2020 KTM 790 Adventure R | Road Test Review

2020 KTM 790 Adventure R Seat Height
The 2020 KTM 790 Adventure R in its natural habitat. What it sacrifices in terms of touring comfort is made up for with sheer off-road tenacity. Thanks to the sophisticated electronics package, sliding like this is a snap. Photos by Kevin Wing.

Before its launch, hardcore ADV riders would sit ’round the campfire, steeped in a debate about the ideal ADV motorcycle. A bike of mythic proportions was echoed: it needs an engine with useable performance, quality long-travel suspension and ample ground clearance with genuine off-road ability. It shall be lighter than the portly liter-class ADVs of today, but just as advanced technologically, and will adventure from sea to shining sea. Arising from the mist of Mattighofen, Austria, and bathed in orange hue, their chariot arrived — the KTM 790 Adventure R.

For an additional $1,000 over the standard 790 Adventure, you get fully adjustable WP Xplor suspension on the R, boasting 9.4-inches of travel and 10.3-inches of ground clearance. Top it off with a Rally mode that allows you to adjust your throttle map or traction control on the fly, and you have a middleweight ADV that has its sights on the trail.

2020 KTM 790 Adventure R Road Test Review
Shod with aggressive knobbies, as well as 21- and 18-inch wheels, the Adventure R handles well on pavement. Push it too hard and you will introduce instability, but that wheel setup pays off in the dirt.

Stepping up to the plate in both 790 ADV models is the same 799cc LC8c parallel-twin engine found in the 790 Duke, with some tweaks. KTM engineers installed a map that prioritizes low and mid-range power, sacrificing a few ponies at the bitter end. On the Jett Tuning dyno, our 2020 KTM 790 Adventure test bike churned out 88.4 horsepower at 8,300 rpm and 59.4 lb-ft at 7,100 rpm at the rear wheel. The cooling system was also completely redesigned to tolerate off-road life.

The 790 R’s powerplant is lively, and its 435-degree firing order produces an exhaust note reminiscent of KTM’s lauded V-twins. Save for a bit of lugginess below 3,000 rpm brought on by a lightweight crank, the 799cc powerplant spins up as furiously as you’d like and gives the Adventure R an aggressive personality. It’ll play nice and plod along peacefully, but the LC8c is best experienced on the gas, whacking through the vertically stacked 6-speed gearbox.

2020 KTM 790 Adventure R Road Test Review
If the 9.4-inches of suspension travel didn’t signal its off-road prowess, perhaps the bash-guard integrated into the 5.3-gallon fuel tank will. The polymer fuel tank is equipped with plastic guards and is designed to take a hit.

Four ride modes are standard; Rain, Street, Offroad and Rally. Each mode adjusts the bike’s throttle map and lean-angle-detecting traction control settings. Meanwhile, Rally gives you full control of the aids, allowing you to select any throttle map and change the 9-level TC on the fly. Cornering ABS is adjusted independently in the menu, offering Road, Offroad or Off.

When bounding around two-track trails and fire roads in the Los Padres National Forest, Offroad mode and Offroad ABS, which eliminates ABS in the rear only, were perfect for me. Whack the throttle open and let the IMU sort out a Toby Price inspired slide around a corner. In sand or during climbs, using Rally mode with lower TC settings can help. 

2020 KTM 790 Adventure R Middleweight ADV Motorcycle

The sizable 60.13-inch wheelbase and 26.3-degree rake create loads of stability in the dirt, aided by the 5.3-gallon fuel tank that carries its ballast low, ensuring a low center of gravity. The 48mm WP Xplor fork and Xplor PDS shock are nothing short of superb, soaking up every bump, bound and hit that I could throw at them, leaving bigger ADVs in the dust.

The Adventure R is no slouch on the road, although the 21- and 18-inch wheels shod with knobby Metzeler Karoo rubber that delighted in the dirt, telegraph their limitations. If the pace heats up too much, you can introduce mid-corner instability.

2020 KTM 790 Adventure R Road Test Review
Our test unit came equipped with the optional Quickshifter+. At $360, it’s a pricey, but useful option.

The bike’s leggy suspension contributes to its 34.65-inch saddle height, but the narrow chassis does give my 32-inch inseam some reprieve. In tight terrain, where I might put a foot down, I can get at least one boot on the deck confidently. The seat is dirt bike firm, and the adjustable handlebars are just right when sitting or standing.

KTM branded J-Juan radially mounted 4-piston calipers are paired with 320mm rotors and offer plenty of stopping power. However, feel could be better when hard on the binders. A 2-piston caliper and 260mm rotor in the rear let you break the rear end free or help you inch your way down steep descents.

2020 KTM 790 Adventure R Specs

This isn’t a cushy touring bike on stilts — it’s battle-hardened. If your ADV route is equal parts pavement and dirt, then the KTM 790 Adventure R is your gallant steed. Brake feel and comfort can be improved, while the chassis and suspension are top-notch. Oh, what’s that? The 890 Adventure R was just announced? Dearie me…. 

2020 KTM 790 Adventure R Road Test Review

Helmet: Shoei Hornet X2
Gloves: Spidi G-Warrior
Jacket: Spidi Allroad H2Out
Pants: Spidi Allroad H2Out
Boots: Alpinestars Corozal

2020 KTM 790 Adventure R Specs:

Base Price: $13,499
Price as Tested:  $13,859 (Quickshifter+)
Warranty: 2 yrs., 24,000 miles
Website: KTM

Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel twin
Displacement: 799cc
Bore x Stroke: 88.0 x 65.7mm
Compression Ratio: 12.7:1
Valve Train: DOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Adj. Interval: 18,600 miles
Fuel Delivery: EFI w/ 42mm throttle bodies x 2
Lubrication System: Semi-dry sump, 3.0-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated PASCH assist-and-slipper clutch
Final Drive: X-ring chain

Ignition: Electronic w/ digital adjustment
Charging Output: 400 watts max.
Battery: 12V 10AH

Frame: Chromium-molybdenum tubular steel w/ engine as stressed member, cast aluminum subframe & swingarm
Wheelbase: 60.16 in.
Rake/Trail: 26.3 degrees/4.3 in.
Seat Height: 34.65 in.
Suspension, Front: 48mm USD fork, fully adj., 9.4-in. travel
Rear: Single PDS shock, fully adj., 9.4-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual 320mm floating discs w/ radial opposed 4-piston calipers & ABS
Rear: Single 260mm disc w/ 2-piston floating caliper & ABS
Wheels, Front: Spoked tubeless, 2.50 x 21 in.
Rear: Spoked tubeless, 4.50 x 18 in.
Tires, Front: 90/90-21
Rear: 150/70-18
Wet Weight:  464 lbs. (as tested)
Load Capacity: 528 lbs. (as tested)
GVWR: 992 lbs.

Fuel Capacity: 5.3 gals., last 0.75-gal. warning light on
MPG: 91 PON Min (low/avg/high) 42.4/47.2/51.0
Estimated Range: 250.16 miles 
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 4,100

2020 KTM 790 Adventure R Photo Gallery:


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