Seven Adventures on a KTM 790 Adventure – 3. To The TT

Bridgestone Battlax AX41

With thanks to our sponsor, Bridgestone. The KTM used Bridgestone Battlax A41 tyres

 

 

My trip: 457.7 miles | Economy: 57.2mpg | Av speed: 55mph | Trip time: 8h 23m

Total trip: 944.5 miles | Economy: 57.4 mpg | Av speed: 56 mph | Trip Time: 16h 51m

 

Any trip to my Mecca, that tiny island in the Irish Sea, regardless of whether the TT is on or not, gets me as excited as a Jeremy Kyle contestant at a JD Sports sale. The Isle of Man is a beautiful, unspoilt version of what England was like 25 years ago with the additional bonus of one of, if not the, most famous of all the motor racing circuits in the world. So, for my adventure on the 2019 KTM 790 Adventure it was an obvious choice, especially with the date nesting nicely in the middle of TT 2019’s practice week.

The connection with the KTM and the TT was tenuous but with BikeSocial’s parent company, Bennetts, sponsoring the Lightweight TT (aka Super Twins), then the fact that the 2019 middleweight adventure bike housed a twin-cylinder engine was all that I needed to book a Steam Packet ferry crossing. I’d worked out that if I rode from BikeSocial’s HQ in Peterborough to Liverpool, did four laps of the Mountain Course – the equivalent length of the Super Twins race - then head back to the office then that would be near enough 500-miles, the pre-arranged length of each of our ‘adventures’ in this series.

My riding chum for the trip was Bridgestone’s Product Manager, Gary Hartshorne, on board his 790 DUKE. So, once the 790 Adventure had been fitted with a pair of Bridgestone Battlax A41R boots off we set in the drizzle to Liverpool…

 

DISCUSSION: 7 adventures in 7 days on a 790 Adventure
The six riders who completed 3,500-miles in a week on the KTM 790 Adventure chat about the pros, cons and the details of their trips

Above: Gary and Michael ready for a 450-mile 24-hour TT trip

 

…and the first chance to test the agility of the KTM was on the B676 from the A1 northbound to Melton Mowbray via Wymondham then the A6006 to M1, and boy did those roads suit the athletic 94 horse-powered bike. The bumps weren’t too dramatic to upset the suspension which is much plusher than I recall the 790 DUKE’s being, especially the rear shock. A 21” front isn’t the norm for gallivanting around some of middle-England’s finest roads but the weight distribution of the bike and for my frame worked in harmony. The A41’s held firm and I really enjoyed the ride. The optional £334 quickshifter was popping through the gears nicely, it’s not the most luxurious version of a clutchless gear shifting system I’ve used but realistically this isn’t a sportsbike.

Once that exhilaration became motorway monotony and the first and most obvious missing component from this +£11k bike is cruise control, which, for a so-called adventure bike, is pretty vital in my opinion. Ok, it’s an optional extra but the bike already comes with a steep-enough price tag.

On appearance, the screen and its mount is just about the right size for the bike, although it contributes to the sad/surprised praying mantis head-on look. By not being adjustable keeps the build cots lower but conveniences the rider comfort. At 6ft tall I was ok but any taller or shorter and I’d be in for a buffeting, it’s not a deal breaker but worthy of noting on any test ride.

The KTM is soooo comfortable. A two-way adjustable seat is 850mm on its standard setting with an 830mm option if required but with the narrow waist of this bike, thanks to the tiny twin cylinder engine, makes it very easy to swing a leg over and feel comfortable on immediately. The seat is plush enough for many miles, over two hours for me was fine, while the riding position is spot on - the bars are wide enough and aren’t a stretch either. So, ergonomically, the KTM is perfect.

 

Seven Adventures on a KTM 790 Adventure – 3. To The TT

Above: Gary from Bridgestone straps the remains of his bag to the 790 Adventure

 

Stopping at Sandbach services and it was the high-mounted exhaust outlet of the 790 DUKE that was causing issues with Gary’s bag, namely, burning a hole in it and his new Hugo Boss t-shirt. So, the 790 Adventure and I became the camel for the remainder of the short trip.

A quick top-up of the two-part 20 litre fuel tank, yes they sort of sag either side of the narrow 799cc parallel twin engine, just in front of your knees, and we were on our way. In fact, not only do they contribute to the stability by keeping the weight low but it also means the remaining fuel indicator on the dashboard only shows you an accurate reading when you’re less than half full. Furthermore, it’ll take you at least 220-miles before the tank is dry.

