2012 KTM Street Model Lineup Preview - Motorcycle.com

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

When dipping its toes back in the streetbike market, KTM did so gently with the single-cylinder Duke models. But when the company decided to finally hit the ground running and introduce a slew of street models, it still did so in a conservative fashion. The company’s headliner, the RC8 superbike, lacked power compared to its rivals, and the fit and finish was still a little rough around the edges. That said, KTM designers nailed the chassis design from the start, as it’s one of the best handling motorcycles we’ve ridden. The RC8 R aimed to fix the power issue by bumping displacement from 1148cc in the base model to 1195cc — rivaling its V-Twin competition — but now that power wasn’t an issue, taming it was.

Taking the “Ready To Race” motto to heart, 2012 sees six street bikes in the KTM lineup, headlined by the RC8 R and RC8 R Race Spec models. Here’s the breakdown:


Both the RC8 R and RC8 R Race Spec enter 2012 enjoying a host up carry-over upgrades from 2011. Since the RC8s were late arrivals to the 2011 sportbike party, we’re highlighting the changes and upgrades.

The 1195cc, 75-degree V-Twin remains; enhanced with dual spark plugs for better combustion, and new camshaft timing, the RC8 R now matches the increased power of its club racing kits. A forged crankshaft receives an additional 100 grams of weight for more inertia and when combined with a 25% heavier flywheel the result is a reduction to the abrupt throttle response for which the RC8 was notorious. But that’s not all, the 52mm throttle bodies now have an idle speed control cam to allow smoother airflow in the initial range of movement, like when applying throttle exiting a corner. Of course, this change in airflow required the ECU mapping to be tweaked to compensate.

Heavily revised for 2011, the 2012 RC8 R comes to the U.S. with no technical changes.

The gearbox wasn’t ignored either when going over the RC8 R. Of note is a gearbox sensor that allows the ECU to help control engine braking depending on the current gear. This will help reduce rear-end chattering when diving deep on the brakes for a corner. Other improvements to the tranny include a revised drum and linkage to save weight and provide better shifting.

In the suspension department, the front fork received a larger air chamber (110mm vs. 80mm), while the rear shock’s spring rate is reduced from 95 to 85 N/mm. Both changes provide a better compromise for street riders who want a more comfortable ride, but who still take their RC8 to the track occasionally. Rear ride height now receives a larger range of adjustment, with the rear linkage eccentric adjustable up to 12mm.

More inertial mass in the crankshaft and flywheel should help smooth throttle response, while dual sparkplugs promote cleaner, more efficient combustion, resulting in slightly more power.

The rider interface is slightly revised as well, with the gear indicator in both Street and Race mode shown in two places; as a line under the RPM and as a numeric display. Instant and average fuel economy is updated every three seconds, and speaking of fuel, the RC8 R now has an option to switch between two different fuel maps depending on the quality of gas available, with the default 91 octane setting good for a claimed 170 horsepower. The second setting, set for 94 octane, can reach a claimed 175 horses. As far as electronics, the RC8 R doesn’t receive traction control like many of its counterparts, unfortunately, but it still looks to be a worthy competitor in the literbike wars. Finally, its headlight is now surrounded by LED marker lights. Attention was given to not only bump power slightly, but moreso to manage it. Pricing is TBA

RC8 R Race Spec

Upping the ante for the serious trackday or racing enthusiast is the RC8 R Race Spec, which practically throws the proverbial “kitchen sink” of parts from KTM’s performance catalog onto the RC8 R. Specific to the 2012 RC8 R Race Spec are new suspension settings and a new countershaft sprocket with an additional tooth, now 17. To create the Race Spec the base RC8 R is stripped of its street plastics and fitted with track versions instead, with no cutouts for lights or mirrors. Next comes an Akrapovic Evo 4 titanium exhaust system, thinner head gasket, and more aggressive cam timing (a tool to adjust the cam timing is also included). A freer-flowing air filter is installed, while the race ECU is programmed to match the new engine components. This is mated to a racing wiring harness which eliminates all the unnecessary wires (like those that operate the lights), all in the name of weight savings. All told, the Race Spec engine puts out a claimed 180 horsepower and 97.4 ft.-lbs. of torque.

The Race Spec version of the RC8 R is a trackday enthusiast’s or racer’s dream, as it incorporates practically every go-fast part in the KTM catalog.

