Since its introduction, the Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin hasn’t stopped drawing comparisons to some of the best off-road-oriented Adventure-Tourers in the category, an honor it comes by honestly seeing as it’s such a great motorcycle.

The Africa Twin’s surprisingly dirt-worthy performance, its fairly light weight, simplicity and relatively economical $13,299 MSRP (for the manual 6-speed model) have made it a sales success. Honda seems to have remembered what a lot of other OEMs have forgotten, namely that complexity and weight can be the enemy.

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Well, apparently KTM got the message, because for 2017 the Austrian dirtbike giant has released a new, relatively stripped-down 1090 Adventure R model to replace the 1190 Adventure R and create a little more separation from their new flagship 1290 Super Adventure R. Perhaps most tantalizing is the 1090 Adventure R’s more affordable MSRP of $14,699.

2017 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin vs. KTM 1090 Adventure R

While the KTM’s 1050cc V-Twin delivers 21 more horsepower to the rear wheel than Honda’s 998cc parallel-Twin, the Honda’s 270-degree crank gives it a V-Twin-like feel, and its lively response is appreciated whether on the pavement or in the dirt.

We had already been planning a comparison of the Africa Twin and the 1090 Adventure R when we received a phone call from our friends at Springfield Armory, inviting us to join them in Las Vegas for the introduction of their new Springfield XD-E 9mm pistol. As some of our staff members are military veterans and avid shooters (it’s fine if you aren’t), we jumped at the chance to plan a route between our Orange County home base and Las Vegas. Our parent company’s Powersports Editorial Director Sean Alexander even patched up the gaping hole in his right leg, courtesy of his recent trip to test the new 2017 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R down in Peru, to join me (Scott Rousseau, Editor-in-Chief of, part of the MO family) on an awesome three-day adventure ride.

2017 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R Review: First Ride

Since we knew the trip would give us ample opportunity to put the two machines through their paces by mixing in a lot of dirt miles along with highway and city miles for an excellent shootout on the way to… our shootout, we fitted both machines with Continental’s excellent TKC-80 adventure tires for better grip in the grit. In the end, both machines were a lot of fun, and although one bike ultimately proved to be superior, the result was wafer thin.

It didn’t take long for us to make some clear determinations about in their engine characters when we began the first off-road leg of the trip near Barstow, California. While both the Africa Twin and the 1090 Adventure R feature twin-cylinder engines, their architecture and personalities are quite different. The Africa Twin’s liquid-cooled Parallel Twin uses a 270-degree crankshaft to yield V-Twin-like power pulses that sound and feel similar to the 1090 Adventure R’s actual 75-degree V-Twin. But in addition to having 52 fewer cubic centimeters, the Honda’s engine is also in a decidedly milder state of tune than the KTM’s. Its compression ratio checks in at 10.0:1 while the 1090 Adventure boasts a much higher 13.0:1, and more compression often means more power.

2017 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin vs. KTM 1090 Adventure R

Getting in a little Bonneville action on a dry lakebed outside of Las Vegas, the Honda was able to accelerate right with the KTM until Editorial Director Sean Alexander switched the 1090 Adventure R to Sport Mode. Then the KTM delivered superior drive and was able to fly right past the Honda. Both machines are perfectly comfortable at top speeds in excess of 110 mph on smooth dirt.

The KTM makes more power than the Honda, a lot more as evidenced by our dyno session at Mickey Cohen Motorsports in Placentia, California. Set in Sport Mode, the 1090 Adventure R yielded 101.2 rwhp at 9200 rpm and 67.3 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 6900 rpm. The KTM also features Off-Road, Street and Rain modes as well. Of these, both Rain and Off-Road Modes seriously curtail the horsepower (79.2 rwhp/8100 rpm) and torque (54.1 lb.-ft. at 6700 rpm) to give the 1090 Adventure R a more tractable feel in slippery dirt or wet pavement conditions.

Compared to the KTM, the Africa Twin keeps things simple, with no switchable riding modes to alter its engine response. The Honda’s 998cc engine still posted respectable numbers, 77.9 rwhp at 7500 rpm and 61.3 lb.-ft. of torque at 5900 rpm, but it clearly does not match the KTM in terms of sheer output.

2017 Honda Africa Twin vs. KTM 1090 Adventure R hp torque dyno chart

The KTM has a clear advantage in horsepower and torque, but the Honda makes up for it with lively throttle response and a throaty exhaust note.

So why, then, does the Honda’s engine feel so lively and responsive on the street and on the trail? A couple reasons: First, the KTM uses ride-by-wire throttle technology, which is always improving, but in this case it simply doesn’t match the more organic and responsive nature of the Honda’s cable-operated injector butterflies of its 44mm Keihin PGM-FI fuel-injection system in the dirt. There’s no question that the KTM can accelerate quicker than the Honda when in Sport Mode, but our testing on a dry lake bed just outside of Las Vegas revealed that the Honda can cover the KTM in any other mode as the KTM’s ECU simply doesn’t allow its larger and more powerful engine to ramp up to peak power as quickly as the Honda. The R motor also lacks the snappy and linear throttle response of the Africa Twin. Another reason may be aural: The Honda’s two-into-one exhaust system sounds a whole lot throatier than the KTM’s, and its more aggressive exhaust note may mask the Africa Twin’s power shortage compared to the brawnier yet quieter 1090 Adventure R.

