy bits, the 890 R is almost unparalleled within the midrange and possibly the whole adventure sector.

Up front there’s a pair of 48mm WP XPlor USD forks, with separate fork function that allows for adjustment of both compression and rebound damping, and at the rear it’s a similarly adjustable centrally mounted XPlor PDS shock with preload adjustment. Both ends give a massive 240 mm of travel compared to the 200 mm on the 890 Adventure. 

Out on the rough stuff, the improved and taller suspension allows the KTM 890 Adventure R to absorb just about anything, from those irritating braking bumps on tight trails to big hits when you are riding the bike at speed on sketchy surfaces. Having taken some massive liberties on the fast trails that carve through Argentina and Chile, we are happy to confirm that the KTM 890 Adventure R allows you to do just that and come out the other side unscathed and smiling!

The KTM 890 Adventure R adventure bike can handle any road challenge.
Off-road or on road - the KTM 890 Adventures are up to the challenge. Image credit: Rudi Schedl

FRAME, TYRES, TANK AND BRAKES ON THE KTM 890 ADVENTURES

All this ability to go fast and absorb the worst the scenery can throw at you would count for nought if the bike didn’t handle just as well. But yet again, this is one of the strong suits of the KTM 890 and 890 Rs hand. 

The bike runs a central chromoly frame that arches over the top of the engine, using the power plant as a stressed member to reduce weight, connecting at the rear to a steel trellis style subframe. As serial adventurers will know, using steel is a sensible option if you need it welding back together in the back end of nowhere! 

The frame of the KTM 890 Adventure is particularly slim around the middle and lower sections, allowing a great standing position, something that the KTM is pretty much made for. The foot pegs are straight off the brand’s EXC range with removable rubbers that can soften out vibration for those long road sections… But when a bike feels this good, it’s a crime to spend too long on the black top!

And while the narrow and compliant steel frame is an important contributor to the 890’s handling, it’s the petrol tank that has the transformative effect on the bike. Unveiled to a sceptical press and public on the original 790 Adventure, the KTMs weird ‘saddlebag’ style fuel tank is without doubt the standout feature on the bike and makes the most difference to the handling. With almost all of the fuel load kept low down either side of the engine, the 890 sticks to the road like toffee to an old army blanket, delivering unmatched stability on both the road and the trail. Whether you are picking your way down rock descents or hooning through sweeping curves at speed, even with the tall suspension and the high front mudguard on the R, the KTM’s ability to hold a line is truly impressive.

And although many had concerns about the safety and strength of the lower tanks in a crash, the countless times that owners have hurled their bikes down trail and tarmac since 2019 – and even on the initial launch in Morocco – those fears have proved unfounded, the tanks shrugging off even the hardest of impacts like a UFC fighter. OK for 2023 KTM have relented by replacing the previous stock plastic sump guard with an aluminium version, but it’s not like the 2022 version had any issues. Ride Expeditions know this from the fleet we run in South America! 

In the UK, the 890 R comes shod with Mitas Enduro Trail tyres which provide a good compromise option for both road and trail, rather than the Pirelli Scorpion Rally STRs that are fitted to the 890 Adventure. The Mitas options can prove a little vibey if you are doing lots of fast road sections, but that’s always going to be the case with a dual-purpose tyre. If you are doing more road than trail, it might be that you either should have bought the ‘non R’ bike or just need to look at other tyre options. Conversely, if you are doing lots of off-road, then upgrade those hoops to some proper off-road rubber – this bike will excel if you give it the right tyres! 

As for the brakes, you won’t find anything to object to on the 890 R. On the front end, it’s a pair of massive 320mm discs and four-pot Brembo radial callipers, and on the rear wheel, there’s a single 260mm disc and a twin pot Brembo, both overseen by the usual Bosch ABS systems and multiple sensors. If you can’t stop with these units, chances are you wouldn’t have stopped with anything else!

The KTM 890 ADVENTURE R is kicking up some dirt and looking good while doing it.
Kicking up dirt and looking good - classic KTM style. Image credit: Rudi Schedl

ERGOS AND ELECTRONICS ON THE KTM 890 ADVENTURES

With all this praise for the KTM from the 790 to the new 890, is there a down side? Well, yes and like many of KTMs road bikes, it’s the looks. 

While the brand manages to make great looking enduro and motocross bikes, the styling influence of Kiska, KTMs design house comes down heavy on their road and adventure bikes. To be charitable, you could say they are ‘hard to love’ but in reality this translates in the case of the original 790 to ‘downright ugly’, a situation that prior to 2023 remained unchanged. Thankfully, the new version of both the KTM 890 and the 890 R have been allowed a slightly less clunky and angular design, the team now heading along a far more pleasing rally bike look, rather than the orange Praying Mantis. 

This new design sees the flanks of the tank extending towards and meeting the front fairing that now is attached to the main frame, rather than mounted to the forks. Two new struts support this new front end, not only giving it good stability but also to allow a range of navigation equipment or road books to be mounted securely. The screen is not adjustable, but as tall screens and off-road riding don’t mix, then this is probably a good thing.

The bodywork on the KTM 890 Adventure R is unlike any comparable machine, with panels and components far more like its off-road stablemates than a conventional adventure or road bike. This allows panels to be replaced easily when damaged, and if you use the 890 properly off road, is likely to happen! The 2023 bike now incorporates a slightly incongruous teal colour to the tank rather than the obligatory orange or black, but it’s not a deal breaker.

