KTM target rivals in Adventure bike battle

In a widely publicised and live streamed press conference from the vast Intermot Motorcycle show, Austrian manufacturer KTM announced an all out assault onto the burgeoning adventure bike sector. Ditching the previous 1190 range entirely, the Orange Giant revealed models that split their 1290 platform into three distinct versions to effectively blanket bomb the sector with a bike for every rider. And if that wasn’t enough. the boys at Mattigoffen has given their 1090 a new and sharp set of teeth that will allow it to go head to head against the market busting Honda Africa Twin.

While the range falls short of bringing in the much leaked 800cc Adventure bike platform at the same time, the new four bike range allows KTM to firmly target the market leaders BMW in the big bike sector in the hope of cracking the dominance of the mighty GS while simultaneously acknowledging that for true adventure use, less is most definitely more with the lighter, slimmer and less powerful 1090. If anyone doubted that this market wasn’t one that KTM was chasing, this range firmly dispels that idea …

“The 1090 Adventure R has walked up to Honda’s Africa twin in a pub, knocked over its pint, insulted its girlfriend and asked it outside for a fight …”

The Mile Muncher

NOW THAT'S A LOT OF BIKE. Image H Mitterbauer / KTM

The bruiser in the KTM Adventure range, the 1290 Super  that came out last year heads up the sector, but in reality has had little alteration save for adding a T to its model name. So the 1290 Super Adventure T steps into the frame as the bike to buy if you are looking to cover massive distances and want good levels of comfort and gadgetry on board. It’s got all the adjustability that you could possibly want in terms of power delivery, suspension settings, cruise control and the frankly huge fuel tank will allow you to cover lots of miles before looking for the unleaded. It still retains the spoked wheels for a nod to the possibility that you might take it off-road, but with those wheel sizes and the bike’s not inconsiderable bulk, it seems unlikely.

The motor has been tweaked to comply with those pesky Euro regulations, but don’t worry – it still manages to put out an eye-watering 160 hp and 103 ft lbs of torque, another indication that maybe the rough stuff is not really the intended habitat. The power has apparently been smoothed out from last year, although in fairness we’ve never known a manufacturer to say the power is lumpier than the previous version …

The Off-Road Beast

THE 1290 R LOOKS A SERIOUS WEAPON. Image H Mitterbauer / KTM

So if the 1190 R was just not enough for you, KTMs all new 1290 Super Adventure R should really get your juices flowing. It’s an all new bike, using the basic 1290 platform but in an off-road focussed guise. It’s got proper size wheels at 18 / 21 to allow all manner of dirt tyres to be fitted, there’s fully adjustable WP suspension with nearly nine inches of bounce at both end and the crash bars come as standard for those hero to zero moments.

The upper fairing has been given to the designers and come out as something that has a distinctly insect look about it – definitely a Marmite moment. The design has the now common LED lights and even smaller LED cornering lights to light up things that you maybe shouldn’t be looking at.

All the technical trickery that is on the T model finds it’s way onto the R, which given this is supposedly intended to go off-road seems to be lots of systems to go wrong in the middle of nowhere, Either way, there is variable mapping, traction control and even lean sensitive ABS, although this can be disabled on the rough stuff. Add in keyless ignition, tyre pressure monitoring, cruise control and a massive 6.5 inch screen and this may be pitched as an off road bike, but it’s a country mile from anything we’d like to get into serious mud.


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The Sporty One


In reality, the all new 1290 Super Adventure S is the direct replacement for the standard 1190 that was launched back in 2013 and has been effectively killed off by this new range. But the S version is maybe more honest than the other versions that still hold onto their off-road heritage but in reality are the Chelsea tractors of the bike world. With its 19 / 17 alloys, street tyres and lower suspension the 1290 S knows it’s never going off the blacktop and is designed accordingly. As a full-on tourer it’s going to have less range thanks to the smaller tank, but that’s not going to affect many buyers. It’s got all the tech from the others in the range and its predecessor, so that’s TC, ABS and power maps at the flick of your thumb and with smaller wheels, you can really make use of all that engineering.