2017 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin vs. KTM 1090 Adventure R

Cruising through the desert with Interstate 15 in the background, we noticed that the KTM 1090 Adventure R’s clutch and shift action do not feel as refined as the Honda Africa Twin’s, although we appreciated the KTM’s slipper clutch function. Both machines are equipped with six-speed transmissions.

The Honda also exhibits a more refined character in the clutch and transmission departments. Both it and the KTM feature six-speed transmissions, the Africa Twin making use of an old-school, cable-operated clutch while the 1090 Adventure R gets more in step with the times by utilizing a hydraulically operated PASC slipper clutch. Both clutches are durable and offer excellent modulation, but while the KTM’s slipper clutch does an excellent job of preventing chatter or wheel hop when downshifting in the dirt, its lever action feels less linear and connected than the Honda’s. And when it comes to shift performance, the KTM’s transmission feels notchy and stiff compared to the buttery smooth Honda when going from gear to gear.

Traction is important when attempting to negotiate a loose or rocky hill on one of these behemoths, and both the Honda and the KTM offer rider assistance in the form of traction control (TC). The Honda features three levels of intervention, and the TC can also be easily switched off by toggling a button on the left switchgear housing. However, the Africa Twin’s TC sophistication pales in comparison to the KTM’s, which was developed in close collaboration with Bosch, and is available in all four ride modes. After pounding around in the dirt for hours, we found that the KTM’s TC is much more intuitive to the terrain being traversed, especially in Off-Road mode, where it allows the rear wheel to slip at double the speed of the front wheel before engaging. It can also be completely disengaged, but it worked so well that we found it best just to leave it on for extra insurance against unwanted wheelspin.

2017 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin vs. KTM 1090 Adventure R

When riding off-road, we found it best to simply turn off the Africa Twin’s TC and rely on good old-fashioned throttle control to negotiate slick sections. The KTM’s Bosch TC feels more refined than the Honda’s and works so well that you often can’t tell when it is activated.

The Honda TC, on the other hand, seemed to work best only on the lowest level of intervention. In the full and middle TC positions, the system seemed to cut power too easily, muting the Africa Twin’s ability to feel responsive to the terrain and creating a few anxious moments of drastically reduced power during hill climbs. Fortunately, the Africa Twin’s smooth power delivery and linear throttle response made the TC function almost unnecessary. Still, if the feature is going to be included, it should really work better than it does.

But that was just one area where the 1090 Adventure R proved that it is the more dirt-worthy Adventure machine. Where the KTM really turns the tables on the Africa Twin is in the chassis and suspension categories. The KTM’s chrome-moly trellis frame is far more responsive than the Honda’s double-cradle steel frame. Whether on the dirt or on the road, the KTM is rock stable and steers with greater precision than the Honda even though the 1090 Adventure R’s 62.2-inch wheelbase is only 0.2 inch longer than the Africa Twin’s.

On the other hand, the Honda is lighter, weighing 547.7 lbs. with its 4.97-gallon fuel cell topped and its accessory saddlebags mounted. In similar trim, the KTM weighs 566.4, although some of that extra weight is fuel load, since the KTM’s 6.07 (23-liter) fuel cell carries 1.1 more gallons (about 6 lbs.) than the Honda. The Honda chassis feels as if it has a lower center of gravity, and that helps it change direction quickly, but in the dirt the KTM’s front end simply feels more planted and offers better feedback and better grip.

2017 KTM 1090 Adventure R

The KTM 1090 Adventure R’s steel trellis frame and WP suspension components are awesome in the off-road environment. The 1090 is supremely stable, and its fully adjustable inverted fork and PDS shock deliver an excellent combination of compliance and control in rough terrain without being harsh when pounding the pavement.

Likewise, the 1090 Adventure R’s WP 48mm inverted fork and linkless WP PDS shock, which is an upgrade from the 1190 Adventure R components it replaces, delivers more off-road-worthy performance than the 45mm Showa fork and Pro-Link-suspended Showa shock. The fork and shock on both machines are fully adjustable for compression, rebound and preload, but try as we might, we couldn’t find perfectly happy settings for the Honda in the dirt.

The Africa Twin can soak up moderately choppy and rocky sections of trail, but aggressive riding through whooped sections reveals light valving, which causes the Honda to blow through its travel at both ends and rebound too quickly, causing the bike to pitch back and forth from front to rear. The KTM’s more dialed-in suspenders simply stand up better when the going gets rough, delivering a far more controlled ride that tolerates some fairly aggressive maneuvering even on a machine that weighs more than 565 lbs.

2017 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin

We’d rate the Honda’s suspension as 70/30 — that is to say that it is 70% oriented toward street use and 30% toward off-road use. Both ends are fully adjustable, but the Africa Twin feels underdamped, and it can bottom- and top-out when the going gets rough.

And if you’re going to try and go fast in the dirt on one of these big boys, it helps to have a set of brakes. Luckily, both machines are equipped with competent binders. The Honda Africa Twin boasts dual 310mm wave-style rotors with Nissin radial mount four-piston calipers and sintered metal pads up front and a 256mm wave rotor with a Nissin two-piston caliper out back. The KTM 1090 Adventure R’s brakes are slightly larger, with twin 320mm rotors and Brembo radial mount four-piston calipers and a radial master cylinder up front. A 267mm rotor and Brembo two-piston caliper handle the rear stopping chores.

Both machines also feature the modern safety and convenience of ABS intervention. The Honda’s two-channel system features a handy on/off switch to disengage only the rear ABS for off-road use. The KTM’s more advanced Bosch 9M+ two channel ABS can also deactivate its rear wheel intervention by switching to Off-Road mode, and the system can also be set to completely disable ABS at both wheels, although we don’t recommend that; tucking the front end on a big ADV bike in the middle of nowhere isn’t our idea of a good time.

