KTM 1190 Adventure: Real World Road Test

KTM 1190 Adventure

Away from the glamorous settings of new model press launches, our man Scott is on hand to see how the latest models stack up in real life situation. Each week, he takes a current model and goes on his own little adventure to see how the bikes work on real UK roads, checking out tank range, comfort and passenger provision, before giving his real world verdict on how the bike fares. This week, KTM’s 1190 Adventure…

Dominating my immediate vision, in the clinically clean surroundings of the KTM headquarters that is perched on the outskirts of the Silverstone race circuit, is the reason why I’m here on a perfect summer morning. The 1190 Adventure is a large motorcycle, it’s big on technological rider aids and boasts a massive 150bhp from its 1195cc V twin engine. All I could think about though was how it looked like a bottle of Lucozade. The trademark KTM orange is given a shot of extra orange on its minimalistic bodywork.

Wheeling the bike outside I was given a tutorial in the various electronic gadgets that grace this motorcycle. The left hand side of the clock display is where you can see your settings and with the five buttons on the left hand switch gear you can faff about and change everything from the suspension and braking to performance modes via the Nintendo inspired display unit. KTM's Luke Brackenbury ran me through it, I nodded and convinced him I had taken it all in, which of course I hadn’t.

KTM 1190 Adventure

With half a tank of fuel, suspension set to one person and some luggage (thanks Luke) I headed for home.

Jumping on any motorcycle you’re unfamiliar with is both exciting and a slightly nervous affair, more so when it’s not yours. The 1190 Adventure retails around the £14k mark, not a cheap motorcycle, but there are more expensive offerings in this popular adventure bike class. I had to head back to Peterborough, a dull ride along the A45/A43/A605, still a good opportunity to get used to the Lucozade.

My first port of call was to Bennetts HQ, to grab some Bike Social stickers with which to sticker bomb the perfect paint on the Adventure. I parked up next to Michael Mann’s Honda Africa Twin long termer. In the heat of the morning sun we stood and nattered about the two bikes before us. Visually the Honda bossed it, it’s a good looking bike. The KTM looked awkward next to it in my opinion. It's like the two girls from Bucks Fizz (cheesy 80's pop band for those of us younger than Scott - Ed), both are easy on the eye but suddenly one draws your retinas more than the other. The KTM looked longer than the Honda, but checking Google it’s actually the other way around, the Honda is 14mm longer at 1574mm, or 62 inches in old money. I hadn’t blagged the KTM to look at it though. My purpose, as the custodian of its key was to do one of my tank of fuel road tests, with the Bike Social stickers applied I bid Michael farewell and went to think about my route.

The test

I am not a geek, and being honest many of the electronic gubbins that adorn the Adventure are wasted on me. They’re nice to have at my disposal, but not something I’d place high on a list of must haves if I was looking to buy a new machine. My Dad used to say the more bells and whistles you have the more potential for expensive repairs later down the line. This flashed through my mind when setting up the electronic suspension via the Gameboy display panel. I also opted for the street mode for the cornering ABS, but again if being honest I only fiddled with it because I felt I had to do so. I was going to tamper with all these electronic settings during the ride, but I’m obviously a technical wizard, because everything from power delivery to braking felt perfect, so with my Dad’s wisdom in my ears again, if it ain’t broke don’t poke. I left my initial settings be until the tank was empty.

I wasn’t travelling alone, my missus (aka Nicky) was up for a mooch, so with the suspension mode set to the two people icon, me and Mrs Mario were all set for our ride.

Not everything on the 1190 is controlled by the left hand switchgear and circuit boards, the riders seat pad can be raised up by 15mm via a simple but effective method, and likewise the screen is adjustable by hand. I set the seat to its highest setting, and repeated the process on the screen. There’s no actual fairing, there’s a screen that sits proudly in front of the clocks. Flanking it to the left is a 12v power source, ideal for charging your mobile phone or powering your sat nav if that’s how you navigate? On the right hand side is a cubby hole, not really sure what you’d fit in there, my attempt to cram my iPhone inside it was futile, maybe you could bung loose change in there for tolls etc? My sense of adventure meant I had no sat nav, or the need for pound coins rattling around in the secret pocket, instead I was going to head for Southend.

