2017 KTM 1090 Adventure R Review - First Ride

Tom Roderick
by Tom Roderick

The R stands for moRe DiRt, less pavement

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

2017 KTM 1090 Adventure R

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

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

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

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

2016 Adventure Bikes Spec For Spec

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

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

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

2013 KTM 1190 Adventure R Review

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

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

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

AltRider Taste Of Dakar Adventure Ride

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

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

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

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

2017 KTM 1090 Adventure R

+ Highs

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

– Sighs

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

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

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

2017 KTM 1090 Adventure R Specifications

Horsepower125 hp @ 8500 rpm (claimed)
Torque80 lb.-ft. @ 6500 rpm (claimed)
Engine Capacity1050cc
Engine Type2-cylinder, 4-stroke, V 75°
Bore x Stroke103mm/63mm
Fuel SystemKeihin EFI (throttle body 52mm)
ClutchPASC slipper clutch, hydraulically operated
Final DriveChain
FrameChromium-molybdenum trellis frame, powder coated
Front SuspensionWP-USD 48mm, 220mm of travel
Rear SuspensionWP shock absorber, 220mm of travel
Front Brakes2 x Brembo 4-piston, radially mounted caliper, brake disc 320mm
Rear BrakesBrembo two-piston fixed caliper, brake disc 267mm
Front Tire90/90-21
Rear Tire150/70-18
Seat Height35 in.
Wheelbase62.2 in.
Dry Weight (claimed)472 pounds
Fuel Capacity6.4 gal.
ElectronicsRide modes, TC, ABS
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.

More by Tom Roderick

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2 of 41 comments
  • Numbone Numbone on Apr 07, 2017

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

  • David Wales David Wales on Apr 18, 2017

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