Ride Report: KTM Adventure 1190

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>> Aaron Cortez

Ride Report: The 2014 KTM Adventure 1190

When you take the fastest-growing segment of the motorcycle world, and combine it with the fastest growing motorcycle brand in the world, you know there are going to be some pretty high expectations. Well, the newest ADV/Touring bike from the orange Austrian giant doesn’t disappoint – the KTM Adventure 1190 is one hell of a motorcycle.

In the fastest growing segment of the motorcycle industry over the last several years – the ADV/Touring segment – you can expect for there to be some stiff competition from manufacturers around the world. The venerable BMW GS models are a staple of the segment, but the market has a number of offerings now from the simple, reliable Kawasaki KLR650 to the sexy (and pricey) Ducati Multistrada.

Of all the brands making ADV bikes, KTM is the most off-road oriented. KTMs have dirt racing in their DNA, and its only recently that they started making street machines; even the 1190’s predecessor, the 990, was peerless in the dirt, but left some things to be desired on the tarmac.

ktm adventure 1190 bikebandit review
The handsome KTM in front of BikeBandit headquarters, begging to be ridden hard (and it was.)

But this bike changes everything. It not only raises the bar in the ADV segment, but redefines KTM as a company, cementing their arrival as a motorcycle industry giant and not just a “dirt bike company.” The 1190 is a do anything, go anywhere machine; as fast as the Ducati Multistrada, as user-friendly as the Yamaha Super Tenere or BMW GS, and still as ready to play in the dirt as the legendary 990 it replaced.

There’s a reason the press is raving about the new KTM 1190 – its an outstanding machine that all of us, from dirt racers to street riders, absolutely loved riding.

Plus...its orange. At BikeBandit, we like orange.

Notes from BikeBandit CEO, Ken W.

Here are some of my thoughts on the KTM, but bear in mind this was a street-only ride. Overall I'm pretty familiar with the KTMs, having owned two 990s (a 2007 and a 2011); and also with their main rival, the BMW R1200GSA, having had two of those (a 2008 and a 2010.)

My first impression: this engine is amazing! It becomes a different machine around 7K RPM. You can definitely feel that the engine came from the road racing world. I put it in Sport mode immediately, and was impressed just as fast. With the traction control off, it could hold a wheelie into 4th gear…impressive!

On the long road to Texas, I found the seat to be comfortable, the windscreen useful and easy to adjust, and the electronics easy to use, even at speed. I wish it had electronic cruise control like the BMW does though, and the bike did wander a bit at high speeds (135mph+) with the KTM saddlebags attached.

ktm adventure 1190 bikebandit review cockpit
The cockpit of the KTM; lots of options here, from traction control to heated grips.

In Texas hill country, we really started to have some fun. Spent the whole day ripping through twisties and long sweepers, and got the bike all the way up to its top speed of 151MPH. The new slipper clutch is an amazing improvement, especially railing it into a corner, and the front brake and monobloc calipers are phenomenal with great feedback and solid feel. The ABS is awesome; I usually disable it, but I left this one on. The lean sensitive ABS is the coolest electronics enhancement I have seen to date – it actually works! The bike handles very well overall, but the stock tires on the bike really didn’t measure up to the rest of the bike.

texas state troopers pulled us over
But officer, we're professionals doing a performance test on these bikes. We swear!

A few more small things:

  • The stock KTM saddlebags seem a little flimsy (top-mounted only), and seem like they might break in a tip-over. Luckily, I didn’t get to test that.
  • The pegs are small, you’ll need larger ones for off-road riding
  • The traction control works well, but the bike is more fun without it…it’s a wheelie machine!
  • We got 43MPG just cruising, and 34MPG when we were hammering on it. With the 6.1 gallon tank, you can go over 250 miles on a tank; that’s some serious range!
  • Overall impression: Thank you sir, may I have another? (Preferably the “R” version...)

(I also want to give props to the folks I got to ride through Texas Hill Country with, from Tucker Rocky Distributing, the makers of Speed & Strength, First Gear, and distributors for Arai Helmets in the US. The trip was a blast!)

