2023 KTM RC 8C Review

Alan Cathcart
by Alan Cathcart

It had been quite a while since I last rode a multi-cylinder KTM on a racetrack – all the way back to 2011 and the Red Bull-sponsored factory RC8R 1200cc V-twin on which Martin Bauer was victorious in that year’s IDM German Superbike Championship, with teammate Stefan Nebel third. That was a key moment in the Austrian dirtbike specialist’s climb up the ladder to equal status with the likes of Honda and Ducati in the road racing pantheon, and showed that orange was a color to be reckoned with on-road as well as off it.

KTM invited Alan Cathcart to join 30 customers to pick up their new RC 8Cs in Valencia and hobnob with the likes of Jeremy McWilliams, Mika Kallio, and Brad Binder.

The chance to be one of only two fortunate journalists invited to join the 30 privileged owners of the new KTM RC 8C Version 2.0 in lapping the Valencia GP circuit on their first acquaintance with their blind dates – which they’d paid serious money for six months earlier ( 2023 KTM RC 8C – First Look) – meant going back to the future. As KTM looks to rediscover its road racing mojo, it has once again devoted a small slice of its massive R&D capability to developing customer road racers, albeit at this stage for just a few lucky customers with high-speed internet connections who could grab their chance with both hands to own this iconic piece of Austrian moto art.

It was also the chance to finally square the circle by riding a Krämer Motorcycles product, for after visiting Markus Krämer’s workshop 12 years ago in the humble converted cowshed where his spare time Supermono R&D project was taking shape in between his day job working for KTM R&D, I’d never yet been able to take up any of his many invitations to ride one of his bikes. Was it worth waiting for? You betcha....

But, climbing aboard the RC 8C in Valencia’s pit lane ready for my first of six 20-minute sessions on a gloriously sunny Spanish Spring day, had me practically asking for a stepladder, the seat was so high. I mean, I am used to riding pretty extreme GP race bikes, but this seemed quite a bit over the top. But to compensate for that in the pursuit of comfort and rationality it was easy to tweak the multi-adjustable footrests and clip-on handlebars to feel at home on the bike – at 5’ 9” in height it seemed to be tailor-made for me, a sentiment shared by every owner I spoke to, whether tall or short, thin or – well, less thin, about their blind dates. KTM and Krämer have rather improbably made this a truly accessible motorcycle. None of the dozen owners I spoke to complained of not feeling comfortable on their bike. With a 55.1-inch wheelbase it’s definitely rational in size – that word again – while also, as I’d later discover, decidedly handy in turns.

Time to fire it up via a magnificent roll of midsize thunder from the Akrapovič pipe – thanks to its 75° offset crankpins the Parallel-Twin engine sounds just like a V-Twin, only not as deep and muscular as a 1200cc RC8 true 75° V-Twin did. Hearing it triggered my memory banks, though, transporting me back in time to more than 25 years ago, and my series of dates that I enjoyed so much success with on TRiXi Yamaha, the first modern parallel-twin TRX850 ProTwins bike I raced for Yamaha Europe, with side-by-side cylinders and a 270° crank, resulting in a similar offbeat boom to its Over exhaust. That delivered the best of both worlds, with the compacted mass of a parallel-twin motor delivering enhanced handling vs. a 90° L-twin Ducati with its inevitable rearwards weight bias, but the added traction of such a bike delivered via the offset crankpins.

The KTM RC 8C is straight out of the same box, complete with a useful 54/46% forward weight bias which invites you to crank up turn speed in Valencia’s several third-gear turns – but only after making sure that the right side of the front Pirelli is truly ready for action on the notorious Turn 4/5 combo where so many have crashed through being impatient. Fortunately, the Italian tires fitted to the Austrian bike’s British wheels heat up quicker than any other tire manufacturer’s, so from my second flying lap onwards I could start using the great feedback from the WP front suspension to start building turn speed on those mid-speed sweepers.

But it’s that 889cc motor that’s the main attraction, replete with exceptionally broad midrange torque peaking at 8,250 rpm with 72 lb-ft on tap, and completely devoid of undue vibration at any revs despite losing one of its twin counterbalancers in the pursuit of reduced inertia. This, combined with the much lighter crank assembly on this latest version of the RC 8C motor, gives a really noticeable zip to the way it picks up revs at almost any engine speeds – plus on top of that, there’s an extra 1,500 rpm available at the top end, so instead of having to shift gear at 10,500 rpm as on the Gen.1.0 version of the same bike, you can – indeed, must – rev it right out in the gears, to take full advantage of the extra power on tap at higher revs. There’s 135 hp available at 11,000 rpm, by which stage the shifter lights on the TFT dash are flashing at you madly to grab a higher gear on the race-pattern gearshift I’d opted for, though it’s the work of a moment to reverse that to a conventional road shift.