We give the edge in braking performance to the Africa Twin for its natural ease of use and more progressive lever feel, which helps its rider to dial in just the right amount of braking for a given situation. There’s no question that the Brembos on the KTM are powerful – other than a few Husqvarnas we’ve sampled, we’ve never found Bembo units to be lacking in bite. Where the KTM seems to come up a little short is in the responses exhibited at the front brake lever and the rear brake pedal, forcing the rider to be a little more on his game in order to generate the right amount of stopping power. Rousseau never found a suitable setting when adjusting the KTM’s front brake lever, which only offers four positions of adjustability compared to the Honda’s six positions. Alexander on the other hand agreed with the feel assessment but didn’t have any trouble finding a comfortable lever position on either bike.

2017 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin front wheel2017 KTM 1090 Adventure R rear wheel

Both machines offer solid-performing brakes front and rear. The Africa Twin’s Nissins have a slight edge in lever feel over the 1090 Adventure R’s Brembo units.

All of our dirt fun put us seriously behind schedule when it came time to make it to the Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino in time for our meeting with the Springfield Armory folks, who are genuinely rabid motorcycle fans. Springfield Armory CEO Dennis Reese has an even longer history with motorcycles than he does with firearms manufacturing. Reese was a talented off-road motorcycle racer at about the same time as his family acquired the legendary firearms brand in 1974. Reese would go on to earn factory support and compete in three consecutive ISDTs from 1977-79, winning a gold medal in Värnamo, Sweden, in 1978, and a silver medal in Neunkirchen, West Germany, in 1979.

The American Iron Road Tour

Just as he did with his racing efforts, Reese has put his heart and soul into Springfield Armory for the last 40 years, and the company continues to develop new and innovative products that occupy the upper-midrange of the shooting market and seem to earn a lot of favor with firearms enthusiasts. Their latest pistol is the new Springfield XDe 9mm, a variant of the company’s Croatian-built XD pistol line. The greatest difference between the compact 9mm XDe and its siblings is that the little XDe features a hammer at the rear of its slide, and a manual safety/de-cocker control lever on its left flank, a lot like the legendary 1911-series of pistols, only lighter, smaller, and partially made of polymer. The rest of Springfield’s XD line of polymer pistols utilizes a hammerless, striker-fired design that’s available with or without manual external safeties.

Verticalscope Powersports Editorial Director Sean Alexander tries his hand at the new Springfield Armory XDe 9mm pistol while in Las Vegas. Our thanks go out to Springfield for inviting us on their press launch.

Verticalscope Powersports Editorial Director Sean Alexander tries his hand at the new Springfield Armory XDe 9mm pistol while in Las Vegas. Our thanks go out to Springfield for inviting us on their press launch.

Springfield’s moto roots show through in its media events, which are very much modeled after similar product intros in the motorcycle and automobile industries. A rather diverse group of journalists was invited out to the Clark County Training Facility to sample the new XDe. While everyone else boarded shuttles to get from the hotel to the range, we naturally chose to ride our Africa Twin and the 1090 Adventure R test bikes and meet the rest of the group at the shooting facility. It didn’t take long after we arrived before Reese and Springfield-sponsored national shooting champion Rob Leatham were begging to ride aboard our dusty Adventure steeds. We spent the entire day running through a series of combat and self-defense training drills designed to demonstrate the XDe’s capabilities. To say we had fun would be the understatement of the year. A hearty thanks goes out to the Springfield Armory staff for inviting us to participate in the event.

After another night in the hotel, which was largely spent sampling some craft brews at the hotel’s Beer Park Beer & Sports Bar, we bid our pals at Springfield goodbye and headed to the craps tables where both Alexander and Rousseau proceeded to lose $60 each while our new video producer, James Martinec, who knew nothing about the game, made money. Figures. Early the next morning we saddled up and headed for home.

2017 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin vs. KTM 1090 Adventure R

Time to split town. We faced a stiff headwind on our trip home. The Africa Twin’s tall accessory screen offered excellent wind protection, while the heat from the KTM’s V-Twin also kept us toasty. In warmer temps, the 1090 Adventure R’s engine heat could be a nuisance.

Adventure bikes are meant to be ridden long distances, which means spending a long time in the saddle. Both of these machines offer tremendous comfort levels that are on par with any other machine in their class and, indeed, can even put some full-fledged touring rigs to shame. Shorter riders are likely to prefer the Africa Twin, which offers a comfy seat that is adjustable to two positions, the standard 34.3 inches or a lower 33.5 inches. The 1090 Adventure R’s saddle is set at 35.0 inches, which works well for taller testers but can be a bit unsettling for riders with stubby legs, especially when the need arises to dab a foot or to paddle while negotiating loose off-road terrain. One thing we especially loved about the KTM was the accessory footpegs that were fitted to the 1090 Adventure R. They feel like rigid and secure floorboards when compared to the Honda’s smaller rubber padded pegs, and their aggressively serrated teeth did an excellent job of giving our boots plenty of traction.

Large or small, our testers found happiness aboard either machine. Both feature comfy ergos from the waste up, with the KTM offering a slightly higher bar position than the Honda. All of the rider controls are easy to manage when bombing down the highway for endless miles or even when crawling down a rough trail. All around, we’d give the comfort edge to Honda’s Africa Twin over the 1090 Adventure R simply because the Honda has a cooler cockpit in hot weather and because it seems to be able to accommodate more riders of various sizes than the KTM.

