2017 KTM 1090 Adventure R

Editor Score: 91.25%
Engine 18.75/20
Suspension/Handling 14.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.0/10
Brakes 9.0/10
Instruments/Controls4.0/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.5/10
Appearance/Quality 9.5/10
Desirability 9.0/10
Value 9.0/10
Overall Score91.25/100

It’s not often a reduction in engine displacement results in a superior motorcycle (bigger is better, right?), but that’s the case with KTM’s new 1090 Adventure R. Gone are the 1190 Adventure and Adventure R models and in their stead a new 1050cc R model that’s smaller in both bore and stroke (103mm/63mm vs. 105mm/69mm) equaling a 145cc reduction in displacement. Whatever the 1090 gives up in power production to the 1190 Adventure R it makes up for in lighter weight and better handling.

Using KTM’s claim that the 1090 is 22 pounds lighter than the 1190 (456 pounds dry vs. 478 pounds dry), and the company’s claimed peak power production for each model (125 hp for the 1090 vs. 150 hp for the 1190), simple math reveals the 1090 is moving more weight per horsepower (3.65 pounds/hp) than the 1190 (3.18 pounds/hp). But that’s peak power in Sport riding mode. In the more important Off-Road setting where both bikes are limited to 100 horsepower, the 1090 has an advantage of moving 4.56 pounds/hp, where the 1190 was pushing 4.78 pounds/hp. Torque is a slightly different story with the 1090 giving up 12 lb.-ft. to the 1190 – 80 lb.-ft. at 6500 rpm vs. 92 lb.-ft. at 8000 rpm.

2017 KTM 1090 Adventure R engine, trellis frame, crash bars and skidplate.

The 1090’s weight advantage over the 1190 is largely found in the engine: shorter cylinders and connecting rods, smaller pistons, lighter counterbalancer, etc. The 1190’s centerstand and C-ABS were removed, which further reduced weight. The crashbars are stock items; the skidplate and rally footpegs are not.

How noticeable is it? On pavement, the 1090 R accelerates with enough gusto to keep your average sportbike guy happy, but it’s not the same missile the 1190 was. In the dirt, in Off-Road mode, the 1090 makes more power than can be used in most situations, and this is where the 22-pound diet becomes more important than power production.

2016 Adventure Bikes Spec For Spec

Most of the lost weight is credited to the smaller-displacement engine – so not only is it less weight but also a reduced amount of reciprocating mass. Combined with the removal of the 1190’s centerstand, the weight was subtracted from low in the bike’s chassis, providing a more maneuverable motorcycle than 22 pounds indicates.

2017 KTM 1090 Adventure R riding through mud

It ain’t an off-road party until someone gets muddy! Cornering ABS is gone but On- and Off-Road ABS, MTC, ride-by-wire throttle and the slipper clutch remain. There’s also a manually adjustable windscreen and brushguards that are part of the stock configuration.

Regardless of Riding Mode, power production is smooth and linear, and the fueling perfect. On the technical off-road sections we rode, the 75-degree LC8 V-Twin was happy to let the pistons spin down to damn-near stalling, then pick up revs without feathering the clutch. Kind of a Jeep of motorcycle engines except for its proclivity to accelerate quicker than any Jeep ever.

2013 KTM 1190 Adventure R Review

A lot of the Adventure R’s rideability comes from its excellent electronics package. Not only does the Off-Road setting reduce peak power, it also softens the way in which the power is delivered. Switching from Sport to Off-Road while in the dirt makes differences in power delivery between the riding modes readily apparent. Switching ride modes also alters traction control and ABS settings; Off-Road allowing for some rear-wheel spin before TC activates, and it also turns ABS off on the rear wheel, while a rider still enjoys the comfort of ABS on the front wheel. I’d like to think it was my skill that prevented a few front-end washouts, but I’m certain it was ABS that saved my bacon more than once when braking on a slippery downhill section of our ride.

