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KTM 790 Adventure R – The Most Hotly Anticipated Adventure Bike Of 2019

As part of the KTM Rally Europe in Sardinia for 2018 we were very lucky to be part of a group of 150 customers that got to see the prototype of the yet to be released KTM 790 Adventure R. A special viewing and presentation was made tonight to show the dedicated KTM adventure customers the new bike.

The build up to this bike being released has been huge. We’ve heard so many Maschine customers in Australia talking about the bike and showing interest in it. It is clear to us that KTM stand to win a lot of new customers if they get this bike right.

What are most people hoping for in this bike?

If we had to summarise many peoples thoughts it would include:

  • Keep the weight down below 200kg and ideally around 170-180kg.
  • Engine should be strong enough to deliver around 100HP.
  • Fuel range capacity has to be large enough to go around 400km

Leading up to tonights unveiling we started hearing more meaty details about the bike from those in the know. One of those people was Chris Birch who recently spent a couple of days testing the prototype and indeed on the first day of the Sardinia KTM Rally he rode the prototype bike around the same course the customers were on.

Some of the little tidbits of info we heard prior was:

  • Very early on in the development phase the direction being taken was that of a softer lower-spec version. This approach was revised when they learnt that skilled and experienced riders would appreciate a smaller lighter bike but want no compromise when it comes to spec of components.
  • Birchy rode v3 of the prototype and took a day to adapt to riding it. Rather than riding it like an 1090 adventure bike he had recalibrate the way he attacked things because the bike could handle more.
  • Word is that it has a very low seat height and is compact. Now Birchy is a reasonably tall dude for sure so he said he would need a tall seat. Average height riders should be fine. For shorter riders a low seat option from the Powerparts catalogue will be a good thing.
  • Chassis is really good and takes some time to adapt to how hard you can hit things.

The Presentation

So before the official presentation got underway of course they had to get the bike inside so Birchy did nothing less than ride it straight through the crowd of people gathered outside enjoying a drink. The engine sounded revy and yep it looked like a bit of a mini bike under gangly Chris. That was enough to draw the crowd inside where KTM treated us with an official introduction to this new model.

On stage were two of the KTM product developers, Luke and Adriaan, who ran us through some of the criteria on developing the bike and the final specs.

A blank sheet of paper was used to start this project and on it were several foundations to build from:

  • Racing (KTM have learnt so much from this)
  • Experience (in enduro and adventure markets)
  • Customers (talk to the customers to find what they really want)

They talked about KTM’s racing pedigree, including 17 straight Dakar wins, and lineage of adventure models to get to this point.

Crazy ideas came from various sources during the ideation stage. All the ideas were considered and explored before narrowing down to some key criteria:

  • Best ergonomics
  • Off-road capability must be strong
  • Easy to service
  • Able to do many things – Adventure, road riding, commute
  • Powerparts to customise bike

Then the clay model comes followed by 3D printed prototype parts. Mention was made that these are some of the most expensive motorcycles in the world because they are so totally hand built.

Durability Testing

Normally paparazzi and public is kept away when a bike is this early in it’s development phase but this was different. KTM are looking for honest and direct feedback from customers and the prototype bike has been shown quite publicly early on.

Some of the figures quoted by Adriaan from the design phase was impressive:

  • 18 bikes built travelling 50,000km
  • Engines run on dyno at full throttle, up and down though the rev range – 25 runs x 150 hours
  • 48 engines run for 180 hours = 36,000 litres of fuel burnt

The engine itself is extremely compact. Almost same dimensions as 390 Duke. A fascinating slide was displayed that showed the dimensions of various engine configurations of competitors and it was clear the 790 LC8c engine is tiny in stature.

This compact design allows for:

  • Carry the fuel load low
  • Low seat height
  • High ground clearance

With Trudi riding a 790 Duke this week on our European tour it has been a good chance to see and feel this power plant in action and wonder how that may translate to an adventure model. Birchy and the product managers said the engine character has been retuned to deliver more linear power than the Dukes punchy road manners. One thing they got so right with the Duke is the exhaust sound on overrun. A delicious gurgle!

Special mention was also made of a high level of suspension refinement and chassis handling achieved.

A question was asked about “tour-ability” or comfort of the bike for long distance.  One of the developers mentioned he had ridden the bike from central Italy up through the Alps to Mattighofen Austria travelling 400km in the day during a rainy storm and rode this entire distance without refuelling. He said this was unique for a prototype model to allow easy riding in such adverse conditions. He was still buzzing the next day about how easy the ride was.


Chris Birch has now spent a number of day riding the prototypes including a full day on it today around Sardinia’s skatey gravel trails.

Birchy mentioned a few key points:

  • Next generation of electronics with a couple of buttons to adjust traction control levels on the fly.
  • Chassis is good. He was getting away with stuff that his 1090 just wouldn’t so handle well.
  • Power is more linear than 790 Duke but is still free revving.
  • Light weight was felt when he had to push the bike back out of an awkward parking spot.

“The Peoples Bike”

As Trudi put it this is “the peoples bike”. KTM have clearly listened to what customers have said they want in an adventure bike. A huge part of the credit for this “listening” must go to Kiska. Kiska partner with KTM in the design phase of their motorcycles and it was clear in 2016 the level of commitment to getting the mix right when Reno and Anita from Kiska travelled from Salzburg Austria to Australia for our inaugural KTM Rallye. They spoke to all the riders throughout the week and recorded hours of video to document riders wants, needs and riding habits.

For me it’s been fascinating watching the development process of this bike evolve over the past two years and seeing the final product get closer. I still remember the “wishlist” of attributes the KTM Rallye riders wrote on the back of a corflute sign and gave to Kiska to take back home. It had key points like; weight, power, fuel range.

To me it looks like KTM have managed to tick pretty much all of the boxes.

*Production model final details will be announced in November 2018 with a release in early 2019.