The Gameboy display got my attention once I’d slung 20 litres inside the tank, as it was telling me I had a range of almost 400 miles! This could be a long ride but, then again, I had also noticed the range indicator was like a bad gambler and way too optimistic.

Leaving Peterborough I hopped on the A1(M), checking with the other half to make sure she was comfy before I wound the Adventure’s wick up a bit. The chassis is a mix of steel and alloy, the main frame is steel tube, strong and though heavier than an alloy item it’s still not a bunter. The swing arm is a lattice cast alloy type, finished in a smart black, which makes it look like it could be steel. With a full tank of fuel it weighs in at 235kg. 

With a good hour or so of dual carriageway on the A14, that ultimately gives way to the M11, eventually I took the opportunity to try to upset the chassis. Not that I succeeded, as criss crossing white lines and the copious amounts of seams in the road did nothing to upset the KTM's arrow like progress.

Not even the rutted lanes that are the result of HGV traffic trundling along the A14 could create a hiccup. The Adventure comes with road friendly tyres, and with a 19 inch wheel up front you might expect steering to be a bit old school, but it isn’t at all. The rear wheel is a 17 inch item, both wheels are spoked, the black anodised Akront rims look top notch, and Brembo braking kit hauls it all up.

I have ridden these types of bikes in the past, and often have found the suspension to be soggier than that last spoon of cornflakes, the Adventure though doesn’t suffer here. The WP forks and shock absorber are superb, no nasty sagging that you’d expect when you jump on board. Even two up it keeps its stance, tugging on the Brembo calipers doesn’t create any unwanted diving either, perhaps those electrical gizmos really do work, very impressive.

Numb bum break

After 40 miles we pull off the M11 for a quick stop, and roll in to Duxford where the missus informs me she’s got a numb bum! This isn’t too much of a surprise, the Adventure does give you vibrations. Anything over 6,000 revs creates a vibe through the chassis, the tingles from her footrests had mixed with the hardness of the pillion pad. The pad might in time soften up, this is a new bike after all. We both stretch our legs and then get back on the road.

The M11 junction between Duxford and Stansted goes on forever, and once we reach the exit for the airport and services we leave the motorway and head east on the A120. The services offer Nicky the chance to stretch her legs again, not even 30 miles since she last had to disembark the good ship KTM. I was coming out in sympathy, my buttocks too feeling the pains of the saddle.

Adventure Island!

With the weather on our side and another comfort break despatched we carried on heading for Southend. The maps app on my phone showed me our journeys end was a tad short of 40 miles away. Hopefully we’d make it without another pitstop.

Missing my exit from a roundabout meant I’d missed the A130 spur I required, being a bloke and in no rush I went with it, after all I was on an Adventure!

The A120 snaked its way out to Colchester. Here I could pick up the A12 and head south towards London and after 20 odd miles I reach Chelmsford, we stop in a lay by on the A130 for another stretch. Getting on and off the big KTM is an adventure in its own right, it’s ok when riding solo but with a pillion it’s like musical chairs, at around 5'5" the other half had to shuffle herself on in stages, watching her get off when riddled with numbness was almost comical. Well for me it was.

The Adventure is capable of carrying luggage, we had no panniers, just a carrier bag of stuff under a cargo net. Nicky had tried the pillion grab handles but opted to hang on to me instead. For her first long road trip she was doing brilliantly and her sub 10 stone mass did zilch to upset the riding experience.

One more push and we reach Southend on Sea, which is puzzling seeing that it’s actually on the Thames estuary. We rode along the seafront road from the Leigh on Sea end. The place was buzzing, the sun was out and the whiffs of the seaside greeted my open visor.

We parked up outside Adventure Island, any coincidence for my snapshot was totally deliberate.

Door to door this should’ve been a journey of 102 miles, though with our mini adventure after leaving the M11, we’d added around another 30 odd miles to this. The fuel gauge said we still had a range that I couldn’t believe, but the fuel block gauge on the speedo was more my friend, and the Tetris looking grid had turned the lights out on several of the blocks, which still gave me a more than half a tank reading.

With a nice hour or so wandering around the delights of the seafront we opted to head for home. This time we’d go for the most direct route, which was the A127/M25/M11 north. I had toyed with popping to see some old faces at Hyside motorcycles in Romford, but the combination of Saturday afternoon traffic, average speed cameras along the A127 and sensing rain in the air meant we parked that idea this trip. I still had plenty of fuel to use too, and I’d only end up nattering for England.