The seat, like on most KTMs is more about function and design rather than all out comfort, the slim one-piece design allows riders to move about on the trail. Although it’s by no means plush, the perch supports well and long days in the saddle are not a chore. Having ridden 630km from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia in one day, we can vouch for that!

Which brings us to the electronics and for the new 890 it’s a game of two halves, KTM seeming to give with one hand and take with the other. Like the new generation of KTMs 1290 Adventures, both adventure bikes feature the new 5” TFT screen in the centre of the dashboard, controlled by a relatively easy to use and intuitive set of buttons on the left of the bars. The display mixes images with text to give an easy to understand and navigate display that doesn’t require too much attention when adjusting on the fly. 

Along with the usual adjustability that you’d expect of just about every engine parameter from traction control to ABS, the new dash can also link to Bluetooth for a ‘turn-by turn’ navigation app, although whether this would work for the more remote tracks of the TET remains to be seen!

Less clunky, more angular. The KTM certainly has some redeeming features.
The 2023 KTM 890 Adventure R may be a tad less angular than previous models, but it's not going to win and beauty competitions just yet! Image credit: Kiska GmbH

PAY AND PLAY

So far so good, but the new bikes now come with a demo mode and while, initially, this seems great, the reality is a tad more controversial. 

For the first 1500 km, the 890 and 890 R comes with features like a quick shifter, heated grips, cruise control and the hero-friendly Rally Mode for you to try and enjoy. However, once that distance is completed, all these upgrades will disappear like rain on a hot header pipe and you’ll need to pay to have them re-instated. 

While purchasing software upgrades might be a common thing in the car industry, this is a first for the bike world and KTM have faced a certain amount of flak for being the first to try this approach. And with their bike being one of the most expensive in its class to start with, it’s a bold move. 

But if you go without the various options, you are missing out on what the bike is really capable of. Quick shifters are addictive – once you have them, you can’t imagine life without. Heated grips are a winter joy and as for Rally Mode. Well, we can’t get enough of the standard bike and with a key to unlock all that motor and chassis’ capabilities, who wouldn’t want it? If you take one thing from our KTM 890 Adventure R Review – we’d recommend that you get your dealer to include all the payable upgrades into the purchase price!  

RIDE THE KTM 890 IN PATAGONIA WITH US

Want to take the incredible KTM Adventure R to the end of the world? We'd love to have you join us in South America!

REVIEW OF THE KTM 890 ADVENTURE - WHAT'S THE VERDICT?

When KTM made the original 790, they threw away the rule book and came up with a bike that was innovative and capable in equal measure. Over the intervening years, the progression into the 890 and the 890 R has only served to improve the bike into arguably the best adventure bike currently on the market. Others may be prettier, many will be cheaper, but if you are looking for a bike that can do just about everything, the KTM is that bike. 

From your daily commute to round the world trips, a jaunt to the coast, to an epic adventure in Patagonia, a KTM 890 Adventure will take you there.

Set your sights on road-side adventure. The KTM 890 Adventure R is sure to deliver.
As agile as a trail bike but with the power of an adventure bike - the 890R rocks! Image credit: Rudi Schedl

OUR FOUNDER'S TAKE ON KTM 890 R

Toby Jacobs – Ride Expeditions Founder

“When we were reviewing bike choices for our Worlds End Adventure, the KTM 890 Adventure R was the obvious choice. The combination of a superb chassis, excellent suspension and that wonderful motor is impossible to resist. We travel over 5,500 km on this tour on everything from fast sweeping highways to wide open gravel trails that go on for miles and the KTM just copes with everything so well, yet is so easy to ride from sunrise to sunset.” 

“The tour takes us all the way from Santiago in Chile to the literal end of the world at Ushuia in Argentina, over some of the most beautiful, stunning and sometimes challenging terrain, so we need bikes that are both reliable, tough and enjoyable.”

Come to South America with Ride Expeditions and see how good the KTM 890 Adventure R really is!

KTM 890 ADVENTURE R SPECS

TitleDescription
Engine889cc, 4 stroke parallel liquid cooled DODC twin
Transmission6 gear, with optional quick shifter
Power105 bhp @ 8,000 rpm
Torque100 nm @ 6,500 rpm
ClutchPower Assist Slipper Clutch with anti-hopping mechanism, mechanically operated
FrameChromoly Steel frame with detachable steel subframe
Front Suspension48 mm adjustable WP Apex USD forks, 240mm travel
Rear SuspensionCentral mounted PDS Apex adjustable shock, 240 mm travel
Front brake2 x 320 mm discs with 4 piston radial calipers
Rear Brake260mm disc with 2 pot caliper
ABSBosch with cornering ABS and off-road mode / disengageable
Wheels21” / 18” spoked
Fuel Capacity20 litres
Weight210 kg, without fuel!

WHERE DO YOU WANT TO RIDE?

From Patagonia to South Africa, Mongolia to Vietnam, Ride Expeditions run some of the World's Greatest Motorcycle Adventures. From epic road rides to full on dirt bike adventures, we're committed to the absolute best in biking adventures. Want to join us? Click the box ...

Leave a Reply