When it comes to fuel economy, the numbers gathered on our trip are by no means indicative of just how fuel efficient the Honda and KTM are – remember we did a lot of off-roading, plus a lot of 90 mph freeway hustling, both of which consume extra fuel. The Africa Twin achieved an average of 35.7 mpg while the 1090 Adventure R achieved an average of 35.5 mpg. That would give the KTM a substantial range advantage, since its 6.07-gallon fuel cell is larger than the Honda’s 4.97-gallon unit. The math equates to 215 miles for the 1090 Adventure R and 168 miles for the Africa Twin before you go from riding to pushing.

2017 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin vs. KTM 1090 Adventure R saddlebags

There is a stark contrast between the quality of accessory saddlebags on this pair of ADV machines. The KTM’s bags dominate the Honda’s when it comes to fit, finish, mount security, open/close and locking – in other words the KTM bags win in just about every conceivable way they could.

Fit and finish is comparable between the two with one notable exception: the Honda’s accessory saddlebags are simply not worthy of being on such an otherwise competent machine. Their aluminum cladded exterior portions bely their subpar build quality, and they mount so loosely that they flop around during bumpy off-road rides, even if they never actually fell off. They are also hard to close even when empty. The accessory bags on the KTM are more spacious and, more importantly, way more securely mounted. They also feature a very positive mechanism that allows easy opening and closing. If bags were the only test criteria, the Honda would be in serious trouble.

However, the KTM does have a fault of its own, and that’s the excessive heat generated at the upper-rear of its V-Twin engine. KTM really made some neat moves by redesigning the 1090 Adventure R’s bodywork to give it a more streamlined appearance, and we really like the fact that the material on the tank shrouds is high-impact plastic similar to what is found on KTM’s off-road and motocross machines, but the rear cylinder’s heat soaks back into the rider’s legs and up to their crotch and abdomen. While we were blessed with beautiful 72-degree (Fahrenheit) spring-time weather in the desert, the 1090 Adventure R’s heat wasn’t that big of an issue most of the time, but on the 90+ degree interstate surface it quickly became easy to see how can be a problem in warmer weather.

Both machines offer easy-to-read and easy-to-manage instrumentation packages. The Honda Africa Twin’s Dakar Rally-inspired, vertical instrument panel is all LCD, featuring a speedometer, bar-graph tachometer, clock, gear-position indicator, TC indicator, odometer, tripmeter, ambient temperature, and fuel gauge display. The KTM 1090 Adventure R’s VDO instrument cluster features a large analog tachometer in the center of the unit while the speedometer, fuel gauge, clock, and water temperature indicator are viewed through an LCD screen to the lower right of the tach. Odometer, trip meter, Ride Mode and ABS information is displayed on a separate LCD screen to the left of the tach. We’d call it a draw as both machines offer plenty of information that’s easy to read and easy to toggle through. The KTM also allows the rider to make ride mode changes while the bike is in motion so long as the throttle is held closed for a few seconds to confirm any changes.

2017 Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin vs. KTM 1090 Adventure R

When the final scoring was tallied, the 1090 Adventure R’s amazing chassis and excellent suspension give it the off-road prowess to outshine the Africa Twin’s high-value appeal and all-around competence. We’d be happy aboard either one of these machines, but if there is a lot of off-roading involved, we’d be happier on the KTM.

Like we said at the beginning, we knew the result of this particular matchup was going to be close. The Honda Africa Twin represents a ton of bang for the buck in any motorcycle category. With the exception of its bags – and you don’t have to buy ’em – the Africa Twin delivers an extremely high level of refinement and good overall manners whether your jungle is made of asphalt or dirt. Its peppy parallel-Twin punches above its displacement level, and its two-position adjustable seat can accommodate a wide range of riders. The Africa Twin is a great Adventure motorcycle. In fact, it’s so impressive that before we had the insight of the scorecard, our guts were telling us the Honda might win in a squeeker (see video).

But where the Honda falls short, especially in the dirt, is right where the KTM 1090 Adventure R comes on the strongest, in the chassis and suspension categories. Sure, the horsepower freaks out there probably believe the KTM should dominate this comparo by virtue of its more powerful engine as well, but while its multiple ride modes are tantalizing, its throttle response really isn’t. However, the KTM’s ability to seriously plow through some awful nasty stuff thanks to its amazingly responsive frame and a fork and shock that are well-tuned for the task at hand, is really enough to give it the edge on the Honda. And in the end, the 1090 Adventure R just does edge out the Africa Twin on our scorecard, garnering a rating of 84.98% compared to the Honda’s 83.09%.

When all’s said and done, the KTM 1090 Adventure R is a better off-road bike than the Honda Africa Twin, and if you’re looking at either of these machines as a possible future purchase, you probably plan to spend a fair amount of time doin’ it in the dirt. When it comes to that end of the ADV spectrum, the Africa Twin is a great machine, but the KTM is slightly better.

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  • Born to Ride

    Holy false advertising Batman!!! That is a 95lb weight difference between the scales and the advertised ready to ride weight. No way in hell the bags weigh that much… What say you about that Sayyed?

    • The KTM advertises a *Dry weight. Most of the industry has moved away from that sort of voodoo.

      • Born to Ride

        Oh, you should change that in the spec sheets at the end to avoid confusion.

    • hipsabad

      i was just gonna say the same thing!!! wtf?

