It’s not every year a motorcycle hits the scene and redefines the boundaries of its category. The KTM 790 Adventure R has done just that. KTM has taken its decades of off-road championship-winning pedigree and infused it into what we believe is the most capable adventure bike to hit the market in some time. The 790 Adventure R utilizes KTM’s fully-adjustable WP XPLOR suspension front and rear, componentry previously only found on the company’s XC-W, EXC-F, and Enduro R models. The compact 799cc Parallel Twin and low slung gas tank only adds to the maneuverability of the bike, giving it a nice low center of gravity. Whether tiptoeing through a rock garden or blasting through sand washes, the 790 Adventure R handles in a way no other adventure bike does, mostly thanks to keeping its CG as low as possible.
The electronics package on the KTM 790 Adventure R adds to the overall experience. There are dozens of parameters, ride modes, traction control and ABS settings to tweak being displayed over a large TFT display that gives riders plenty of information about their bike and ride. In addition to being able to adjust your settings electronically, there are also settings which allow you to vary things like traction control on the fly. This was particularly helpful when navigating the Moroccan desert as we moved from deep sand to hard pack dirt and rocks constantly. Switching TC from three to one when approaching sand gave the necessary power delivery and amount of wheel spin needed to navigate the situation, and it’s all done via the push of a button on the left switchgear when in Rally mode.
While the KTM 790 Adventure R has taken adventure bike capability to another level, it also confirms the trend of what we hope continues, smaller, more manageable adventure bikes. We now have a stacked class of middleweights on the market. This size of machine is more approachable financially as well as less intimidating off-road. KTM purists see the 790 as harkening back to the company’s adventure bike roots when models like the 950 and 990s were around. We think the company has done just that and more to make this middleweight adventure bike an absolute weapon for adventure touring. I can’t say that the KTM annihilates its classmates in every category, but off-road, after having ridden all of the competition, I can say nothing else has come close to the 790 Adventure R once you leave the pavement behind. Be on the lookout for a proper comparison on the horizon.
Congratulations to KTM for producing the adventure bike that will allow motivated riders to truly go further, expand their horizons, and redefine what adventure means to them. Our Motorcycle of the Year award goes to the 2019 KTM 790 Adventure R.
When it came time to discuss the 2019 MOTY, we had relatively few bikes on the short list. Of that grouping, two rose to the top. Though never really in contention against the dominant KTM 790 Adventure, the Indian FTR1200 settled into a solid second place and deserves to be recognized as the runner-up in this year’s top award from Motorcycle.com.
While you’ve heard all of the reasons the FTR is an important motorcycle when it won the Best Streetfighter/Hooligan MOBO, they bear repeating. Indian delivered a motorcycle unlike anything else out there on the road, a style of motorcycle that people have been clamoring for with the FTR750’s dominance in American Flat Track. Additionally, the 1200 represents a step away from cruiser styled motorcycles produced by America’s other motorcycle manufacturer. Still, what kind of motorcycle is the FTR1200? How about one that defies description.
The FTR is not a sportbike, nor was it designed to be one. It’s not a standard. It’s too unique a machine to be lumped into either category, though it can function well enough as either Although it uses an engine adapted from a cruiser, nobody would ever confuse the FTR for one; with those 19- and 18-inch wheels shod with Dunlop flat track-styled rubber, it’s almost an ADV bike. While undoubtedly muscular, the FTR isn’t a muscle bike, either. So, we’ll just have to be content to let it stand by itself in a group of one (or two if you separate the standard and S models ).
We MOrons see the FTR1200 as a starting point with the potential to spawn additional sporting machinery from Indian. It’s an announcement to the world that unique performance motorcycles are not just the province of the Italians and Japanese. American Iron belongs in the mix, too.
So, that’s what we have. A 1200 cc beast of a motor that serves out torque as its main dish – with 112 hp on the side – and looks like nothing else on the road. An American motorcycle without a feet-forward riding position, saying it wants to challenge the Monsters of the world. Does it succeed completely? No. Is the FTR still a little rough around the edges? Yes, indeed. Still, we see it as a shot across the bow of the other motorcycle manufacturers. American performance motorcycles are here, and they will be a thing to be reckoned with. At least we hope they will.
So, for those reasons, the Indian FTR1200 is the 2019 Motorcycle of the Year Runner-Up. We can hardly wait to see what is next.