We’re riding in the Hartbeespoortdam area, the road ahead is straight and completely deserted, and our group leader is disappearing over the horizon. I have no other option but to nail the throttle. The response from the V-twin motor is instant and the needle of the rev counter redline hungry. No adventure tourer has the right to kick so hard at the types of speeds we are doing. The scenery becomes a blur but the KTM 1190 tracks straight and true, unfazed by the terminal velocity that would shame some sportsbikes…
Powertrain wise the 1190 uses the engine from the RC8 superbike but in modified form to suit the adventurer role but still delivers a very impressive 110 kW. What makes this engine special is not only the power but also the arm-stretching torque and smoothness. The drive-by-wire throttle and fuelling calibration give the rider precise control of how much power is sent to the rear wheel. Large throttle openings at low revs in a high gear is accepted without any snatching from the drivetrain. Final drive is still chain as according to KTM it saves weight, is cheaper and allows better control of the rear suspension.
Modern bikes have come a long way regarding electronic wizardry and the 1190 is a class leader in this regard. Bosch automotive supplier partnered with KTM and supplied the ABS, traction control system as well as a lean angle sensor. The rider can choose between four drive settings namely sport, street, rain and off-road. The last two settings limit the power to 75 kW with the off-road setting allowing a fair amount of wheelspin before calming the fun. The beauty of the system is the unobtrusiveness of the intervention where only a flicker on the dash informs the rider that the safety net is indeed active. If the sport setting is not hardcore enough the system can be switched off completely to engage in hooligan antics at own risk.
The suspension can also be altered while riding between sport, normal and comfort where the pre-load and damping settings will be altered on the 48 mm upside-down WP forks up front, and the WP single shock at the back. Ride comfort is good but ultimately it is firmer than some of the competition (read GS1200) and does not quite glide over imperfections. The upside is ultimate control which is needed when calling all those horses into action.
The ride position is comfortable with the handlebars high and seat remarkably low for the type of machine. The instrument cluster consists of a large LCD display for all settings (ride mode and suspension) and information (including a gear number readout, ambient temperature and fuel consumption) while the analogue rev counter with digital speedo complete the racy design. Clutch action is finger light and in combination with a slick changing gearbox makes shifting a cinch. Twin front Brembo brakes (320 mm) and a single rear disc provide impressive stopping power with good feel. KTM has decided to fit special spoke wheels to the 1190 which run tubeless tyres. This is to give the wheel more flex in off-road conditions and more control to the rider. A pressure monitoring system is also standard fitment.
The old 990?
How does the 1190 compare to the old KTM 990? Well, we had one for comparison and it is a completely different machine. The KTM 990 is more compact and in some cases rawer in execution – especially in the off-road environment where some might actually prefer it over the newcomer. Where the 1190 leaves it for dead is on-road behaviour and, of course, the extra grunt from the motor.
KTM Adventure R package
Although the standard Adventure is a great road bike and quite capable off-road, the R version swings the balance strongly to the latter. Wheel sizes front and rear are now 21 and 18 inch, crash bars come standard, the screen is lower and a different, one piece seat is provided. The electronic suspension makes way for manual adjustable units. Make sure you will be using the bike for intended purpose otherwise the standard Adventure will do perfectly.
KTM as a company is on the up and sold more than 100 000 units worldwide last year despite the deep wounds of the financial recession still showing. Over-confidence is dangerous but with a high quality product range and the addition of the 1190, KTM is certain to reap the rewards of investing heavily in research and development work. Should you buy the 1190? Well, if speed and performance in the adventure field are most important to you then nothing beats the 1190. If a more leisurely approach to dirt/tar touring takes your fancy then some of the competition might make more sense.
Engine: V-twin, four-stroke, liquid-cooled
Displacement (cm3): 1 195
Power (kW/r/min): 110/9 500
Torque (N.m/min): 125/7 500
Tyre sizes: f;r: 120/70 R19; 170/60/17
Frame: chromium-molybdenum steel
Seat height (mm): 860/875
Fuel tank capacity (L): 23
Mass (kg): 212
Service Intervals (km): 15 000
Price: R152 999