Photos by Kevin Wing, Rich Cox, Mark Tuttle and Greg Drevenstedt
Any day now, our long-term 2014 KTM 1190 Adventure test bike will be going back, and we sure will miss it. The big, orange beast is actually the third in a series of 1190 Adventures we’ve had in our test fleet continuously since January 2014, and collectively we’ve logged more than 6,000 miles on them over the past 13 months.
We started off with a gray 1190 Adventure ($16,499 for 2014, add $200 for 2015), which graced the cover of the April 2014 issue of Rider. Compared to its dirt-focused 950/990 Adventure predecessors, Editor-in-Chief Mark Tuttle described the all-new 1190 as “nothing short of a revelation,” with much better on-road manners, comfort and wind protection, as well as a big boost in engine output (131 horsepower and 80 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheel) and standard features such as Motorcycle Stability Control (MSC) with cornering ABS, multiple engine, traction control and ABS modes, KTM’s Electronic Damping System, a tire-pressure monitoring system and more. Despite being a much better street bike, the 1190 Adventure didn’t give up much in terms of off-road prowess. Complaints were few, focusing primarily heat radiating from the engine on hot days and the tall seat height (33.8/34.4 inches), the latter being typical of long-travel suspension ADV bikes.
After 1,400 miles of testing, we swapped the standard model for the more off-road-oriented 1190 Adventure R. For an extra $300, the R replaces the standard 19-inch front wheel with a 21-incher, raises front/rear suspension travel from 7.5 inches to 8.6 inches, adds tubular-steel engine guards, and uses beefier, manually adjustable suspension. With a fresh test of Continental TKC80 knobbies installed, I rode the 1190-R out to Pahrump, Nevada, for AltRider’s Taste of Dakar event and a day at the Jimmy Lewis Off-Road School. Although I had no prior off-road experience on the bike, I tackled technical, unfamiliar terrain with ease. The big machine felt well-balanced and much lighter than its 500-plus pound curb weight, and handling, braking, suspension and the Off-Road power/TC/ABS modes were just right.
Being taller than average at 6-feet, 2-inches, I wished that the handlebar was higher for stand-up riding (easily fixed with bar risers). Out on the trail, I discovered a few of the 1190-R’s vulnerabilities, which apply to the standard model as well. The standard skid plate is a skimpy piece of plastic that provides no protection for the exhaust headers (fortunately I didn’t have to crawl over any large rocks), so a big metal one is a necessity for boony bashing. The alloy clutch cover is soft; a kicked-up rock punched a hole in it, spewing hot oil on the exhaust pipe and rear tire. We patched it with JB Weld, which held for the next few days until I could replace the cover. Extra protection for that cover is a must. And, after plowing through a not-so-dry dry lakebed, the tire-hugging front fender got so packed up with mud that it broke apart. Not a big deal since KTM runs separate brake lines for the two front calipers, but a heavier-duty front fender with more clearance would be a plus.
After 2,100 miles on 1190-R, I rode it back to KTM’s U.S. headquarters in Murrieta, California, and swapped it for another standard model. Like the first one we tested, this bike was fitted with accessory Touring cases and heated grips, adding $1,335 to the as-tested price. After solo tests of the standard and R models, it was time to see how the KTM stacked up against the competition. In the August issue of Rider, we ran a comparison test of the KTM 1190 Adventure, BMW R 1200 GS Adventure and Yamaha Super Ténéré ES. We loaded their saddlebags with camping equipment and took off for several days, and our 700-mile test included 50 miles of mixed off-road riding. The BMW came out on top because it was the “all-around most comfortable, capable and enjoyable motorcycle,” but its $22,835 as-tested price was about $5,000 more than the KTM and Yamaha. We found the KTM “appealing for its sportbike-like performance on pavement and its dirt bike-like performance off-road.” Complaints focused on engine heat, the hard seat and firm suspension damping, but the KTM offered the best value and lightest curb weight.
Due to the demands of our testing and travel schedules, the orange 1190 Adventure has sat parked in our garage for weeks at a time, eagerly awaiting its next ride. I squeezed in a multi-day trip to Moab, Utah, last fall, with one day spent riding among the golden aspens and evergreens of the Manti-La Sal National Forest, and another day riding among the red rock canyons on the south side of the Colorado River. The 90/10 Continental TrailAttack2 tires did well on dirty, sandy, rocky terrain, but they struggled for grip on the ice- and snow-covered road over Geyser Pass. When the back end slid out from under me, the KTM landed on its right side, with the Touring case taking the brunt of the impact. Unfortunately, the plastic brackets that hold the case on shattered, leaving me with no way to attach the case to the bike. Luckily the case was empty and I was able to Rok-Strap it to the pillion seat. In my book, there’s no excuse for saddlebags that can’t take the impact of a tip-over at a walking pace. If you buy an 1190 Adventure, I strongly recommend buying the more durable Aluminum cases. Several years ago I dumped a 990 Adventure in a ditch on a photo shoot (ahem), and the factory-accessory, Touratech-made Aluminum cases fared better than I did. All they got were a few scratches; I ended up with a double wrist fracture.
So, yeah, we’ll miss the 1190 Adventure when it’s gone. It’s been an absolute blast to ride on- and off-road and all three bikes we’ve tested have been stone reliable. The engine weeped oil after sustained high-speed riding on hot days, but that’s it. All of the damage described above was our own fault and could have been avoided by staying on pavement or by investing in heavy-duty crash protection. We did notice a few irregularities, however, such as speedometer error that ranges from 3mph too high at 50 to 7mph too high at 80 (checked against at GPS), and the bike’s computer indicates a very optimistic range of 360 miles when the tank is full and a range of 0 miles with 0.5 gallon remaining. Our fuel economy for the three bikes averaged 36-40 mpg, yielding 220 to 244 miles per tank. With relaxed riding we got as high as 44 mpg (268-mile range), but nowhere near 360 miles per tank.
Our mourning won’t last long. Next week I’m headed to the Canary Islands for the world launch of the KTM 1290 Super Adventure. Bring it on!