    • Sayyed Bashir

      Wet weight is listed at 230 kg (507 lbs) on the KTM website. I don’t know why they measured 566 lbs. 25 lbs could be the saddlebags. That leaves 34 lbs unaccounted for. Maybe all the camera equipment in the saddlebags. Why are you asking me anyway?

      • Born to Ride

        Because your love of everything KTM and Harley is known across the ‘verse.

        • Sayyed Bashir

          You can add the Suzuki Bandit GSF-1250S to the list.

  • DickRuble

    Ok.. this is about enough of this BS commingling of guns in motorcycle articles. Go shove your ammunitions and Springfields..

    • Make us?

      • Campisi

        *Come and take it?

        • Molon Labia?

          • Campisi

            The motorcycling proletariat shall not be disarmed?

    • Born to Ride

      Why so sensitive?

    • Citizen Bidet

      Bikes, girls, beer and guns…what’s not to like? Looking forward to when the guys do a feature that incorporates all four!

  • Citizen Bidet

    This would be a real tough choice if I didn’t own an AT already…real tough. Yeah the KTM is more expensive (but not much) and you get a bigger tank, crash protection fitted, more power and WP suspension. On the other hand, if you want DCT then Honda is the way to go. I prefer manual anyway, but there have been times off road when DCT would have been nice. For me, I’d probably still choose the Honda, but that would not be because it is a better bike, it would be due to other factors. In my case, the Honda dealer is 5 minutes away and I have a longstanding good relationship with them, whereas the KTM dealer is at least an hour away through city traffic and I won’t use them anyway due to a previous bad experience when buying a bike. Another reason is ongoing costs: here in Australia, KTM spares and servicing prices have a reputation as being very pricey. Finally, the AT has a lower seat height, plus the option of an even lower seat, which is great for us vertically challenged riders. Granted, 99% of the time seat height won’t really matter, but on those few times when you do need to get a foot down – or both feet down – with the KTM’s 35 inches I know I’d be kissing the dirt!

    • Jon Jones

      Good call.

  • hipsabad

    the lengthy and nuanced discussion of each bikes traits in the video was what bike reviews should always be. thanks boys!

  • Tony de Kroon

    I’ve been so looking forward to this shootout ever since the media launch of the 1090 R as I’m debating an upgrade path to my ’09 F8GS steed. Your head-to-head comparison is thorough and did not disappoint! I’m wondering if you could comment on the wind protection offerings between these two bikes. I know it was mentioned the KTM felt more planted at interstate speed and the cockpit ran hotter, but what about the wind protection offered by the stock windscreen and fairings at waist, chest and helmet levels? Which bike exhibited less buffeting during your 80-90mph gallops?

    • The KTM had less wind protection and considerably less buffeting. Large upright screens are the #1 cause of buffeting, so the A twins screen is much worse than the KTM’s smaller screen in that regard. Both relieve enough pressure on the rider’s chest to make high speed straight line droning comfortable, but the KTM offers cleaner air around the helmet thanks to its smaller screen.

      • Sayyed Bashir

        Also, both the 1190 R and 1090 R have smaller screens so the rider doesn’t hit his helmet on the screen while off-road and standing up. The larger 1190 (street version) screen can be installed if desired.

  • Sayyed Bashir

    Please note that the speed shown on the KTM speedometer is 10% higher than the actual speed (for EU regulatory reasons). So the 90 mph shown in the video is actually 81 mph, and 128 mph is actually 115 mph. A GPS will show the correct speed.

  • gjw1992

    The KTM might deservedly be the objective point winner, but I think I’d be happiest with the Honda as these both sound like good daily use bikes with the AT being slightly easier to live with. That and the Honda dealer’s less than 3 miles away whereas KTM’s more like 30.

    Terrific review btw – would be good to know what might be the best alternative to Honda’s luggage option, and what practical steps you’d do to get better damping on the AT’s suspension.

  • Scot Douglas

    One note about the traction controls​: KTM’s electronic throttle makes all the difference in how smooth it is. The 1090 can limit more torque, smoother, by closing the throttle – where the Africa Twin is left with retarding spark and cutting fuel. Not to mention, you have to worry about overheating / damaging the catalytic converter with too much spark retard. At least, that’s​ what I’ve learned calibrating TC for the auto industry. ☺

  • John B.

    For those of us who increasingly enjoy subjects the more time spent in the details and nuances, this video is fantastic.

    As for mixing a firearm event and a motorcycling review, I would say motorcycling meshes nicely with my other hobbies. I frequently take long motorcycle excursions punctuated with photography and poker tournaments. In a couple weeks, I plan to ride to Florida for a few days fishing, sailing, and playing poker. I highly recommend riding a motorcycle to and from your other favorite hobbies.

    • Born to Ride

      How else would you get there?

      • Sayyed Bashir


  • aaMOron

    I’ve wanted the AT since it came out, but had just purchased a 2011 R1200GS which I really liked, never stopped liking it. As fantastic as that bike was for me, I never bonded with it. It felt bigger than it was , never liked how my ankles always were up against the air intakes, and the normal BMW quirks just didn’t agree with my tastes. I also work F&I at a metric dealer, so I felt a bit odd about having a Euro bike. I have always owned Japanese bikes, guess that will continue for now.

    KTM and Husky bikes have lately interested me. This new 1090R looks like an amazing bike and I consider its relative lack of electronics refreshing. A simple (ish) bike that performs well with accessible performance may be harder to build than one that can utilize electronics to compensate for either the machine’s or rider’s shortcomings. It appears they have done a great job with this bike. The Husky 701 Enduro and Supermoto also really appeal to me. Sadly, these will remain forbidden fruit. On a side note, I have ridden the 2016 1290 Super Adventure and didn’t care for how bulky, wide between the legs it is. My God, does that bike fly, though!