We make it to the ferry terminal at Liverpool and there’s a squadron of at least 400 motorcyclists welcoming in the late-comers and with the 790 Adventure being such a fresh new machine for 2019, plenty of interested sets of eyes set upon my white and black steed.

While the checking in process is a doddle, the time it takes to strap down 423 bikes is why you’re asked to turn up two hours before the ferry is due to leave. Thanks then to the lovely balance of the KTM and its light clutch action for all the shuffling around and the continuous budging forwards in the queue.

Arriving in Douglas harbour as the sun was setting was romantic enough but, as it was now 9.30pm the plan was to get to the hotel and prep for an early rise while praying for a lack of morning mist across Snaefell to give me a chance to get four laps in before the return ferry.

 

Above: The queue at Liverpool, tied down on board and arriving into Douglas at sunset

 

Luck was on my side. In the pit lane by 6.10am with clear skies and clear roads, my plan was to stop in various familiar locations around the famous 37.73-mile course on lap one then bang in a flier (observing the national speed limits throughout, of course) and check Gary’s riding appetite before laps three and four.

The run from pit lane exit down Bray Hill was a little eerie. With such a lack of traffic I was eager to get the hammer down, feeling like Peter Hickman on lap 6 of the 2018 Senior TT with the bit between my teeth. Except that when the roads aren’t closed for TT racing, the speed limit down Bray Hill and up towards Ago’s Leap before the right hander at the Quarter Bridge roundabout was all 40mph. Tempting as it was to give it some beans over Ago’s, I opted to behave. The gentle thumping of the two-cylinders below and the upright riding position reeled me in from my TT dream.

First stop was Braddan Bridge for a quick photo and it was if the Island was still sleeping as the KTM paraded around. Glen Helen, around 9.5 miles into the lap, has a large lay-by to stop in adjacent to the commentary box and the KTM was performing beautifully – mind you, any motorcycle on a virtually empty TT course would have been perfect. The light accelerator action and equally easy gearshifting made the section from Ballacraine through Laurel Bank a doddle. Onwards to Kirk Michael and all was still which, considering how quiet the 790 Adventure is, made the neighbourhood and their TT guests grateful. Tiptoeing over the Ballaugh Bridge and the Ballacyre jump, through Quarry Bends and down Sulby Straight where the first sign of a TT practice later that day was noticed as the road sweepers were doing their thing. A stop to admire the nice BikeSocial branding outside the Ginger Hall Hotel at 20 miles around the course before heading to the most northern point of the track at Ramsey. I felt comfortable on the bike with just my Dainese Antarctica GoreTex kit and AGV SportModular helmet on and no backpack this time. The lovely balance of the bike and WP front forks had been soaking up some of the TT course’s notorious bumps while the revised twin-cylinder motor from the 790 DUKE, which makes more torque in the lower rev range, was eager and vicarious. It feels ‘Ready to Race’, as the firm’s motto suggests. Peppy, lively and, well, lovely. It’s this feeling of such a direct connection between throttle and go that gives the 790 Adventure such a characterful ride, each mile is a delight.

 

Above: (in order) Pit lane exit, Braddan Bridge, Glen Helen, Kirk Michael, Ginger Hall, Gooseneck, Bungalow, Windy Corner and Creg-Ny-Baa

 

Over the famous mountain with short photostops at familiar locations; Gooseneck, Bungalow, Windy Corner and Creg-Ny-Baa with the middle two demonstrating just how different the weather and riding conditions can be on the Isle of Man – misty and noticeably colder, yet perfectly clear just two miles further down the road.

Even with eight stops on Lap One, I managed to circumnavigate the 37.73-mile course in 1 hour. Lap Two was a straight ride around and even thought the traffic situation had increased, it was 7.16am by the time I left pit lane for the second time, it was still a real highlight to be on such a well-behaved and comfortable machine. I followed a lowered and raucous BMW 3-series out of Ramsey and towards the hairpin where the one-way system and corresponding traffic bollards were in place. He had a local number plate which gave me the confidence that he knows his way around, and, as the bollards ended in the Waterworks section and off into the no speed limit we galloped. He put his foot down and I knew then that I had my guide. Despite the mountain section from Waterworks to Kate’s Cottage (a 10.5-mile section of one of the fastest and most famous roads in the world) being one-way only, the BMW driver and I maintained our respect for it, and the other traffic. Indicating as we overtook, at one point up the Mountain Mile I noticed an indicated 123mph on the instrument panel – and that was still climbing so I would estimate the 790 Adventure would top out at at least 130mph on the flat. So, the KTM has plenty of puff when it needed to be wound on.

