Friday 13 July 2018

What? Another product review!

So having decided the 690 is great fun, frugal and for a single amazingly quick, it unfortunately doesn’t tick several other boxes: As a commuter it’s a bit frenetic as it doesn’t really like sitting at a constant throttle setting being happiest when accelerating or braking but not in between, this makes it quite stressful to ride in heavy traffic being much better suited to the open road or trails. The seat is not the comfiest around but this is not surprising for an off road oriented bike and despite the fact it is supplied from new with pillion foot pegs, it simply doesn’t have the room to carry a passenger.

So after nine months of ownership I have decided I needed to look for something a bit more suitable, I did inquire as to the prices of a BMW R1200GS Adventure but after discovering the model that would most suit my needs, An Adventure Rally TE, even after a hefty discount would still set me back over £17,500!!!

So it was suggested that a KTM 1090 Adventure might be a suitable candidate and as KTM currently have an offer on that reduces the retail price by £2000 to a much more reasonable £9,999 (or £10,899 for the Adventure R) so a chat with the KTM Centre at Hemel Hempstead was in order.

It just so happened that I was running another Rallymoto Road Book Caper from the KTM Centre on the 23rd June, so a deal was done and I had a 1090 Adventure R for the day. We had eight riders turn up for the event and whilst sorting them out we also fitted the 1090 with a “Give it a Go” Manual road book holder. I then rode the event as the sweeper, ensuring everyone got back safe and sound (they did)!

Well where do I start? The 1090 is leaps and bounds ahead of the old 990 I used to own despite being a similar configuration; although similar in concept the execution is so much better. My 990 always felt a bit raw, more like a genuine race machine (albeit a damn big one) After all it did share a large number of parts with the 950 Rally campaigned by KTM in the Dakar Rally. 

Unfortunately this also meant it was a bit fragile and needed frequent, expensive servicing. The 1090 on the other hand feels refined and very smooth, yet can still deliver that visceral feeling when you twist the throttle open. The way it builds speed is fantastic and it handles on the road almost like a sports bike despite the 21”/18” wheel combo (something it does share with the 990) however the WP Suspension feels far more sophisticated and soaks up bumps with aplomb. 

I spent most of the time in “Street” mode on the traction control and this was my favourite although “Sport” mode was fun if a little too much at times. The bike is shod with Continental TKC80 tyres, to be honest not my favourite on the road but they seem to suit the 1090 really well, so no problems there.

So what’s it like on the dirt? Composed, capable and totally in control I was pleased to discover. The riding position seems spot on and in the bone dry conditions the tyres had no issues at all.  

The 990 always felt like it needed to go fast to handle well off tarmac and that had the potential to go horribly wrong. The 1090 on the other hand can be trickled along easily at walking pace, the gearing feeling much more suitable. It is only 2kg lighter than the old bike but feels much lighter, it carries its weight very well, never feeling too top heavy. I did try the “Off Road” mode on the traction control that reduces power from 125 bhp to 100 bhp but actually spent most of the time in Street which didn’t seem to be an issue at all.

Brakes are a different thing altogether, where the 990s twin sliding callipers were at best adequate, the 1090s radially mounted Brembos are superb, hauling the bike down from speed with no dramas and yet having loads of feel and precise control on the dirt, although like most twin disc set ups on an “off road” bike you need to treat them with respect.

So the downsides? The bike does produce a considerable amount of heat, concentrated through the seat due to the position of the rear cylinder, so no different to the 990 in that respect. On the 990 the catalytic converters were positioned in the silencers under the seat, where they also contributed to the “heated seat effect” but at least they were easily removed when fitting aftermarket pipes (I had Akrapovics on mine). But on the 1090 the cat is positioned within the header pipe adjacent to your right foot and that chucks out considerable heat too. However it is less easily dealt with as a full exhaust system without a cat' (for race use only of course) will set you back over £800. However it should be noted I was riding on one of the hottest days of the year with temperatures nudging 30 degrees, certainly not typical of a UK Summer. the warm bum effect will be welcome in the Winter!

So all in all I was very impressed with the 1090 Adventure R but as this would be my “Road Bike” should I not consider the 1090 Adventure (No R). The difference? The “standard” model has 19”/17” cast alloy wheels with road tyres as opposed to the Rs 21”/18” wire spoked wheels with trail tyres, the suspension is non-adjustable and it has a taller windscreen and that’s about it. It also comes in a black/orange colour scheme as opposed to the Rs mainly white bodywork.

So there was only one thing to do….

A week and a half later I was back at the KTM Centre for back to back test rides of the two variants. I took the plain Adventure out first and to be honest it felt a bit lacklustre, the suspension certainly wasn’t as sharp and it felt a bit imprecise by comparison despite the smaller, wider wheels shod with Continental Trail Attack tyres (despite the name essentially a road tyre). The slightly lower front end also put more weight on my wrists that I found uncomfortable. My bum and right foot got just as hot (it was another scorching day) and I couldn’t find a position of the adjustable tall screen that didn’t cause (admittedly mild) buffeting of my helmet.

My route took in Motorways, dual carriageways, sweeping A roads and twisty back roads, I also threw in a mild unsurfaced trail to see how it performed; it was OK but certainly not as confidence inspiring as the R.

So to be certain I took it back, swapped it for the R and repeated the route. Absolutely no contest! So after another fun day the deal was done and a brand new 1090 Adventure R is currently sitting in the KTM Centre with my name on it!

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