    So, it came down to the AT for me. After taking a DCT version out, I was sold on that technology. I never expected to like it so much and was afraid it wouldn’t feel like a proper motorcycle. It still does with the added fun of hammer through the gears at WOT. Plus, my ride to work is much more enjoyable in suburban traffic. I knew I probably wouldn’t own my BMW very long, and I didn’t. This Honda feels like something I can ride for many years.


    I’ll take the Honda and the P320 Compact in 9mm.

  • spiff

    I figure no bike is perfect. If you are looking for something that doesn’t need an owner’s touch buy a Camery.

    So you can spend money on either. I would upgrade the intake, and exhaust (standard procedure for me) on the KTM. After a custom tune (something else I believe in) you can probably tune out the lag. All that is left is possibly spring rates.

    From a utilitarian point of view either is good, but I have an ego. While I try to keep it in check I think if you could get a chick to ride on either one it would be the 1090R. KTMs are cool.

  • Larry W

    Both great for touring, both great in the dirt for what they are. Great detailed review of both of these aspects of the bikes capabilities. You’d also mentioned that they’re both great sport- touring bikes, but no mention of the sport side. Which bike works better on twisty roads? I spend more time in the twisties than on the highway or the dirt, and the sport performance of ADV bikes (which can be very good) is often missed in reviews.

    • Sport riding isn’t their mission, but I’ll answer: Tires being equal, the KTM, thanks to its considerable extra power and firmer suspension.

      • Larry W

        Thanks Sean.
        Perfect MOron to send my reply. I’m 6′ 2″ with a 34″ inseam and am folded up like a pretzel on today’s sportbikes. I’ve ridden the Ninja 1000, sat on the R1200 RT, but still find ADV bikes much more comfortable. Also much better accommodations for the occasional long legged lovely on the back. As I only have the budget for one bike, the do it all capability of ADV bikes is ideal for me, and handling on twisty roads is a very important part of the “all”. Exploring the occasional dirt road is a nice bonus, but the sport and touring aspects (in that order) are what I’m most interested in.

        • zenmaestro

          if you’re looking an adv bike for sport riding, these aren’t the bikes. a bmw r1200gs or other adv bikes with a 19″ front wheels are better sport bike than either of these and still quite capable off road. a ducati multistrada or bmw s1000xr are even much better.

          • Larry W

            A Multistrada 950 is at top of my short list as I can’t pay the $18K plus for the 1200. I’ve got a feeling that KTM’s 1090 ADV S might be the better bike, but they’re not bringing it to the US. The 1090 ADV R might still be competitive in spite of the 21″ front, but I may never know as the reviewers will most likely not compare the two. I’d also consider the Aprilia Caponord Travel pack, but don’t know if it’s gotten the stiffer rear shock from the rallye version. Can’t tell from an around the block test ride, Aprilia denied the mushy rear end reported in multiple reviews, so I have no idea if this problem has been fixed.

          • zenmaestro

            depending on what you want to do and how fast you want to ride, ktm 690 (enduro/duke) or husky 701 are a blast to ride and are tall bikes. the super duke is fairly tall bike too. i’m 6’4″ and fit well on these bikes.

          • Larry W

            Both great for the canyons, but come up short on the touring side. A Versys 650 would be as fun in the twisties, if not quite as fast, and much better for trips. All three lack the passing power at altitude that I need here in Colorado. Hopefully KTM will bring in a 1090 or new 790 (ADV S or Duke GT) that’s sport- touring oriented. Otherwise Aprilia or Ducati will get my money. (Wonder if bar risers and a seat change could make a Tuono fit me)?

          • zenmaestro

            i also live in colorado. i just completed a 1200 mile weekend trip on my 690 enduro out to moab to ride rimrocker trail. i’ve new found admiration for the 690. fully loaded with luggage, i really had no problem passing cars or bikes going over the passes between denver and montrose. she’d reach over 80mph climbing up monarch pass without issue. that said, my water cooled r1200gs does it more gracefully and definitely more comfy for touring. i like the idea of 790. probably too close to 690 for me and will definitely be heavier than 690. 690’s is in a category of its own. there’s also the mv augusta veloce -a bit smaller. good luck on the search.

  • TheMarvelous1310

    I’ll bet Springfield is happy for the cross-platform publicity, seeing as how the NRA psychos are outraged at them somehow funding anti-gun legislation or something like that. Personally, I think if they’re gonna ban anything it should be alcohol, and if we’re doing sanity checks we should start with people who think they’re qualified to write laws, but maybe we shouldn’t debate gun politics on a motorcycle website. Springfield XDs are better than Glocks, though.

    Really, guns and motorcycles have a lot in common. There’s a lot of focus on speed, mechanical precision, light weight, quality materials and user comfort in both fields. Both are more likely to kill their owner than anyone else. Both require a license to legally own but require more regular use to be mastered, and maybe should be taught in school if they’re gonna be legal. Both drive me to make broad, sweeping opinion statements nobody wants to hear! Lots of similarities.

  • finn1969

    I am a bit “stand-off-ish” in regards to tubed tires (aka AT), I hate changing tubes. A good set of tubeless rims will cost more than the difference between the AT and KTM. Both are exceptional looking (love the AT White/blue/red) and functional rides, but KTM seems like a better starting platform.