2017 KTM 1090 Adventure R instruments

The 1090 R’s instrument cluster is the same as the 1190’s. Nothing fancy like the new 1290 Super Adventure’s full-color clocks, but the analog tach is familiar while the digitals readouts are legible and easy to navigate.

Our test bikes were outfitted with the off-road dongle ($109), a plug-and-play electronic device that allows your settings to remain in place when keying off the ignition. Without it the ECU will default to its stock settings, meaning if you had TC and ABS switched off, they will be switched on the next time you start the bike. The dongle also overrides the ECU’s stock setting of shutting down the engine if bad gas is detected. For those who travel to truly exotic and remote locations, this could be a lifesaver.

AltRider Taste Of Dakar Adventure Ride

The other upgrade of the 1090 over the 1190 is its suspension. The front is outfitted with a revised 48mm fully adjustable WP USD fork with separate compression and rebound functions, while the fully adjustable rear WP shock features a new Progressive Damping System. The 220mm of travel, front and rear, is the same as the 1190, but the revised settings keep the units riding higher in their respective strokes, making for a more compliant ride with less bottoming both off and on the road.

2017 KTM 1090 Adventure on paved road

The new suspension settings help the Adventure R’s on-road handling as much as they do when off-road, with less front-end dive under hard braking. Continental TKC 80 tires provide good off-road grip while performing more than adequately at street speeds.

At 35 inches, the Adventure R’s seat height certainly isn’t short, but the seat-to-footpeg ratio started feeling a little tight after two days of riding, or maybe it’s just the aging of my joints. The footpegs do offer two-position adjustability, but I didn’t get a chance to sample difference this time around. Otherwise, the seating position is good for all-day riding, with taller riders maybe wanting to increase the height of the handlebar riser to help decrease the amount of lean the stock bars demand when standing.

From here the 1090 and 1190 are largely similar bikes, sharing most of the same components and figures on their respective spec sheets. Which makes it even more amazing how much more nimble the 1090 can feel over the 1190 with only weight, engine and suspension upgrades. The 1090 enjoys the advantages of a new front brake master cylinder, but otherwise it’s same brakes as were on the 1190.

033017-2017-ktm-1090-adventure-r-dirt

2017 KTM 1090 Adventure R
+ Highs

  • A lighter, better Adventure R
  • Reduced MSRP
  • Upgraded suspension
– Sighs

  • Tall riders might appreciate more legroom
  • More handlebar rise needed for taller folk
  • We feel compelled to complain about less power, even though it doesn’t adversely affect the bike

In last year’s 2016 Wire-Wheel Adventure Shootout, the Honda Africa Twin bested the 1190 Adventure R in objective scoring but was defeated by the KTM in subjective scoring. I think it’d be a very interesting shootout between the Africa Twin with DCT and the new KTM 1090 Adventure R. The two are close in price ($13,999 Honda vs $14,699 KTM), performance, and weight, but each with some advantage over the other.

If you’d like to see these two go head-to-head or have a suggestion for another or additional bike that should be included, let us know in the comments section below.

2017 KTM 1090 Adventure R Specifications
MSRP $14,699
Horsepower 125 hp @ 8500 rpm (claimed)
Torque 80 lb.-ft. @ 6500 rpm (claimed)
Engine Capacity 1050cc
Engine Type 2-cylinder, 4-stroke, V 75°
Bore x Stroke 103mm/63mm
Compression 13.0:1
Fuel System Keihin EFI (throttle body 52mm)
Transmission 6-speed
Clutch PASC slipper clutch, hydraulically operated
Final Drive Chain
Frame Chromium-molybdenum trellis frame, powder coated
Front Suspension WP-USD 48mm, 220mm of travel
Rear Suspension WP shock absorber, 220mm of travel
Front Brakes 2 x Brembo 4-piston, radially mounted caliper, brake disc 320mm
Rear Brakes Brembo two-piston fixed caliper, brake disc 267mm
Front Tire 90/90-21
Rear Tire 150/70-18
Seat Height 35 in.
Wheelbase 62.2 in.
Rake/Trail 26°/123mm
Dry Weight (claimed) 472 pounds
Fuel Capacity 6.4 gal.
Electronics Ride modes, TC, ABS

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  • Shlomi

    The Honda MSRP is 13,300 for manual. Let’s keep it in equal terms, as thd KTM does not offer DCT

    • spiff

      I disagree, it is still cheaper. Might as well get the nicest competition without spending more.