Also included in the Race Spec is a slipper clutch and quickshifter for the GP-style (reverse) shift pattern which comes standard. A WP 4618 race shock is fully adjustable, while the WP fork receives TiAIN coating for the slickest surface possible. Both units are tuned specifically for the Race Spec chassis. Forged Marchesini aluminum wheels shave some weight off the stock bike and are mounted to Dunlop race slicks.

Other notables include machined adjustable footpegs with carbon heel guards, adjustable race brake and clutch levers, 520 chain and sprockets, high-performance brake pads, quarter-turn racing fuel cap, carbon engine guards and a bike stand from Power Parts. Pricing is also yet to be determined for the RC8 R Race.

990 SM T ABS

KTM’s interpretation of a sport-tourer, the 990 SM T ABS comes with soft luggage (not pictured) for long-ish travels.

Making a return to our shores is a revised version of the 990 SM, only this model gets a T designation for touring, along with the addition of ABS. It’s powered by the venerable 999cc, 75-degree V-Twin we saw in the Super Duke (which, sadly, isn’t coming here) and comes with soft saddlebags as standard equipment. KTM partnered with Bosch to use its two-channel anti-lock brake system as an added safety feature on the SM. Dual Brembo four-piston, radially mounted calipers bite on 305mm discs and are fed fluid through a radially mounted master cylinder with steel braided lines. Pricing and availability are yet undetermined.

990 Adventure ABS/Adventure R

If you’ve ever seen the notorious Paris-Dakar rally, then you’ve definitely seen the workhorse of the KTM lineup, the 990 Adventure. The 2012 model year sees the Adventure get spruced up with two new variants with the ABS and R models. The former is based on the 2011 Adventure Dakar edition, powered by the same 999cc V-Twin that puts out 115 hp. Only now it receives the benefit of ABS. It also gets a factory racing orange powder coated frame and engine guards, revised wrap-around hand guards, a modified centerstand for easier lifting and new colors and graphics.

The go-anywhere 990 Adventure ABS retains all of what makes the Adventure a Paris-Dakar winner while adding ABS. Meanwhile, the Adventure R (not pictured) benefits from suspension tweaks.

The Adventure R model benefits from suspension tweaks that provide 9.8 inches of travel for aggressive riding. A lower seat height of 35.2 inches is almost one full inch lower than the 2010 model. Ground clearance is now set at 11.7 inches.

690 Enduro R/500EXC/350EXC-F

Lastly, a trio of on/off-road models make their way for 2012, starting with the 690 Enduro R, which gets a true 690cc engine due to longer stroke. This increases power to a claimed 67 hp and 49 ft.-lbs. Service intervals have been extended to 6200 miles (10,000km), while suspension settings receive new spring rates, resulting in total travel of 250mm. Seat height now drops 20mm to 910mm, while a new seat adds more comfort. A new tank spoiler, front mask and fender combine to give the 690 Enduro R a new look to go along with the new and improved headlight.

Sadly, the new 690 Duke announced at EICMA apparently won’t be coming to America.

For the dual-sport fans out there, the 690 Enduro gets even more power for 2012 and an extended service interval.

The 500EXC and 350 EXC-F are practically completely revised motorcycles. The 500EXC features a new 510.4cc SOHC fuel-injected engine that’s 5.5 pounds lighter than previous the previous powerplant. The 350, meanwhile, sports a 349.7cc DOHC fuel-injected engine. Internally, both engines receive a new balancer shaft, lighter piston and connecting rod and a new single diaphragm spring clutch. A new electric start system has a kickstart backup and is paired with a stronger stator rated at 196 watts. The frame and swingarm are new with a PDS shock in back. Black Giant-brand rims and spokes adorn each bike, and each gets a new airbox, intake boot, silencer and spark arrestor. New bodywork includes a translucent fuel tank and in the rear the taillight and license plate holder is beefed up to be more durable. The 500EXC will retail for $9899, with the 350 coming in $200 cheaper.

Trail riders out there will enjoy the 350 EXC-F, though some might opt for the more powerful 500EXC (not pictured).

Related Reading
2012 KTM 350 XCF-W Review
2012 KTM XC Enduro Line Reviews
2010 KTM 1190 RC8R Review
2010 Literbike Shootout: Aprilia RSV4 Factory vs. Ducati 1198S vs. KTM RC8R
2008 KTM RC8 1190 Review

Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

More by Troy Siahaan

Join the conversation