Yet pulling out of the slow second-gear Turn 2 where Valentino waved goodbye to his 2006 MotoGP World title from as low as 5,000 rpm had the KTM engine driving cleanly away as the lightened crank assembly delivered a real zest to the way it picks up revs. Above seven grand is where it really comes alive, though, and while you can perfectly well short-shift at just a little over that, as I noticed others seemed to be doing as a matter of course, and I did on my first session spent dialing myself into the bike and a Valencia GP circuit I hadn’t ridden at since the pre-COVID era, it was a lot more enjoyable, as well as effective, to take advantage of the increased performance obtained by revving it right out. Jeremy McWilliams told me he revels in this particular KTM’s appetite for wheelies, but if you’re just trying to focus on the Go rather than the Show you’ll find the anti-wheelie program contained in the Bosch ECU does a pretty good job of keeping the front wheel earthbound. But you’ll still need to keep the WP steering damper tightened up a little to keep the front wheel from flapping the ‘bars in your hands accelerating out of the final turn before the Pits at Valencia.

Just call him Jeremy McWheelie.

You can tell that Markus Krämer is used to designing quick-steering Supermono racers, because even with a few dozen extra kilos on offer thanks to its extra cylinder more, the RC 8C has the same agile handling as the modern-era singles I spent so much of my later racing career aboard. In fact, it reminded me a lot of the works MZ RennSkorpion I raced at Daytona for the German factory, with its slightly porky upright-cylinder five-valve Yamaha motor. The KTM had the same feeling under braking, where you’d be leaning on the front tire to trail-brake into a bend, with the rear wheel just on the point of parting company with the tarmac to start street-sweeping from side to side. There was a hint of instability as you did this – but that was more than compensated for by the extra front wheel grip delivered by that extreme forward weight bias. Add in the vestiges of engine braking still left dialed in to the slipper clutch setting, and you have a truly effective package, where the twin 290mm front brakes are more than sufficient to stop the RC 8C hard, yet thanks to their smaller diameter compared to the ubiquitous 320mm discs you see on so many other bikes which are actually overbraked, have prevented the extra unsprung weight from impacting negatively on the suspension, as well as reduced their gyroscopic effect on the handling, resulting in more precise, sharper steering.

And that’s where the RC 8C really excels in handling terms, as demonstrated by its appetite for speed through the fast right/left Champi Herreros Turn 12 flick leading out of the infield down to the last turn at Valencia. I’ll admit that it took me quite a few laps to work up to doing this in fourth gear as Jeremy McWilliams told me he did, but eventually I managed it – albeit at first without any real conviction. The RC 8C’s handling is just the right side of nervous – thanks to that quite sharp steering geometry with a 23.3° rake to the WP fork and just 3.9 inches of trail, it changes direction almost on autopilot – more like a Supermono rather than the ProTwins racer which it is. However, by really working at it I ended up giving a reasonable imitation of Yer Maun doing it a gear higher than I’d previously dared – and that was entirely due to the KTM’s beautifully balanced steering, as well as its engine’s forgiving midrange torque, which repeatedly rescued me after I let the revs drop in the middle of the turn, before finally getting it all done right. Phew!

And that experience is one that I’m sure many owners of this lovely motorcycle will replicate themselves as they take increasing advantage of its ability to forgive, but also to teach. I suspect that most of the owners of this bike will be track day riders who won’t race it in anger – but that doesn’t mean they won’t learn how to go faster than they’ve ever ridden before on this paragon of performance.

Hmm... If this bike is so good that even Jeremy McWilliams wants to have one in his garage, maybe I better start saving up to give TRiXi some company in her retirement. Wonder if KTM will have a Gen 3.0 version anytime soon…?

KTM RC 8C Customer Impressions

Richard Lemaire - Canada

Hydroelectric engineer Richard Lemaire, 62, comes from Quebec in Canada, and after selling the first of his two self-developed hydro plants he invested part of the proceeds in a 2022 KTM RC 8C, with which he’s become an avid Track day fan.

