2014 KTM 1190 Adventure Review

Tom Roderick
by Tom Roderick

A more technologically streetable Adventure-Tourer

When it came to big-bore Adventure-Touring shootouts, the KTM 990 Adventure was predisposed to win the off-road segment of the test. That motorcycle, with 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels, 8.25 inches of suspension travel (front and rear), and a lesser wet weight than its peers was simply better suited to the task.

“The KTM 990 Adventure is the only real choice if your idea of adventure takes you far away from the pavement,” said Dean Hight in our 2012 Adventure-Touring Shootout.

The old Adventure, however, was outpaced, technologically bereft and suffered from displacement envy. With the introduction of the 2014 1190 Adventure, KTM addressed the bike’s shortcomings but in the process has streetified its once dominant dirtbike.

Powered by a new 1195cc engine sourced from the company’s RC8 superbike and featuring an electronics armada including ride modes, switchable ABS, Motorcycle Traction Control (MTC), R-b-W throttle, electronically adjustable suspension and a slipper clutch, the differences between the old and new Adventure go much further than skin deep.

Before we go any further, dirt-o-philes need not fret because an R version of the 1190 Adventure is on the way and it promises to be everything off-road the standard version is not. We’ll have a review of the 1190 R Adventure immediately following the Adventure Rider Rally in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, but for now let’s expose the new nature of KTM’s standard Adventure model.

2013 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S Touring Vs. 2013 Triumph Explorer – Video

With the likes of Ducati’s Multistrada and Triumph’s Tiger Explorer gaining in popularity while also blurring the lines of what comprises an Adventure-Tourer, KTM set to hybridizing its new Adventure model. Wheel sizes are reduced from the 990’s 21/18 combo to 19 and 17 inches, front and rear, respectively, engine displacement increased from 999cc to 1195cc, and a slipper clutch was added to the new 6-speed transmission. An electronics package including electronically adjustable suspension, R-b-W throttle, Motorcycle Traction Control (MTC), switchable ABS and Ride Modes is present. Adjustable windscreen, seat and handlebars conspire to easily customize comfort levels, while a steering damper helps keep the long-travel fork calm as the speeds increase.

The 1190 Adventure carries nearly a gallon more petrol than last year’s model (6.1 vs 5.3). KTM claims a curb weight of 507 pounds for the new model.

Engine, MTC, Transmission & Slipper Clutch

KTM claims 150 horsepower from the 1195cc 75° V-Twin powering the Adventure. Calculating a pessimistic 15% drivetrain power loss (-27.5 hp) puts the LC8-based engine well above the Tiger Explorer’s 111 hp and in the neighborhood of the Multistrada’s 131 hp – a promising start for the new bike.

The DOHC four-valve cylinder heads feature two differently sized spark plugs per cylinder controlled by dual ignitions that ignite the spark plugs independently of one another. KTM claims the result is a 20% improvement in fuel economy and reduced emissions.

Small piston skirts feature hard-anodized coating, while valves are controlled by finger followers with a Diamond-like Carbon coating. KTM recommends 9,300 miles between regular service intervals and 18,600 miles between spark plug and valve clearance checks.

While there’s significant low-end power, a noticeable power surge resides above 6000 rpm. The increased propulsion is nice to have on tap, but the vibes that come with it are not. After an extended period of high-rpm canyon riding I grabbed another gear (my ass cheeks were getting tingly) which diminished the worst of the vibrations as well as the illumination of the MTC warning light.

Engine response from KTM’s R-b-W system operating two 52mm Keihin throttle bodies feels nicely cable-like, while minor throttle inputs (largely unnecessary due to its traction control system) results in smooth, controllable increases or decreases in engine revs.

When the MTC light does illuminate, it’s oftentimes surprising. While power is momentarily delayed, there’s no sense of engine surging, making the system’s operation very transparent. There are four different MTC settings that vary according to the Rider Mode selected. MTC can also be completely disabled.