Picking up the M25 the skies darkened, the air temperature dropped and by junction 27 at Brentwood the heavens opened and we were in a proper down pour. The rain fell hard and fast, I went from doing 70mph to less than half that, visibility was terrible, and the M25 was like a shallow stream with the standing water having nowhere to go. I remembered the KTM had a rain mode, this limits power to only 100bhp! I didn’t try to select it, instead I used my on board computer that’s located somewhere near my bottom! This links directly to my right hand and I backed off our forward progress. Nicky was probably wishing she’d ignored my advice when I had said she wouldn’t need her waterproof leggings on…

With the Laguna Seca corkscrew inspired link to the northbound M11 safely negotiated we pitted at Harlow, where it wasn’t even raining!

I was soaked, so was Nicky. The Adventure was totally rock solid in the down pour and offered the same levels of grip and confidence it had in the dry. With over 150 miles now on the trip I was slightly anxious at running out of fuel on the M11. The range gauge still encouraged me I had hundreds of miles still at my disposal, but the tetris gauge was down to two blocks. Despite seeing a  garage on the horizon I refused to bottle it and top up just yet, this was an Adventure ride after all. Heading north the sun stayed with us, sat behind the impressive screen I adopted captain sensible mode from my brain and reassured Nicky I had loads of fuel still, girls they do fret.

Stansted came and went, Tetris dropped to one bar, just the world's longest stretch between junctions lay ahead of me. With the trip showing we’d done over 190 miles on our 20 litres of unleaded I wasn’t confident of reaching Duxford, but thankfully we did. When I showed the tank the nozzle we had racked up 198 miles.

We’d had more stops for comfort than anything else, the KTM Adventure had been a good one and by the time we reached home we’d covered 250 miles on our little ride out.

Scott's verdict

I was nothing but impressed with the Lucozade 1190. There’s bundles of power, but it isn’t peaky, instead it's a steady rush of horses that create a lovely mechanical symphony for your ears. The power steps up at 5,000 revs and stops at around 10,000 revs, between that it just digs in and propels you towards the horizon. The comfort is only marred by the saddle, it’s on the hard side of concrete, maybe like a new sofa it will soften up? Maybe KTM could factor in an electrical mode for the upholstery?

The rider gets rubber footrests that can be whipped out to leave the metal bear traps for mud plugging. Unlike my pillion I had no vibes through my pegs.

The riding position is perfect, I am 6'3" and after a full day riding I had no reminders of this once sat on the sofa.

I said early on that the gizmos would be wasted on me and I wasn’t wrong, I am the bloke who gets excited about a centre stand, which the Adventure comes with, yipee.

Negatives often blind positives, but the good stuff shines through. Silly things like the fact the mirrors work perfectly go a long way towards making it a happy ride. I was miffed by the cute cubby hole, and eventually I realised that a Tunnocks tea cake fits inside this well thought out compartment, proving that with a KTM Adventure you can have your cake and eat it.

 
Pillion passenger

The pillion's perspective

I was looking forward to the ride, but despite getting on and off every 30 or so miles because of the tingles from the footrests and the hardness of the seat I never found a graceful way to mount or dismount the KTM.

Adding to my slight discomfort was the position on the right hand footrest and the exhaust silencer. I felt that I was sat symmetrically during the ride, providing the arches of my feet were on the pegs, but it felt uneven as soon as I moved them and put the balls of my feet on the pegs.

I liked the position of the grab rails, though I preferred to hold on to Scott mostly, especially when he opened the throttle fully. The bike seemed noisy.  I had ear plugs in but was well aware of the drilling type din from the engine through the revs.

I really liked the vision I got, the stepped seat meant I had a good view of the road ahead. I took away good memories of our ride, but I also woke up to a huge bruise on my shin from getting on and off during the ride! 

Summing up

Would I look back at the Adventure?

Not really. It’s not the prettiest bike and not a single person commented on the bike while in my presence.

What I liked

Riding position, screen, road holding, power, fuel economy and cake storage.

What I didn’t like

Saddle, graphics, misleading fuel range. Not much else.

KTM Adventure 1190
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