      • Shlomi

        Ha? I suggest manual vs. manual which gives the AT additional advantage price wise, in addition to rider full control. Why do you think DCT is nicer?

        • spiff

          Fair enough. I am just thinking what you can get for your money. Personally I wouldn’t buy the DCT.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            Who would?

          • spiff

            That is the question. Honda is introducing the tech on a bike that can utilize it (hairy off road). Once it is proven they will make two wheeled accords for us. The NX700 is the first verion of the “Accord” if you dont count the pacific Coast.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            It is not good for extreme off-road since you cannot pop the clutch to get over obstacles such as logs and rocks. You cannot feather the clutch when you need to keep the rpms high for torque but keep the speed low. It can only be used on fire roads and graded two track.

          • spiff

            Can’t argue your logic, but newbies will like it for off road.

    • Vrooom

      I have to agree since DCT holds little interest to me anyway. Is the market really going that way?

      • Scott Rousseau, our Dirtbikes.com EiC and hardcore off-roader, took both versions of the Africa Twin the Taste of Dakar event. I asked when I saw him what he preferred, and he unequivocally chose the DCT version.

    • Even with less displacement the KTM will easily out-motor the Honda (advantage KTM). Using the DCT Africa Twin gives Honda a transmission advantage.

      • Shlomi

        The DCT adds over 20 lbs to the AT. Above you mentioned that the 1090 KTM weight saving over the 1190 is significant off road (~20 lbs …). You are condridicting yourself.

        • The advantages DCT offer are worth the weight penalty. See my comment below.

          • Shlomi

            Said one guy…I’m sure in the test you will consider the weight advantage of the KTM over the AT

  • JMDGT

    My personal preference would be the Africa Twin. This is a nice bike though.

  • John B.

    The BMW F 800 GS at $14,190 (MSRP of unit for sale where I live) has a similar price, but a much smaller engine. Nevertheless, that motorcycle might serve as a third motorcycle for comparison purposes. The BMW R 1200 GSs for sale here have a MSRP around $21,000, which (IMO) puts it in a different category.

    • johnny mars

      Don’t forget the very capable Suzuki V-Strom dl1000.

  • Bob Diamond

    Honda Africa Twin v KTM 1090R and KTM 1290 and BMWS GS. All the bikes are large adventure bikes – with the 1090r seeming to be much more off road oriented but since I can only have one heavy adventure bike I would like to know the relationship e differences between them to help me choose.

    • Tanner

      And not the big fat pig GS Adventure. The regular R1200GS

  • NoRegrets342

    Please mount a bash plate to the Yamaha Super Tenere this year so we can get a full review. I understand that it’s not in the KTM nor Ducati class for power nor the Honda class for dirt worthiness, but it would still be great to see how the ST fares fully in the test. Great stuff guys – keep it coming!

  • Old MOron

    “If you’d like to see these two go head-to-head or have a suggestion for another or additional bike that should be included, let us know…”

    Yes, please. Test it against anything. Apples to pears, oranges to tangerines, it’s the MOronic way.

    Oh, and making a bike smaller and lighter to improve it? Makes sense to me.

  • Sayyed Bashir

    I have the 2015 1190 Adventure R, so naturally I am biased. Along with the lower weight and price, this bike also has a lot less features than the 1190R: Other than the lower on-road horsepower and torque, there is also no center stand, no cornering ABS, no combined ABS (rear brake actuated when front brake is applied), no IMU, no tire pressure monitoring system, no MTC, no MSC and no steering damper. I use the center stand to clean and lube the chain and clean the wheels. How else would you do it? Not a good weight saving or price saving measure.