Rider Modes

SportMTC is set to allow slight wheelspin with the MTC intervening late in the throttle application. Allows for small front wheel lift during hard acceleration. (150 hp)
StreetMTC is set manage the slippage in a smooth and controlled manner for increased rider confidence. (150 hp)
Off-RoadMTC is set to allow 100% of rear wheel slippage – up to twice the wheel speed for optimum traction in off-road conditions. (100 hp)
Rain100% MTC, no rear wheel slippage. (100 hp)

Also based on the RC8, the Adventure’s crankcase was modified with a different valve train and camshafts that helped reduce its weight. Gear ratios were changed with a much shorter first gear for slow-speed maneuvering while 5th and 6th are overdrive gears for touring purposes. An oil sight glass was installed at the left front, right below the oil intake and above the oil filter.

The Adventure comes equipped with ContiTrailAttack 2 tubeless tires. KTM’s patented wire spoke rims are conventional in configuration without a cross-spoke pattern or additional material. A Tire Pressure Monitoring System comes standard.

Helping with aggressive street riding is a Power Assist Slipper Clutch (PASC) which reduces back-torque pressure. The adjustable clutch lever requires an easy pull due to incredibly light clutch springs.

In fact, the whole shifting experience on the Adventure was pleasurable without any unwarranted missed shifts or false neutrals. And, if so desired, the Adventure is set up for the installation of the KTM quick shifter available from KTM accessories.

Electronic Suspension & Multi-Functional Cockpit

Setting a baseline preload is important – 100 pounds of importance between a rider weighing 175 and one weighing 275. To configure a baseline preload setting an Adventure owner must have his KTM dealer adjust the baseline spring preload via their diagnostic tool.

KTM’s first suspension featuring an Electronic Damping System (EDS) comes by virtue of WP Suspension. Like similar units a rider can, via the handlebar-mounted mode switch, adjust preload settings according to load (Solo, Solo with luggage, Two-up, Two-up with luggage).

Separate from the preload are three damper settings: Sport, Street and Comfort. These are also selected from the handlebar-mounted mode switch and change the performance of suspension characteristics accordingly.

Like similar models we’ve sampled, WP’s version of electronic damping provides a balanced blend of suspension tuning to keep most motorcyclists happy with the pre-set damping selections. During our short ride we didn’t find any egregious suspension flaws, but we reserve the right to change our opinion after having a model under our butts for a longer period of time.

Controlling all these functions is the aforementioned Multi-Functional Cockpit including the handlebar-mounted mode switch, analog tachometer, a digital speedometer, and an LCD screen with readouts for fuel and engine temp, clock, preload selection, etc., and a separate screen for selecting Rider Modes, suspension settings, ABS and MTC controls and more.

We really liked the instrument cluster’s “Favorites” screen. The customizable screen allows a rider to organize the information according to what is deemed most important, most often adjusted, or any other configuration you choose. From this screen a rider can also select and adjust the displayed settings.

While Rider Modes can be changed at any speed and activated after closing the throttle, ABS and MTC can only be dis-engaged at walking speeds or less, and suspension preload changed only when stopped.

Like the new BMW R1200GS, the Adventure doesn’t retain some settings, such as turning off ABS, without purchasing a special “dongle” from the KTM parts catalog.

Operating the mode switch is easily grasped – one of the more intuitive handlebar-mounted mode switches we’ve encountered (did KTM hire some Apple employees?).

Brakes, Adjustability & Other Stuff

Slowing the new Adventure are dual, radially mounted, 4-piston Brembo calipers gripping 320mm discs up front and a 2-piston Brembo caliper and 268mm disc out back. At both ends is Bosch’s 9ME Combined ABS/C-ABS technology.

While ABS settings are attached to Rider Modes, ABS selections can be set independently, such as, having the Rider Mode in Sport and having the ABS set to Off-Road or Off.

With C-ABS, when a rider applies front brake pressure the system adds rear brake pressure, but does not apply front brake pressure when a rider uses only the rear brake. ABS and C-ABS can also be turned off entirely.

ABS Settings

StreetFully functional ABS including C-ABS.
Off-RoadAllows a higher degree of front wheel slippage than in “Street” mode and disengages the C-ABS and rear wheel ABS so the rear wheel can be operated separately and can be stopped completely to help control the bike in off-road conditions.
OffAll ABS functions are turned off.

