Seven Adventures on a KTM 790 Adventure –7. Treasure Hunt

Lamb-Stephen
By Steve Lamb

Production Manager - Still considers himself a novice rider, despite passing his test over twenty years ago. Steve has only ever owned four bikes - a '95 Suzuki GSX600F (which he dropped in the first minute of ownership), an '04 Yamaha FZ6 Fazer and currently a '16 Ducati Scrambler Classic, as well as (very slowly) building a '94 Yamaha SR125 'brat tracker'.

Bridgestone Battlax AX41
Seven Adventures on a KTM 790 Adventure –7. Treasure Hunt

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

Route Mileage: 445 miles | Total mileage: 3375 | Economy: 64.7mpg

 

On the Bennetts Easter Egg run, earlier this year, I found myself chatting with a chap who'd ridden from Dorset to attend the event. When questioned that it seemed an awfully long way to come, he mentioned that he was also 'collecting' locations for the Round Britain Rally. He went on to explain the concept - each year, you register with Round Britain Rally and receive a list of approx. 300 points of interest, dotted around the UK. The aim is to visit as many as you can during the year and send in your completed list, along with snaps of you and your bike at each location, and the one with the most 'collected' is deemed the winner.

It was such a simple concept, but one that piqued my interest straight away. Even better, the site had a sample list of points of interest, to demonstrate how the principle worked. The list covered all counties in the UK, from Aberdeen to Stirling, Aberconwy to Wrexham and Bedfordshire to West Yorkshire and, of particular interest to me, there were several locations listed in the counties surrounding my home county of Cambridgeshire.

It was time for an adventure, and what better bike to have one on than the new-for-2019 KTM 790 Adventure. A middleweight adventure bike with good road manners as well as some incredible off-road performance, as BikeSocial's Kane Dalton had already demonstrated.

With the aid of my TomTom Rider Sat-Nav, I planned a circular route that would take in a range of roads from the M1 to B-roads, avoiding repeating the same stretch of road (a pet hate of mine) and calculate how long it would take. With a planned 420 miles and 8.5 hours in the saddle I set forth.

 

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

The museum only opens on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The KTMs seat allows easy adjustment between high and low positions.

 

Stage 1 - BikeSocial Towers, Cambridgeshire to the Charles Burrell Museum, Norfolk

My first destination was duly programmed in and a shortish hop of just 60 miles from Peterborough to Thetford, mostly on A roads, was the perfect chance to get to know the bike that I would be spending the day with. As with any adventure bike, and me being a shade under 5'6" tall, I'd been worried that the bike would be too tall and unmanageable. I'd already reviewed the owner's manual on-line and knew that the seat height was adjustable from 830mm to 850mm. I spent a few minutes at the start of the day setting it to its lowest setting and was relieved to find that this, combined with some suspension compression once on board, meant that I could comfortably plant a flat foot at traffic lights. The lightweight of the bike also helped to gain some early confidence. With a dry weight of just 189Kg (approx. 210kg wet), the bike feels light and nimble. A real boon when confidence is low and the day ahead seems daunting.

It was soon time to leave the busy A47 and head onto some minor roads and it was here that I could start to get a feel for the handling of the KTM. Equipped with a 21" front wheel, the KTM is super sharp steering while a steering damper, fitted below the headstock, helps keep it pointing in a straight line when required and prevents any twitchiness. I was soon making good progress, the extra height of the bike allowing me to see over hedges and look far into turns.

A quick blat along the A134 through picturesque villages such as Wereham, Northwold and Mundford and I was soon entering the suburbs of Thetford - not quite a sprawling metropolis, but busy enough on a weekday morning to try out the slow speed stability of the bike and let the TomTom guide me to my destination.

 

Nearly a thousand years separate the two…

 

Stage 2 - Charles Burrell Museum, Norfolk to Isleham Priory Church, Cambridgeshire (via Suffolk)

From the flint cottages and never-ending skies of Norfolk, my next destination was back over the county border into Cambridgeshire, passing through a part of Suffolk that loops well into Cambs (a hangover from when there were differing gambling laws in each county, which meant that the county border was moved to encompass Newmarket and thereby stay legal).