Notes from Acquisition Manager, Jake S.

ktm adventure 1190 bikebandit review taking a corner
Playing with the KTM in BikeBandit's backyard.


  • Amazing Traction Control: Both on road and off. I blipped the throttle around a dry 90-degree gravel road and with street tires, and surprisingly, the 1190 hooked up. 15 years of off-road throttle control training, defeated by a computer.
  • Suspension: The suspension felt great leaned over on the road. But what impressed me more was going through a choppy pot-holed dirt road; the bike absorbed what it could and always felt in control.
  • Power: The bike is very smooth off the throttle, no doubt dampened by traction control (No wheelies, BOO! Traction, hooray!) The bike pulls hard above 7000 RPMs, similar to an inline-4, but with a meatier midrange. The exhaust is so quiet that you get up to speed without realizing how fast you are going.
  • Clutch: Typical KTM…buttah!
  • Chassis: I never understood Adventure riding until I got on this bike. The bike admittedly feels a bit unrefined on the street, however jump onto a dirt road and stand up...then it all makes sense. I would be just as happy riding this bike in the canyons as I would on a fast dirt trail. If you find yourself in the saddle of this pumpkin, just plan to do a little of both. For my 6’4” lanky frame, I was very comfortable both sitting and standing.


  • Seat: For how much power the bike has, I was looking for a bigger seat back to hold me on the bike under hard acceleration. However the seat was plenty thin for stand up style off-roading.
  • Footpegs: While easily replaceable with an aftermarket solution, I was expecting wider pegs on an adventure bike. These felt like standing on rebar.
  • Notchy Shifter: I never had an issue finding a gear, but every shift was met with a clunk that made me feel a lack of refinement.
  • Tires: Street tires will only get you so far off road. Something a little more off-road oriented would increase the capability.
  • Ground Clearance: you are going to want a bigger skid plate. Pay attention to what you are rolling over; this is not Ryan Dungey’s 450SX.
  • Sound: When I ride I want my bike to sound badass; maybe it’s just me, but the exhaust tone was too quiet and took away from the fun of the bike.

Notes from Content Writer, Aaron C.

ktm adventure 1190 bikebandit review LC8 engine
My favorite part of the bike, hands down - the magnificent LC8 engine. This alone is worth the price!

While the rest of the crew that rode this bike all have a lot of dirt riding experience, all of my riding has been limited to the pavement. So knowing that the KTM had an off-road heritage, I was expecting something a lot more rugged and maybe a little rough to ride. Walking up the bike, it looks huge and heavy too.

But the KTM couldn't have been more refined in my opinion; it was absolutely perfect on the street. The seating position, the clutch, the magnificent engine...everything about the bike was well thought out, solidly built, and comfortable to ride. My bikes tend to be the type that you're sick of riding after a few hours, but I felt I could easily ride across the country on this bike. And it was anything but heavy; the bike feels much smaller and more nimble once you're moving.

My favorite part about this bike is, hands down, the engine. I have literally never ridden any combustion engine with such a perfect torque curve; it pulls hard instantly at any RPM, in any gear, and doesn't lose steam in the top end like so many V-twins tend to do. The tall windscreen and bulky saddlebags notwithstanding, the 1190 is a FAST bike. Very fast.

This is the kind of bike I think you could live with for a long time. Something that could do anything with you, from commuting to work, to going on a road trip, shredding asphalt through some twisties, or doing a lot of exploring off-road. I've heard the press call it the best "all-around" bike there is. I really can't find anything wrong with that statement. The 1190 is that good.

Notes from Product Information Manager, Troy S.

ktm adventure 1190 bikebandit review troy's test ride'
Product Info Manager Troy takes the KTM for a spin. Not a bad way to get away from the desk!

  • First off, the bike is badass!
  • Looks big, but feels smaller than it looks.
  • Deceivingly fast, but also works well at low speeds.
  • Silky smooth motor!
  • Love the seating position; feel like I could ride all day!
  • Left a smile on my face!

What do you think of the new KTM 1190, and of the developments in the ADV/Touring market as a whole? Join the discussion in the comments below and let us know what you think!

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