KTM 1090 Adventure R (2018) | UK Road and Off Road Review


At first glance, it’s hard to pin down KTM’s 1090 Adventure R: it’s neither as illustrious as the flagship 1290 Super Adventure R, nor as entry-level as the forthcoming 790 Adventure. So what, exactly, is a 1090 Adventure R?



At £12,499, the 1090 Adventure R is £900 more than its more road-focused chum, the 1090 Adventure.


Power and torque

The 1090 R version of the LC8 is based on the previous 1050 Adventure – despite the name change they’re the same 1050cc size, same bore and stroke, mostly the same internals, and pretty much the same level of peak torque. The difference between the 1050 and the 1090 is the new bike has been allowed to rev out, meaning it makes 123bhp at 8500rpm compared to the 1050’s 94bhp at 6200rpm. That’s a lot more poke.



KTM 1090 Adventure R (2018) | UK Road and Off Road Review

Full UK road test of the 2018 KTM 1090 Adventure R …with a little bit of off-road too | BikeSocial


Engine, gearbox and exhaust

KTM’s LC8 (liquid cooled, 8 valve) 75° V-twin motor has been a stalwart of their range in all its various capacities, ever since the original 950 Adventure sashayed into showrooms like an Austrian waltz in 2003, and right up to today’s barmy-bonkers 177bhp 1290 Super Duke R road bike.

It also means the 1090 R makes more torque and nearly 30bhp more than Honda’s Africa Twin, Triumph’s Tiger 800 and BMW’s F850 GS – its rivals in terms of price. But they aren’t its rivals in terms of performance; on the road, the KTM leaves them standing with their trousers down in any gear. The only negative is you can’t restrict it and ride it on an A2 licence. But in every other respect the KTM’s motor is utterly dominant against its equivalent-sized and priced competition. If you’re into middleweight adventure bikes and you don’t want to compromise with performance, that’s a compelling reason to buy the KTM instead of the others.

The 1090cc engine’s punchy power delivery is orchestrated by a flawless ride-by-wire fuel injection system and multi-mode traction control, which ensures all its shove is contained and controlled, even in the wet when you can drop into Rain mode and go steady. And even if you habitually ride at the back of the group (like me), you can easily mask slower riding with a twist of the wrist and a stab on the slightly clunky six-speed gearbox. The V-twin lunges and barks, lifting the front end into the air and charging forward like an excited Labrador. It’s an extra dimension of thrills nothing in the class can match. 


KTM 1090 Adventure R (2018) | UK Road and Off Road Review


Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

KTM rightly make a noise about their great off-road competition bikes – they’ve won the Dakar every years since 2001 – but, as BMW, Honda and Triumph prove, making a big adventure bike handle on and off road is not an exclusive club.

KTM pinch just a little more DNA from their proper off-roaders for the 1090 R – it’s steel tube frame, beefy 48mm WP adjustable forks and WP adjustable shock, 860mm seat height and 230kg wet weight are all there or thereabouts in terms of spec on paper – but they conspire to make the 1090 R feel lithe, alive, snappy, alert and lightweight, like an off-roader drafted into overtime as a road bike rather than a slightly clumsy road bike shoehorned into a pair of wellies. 
On the road, the KTM is an active, energetic ride, with less of the noise, harshness and vibration of travel isolated and absorbed by the bike’s components compared to softer, milder machines. The KTM isn’t built to cosset and calm, it’s built to boogie, steering with an agile flick into corners and sacrificing no stability at speed to do it. It’s not the most relaxing of rides long distance, where the low screen and general hubbub of suspension mayhem might eventually grate – but the pay-off is when you hit the dirt. With 123bhp on tap you need all the chassis control you can get, and the KTM has it. It’s so much more capable than its supposed adventure rivals its embarrassing. 



KTM 1090 Adventure R (2018) | UK Road and Off Road Review



Stopping all these on- and off-road shenanigans are a pair of four-pot Brembo calipers nipping twin 320mm discs. I’ve read owner complaints about the required bite of the 1090 R’s brakes, but I can’t find fault with them – they always serve me well in all situations, with enough sensitivity to tame tricky off-road sections, and enough bite to stop the KTM dead on the road. No fade, no dramas. Off-road ABS is a particular strength, allowing a heavy-handed fistful on the sketchiest of surfaces. 





The 1090 R’s riding position is as successfully compromised as its engine and chassis between on and off-road. On tarmac, over 350 miles, the seat is firm, flat and and pain-free – depending on your preference for seat widths, it’s likely you’d prefer the KTM to the slimmer perch on Honda’s Africa Twin. There’s obviously plenty of leg room too, and the absence of a tall screen is actually welcome – the 1090 R’s stubby, adjustable screen is more convenient off-road, and tall screens on adventure bikes often end up just buffeting the rider to an early headache (looking at your touring screens, Africa Twin and BMW F850 GS!).

Off-road, on a proper adventure bike the rider should be able to stand on wide, serrated pegs and get a gentle bend in their arms to the bars – and the KTM’s are in a taller, better position than its rivals (which all default to a more road-friendly low position).



The KTM isn’t fully staffed in the toy department: you get four-way multi-riding modes with ABS and traction control (not lean angle sensitive but who cares, really?), slipper clutch, heated grips and crash bars. You don’t get LED lights, TFT dash, cruise control, quickshifter or a centre stand.



2018 KTM 1090 Adventure R verdict

KTM’s off-road, Dakar-winning DNA is on full view with the nimble, pokey, long-legged 1090 R. As a road-based adventure bike, it’s clearly more energetic and substantially more potent than its price-point rivals like Honda’s Africa Twin or BMW’s F850 GS; it’s got 20bhp more go in it, and authentic off-road handling credentials – so if you do more than just dream of taking to the rough stuff, it’s the automatic choice.

But the 1090 R also has on-road handling chops, with an agile, nimble chassis – the only area it might be a little compromised is in terms of long-distance comfort and civility. But not by much; as a grown-up, off-road capable adventure bike, the 1090 R is as good as it gets if you're serious about the adventure bit.


KTM 1090 Adventure R (2018) | UK Road and Off Road Review


Three things I loved about the KTM 1090 R Adventure…

• handling, on- and off-road

• engine – a near perfect balance of power, torque and character

• comfort – all day, genuine 12 hours in the saddle


Three things that I didn’t…

• Styling – it’s not the prettiest thing and the 1290 is better

• the dash; like to see the TFT dash from the 1290s on the 1090 range

• a slicker gearbox with a quickshifter and autoblipper. But not DCT, please


2018 KTM 1090 R Adventure Spec

New price

From £12,499



Bore x Stroke


Engine layout


Engine details

8v Liquid cooled


123bhp (91.7kW) @8,500rpm


82 lb-ft (111Nm) @ 6,500rpm

Average fuel consumption

40.1mpg tested

Tank size

23 litres

Max range to empty (theoretical)


Rider aids

4 rider modes, traction control, ABS (inc off-road)


Steel tube

Front suspension


Front suspension adjustment

preload, rebound and compression damping

Rear suspension

WP monoshock

Rear suspension adjustment

preload, rebound and compression damping

Front brake

2 x 320mm discs, Brembo 4-pot calipers

Rear brake

267mm disc, Brembo 2-pot caliper

Front tyre

90/90-21Continental TKC 80

Rear tyre

150/70-18 Continental TKC 80




2263mm x 893mm n/a (LxWxH)



Seat height


Ground clearance


Kerb weight



unlimited miles / 2 years




To insure this bike, click here


KTM 1090 Adventure R (2018) | UK Road and Off Road Review