Buoyed by 'collecting' my first destination, I thought I’d take the easy route to Isleham, along the dual-carriageway A11 (the main route from London to Norwich). This would be a great chance to try out the mile munching, motorway speed capabilities of the 790, and highlighted the first of the minor niggles that I would experience through the day.

At speeds over 55mph, the screen directed the wind flow straight into my face. This alone was not a major issue - I usually ride an unfaired Ducati Scrambler, so already have the neck muscles of a rhino - but what made it more annoying was that the flex in the top corners of the screen added a high frequency drumming to the wind blast. When riding, I could even see the corners of the screen vibrating. This soon became unpleasant and forced me either into a lazy slouch to drop below the screen or to sit bolt upright, like BMW riders of old, to get above the blast.

Turning off onto the B1102 towards Isleham, the scenery had subtly changed again. Gone were the chocolate box cottages, to be replaced with low roofed 'loaf' houses - a reminder of the 17th Century influx of Dutch engineers, led by Cornelius Vermuyden, who managed the draining of the fens to the usable arable land that is now is.

I was soon at Isleham, a sleepy village of just over 2000 people, unremarkable on the whole, and one-time home to a Norman priory, the church of which remains today. Largely unchanged since around the early 11th Century, the building is now used as a barn and is held in the care of English Heritage.

Sitting a while on a nearby bench, I was taken by the number of passing people who gave the barn no more than a quick glance. It was a stark reminder of the history that is so woven into our everyday life, that we take for granted building built as William the Conqueror's armies were marching across Britain.

 

Handpower vs horsepower & art-deco houses, in various states of repair.

 

Stage 3 - Isleham Priory Church, Cambridgeshire to Goldhanger Wheeled Pump, Maldon, Essex.

In one of the longest legs of the day, my next destination would take me on a mixture of A-roads, Motorways, busy airport interchanges and sleepy rural B-roads. With a planned one-and-a-half hours in the saddle and just under 70 miles to consume, it was also a good chance to test the comfort of the bike.

Back on the A11, and heading east of Cambridge to join the M11, the 790cc, 95bhp parallel twin engine came to the fore. Unlike the screen which made its presence felt in all the wrong ways, the engine was the polar opposite. Smooth and torquey, I'd barely paid any attention to the engine over the 90-odd miles that I'd already ridden. I mean this as a compliment as, while I'd been busy checking routes, admiring the scenery and generally enjoying the ride, the engine had been quietly and efficiently doing its job just as you would wish it to. It's one of those sad facts of life that the more efficiently something does its job, the less attention we tend to give it - just think of your fridge - it's only when it randomly stops working, or runs too hot, or too cold, or won't start that you even give it more than a passing thought.

So it is with the KTM Adventure's engine. It revs away quite freely, developing more than enough power for easy and swift overtakes - never lacking, but never intimidating, not too loud, but not too quiet.

I do feel though that one feature that KTM should make more of is the Adventure's time-travelling abilities - it seemed like just a few minutes had passed and I was already deep into Essex and passing through the beautiful Art-Deco village of Silver-End, a model village created by the industrialist Francis Henry Crittall to house the workforce employed at his metal window frame factory. Just a few more KTM-shortened-minutes later and I'd reached the wheel pump at Goldhanger - my third destination.

 

Seven Adventures on a KTM 790 Adventure –7. Treasure Hunt

 

Stage 4 - Goldhanger Wheel Pump, Essex to Village Covered Pump, Buntingford, Hertfordshire.