The Africa Fighter?

HEAD TO HEAD WITH THE AT? Image H Mitterbauer / KTM

If the Super Adventure 1290 T has sought to challenge the mighty GS1200R, then the 1090 Adventure R has walked up to Honda’s Africa twin in a pub, knocked over its pint, insulted its girlfriend and asked it outside for a fight. This bike is a direct challenge to the bike that currently has all the momentum in the adventure sector.

Just as Honda has done, KTM have looked to strip back a certain amount of the bulk and power from the 1090 to give it far more off-road capability than others within the sector and capture two potential buyers. Firstly the ones that want that rufty-tufty look but without the cost and bulk of the flagship bikes, and secondly, drumroll please, those that might actually go off road on their bikes.

So the 1090 has a modest but far more suitable 125 hp on tap, 18/21 wire wheels, off-road tyres, nine or so inches of suspension travel and crash bars as standard. It still has the electronic controls on the engine with for different power modes, but there now traction control and ABS with specific off-road settings. KTM are quoting a dry weight at around 207 kilos, so fuelled up and ready to go it’s going to come in bang on or around the 230 kg of the Africa Twin.

And in terms of size and mass centralisation, the V-twin format should deliver a relatively narrow and balanced bike that should be well up to the challenge of taking on Japan’s finest.  Can it win? We’re not so sure.

So what do you think of the new KTM range? Is it tempting enough to take the sales from BMW and Honda? Please let us know your comments below…

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8 comments on “KTM target rivals in Adventure bike battle

  1. Their are in trouble if they think the African twin is the target. Had the opportunity with the 1050 and missed the mark. Africa twin is 5k cheaper with stronger dealer network and reliability that KTM dream about. I test rode the 1050 1190 before buying my GS and they were light years apart.in both product quality and buyer experience . The Africa twin is a great bike and will be hard to beat on the sales floor And I doubt KTM can do so.

  2. Love the look of the new bikes , I am a short person ( 175cm ) and love the duel sport style bike. Every time I look at a new bike , weight and seat height are a big factor in the sale. I like the 1090 as long as the seat height is good for me , and this model comes to Australia I will be getting one . Well done KTM

  3. While KTM might think that the 1090 is up to face the mighty boxer GS, they are wrong, nothing compares to the reliable and durable boxer engine, it might be a mere upgrade from the 800GS for those who cannot afford the 1200. As for the bigger ones, do KTM really think that a 1200 GS/GSA rider is going to jump ship for 100cc and a few more horses? While i like the looks of them, my heart and mind still lead me to BMW… #BMW #GSA #boxerengine #adventurebikes

  4. Paul, not sure if you’ve owned a KTM in the last 20 years , cause your reliability job is so far out of date it’s not funny. Africa twin totally unproven so far, and you would get me in the middle of nowhere with a double clutch setup ….,

  5. Wow! That is a hard one. I have just ridden the Utah and Colorado BDR on a Honda Africa twin and its excellent. I have also ridden around the world and across Africa several times on the KTM 990 Adventure (stories and pictures at http://www.bigbiketrip.net). I suppose I have to reserve judgement until I give them a ride. Difficult to choose.

    But want I really want, what a really really want, it for the 800 Adventure to be great. I guess real RTW riders want light, tight, powerful, balanced and a bike to ride across every surface Planet Earth has to offer. Some may remember the 650 Adventure and it was iconic. Also the 950 Enduro…. always ridden by hard core bikers.

    I do have to say the Honda Africa Twin was excellent… to my mind it has been proven. The BDRs are not childplay and represent pretty much what you will get around the world. Also, there is room to improve and I am quite sure Honda will respond in their second or third versions in coming years.

    Going to be spoiled for choice.

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