“I’ve always liked KTMs, but I was previously more into their Adventure and Road bikes, of which I’ve owned several,” he says. “But my brother in law Luke introduced me to Track days three or four years ago, and so when the RC 8C came out last year, I was able to obtain one, and I’ve had so much fun riding it. So, when KTM announced this new version I bought one for Luke to use, too, so we can both ride similar bikes. After riding it here at Valencia I’m so happy I bought it – it’s just that little bit improved over the older version. They’re both real Track bikes, whereas what I was riding back home when I first started was a street bike converted to a track bike, complete with compromises, but with the RC 8C it’s just phenomenal how focused a bike it is, without being extreme. I’ve been following what Krämer has been doing ever since he started, and in fact I wanted to convert my 680 Duke into a Krämer Supermono, but he didn’t want to – and then boom, the RC 8C came out, which was exactly what I’d been waiting for. I can’t wait to get it back to Quebec, and start doing track days with it this summer at Mont Tremblant and Mosport!”

Jason Woz - USA

American customer Jason Woz, 54, is a commercial roofing contractor from N.E. Connecticut, where he recently got hooked on Track days, and decided to purchase a motorcycle specifically designed with those in mind.

“I ride a Yamaha R1 on the street, but it seemed like having something that was a dedicated track unit made sense for what I was transitioning to, rather than try to multipurpose my street bike as a track day bike,” he says. “I also wanted a bike that I would be in charge of on the race track, not it of me, so that led me to a twin rather than a four, and so far I’m very impressed with the bike – it’s extremely light, you don’t even notice it underneath you, and it’s a very surprising engine, with much better torque than I’d anticipated. I’m quite tall at 6’2”, so I was a little concerned about purchasing the bike sight unseen, in case I didn’t fit on it. Well, I feel like I fit – I probably don’t look like I do, but there’s plenty of room and I don’t feel cramped, like I can’t manoeuvre on it. There’s plenty of room, but it turns and steers so sweetly, and while it’s agile, it’s not nervous. Put me down as a very satisfied customer!”

Guillaume Chauvet - Switzerland

Guillaume Chauvet, 47, is a French resident of Geneva, Switzerland, working in finance. So, why did you buy this motorcycle, Guillaume?

“When I was young, I was crazy about bikes. As soon as I turned 18, I got my motorcycle license before my car driving license. At the age of 25 my two brothers and I created an amateur racing team going to places like Mugello and Paul Ricard, but after two years I had a very bad accident. I was with a girl at the time who I was very much in love with, and she told me, “Either you stop motorcycle riding, or I leave you, because I don’t want to have kids with a guy who will kill himself.” So I stopped, and we had one child, then a second child, so then I asked her if there was any plan to have a third child, and she said, “No”. So the day after that I bought a motorcycle. And I’m still married!”

“At the moment I have various Classic sportbikes like a Ducati 916, a CBR900RR, an early Yamaha R1 and an RG500 two-stroke. But I wanted to start riding at Track days, so for that I wanted to have a modern bike, not a Classic. So I tested the Ducati Panigale, which is a monster and much too fast for me. I also tried out the RSV4 Factory, which I liked a lot, but it was a very physical bike to ride hard – you know, I’m approaching my 50s, I’ve gained some weight, so I need something that’s easier to ride. So then last year at the Paul Ricard Classic there was a guy who was doing the ProTwins race against the big bikes with a KTM like this, and doing pretty good. So I went to talk to him, and he told me about the bike, and I loved the concept. In terms of cars, I like Colin Chapman’s philosophy – just add lightness, so that’s why I have a Lotus. Light is right, and I’ve been super impressed by the bike today. I think KTM and Krämer really fulfilled their mission, and for an amateur it gives you the possibility to kind of touch their MotoGP bikes’ heritage – it’s very different from a Supersport bike you modify to go on the track. It’s really focused, but so original – there’s nothing else quite like it available elsewhere. You don’t easily find any limits to the bike, you’re not tired riding it, and each time I do so I have a lot of fun – it puts a smile on my face, and that’s what I was looking for. So count me as a very content customer!

Philippe & Mathilde Caristo – France

Philippe & Mathilde Caristo from Cagnes-sur-Mer on France’s sunny south coast were among the several married couples at Valencia, although in each case it was the male half of the duo who was doing the riding. In Mathilde’s case, however, her turn would come the following month at their home circuit of Ledenon.

“I raced bikes up until 2010, then I stopped for the next 12 years,” says Phillipe, 62, director of an investigations agency. “When the first RC 8C was announced, I decided this was exactly the bike I needed on which to rediscover the racetrack, and it was just perfect – so enjoyable to ride. But in future I don’t want to do it alone, so that’s why I’ve purchased the second version I’ve been riding today, so we can both do this together.”

