On paper, KTM’s eagerly anticipated 790 Adventure R could be the bike of 2019. The Austrian brand is talking up the R version of its new adventure tourer as a machine that’s got genuine off-road ability, to go with the Dakar inspired looks. But does it live up to the hype? We sent experienced road tester Adam ‘Chad’ Child to mid-Wales to put the new middleweight to the test and see if it ticks the expected boxes.
Climb on board and the KTM 790 Adventure R is not too alarming for a short rider like myself, despite having an 880mm seat height. On paper, it’s higher than a standard BMW R1250GS (850mm) or even Honda’s 21” front wheeled Africa Twin (870mm), but it doesn’t feel it. Because the weight is kept low, due to the unique fuel tank design, the 220kg claimed wet weight isn’t overpowering either. When riding a big adventure bike off-road the bike’s weight and physical size are always at the forefront of my mind, but not the KTM. There’s no doubt it’s a tall bike, but you shouldn’t be put off by the ‘on paper’ tall seat height.
Personally, I really like the low twin fuel tank, which collectively hold 20 litres of fuel. The TFT display is eye-catching and the styling is aggressive, but without being over the top – a mistake KTM has arguably made in the past. The knobbly off-road biased Metzeler Karoo 3 tyres add to the rugged appeal. It looks like it can climb a Welsh mountain without running out of breath.
The 799cc, eight-valve parallel twin is very smooth and the fly-by-wire fueling is excellent. In the dedicated ‘off-road’ mode the throttle connection feels light, almost lazy. I was expecting the KTM to feel a little sharp off the bottom end, but it doesn’t. Riding over obstacles and accidentally tapping the throttle doesn’t result in a jolt of power, making it very manageable on the loose terrain.
Riding in ‘off-road’ mode is like riding with a qualified instructor on your shoulder. It will allow the rear to spin and slide, but it’s controlled by clever electronics. Even in the power restricted off-road mode there are still enough horses and torque to slide the rear and to pop the front wheel up in the first few gears. The more you play, the more you realize how excellent the electronics are, doing their best to ensure that the KTM’s twin fuel tanks remain unscratched.
When the sophisticated traction control cuts in, it’s not aggressive. Unlike some bikes it’s very smooth and doesn’t feel like someone has removed a spark plug. Equally the re-intervention of power after the electronics have done their thing is smooth and instant, there isn’t a delay in power like there is on Honda’s Africa Twin for example. For the majority of riders, you’ll never need to play around with the rider aids, as the purpose-built ‘off-road’ mode is more than sufficient.
Even in Rally mode, the 790R isn’t transformed into an unrideable monster. The ease-of-use remains. Stood up on the grippy pegs the ergonomics are still natural and you still have some traction control, which you can change on the fly via the thumb operated quadrant of buttons on the left bar. Power is slightly more aggressive on the first turn of the throttle, but now the power comes in harder, especially when you ask for it. With the throttle pinned, the KTM really shows its aggressive side. The rear becomes looser, as you’re asking it to do more and the TC is less. It’s great fun.
The fun and games are all backed up by class-leading off-road ABS, ABS on the front, but not on the rear. Simply put, it’s outstanding. You only feel it working in extreme circumstances and, when it does activate, the intervention is smooth and effortless – you’ll be amazed what you can get away with.
At the end of an amazing day riding in Wales at Sweet Lamb, I couldn’t help but reflect on what is an excellent bike the 790 Adventure R is. The 790 is so good it raises the question; why would you want anything more – especially if you actually intend to take your adventure bike off-road. I have to be honest I don’t know how comfortable it is, as I never sat down on an entire day of off-road riding. I’ve no idea about fuel consumption or the mirrors, as they were removed, and I never touched tarmac all day. But in the changeable conditions, and environment I was able to simple flick between modes and change the character of the new KTM, impressive. As an off-road adventure bike, it’s one of the best. But like everything which exudes quality – it’s not cheap, coming in just shy of twelve grand at £11,999.
Sweet Lamb KTM Adventure Experience.
We rode the new 790 Adventure R at Sweet Lamb, in mid-Wales. It’s an amazing complex, with over 6,600 acres of stunning tracks, backed up the beautiful scenery. There is every style of track and trail imaginable: dirt, gravel, grass, water-crossings, and two specialised skill areas that hone basic and advanced skills. KTM’s two-day Adventure Experience caters to the level of each individual rider, with highly experienced and fun instructors at hand. You have a choice of either KTM’s new 790 Adventure R, or their capable 1290 Super Adventure R. Lunch, fuel, and refreshments all are taken care of; all you need is suitable kit and boots, and to arrange your own overnight accommodation. Two-days cost £530.
The riding is excellent, with some of the best and largest off-road trails in the UK. The wide open fire tracks are simple for novices, yet there’s more technical areas for the more adventurous riders, even sections I’ve not dared to take on. For me, the best part is the vast openness and beauty of the area. You’re never on the same trail twice, and the natural beauty of mid-Wales is stunning. I’ll 100% be returning with a few mates later this year.