 

Above: Whipping through Glen Helen, finding out how steep the fulcrum of Ballaugh Bridge is…by mistake, Gary and Michael at The Bungalow

 

Lap Two ended up taking just 44 minutes (an average speed of 51.45mph). Now consider that during the 2018 Senior TT, Peter Hickman’s final lap was a record breaking one, which took just 16m 42.778s, an average speed of 135.452mph. Gary joined me for Lap Three and not only had the weather taken a turn for the worse but the traffic situation was getting busier as we began our lap together at 8am. There was still time to stop at a variety of locations for a few passing shots and a bit of video – Glen Helen, Ballaugh, The Bungalow and Creg-ny-Baa.

One part of the new bike I as keen to test was the suspension dive and front tyre grip given how low the fuel tanks are and how much weight they might push into the front under either heavy braking then turning or fast cornering. Professional riders or those carrying the extra weight of a pillion and luggage might have the smallest of niggles here but for the type of riding the KTM has been built for then I can’t do it any disservice in this department.

Lap Four was abandoned as the skies had turned grey and the rain headed our way nor did we want to get around to Ramsey and be thwarted by a closed Mountain to then threaten our return ferry. I’d also encountered a small electrical problem on the bike, mid-way through the third lap when ‘cABS FAILURE’ was followed by ‘MTC FAILURE’ across the bottom of the display. Cornering ABS and traction control were allegedly not working although a quick yet hard dab of the rear brake was enough to determine that the ABS was still intact, although going to change up or down, it was the quick shifter that had also suffered with the clutch now a necessity. Turning the ignition off and then on again fixed the issue but only temporarily as the warnings came back again and again on my journey back to Peterborough. A black mark on an otherwise impressive performance from the KTM. 

 

Above: Nobody wants the word ‘failure’ on the dashboard, and homeward bound at the Douglas ferry port

 

Lightweight ‘sports’ adventure bike riding has many advantages – notably its size and dexterity versus the big heffers of 1200cc and beyond. The KTM will do attack riding, it will do many comfortable motorway miles, it will tour and carry pillions and luggage with ease and it most probably will be more than happy on the green lanes. What more do you need?

I’m the kind of rider who prefers at least 125bhp from a bike weighing in excess of 200kg with 1bhp per kg thereafter making sense. A sporty bike fan if you may. Or one who enjoys the get-up-and-go of a larger machine. If there were such a bike as a V4, 175bhp Multistrada, that would be my cup of tea. I like the challenge of harnessing such ferocity in terms of going, stopping and the middle bits as well. And what KTM have provided in the 790 Adventure is a motorcycle with the ability to do a little bit of everything – I enjoyed pushing its sportiness and appreciated its comfort and ability to get places with minimal fuss. Designed to be ridden in a certain way but if you’re 50-miles from home and aren’t going to allow the dog to eat your dinner then over-riding this bike is not a good idea – it’s too easy going for all that fast faff.

 

Three things I loved about the 2019 KTM 790 Adventure

  • Perky engine with tonnes of twin character
  • All-around middleweight adventure-iness
  • Long distance comfort

 

Three things that aren’t so good…

  • Front brake feel
  • Electrical issue
  • At least £1,000 too expensive

 

2019 KTM 790 Adventure specification

New price

£11,099

Capacity

799cc

Bore x Stroke

88.0mm x 65.7mm

Engine layout

285° parallel twin

Engine details

8v dohc, l/c

Power

94bhp @ 8000rpm

Torque

66 lb.ft @ 6600rpm

Top speed

135mph (est)

Average fuel consumption

57.5mpg

Tank size

20 litres

Max range to empty (est)

250 miles

Rider aids

Traction control, cornering ABS, rider modes

Frame

steel tube trellis

Front suspension

43mm WP usd forks

Front suspension adjustment

none

Rear suspension

WP monoshock

Rear suspension adjustment

preload only

Front brake

2 x 320mm discs, four-pot caliper, cornering ABS

Rear brake

260mm disc, two-pot caliper, cornering ABS

Front tyre

90/90-21

Rear tyre

150/70-18

Rake/Trail

25.9°/107.8mm

Wheelbase

1509mm

Seat height

830/850mm

Kerb weight (est)

209kg

Warranty

unlimited miles/2 years

Website

www.ktm.co.uk

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