  • Craig Hoffman

    What I really wanna know is which one does better wheelies. This is critical information for this type of bike you know.

    All kidding around aside, as a life long dirt bike rider, these things interest me. I have my 300 two stroke for riding hard core off road, but one of these things would rock here in Colorado. Lots of dirt roads and jeep trails to explore. Hop on your ADV bike and find Ouray, CO and ride Engineer Pass. You won’t be disappointed.

  • Chris Weiler

    Factor in maintenance costs and it will quickly swing in favor of the Honda. Rode with far too many ktm owners, some abusing, some babying, and they are always breaking down or have issues after 15k miles. No thanks.

  • TC

    Love the top speed dirt run, and the abrupt segue to the gun range. Remember the Savings and Loans that would give you a nice hunting rifle if you deposited a certain amount of money? This is an idea the motorcycle companies could explore.

  • Travis Donald

    I’m suprised that the Honda hung in there with the KTM. Nice graph of the three dynos! The one guy said he wished he could marry the engine of the Honda (and sound) into the chassis/Suspension of the KTM. That was interested. The cool thing about the maybe KTM 800 that will be coming out is that she will be cheaper than the Honda and much lighter, and be good to go on the Interstate. Unlike 2008, we have a lot of great ADV bikes to pick from in 2018.

  • sgray44444

    lets see… KTM performance, or Honda reliability? I’ll take Honda reliability. Anyone serious about using one of these as a true around-the-world bike will love a lower compression engine in a softer state of tune. It will be more forgiving of fuel quality. Give me simpler… “everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler”.

    • WEIRD! my original comment was a reply to a guy complaining about the guns, but it’s showing up as a reply to you instead. Talk about a non sequitur!

      • sgray44444

        I’ve had my share of passion-driven purchases, and found I’d rather have an average motorcycle that always runs to one with more character that I spend more time working on.

        • I edited my reply, it was intended for a completely different comment about how Europeans view guns, compared to how Americans view motorcycles.

          • sgray44444

            ahhh, the interweb. It’s funny how relevant it seemed, yet was intended for a completely different context.

  • marq101

    Being from Europe this firearms endorsement in a motorcycle test is bewildering and annoying at the same time. I love motorcycles almost limitIess but I really loath firearms. For me those two don’t mix and it really spoils an otherwise good read.

    • Tim B

      What’s being from Europe got to do with anything?

      • marq101

        A lot. American gun laws are alien to us. The fact a lot of Americans think it’s normal to carry/use/having a gun is beyond our comprehension (not talking rural area’s where sometimes you need a rifle for your protection against some animals).You cannot cary a gun overhere. Anywhere. Everytime there’s a mass shooting in America we are bewildered by the fact that even more people buy a gun after such tragedy. The next mass shooting isn’t a question of if but when. How do you defend your gun laws against people who lost a child in a mass shooting (In 2014 12.500 people where killed in gun accidents in the USA.) So, being from Europe has a lot to do with how we perceive firearms

        • ColoradoS14

          I hear ya, but the reality of the situation is that new “gun laws” are wildly ineffective at preventing mass shootings. It is not very useful to compare Europe, Japan, England, etc. where civilians have historically not had firearms to the US where there is already 350 million plus guns already out there.

          Going back 50 years in this country there have been around 550 people killed mass shootings, all of which have been committed in “gun free zones”, over this same period there have been around 550,000 gun deaths have occurred in total. So, while the mass shootings are surely emotionally traumatic and horrifying, they are hardly the typical situation. When bad people want guys they will get them. Stricter gun laws have not really shown to be effective, Chicago has a handgun ban and is the “murder capitol” of the US, rates of gun ownership in rural areas are twice what they are in the city and yet the city is where the preponderance of gun crime occurs.

          Generally speaking, you cannot own guns in most of Western Europe and yet as we have seen in France, Germany, Belgium, the UK, etc. when extremists want guns they can get guns; the same goes for the US. I would love a reduction of gun deaths, but am resigned to the reality of the efficacy of the laws, the reality of the statistics and the constraints of balancing personal freedom and a right to defend ones self with a desire for less murder.

          • Ian Parkes

            Extremists rarely bother with the hassle of getting guns in Europe; a truck or a fertiliser bomb will do. And bringing them into the equation as a defence for an armed citizenry is misdirection. Almost all American murder victims were killed by other Americans and, Marq10’s point being, in massively greater numbers than in countries that have gun laws.

            It is completely baffling that time after time people say: “Stricter gun laws have not really shown to be effective.” The comparison in murder rates between countries that have them and the US speaks for itself. Oh Americans are different, we can’t change, I hear you say. People used to say that about smoking, which is almost as bad for your health. But in relation to guns, see the example of Australia, a country with a similar frontier history. After their one mass shooting they brought in stricter gun laws, collected and trashed weapons and since then it has had not one shooting spree. For a funny and refreshingly unblinkered perspective on gun control see John Oliver’s three part series on Australia’s mad experiment.

          • ColoradoS14

            Why is it baffling when I say that stricter gun laws have by-and-large not lead to appreciable reductions in gun deaths in the US? You take my statement and then compare the US erroneously to other countries which have completely different situations, which is not logically sound. This would be like me saying “new contraceptive laws have not led to a reduction in teenage pregnancy in the US” and you then comparing us to a country like Switzerland where teen pregnancy was never a problem in the first place.

