2023 KTM 890 Adventure Review

Portugal is a great place to visit for a number of reasons, but it’s particularly accommodating for those who do it in the dirt. Compared to the rest of Europe, Portugal’s tolerance of off-road motorcycle riding knows nearly no bounds. It’s an excellent place for dual-sport and adventure motorcycles. Serpentine paved roads connect dozens of dirt paths just waiting to be explored – and I was fortunate enough to do just that on the 2023 KTM 890 Adventure.

The last time I rode KTM’s base model middleweight adventure bike was during the 790 Adventure/R introduction in Morocco. We spent half of a day on the 790 Adventure on mostly sand strewn two-lane highways with a little time off the side of the road in sandy, flat terrain. I wasn’t terribly impressed with the Apex suspension, but didn’t have time to try much adjustment either. KTM, of course, saved all the fun for the following day with the R model. To this day, that was one of the most fun and challenging press rides that I’ve attended; a great test of the motorcycle. 

Perhaps that’s why, this time around, KTM decided to have a press ride solely focused on the 890 Adventure – without the R hogging all the fun. The two models are essentially the same for 2023 with the suspension, tires, and seat being the major differences. So, like before, there’s still a good argument to be made for considering the 890 Adventure.

New for 2023

As alluded to above, this is a revision year for the 890 Adventure platform. Redesigned bodywork, refined suspension settings, a seat with 10mm more foam, some electronic tweaks, and Pirelli Rally STRs pretty much round out what’s new for 2023. We still don’t have pricing, but in 2022 there was a $1,200 price difference between the base ($13,399) and R ($14,599) models.

There are plenty of accessories offered in the Powerparts catalog, more than 150, KTM says.

While those changes might not sound like much, it does show that KTM has listened to customer feedback and implemented solutions to pain points (literally in the case of that seat).

Making gains

Hopping on the 2023 890 Adventure is like meeting up with that friend that you haven’t talked to in ages, but can easily pick right back up where you left off. We’ve spent plenty of time together over the years, and the latest iteration of the machine is familiar, but the best yet.

KTM joked about using the redesigned windshield to look through in the rain, but I did find myself looking through the hole at one point to dodge roost from another heavy-wristed editor.

The LC8c (liquid-cooled, eight-valve compact) 889cc engine is as good as ever. Former editor Tom Roderick once described the 790’s engine as “one of the best parallel-twin engines I’ve ever had the pleasure riding,” and the latest LC8c is even better. The motor still feels frenetic and eager to spin up but manages to also make traction impressively well (even without TC). When we last dyno’d the 889cc Twin, it spat 91.5 horses and 64 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheel. The engine is smooth with mid-range punch that pulls hard toward redline, goading you into liberal use of the throttle. Most of the time the transmission shifts smoothly, though using the quickshifter still felt slightly notchy. Toward the end of our ride I had an issue shifting from first to second, where it would get hung up in neutral. The bikes we rode were pre-production machines, so hopefully that gets ironed out before full production.

KTM says its focus when revising the suspension was to remove some of the initial harshness and to provide a more comfortable ride overall. I think they hit the mark.

The big middleweight is still an excellent dance partner, too, thanks to its low-slung fuel tank and taut chassis. The 43mm Apex suspension takes the place of the R’s XPLOR stuff, but you still get eight inches of travel at either end and full adjustability. Without riding the 2023 bikes back-to-back it’s hard to say, but with my previous experience, I’d personally still pop for the R for the extra travel and more refined damping.

The 5.3-gallon rotational-molded, Acerbis-made fuel tank gets a bit more protection up front from revised aluminum protectors. We were told this fuel tank design holds 60% of its petrol at the lowest portion of the tank.

