Test Ride: KTM Adventure

The Austrian-made KTM has been making headlines over the years with their dominance in the Off-road, Trails and Cross categories. So when the opportunity to test the 990cc Adventure came, I was close to sleepless, in eager anticipation.

The test machine came courtesy of Welly Motor Sungai Buloh, a well-known bike shop who was recently appointed a KTM dealer in Kuala Lumpur. Mr. Ngo, the owner of Welly Motor S.B, gave the bike a thorough check before handing me the key and told me to have a good time with it. According to an acquaintance, my face shone like a kid fingering his brand new toy as I took the keys from Mr. Ngo.

A clear sunny Saturday greeted me on the day of test. With route mapped out and Andrew, my photographer, ready to follow me in his race prep car, we headed up north to hilly Cameron Highlands. The 75° V-twin engine matched with a GPR after-market exhaust at its rear is indeed a “sweet” combination. According to sources, the GPR 2 full system shed about 8 kilos and gained some performance to its rated 106 bhp liquid-cooled engine. Vibration was quite noticeable but then again, that is the V-Twin’s DNA. With a 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheel, the seat height (860mm) is 20mm higher than the BMW GS 1200 (19 in. Front and 17 in. Rear) but it feels lower thanks to its narrower slim line body.

The new KTM Adventure has a bigger 999cc as compared to 942cc of the 2003-2006 models. Other changes include new fuel-injections, seat and graphics. In the comfort department, it pales in comparison to the GS. However, in terms of power, the KTM Adventure will give the Beemer a run for its money, especially on hilly terrain. Weight distribution is fairly good. Wind factor is good even at a high speed of 170 Km/h, thanks to the high windscreen fitted onto the test unit. However, the very same high windscreen created a slightly distorted visual of the road. I felt like I was viewing the road in front through a multifocal lens. I had to either sit upright to have a full view above the screen or tuck down to view through the windscreen.

The Brembo ABS-equipped brakes do not give you the sudden stopping, hair-standing moments like some superbikes and works well even halfway into a corner. The front upside down fork and rear WP suspension are both pre-load, compression and re-bound adjustable. Couple this with its tested tubular frame and 73.8 ft.lb. of torque, it is a joy to ride especially on hilly terrains. With its superb low and mid-range torque, you don’t need to down shift as many gears to get you in or out of corners. A slight twist of the throttle and the bike just pulls you out of turns without any lag. Response was good even on 6th gear acceleration.

Off-road sized rims and heavily-treaded tyres usually spell vague handling, but they surprisingly don’t and the Pirelli Scorpion tyres fitted to the test bike did a good job of gripping the tarmac. I had the ‘unfortunate’ opportunity to ‘rain’ test both the bike and tyres on the way back as the famous torrential monsoon rain came pouring. The rain lasted for over an hour and at a certain stretch, visibility was down to only about 10 meters. Cross winds were blowing haphazardly and a couple of times, I considered stopping at one of the rest areas as I certainly did not want to contribute to the highway accident statistics. But the bike fought on well against nature’s wrath on me and I gained more confidence in the bike as I spent more time with it.

The digital dash comes with 2 trip meters, temperature gauge and the usual works but sadly, does not have the fuel gauge. The twin fuel tanks require filling individually, which is a minor inconvenience. The narrowness of the opening is also an issue especially in petrol stations that have big nozzle and tight lever. I had petrol spilling out at some of those stations. Other improvements which I find that KTM needs to improve on are the short clutch and gear levers. Riders with big hands and legs would have difficulty with the current ones.

In conclusion, if Harleys are the bad boys of the Chopper class, KTM Adventure would definitely be the title holder for the Dual-Purpose class.