            Everyone uses the Australian example like it applies here at all, it carries little weight. You take a country where gun violence has never been a problem to nearly the same extent here, where there are nowhere close to the same rates of gun ownership, where there is an established licensing and registration procedure for firearms ownership, and where there is no deeply protected firearms culture and then try to extrapolate some lesson to be applied to the US.

            This was no buyback in Australia it was mandatory gun confiscation and they were able to effectively pull it off on 650,000 firearms because they knew the names of the people who owned them and where they lived. What is your plan for 350,000,000 guns with no reliable record of ownership, with over 100 years of free private party transfer and a “pry it from my cold dead hands” mentality?

            I would love a massive reduction in gun crime, I would love to send my daughter to school with no chance that something terrible happens, but we can’t just point at other situations and think it will work for us, we need to think outside the box.

            How about this:
            -What if we create a mandatory 10 year sentence if your gun is used in a crime due to lack of proper storage on your part.

            -What if we add 10 years on to any crime where you use or have a firearm on your person, so you rob a gas station with a knife that is 10 years you do the same with a gun you get 20.

            -How about we arm incredibly well trained teachers and security guards in our schools and other “gun-free zones”? What is the alternative, call the police? How is that different? How long would you like to wait for the good guys with guns to show up, wouldn’t it be better if they were already there?

            -Why don’t we promote a changing of the collective thought process regarding mass shootings? Everyone runs or hides now, that clearly does not work. What if we approached it like airline terrorism, if a guy on a plane stands up and starts threatening and shouting he is tackled immediately, September 11 taught us that complying does not work. Why not the same with mass shootings, we need to rush these guys for the collective good.

            -Why don’t we teach fathers to hang out and raise their kids? The bulk of gun violence in the country is perpetrated by young men who have grown up to single mothers in poor, gang rich communities.

        • FredFlintstone

          You will one day soon come to admire our gun ‘laws’….and when you fellow citizens can’t defend themselves, just say us Yanks told you so. But I agree….mixing two, totally unrelated subjects (motorcycles and guns) in one article is a little odd.

    • Marq, how you feel about firearms is actually a lot like how the average American civilian automobile driver feels about motorcycles (a dangerous menace to society that kills its user all too often) and is in fact behind most of the attempts to further restrict or even ban motorcycles in certain areas.

    • zenmaestro

      i wholeheartedly agree with marq101. sean, please stick to motorcycles. i’m american and don’t appreciate guns and i visit to read about motorcycles and not guns. i also find our obsession with guns baffling. our country’s arguments for guns don’t hold any water. australia’s experiment proves that. again, please stick to motorcycles. just like we wouldn’t appreciate you parading your religious or political views, consider keeping your fondness of guns -a volatile topic, out of motorcycle stories. thank you.

  • Patriot159

    The Honda shows that about 80 hp is sufficient for the mission but for me, light makes right so a 400 lb. wet ADV (KTM 800?) would be just right.
    Funny how a company like Honda can look at the saddlebags and be happy with the result. Not enough resources or R&D Honda?

  • Eric

    Nice review. The excessive engine heat from the KTM would be a deal breaker for me, as I live in the desert, and it’s hot enough already! Not too interested in the firearms discussion, but it wasn’t overbearing. Overall, a really useful test write up.

  • Tim B

    Slightly off topic but I wonder if anyone has ridden a Honda Transalp and how it compares to the AT? I’ve done thousands of k’s on my old mans Transalp and damn that bike is easy to ride.

    Always thought the Transalp was a softer, milder version of the AT but keen to get an informed opinion, cheers.

  • Ian Parkes

    Is this another example of the result on numbers and buyers’ actual priorities not lining up? Nearly. Points are awarded for geegaws but Scott and Sean balanced that out in the discussion with praise for the Honda’s simplicity, and they point out the KTM’s power advantage doesn’t count for much off-road. As another writer pointed out somewhere here, a UK bike mag’s staff were surprised to find, when they measured it, that they used more than a quarter throttle… was it less than 10% of the time? And these guys are paid to go for it. So rideability, reliability and a practical seat height – and even dealer support – translate into better sales for the Honda. Yep, on the dirt the Honda’s suspension might take second place but I bet Sean would set up suspension for his particular requirements on most bikes. This Honda is still way better than most supposed ADV bikes on the dirt and given the ratio of road to dirt most people who use their bikes regularly would create, it looks like a strong contender. Yes, the KTM could go harder on the road, but then you’d want to change the tyres… and get the GT? This report convinced me the Honda would be the better option for me.

  • zenmaestro

    what were the fully fueled weights of the bikes without saddle bags? that seems more meaningful than the weight with saddles. many of us will buy after market mounts and cases. thank you.

  • johnny mars

    It’s amazing to see how far videos have come. Those aerial shots are out of this world. Well done, guys. Next time, include a third friend on a Suzuki V-Strom dl1000 and maybe a 4th on a Yamaha FJ-09. The more, the dirtier!

  • Herr J

    NIce review.. The KTM is actually cheaper here in Sweden but i still cant decide… This is a hard decision.

  • Eric

    My opinion, if you plan to stay on pavement pretty much all the time, there are better options than both of these machines. Versys1000, V-Strom 1000, new Tracer 900GT, S1000XR, Super Tenere, and a host of non-ADV sport-touring machines.

    If you want to hit up a heavy dose of dirt, wait a couple years and see how the new F850GS, 700 Tenere (when released), KTM 790 ADV (when released) pans out. Sure someone can throw a set of long-travel forks on a ZX-14R with 200 hp and blast down the single-track, but it’s not really optimal compared to lightweight bikes with smaller engines.