Stopping power, especially when combined with ABS, is more than sufficient for quickly slowing the 507-pound machine. A very minimal pulsation is felt through the hand and foot brake levers when ABS engages, but otherwise, like the MTC, the ABS system functions transparently.

Unlike the base model R1200GS, the base model Adventure comes equipped with luggage mounts. The nicely constructed mounts do not detract from the bike’s aesthetics when luggage is removed. Beneath the seat, where the rear cylinder resides, heat build-up is noticeable. Outstretched knees when casually riding helps dissipate the hot air pocket.

To address different-size riders and make long-distance touring as comfortable and convenient as possible, KTM provides adjustability in many areas. The seat easily moves from its low position (33.8 inches) to its high position (34.4 inches), while handlebars have 10mm of adjustment and footpegs move up and to the rear over a distance of 15mm. Rubber footpegs inserts are removable, providing better grip in slippery off-road conditions.

+ Highs

  • Horsepower
  • Electronics package
  • A more well-rounded Adventure

– Sighs

  • Very vibey above 8000 rpm
  • No cruise control
  • Hardcore dirtbike guys will scoff

The manually adjustable windscreen has a range of 25mm in vertical movement as well as a fore and aft range of 36mm. In the low setting I found the windscreen provided ample wind protection and diverted the stream over the top of my Arai XD4 helmet without catching the visor. A rider would have to be in excess of six feet tall to gain any advantage of the windscreen’s taller setting.

Considering the Adventure’s new on-road disposition, including an increased fuel load for longer, uninterrupted riding miles, we were surprised to find cruise control missing from its electronics suite. Maybe cruise control was omitted for pricing considerations, but it’s hard to speculate at this point because KTM isn’t releasing the Adventure’s MSRP until we test the R model at the Adventure Rider Rally.

The new 1190 Adventure places KTM squarely in the mix of its contemporaries including the new BMW GS, Triumph Tiger Explorer and Yamaha Super Ténéré. How, exactly, it measures up against these A-T competitors is fodder for a future shootout.

Speaking of the Rider Rally, if you’d like to try the new 1190 Adventure or the 1190 R Adventure models yourself, test rides are being offered there and at select West Coast locations during the month of September. For dates and more information check the KTM website or with your local KTM dealer.

2014 KTM 1190 Adventure
Horsepower150 @ 9500 rpm (claimed)
Torque92.2 ft-lb. @ 7500 rpm (claimed)
Engine Capacity1195 cc
Engine Type75° V-Twin
Bore x Stroke105 mm x 69 mm
Fuel SystemEFI
ClutchPower Assist Slipper Clutch, hydraulically operated
Final DriveChain
FrameChromium-molybdenum-steel trellis
Front Suspension48mm, WP inverted fork, electronically adjustable
Rear SuspensionWP monoshock, electronically adjustable
Front Brakes4-piston Brembo calipers, 320mm discs, ABS/C-ABS
Rear Brakes2-piston Brembo caliper, 268mm disc, ABS/C-ABS
Front Tire120/70-19
Rear Tire170/60-17
Seat Height33.8” to 34.4”
Curb Weight507 lbs
Fuel Capacity6.1 gal
ElectronicsRide Modes, R-b-W, MTC
ColorsGrey, Orange

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Tom Roderick
Tom Roderick

A former Motorcycle.com staffer who has gone on to greener pastures, Tom Roderick still can't get the motorcycle bug out of his system. And honestly, we still miss having him around. Tom is now a regular freelance writer and tester for Motorcycle.com when his schedule allows, and his experience, riding ability, writing talent, and quick wit are still a joy to have – even if we don't get to experience it as much as we used to.

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Join the conversation
  • Guymacher Guymacher on Aug 31, 2013

    With those tires and 500 plus pounds, that bike isn't going far from the beaten path. This adventure bike craze is about city riders wanting to look like jungle explorers.

  • Pure Joy Pure Joy on Nov 15, 2013

    Get some B---s buddy , If you can ride the bike will go were you take it...

    • Guymacher Guymacher on Mar 08, 2014

      You have shown you have never ridden off road.No one can ride of froad on those tires-- especially a dude rnamed Joy.