Having reached the most southerly point of my day's travels, it was time to start heading North. By now, some 6 hours after leaving the office, I'd racked up around one hundred and fifty miles and was only at the third destination of the day. While I was enjoying the ride, I needed to make some progress if I was to complete my planned route and be home before dark. Retracing my steps slightly (some bits are unavoidable), passing Stansted Airport and crossing the M11, I followed the A120 past Bishops Stortford and into Herfordshire (and the western hemisphere, having crossed the Prime Meridian), before heading North towards Buntingford, a small market town on the River Rib and the roman road, Ermine Street. It was just after 3pm as I entered the Buntingford suburbs and already the town-centre was busy. With a rough idea of the location of the town's covered pump, the KTM made short work of negotiating the busy streets and I had soon found the pretty wooden framed hexagonal pumphouse erected in 1897 to commemorate Queen Victoria's jubilee. Selfies taken and social media posts made, it was time to saddle up and move on. Then something totally unexpected happened - a light appeared on the dash, indicating that I needed to add some sort of liquid to the bike. It was at this point that I realised that I had just ridden the best part of two hundred miles, on just one tank of fuel. As the light had just come on, and I knew the bike had a three and a half litre reserve and a tank capacity of 23 litres, that meant 200 miles on 19.5 litres or… er … lots of miles to the gallon - probably. The bike was saying 52mpg - that sounded about right.

Fully filled with twenty litres of Shell's finest liquid-dinosaur, we were ready to set off again.

 

 

Stage 5 - Covered Pump, Buntingford, Hertfordshire to R101 Memorial, Cardington, Bedfordshire.

As much as I had planned to stick to windy country roads, ably abetted by my trusty TomTom, it was now clear that to get round all the planned destinations, some more motorway work was required, and the next few legs would be a combination of the A1(M), the A421 and even the M1. All the types of roads that you would think would be totally unsuitable for an adventure bike, but ironically, the roads that middleweight KTM excelled at, and the jaunt up to Bedfordshire through rush-hour traffic was an absolute breeze.

By 4pm, I'd arrived in the sleepy village of Cardington, overshadowed by the nearby enormous airship hangars at the RAF station of the same name, and the simple cemetery that houses an impressive white Portland stone memorial.

On the 4th October 1930, airship R101 left Cardington with 48 crew and six passengers. Early in the morning of the 5th, the airship, hampered by heavy rain and strong winds over Beauvais, Northern France, lost altitude, grounded and, filled with Hydrogen gas, caught fire. There were only six survivors. The victims were returned to the UK where they lay in state in Westminster Hall before being taken to Cardington by special train to be laid to rest. It is thought that over a million people lined the route. The memorial was erected in 1931, and the R101's sister airship, the R100, never flew again. It was later scrapped and ended Britain's affair with rigid airships.

 

Seven Adventures on a KTM 790 Adventure –7. Treasure Hunt

 

Stage 6 - R101 Memorial, Cardington, Bedfordshire to Kirby Muxloe, Leicestershire.

By the time I'd made it to Kirby Muxloe Castle, it was well past 6pm and the castle had closed. Eleven miles of 50mph roadworks had not helped, but the slog up the M1 had not been the most thrilling of rides. It was a time to sit back in the comfier-than-it-looks seat, drop down behind the buffeting windscreen and think about anything except the mind-numbing journey ahead. It’s part of motorcycling that all experience at some point but one that, strangely, I was more than happy to do on the KTM. We had spent the best part of eight hours together by now, and I'd grown quite fond of the bike. Its easy-going nature meant that I'd enjoyed every aspect of the ride so far.

The light steering, and willing engine had kept me fresh and alert and the upright riding position was surprisingly bum-friendly. The ride had not been without gremlins, the recurring Cornering ABS and Traction Control fault detailed by the rest of the team were still there, but easily ignored (I'd already stamped on the rear to test the ABS, and found that in a straight line at least, it was still working). The clear and easy to read TFT screen was full of useful information including fuel consumption and range, and once linked via Bluetooth, notified me of incoming text messages and calls.

Despite the castle being closed for the evening, a side access gate, left open for the local fishing club, provided access for a quick photo opportunity and a very quick look at the ruined fortified mansion. Originally built in 1480 for Lord Hastings, the house was a symbol of Hastings's power and wealth. It was never finished, as in 1483 Hastings was beheaded, without trial, for treason. The house now resides in the ownership of English Heritage along with Hastings's other nearby residence in Ashby de la Zouch.

Fearing a similar fate for being on site after closing, I quickly took my leave, and was back on the road.