Mathilde, 33, laughs. “I ride a bike every day to go to work, and at weekends in the country. I’ve always wanted to try riding on a racetrack, and I think this will be a good way to start.”

So, how does the latest version compare with the original one, then, Philippe?

“It’s even more seductive, to the point of being enticing – I’m not as young as I was, but this bike makes you feel a master of the racetrack,” says Phillipe. “It’s so invigorating to ride, even more than the first edition – this one feels better on the entry to turns, more balanced and controllable. But each lap you try to brake later – I suppose you could say it’s an invitation to crash! So far, so good, though!”

Let it be a matter of record that nobody crashed their latest and greatest track-friendly motorcycle at Valencia that entire day!

2023 KTM RC 8C Specifications

Engine Type

Liquid-cooled four-stroke, DOHC Parallel twin, four valves per cylinder


889 cc

Bore x Stroke

90.7 mm x 68.8 mm


135 hp at 11,000 rpm (claimed)


72.3 lb-ft. at 8,250 rpm (claimed)

Compression Ratio


Starter / Battery

Electric / 12.8 V 4Ah Lithium battery


6 gears

Fuel System

DKK Dell’Orto (Throttle body 48mm)


Pressure lubrication with 2 oil pumps

Engine Oil

Motorex, Racing Pro 4T SAE 15W-50

Primary Drive


Final Drive



Cable operated PASC Slipper clutch

Engine Management/Ignition

Bosch EMS with RBW

Traction Control

10 levels available (from 0=off to 9=max traction control)

Fuel Consumption

22.4 mpg (claimed)


Cro-Mo steel frame (25CrMo4 tubular steel)


Integrated with fuel tank


Aluminum, clip-on bars, adjustable

Front Suspension

WP XACT PRO 7543 fork; adjustable compression, rebound, preload; 4.7 inches of travel

Rear Suspension

WP APEX PRO 7746; adjustable compression (high/low), rebound, preload; 4.7 inches of travel

Front Brake

Dual radially mounted four-piston calipers, Ø 290 mm brake discs

Rear Brake

Two-piston caliper, brake disc Ø 230 mm

Front Wheel

Forged aluminum 3.50 × 17″

Rear Wheel

Forged aluminum 6.00 × 17″

Front Tire

120/70 R 17

Rear Tire

180/60 R 17


Chain 520 DID ERV Racing


Titanium Akrapovic full exhaust system

Rake / Trail

23.3° (± 1°) / 3.9 inches


55.1 inches ± 0.6 inches

Ground Clearance

7.5 inches

Seat Height

32.3 inches

Tank Capacity

Approx. 4.2 gallons

Dry Weight

Approx. 313 pounds (claimed)

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Alan Cathcart
Alan Cathcart

A man needing no introduction, Alan Cathcart has ridden motorcycles since age 14, but first raced cars before swapping to bikes in 1973. During his 25-year racing career he’s won or been near the top in countless international races, riding some of the most revered motorcycles in history. In addition to his racing resume, Alan’s frequently requested by many leading motorcycle manufacturers to evaluate and comment on their significant new models before launch, and his detailed feature articles have been published across the globe. Alan was the only journalist permitted by all major factories in Japan and Europe to test ride their works Grand Prix and World Superbike machines from 1983 to 2008 (MotoGP) and 1988 to 2015 (World Superbike). Winner of the Guild of Motoring Writers ‘Pierre Dreyfus Award’ twice as Journalist of the Year covering both cars and bikes, Alan is also a six-time winner of the Guild’s ‘Rootes Gold Cup’ in recognition of outstanding achievement in the world of Motorsport. Finally, he’s also won the Guild’s Aston Martin Trophy in 2002 for outstanding achievement in International Journalism. Born in Wales, married to Stella, and father to three children (2 sons, 1 daughter), Alan lives in southern England half an hour north of Chichester, the venue for the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed and Goodwood Revival events. He enjoys classic cars and bikes, travel, films, country rock music, wine - and good food.

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2 of 9 comments
  • Jay Jay on Jul 26, 2023

    Pretty cool looking design

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  • Glenn Lutic Glenn Lutic on Oct 11, 2023

    I know, if you can't afford it, don't ask! ...but, how much? I'm still waiting for someone to build a new 250 2T, that isn't street legal, using parts, as many as possible, from a more popular production model. ie- a 125 dirt bike, or a 150 even. I've owned four Yamaha 2T street legal motorcycles. An "off road only" TZR250 would be awesome.