We spent 50% of our time in Portugal off-road traversing everything from short stretches of deep sand to wet hard packed trails and some slippery mud. The only time I found myself wanting for more clearance during our ride was when I accidentally struck a boulder hidden in the shadows of the early morning light. The hit was hard enough that it launched both of my feet straight up a few inches off of the footpegs. On the road, there was some slight fork dive, but nothing that kept us from railing the 890 Adventure through open sweepers and hairpin corners – the 21/18 wheel combo also won’t stop you from having fun in the twisties. Plus, you’ll be thankful for it off-road.

The brakes are also plenty strong enough on-road or off. Even with more adv-focused rubber, the bike is easily anchored down with good feel at either lever. The Pirellis Rally STRs are some of my favorite 50/50 tires. They provide surprisingly good traction on the tarmac, aren’t bad off-road, and they last much longer than other popular adventure tires. I was happy to see these new shoes on the 890. 

The extra 10mm of foam and reshaped seat seemed plenty comfortable during our ride, but we’d need a bit more time seated on the bike to confirm. It was nice to be able to reach the ground easily though, thanks to the two-position adjustable seat (33 – 33.8 inches).

During our longer stints on the road, the redesigned windshield and bodywork did an excellent job of reducing windblast from the knees up. I used an off-road helmet for this ride, which always has the possibility of being really annoying at highway speeds. Thanks to the new windshield and its anti-buffeting void, I never had an issue with the wind catching the helmet visor. KTM mentioned that the new aluminum bracing behind the front end is more robust, as well. The new bodywork also adds a more finished look to the bike from the side, which some folks seem to have really had a problem with previously.

Two color options are available for 2023: Black with less orange, or black with more orange. Having both USB and 12v plugs around the dash is a nice touch.

In addition to the wind protection, my favorite update KTM made to the 890 Adventure line was tying the ABS settings to the off-road ride modes. Previously, switching to Off-road or Rally mode had no effect on the ABS setting, which meant you had to also go into a separate menu to switch to off-road ABS (less intervention on the front wheel, off at the rear wheel). Now, off-road ABS is activated simultaneously when Off-road or Rally mode is selected (you can still switch between ABS options independently, if you prefer).

I left the bike in Rally mode with the Street throttle response for most of our ride, as we were transitioning from pavement to dirt fairly often. The only time I stopped to turn off TC was before the deep sand sections. It was easier for me to just dial the traction control up or down with the left switch gear depending on the terrain. 

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We also had a chance to lay our eyes, albeit briefly, on the new 790 Adventure which will be made in China via the brand’s partnership with CFMoto. More info about that can be found here.

Of course we can’t forget the most controversial topic of the 2023 KTM 890 Adventure platform: demo mode. KTM is now giving new owners 932 miles (1500 km) to test the Quickshifter+, Cruise Control, Rally mode, and Motor Slip Regulation. Once owners have passed this mileage, the feature will be disabled the next time the owner shuts off their motorcycle. When asked why they added this feature now, KTM reps responded that they wanted to give owners the chance to test everything so they could better choose which features they would like over time. 

Graphics on the new five-inch TFT display have now been brought into line with the current-gen 1290s. The full-color graphics do a better job of describing visually what the changes you are making to the settings are actually doing (ie: as you dial back TC it shows the motorcycle stepping out further). The color and graphics also make it just slightly quicker and easier to select your preferred ride mode at a glance (Rally mode shows yellow sand dunes around the bike).

It seems KTM has no trouble selling the R models out of its dealerships here in SoCal, but the base model can be found sitting here and there. It’s a tough proposition. For only $1200 more (in 2022 at least), the upgrade in suspension makes a lot of sense for riders looking for the ultimate off-road middleweight adventure bike. The Adventures have pretty well cemented themselves at that end of the segment’s spectrum. That said, I’m sure there are plenty of R models out there parked next to big, black, lifted pickup trucks adorned with farkles that only ever see the mean streets of the OC. 

If your ego will let you, and you’re not looking to really hammer your adventure machine off-road, would like to be able to touch the ground easier, and have a penchant for seductive Twins, there’s a good chance the 890 Adventure could be just the bike for you. 


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