 

 

Stage 7 - Kirby Muxloe, Leicestershire to Scarrington, Nottinghamshire.

With the evening rush-hour waning and a 30-odd mile stint to the next stop, I was able to make some good progress along major A-roads, enjoying the odd roundabout, or five. A task which the KTM was again, surprisingly good at. The high riding position made the arc scribed by your head, when going from hard left lean to hard right and back again, seem massively over-accentuated, which added to the fun and egged you on to try for more and more lean angle at each turn. Being shod in adventure-orientated Bridgestone A41 tyres, the bike was stable and predictable, allowing for enjoyable and confidence inspiring roundabout surfing.

The KTM time-machine kicked in again, making the hour-long stint pass in the blink of an eye as the Horseshoe Obelisk loomed into view.

Set in the picturesque village of Scarrington, the 4.88-metre-high pile, comprising in excess of 50,000 horseshoes, was constructed by the village blacksmith between 1945 and 1965, while working in the adjacent forge.

Keen to keep up momentum, destination number 8 was calling.

 

Seven Adventures on a KTM 790 Adventure –7. Treasure Hunt

 

Stage 8 - Scarrington, Nottinghamshire to Byards Leap, Lincolnshire.

As the scenery flattened, it was clear that I was heading east again into the Lincolnshire fens and a short hop of just 25 miles, from Scarrington to Cranwell, crossing the Great North Road, or the A1 as we know it now. Once the main roman road from London to Lincoln, Ermine Street have been upgraded over the years and is still one of the most heavily used roads in Britain, now connecting London to Edinburgh.

Once again, the combination of a clear plan of the roads provided by the sat-nav, and a high riding position meant that the blast along hedge-lined roads was relaxed and confident, with plenty of warning of any tighter bends or hairpins.

The strangely named Byards Leap, just off the A17, near Cranwell, takes it name from a folklore tale of a man, a horse and a witch. I won’t spoil the story be retelling it here, other than to say that the witch got the rough end of the stick.

 

Seven Adventures on a KTM 790 Adventure –7. Treasure Hunt

 

Stage 9 - Byards Leap, Lincolnshire to Harringworth, Northamptonshire.

Retracing my steps, along the 'High Dike' road, back to, and along, the A1 it was time to head south and on to my final landmark of the day. By now the sun was setting, the temperatures dropping and my energy flagging, but the KTM was soon on song again and willing me ever onwards. With the light failing, I was immediately impressed with the LED headlight of the KTM. I have ridden a few bikes now with LED headlights and found the throw and spread of the light to be somewhat disappointing compared to more traditional halogen type filament bulbs, but the KTM is certainly the exception, throwing a good beam of crisp white light. On some of the bumpy roads, the reflections on road signs was a little dazzling, but better that than not being able to see the road ahead.

As I neared the Northamptonshire village of Harringworth and made my way to the centre of the village and the 4.5M stone cross, I was glad of as much light as I could get as it was now 9pm and the sun was skimming the horizon.

The current stone village cross contains remains of the original, thought to be have been erected in the late 1300s when the village was granted the rights to hold and annual fair and markets on Tuesdays.

 

No flies were harmed in the making of this trip… ok, maybe one or two.

 

Homeward Bound - Harringworth, Northamptonshire to Upwood, Cambridgeshire.

Sticking to the well-lit main roads, the 30 odd mile final leg home gave me a chance to reflect on the day.

My steed had seen me out and about for nearly 13 hours and riding for over nine, through ten counties and over 420 miles. It had returned an average fuel consumption of 64.7mpg at an average speed of 53mph.

And yet, as I returned to familiar roads, used daily on my commute to work, I still had the energy and enthusiasm to attack them as if I was out for Sunday blast.

Quite a testament to KTM and the 790 Adventure.

 

Three things I loved about the 2019 KTM 790 Adventure

  • Excellent riding position
  • Strong and smooth engine
  • Unintimidating nature

 

Three things that aren’t so good…

  • Reverberating windblast from flexible screen
  • Electrical gremlins
  • The price

 

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

 

Seven Adventures on a KTM 790 Adventure –7. Treasure Hunt
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