The 2015 KTM 1190 Adventure Review: Crossing the USA From Coast to Coast

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Categories: Frontlines, Reviews, Ask RideApart

I always thought a motorcycle review was supposed to go the same exact way every time. The journalist goes to a press launch, wooed by all of the hot PR girls that are at least three points out of his league, he dresses in a $2,000 ensemble, and then the lucky bastard gets ten hard miles of a brand-new motorcycle that has been shoved in his overstuffed mouth. After an event that could be a narcissist’s dream, the journalist then goes to his laptop and intermittently places 200 words about his experience throughout a 1,800 word repeat of statistical data supplied by the manufacturer inside of what is called a “media bag."

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The average motorcycle review will tell you three things – what the bike looks like, what the bike performs like and the journalist’s first impression of what the bike felt like. The problem I’ve always had while reading them is trust; knowing that a review was written without bias because I know when I throw my leg over a brand sap ink' new bike for the first time, my ability to think objectively becomes inaccessible.

Lust at First Sight

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When I first laid my eyes on the KTM 1190 Adventure, I instantly thought of my Speed Triple that was parked only a hundred feet away. I know that motorcycles are motorcycles and motorcycles don’t think like people do, but maybe they know. I mean, what if I get back and my faithful Triumph knows that I just went 8,200 heavenly miles – without her. I wouldn’t know what to do. But immediately past the jealous and insecurity my mind went to how awesome my ride was going to be.

1,195 cubic centimeters of gas chugging displacement is fed through a throttle body, which is controlled by a computer. The quarter turn throttle controller intelligently decides how generous it wants to be with its 130-ish horsepower. This is enough horsepower to complete a 1/4 mile in 10.68 seconds as tested by Cycle World Magazine. It's also 0.14 seconds faster than my aging Triumph.

[edit note: One thing Greg is forgetting to mention is I delivered the KTM to him in San Fran, jamming up Hwy-5 from my home in LA. I arrived much later than expected--naturally. The Triumph's first glance at the KTM caused it to lose all interest in starting for me, as I was to ride Greg's bike back to LA. Jealously does funny things. So I remained at his apartment in Treasure Island waiting on a burrito, while he ran into town searching for jumper cables.]

Before I set off on the cross country trip, I decided to get a burrito. Expeditiously, I removed the aluminum side bags and set the bike’s personality to sport. The entrance ramp to I-80 towards San Francisco from Treasure Island is one of my favorite DOT anomalies. The merging lane is so small that any normal sedan with its gas pedal on the floor might reach 20mph before the lane merges into 50 mph-plus traffic. Consequently, this stop sign Interstate intersection has been dubbed my dragstrip.

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It was about midnight when I pulled the KTM up to the stop sign. I checked over my shoulder to find an easy merging situation that would gift me the clearance to give it a go. I brought the needle up to about 3,500 and let the butter smooth hydraulic clutch out. This was the first experience I’ve had with traction control on a bike, and just as I suspected, it sucks. But once the TCS stopped being an intrusive dickhead, I felt the true power hiding under the six gallon gas tank, and I was impressed. Impressed enough to involuntarily laugh for a few seconds before the impending gear change. My eye's widened as the pilers of the Bay Bridge blasted past me, faster and faster.

The 75-degree LC8 V-twin excels in some areas, but lacks in others. If you like to live in the past and have never experienced anything other than a pushrod V-twin, I would highly suggest you step into the world of technology and efficiency. It has the same demonic growl as a Ducati and the framerate of the two lonely pistons is slow enough to feel every ignited shot of gasoline vapor before they blend together into a harmony of adrenal gland depleting power. What has me intrigued is how well the engineers were able to smooth the thing out when it's being ridden easy. This V-twin is an outstanding engine, but is quite temperamental at low RPMs when compared to its inline rivals.

Because this was my first true adventure ride, I had only a YouTube playlist to educate myself on what to bring and I packed way too much. Spring preload adjustments are controlled by an handlebar-mounted push button rather than a spanner wrench, and it has a setting for one rider, one rider and his luggage, two riders, and two riders and their luggage. I chose the preload for two riders because I was packing just over one hundred pounds of unnecessary crap, which raised the bike’s center of gravity about a centimeter past what the side stand could handle while the wheel was turned to the right.

After witnessing it fall over on its left side, I only used the side stand when it passed a thorough test to make sure it would not fall over and parked it on the center stand when I wasn't there to babysit.

Getting to Know Each Other

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Despite having the knowledge of the ineffective placement of the side stand, I was saturated with judgement-clouding lust. The 1190 had the size to carry all of my luggage while being surprisingly nimble and having enough power to make me smile. I set off on my round trip from San Francisco, California to Emerald Isle, North Carolina.

As I have stated above, the first moments on a new bike are met with little criticism. I'm experienced on a small 1,050cc naked bike and it took a little time to get used to the size.

This picture illustrates just how ineffective the side stand can be.
This picture illustrates just how close the side stand is to failure.

Riding this bike is like lifting a large, lightweight box. I don’t know if it's just my lack of skill or if the thing really is that difficult to ride, but it took an abnormally long time for me to gain confidence while approaching a stop. [edit note: Wet, the KTM weighs around 500 pounds, add that up with the hard bags, Greg's gear and himself and you're looking at figures close to 800-900 pounds. So it was probably mostly the weight and heigh of the KTM.] Once the clutch was out, however, it handled like a dream. The high center of gravity allows for a very responsive control at both low and high speeds.

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