    • spiff

      This bike is off road focused. The center stand is weight and gets in the way with roots, logs, stones or whatever else is on the trail. I think the other KTM adventures have one. As far as maintenance, buy a Pitbull.

      • Bruce Steever

        You regularly bring that Pitbull stand with you when you’re 250 miles from home?

        • spiff

          Do you clean the wheels then as well? Why is chain maintenance such a big deal? Spray, roll the bike two feet, spray. Do this until you have sprayed all that is needed. Also I think there are people out there over maintaining their chains. Give it a quick lube every thousand miles and you are doing more than most.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            I lube the chain every 600 miles as recommended by KTM. Some adventure trips take you 800 miles one way so you are due for a chain lube when you get there. The center stand is convenient and makes many inspection and maintenance tasks easier such as checking the oil level or changing the oil, not to mention fixing a flat in the front or rear tubeless tire without taking it off the bike. It does not get in the way of rocks or logs since it lines up with everything else including the bash plate.

          • spiff

            I don’t think the guys that are interested in the 1090R would be put off by the inconvenience.

          • Sayyed Bashir
          • spiff

            Yup. 🙂 carry a couple of tie downs and hag it fro a tree.

          • Sayyed Bashir

            Also need two buddies to put the bike on a rock and fix the tire while you pose for a photo.

  • Auphliam

    Do another one like the wire wheel adventure, but with a twist. Pick your bikes again, but maybe include some of the smaller options out there instead of the biggest and baddest. Like this 1090 instead of the 1290, maybe the 800GS instead of the Adventure, the smaller Duc Multi, etc.

    The twist? This time, rather than just pointing out things like “Bike A doesn’t come with knobbies so it can’t keep up with the others offroad”, do what is needed to equip all the bikes in a manner to try to balance the playing field…some bikes will take more than others to get there…then include the added cost/requirements to get them there in your assessment. For example, to get a Tiger 800XCx to the level of dirtworthiness of the 1090, we had to spend X amount of dollars on tires, exhaust, etc. The trick is, you can’t take away any bike’s features. You can only add to bikes that have a particular need.

    You guys have the budget for that, right? 🙂

  • Vrooom

    KTM1090 vs. Africa Twin vs. 800 GS sounds good. I always worry about KTM reliability, but I’ll bet this would be great for a test. It’s certainly going to win on any measure rewarding power in this group.

  • barko100

    So how does taking weight from low help handling? That would actually raise the CG.

  • Ron Zu

    Why even spend $13K? For half the price, you can buy a DR 650, which will take you everywhere these larger bikes can go.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Will it go from Northern California to Colorado 3000 mile round trip and do the COBDR carrying complete camping gear and two people?

      • Matt Carman

        this is why ADV bikes exist. dual sports and dirt bikers will never get it. dual sports are about 70-30 dirt to road, ADV bikes are 40-60, depending on rider skill.

  • World_rider

    Here’s an idea. Buy an AT, 1090 and GS1200, and live with them for 6 months. Report on the whole experience of ownership, warts and all. Then tell us which is truly the best one to live with. The Keeper.

    • Matt Carman

      I’m in! pick me! I’ll write you a book on all of them. by the way, do you have 50 grand i can borrow?

  • Lawrence Wall

    I have the 1190 Adventure and I can attest that you really don’t need the extra power. I’d miss the cornering ABS & TC for spirited canyon carving (great non-intrusive safety blanket), and I’d miss the center stand since the side stand is barely adequate in many situations.

  • Numbone

    The article says it weighs 456lb dry. The stats at the end say 472lb dry.

  • David Wales

    Not sure why you guys are saying this bike replaces the 1190 Adv. The 1290 Adventure R is the replacement for the 1190, and this bike replaces the 1050 Adventure.