RemoteMoto
 
Banner

2019 KTM 790 Adventure R Bike Review: Al Pendrey

The bike release series interviews noteworthy riders and extracts as much information as possible to share with RemoteMoto readers. In this article we interview the well-travelled Al Pendrey and get his views on the 2019 KTM 790 Adventure R.

The release of the KTM 790 has been long anticipated by KTM fans and critics alike. The 790’s entry to the market is big news for the adventure riding community as many claim this is the bike that will bridge the gap between big bike touring comfort and mid-weight bike off-road performance. So let’s dive in and see what Al has to say about this impressive looking machine.

Purchasing the KTM 790

I’ve always been a big fan of lightweight bikes for off-road adventures but in 2016 got tempted into a European Rally called Gibraltar Race, aimed at bikes over 150kg with big daily mileages. I did some research and bought the newly released Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin, made a few mods and entered the race.

The Honda was a good bike in many ways but it was too heavy and had a few inherent design faults, so I traded it for a KTM 1290 Super Adventure then quickly realised for the type of riding I do, this bike simply had way too much of everything - too much power, too much weight, too much tech!

There were two bikes that promised to hit the sweet spot, The new Yamaha Tenere 700 and the KTM 790 Adv R, the Yamaha wasn’t going to be available until the end of July at the earliest, missing most of this season so I went for the 790.

Visual Appeal

It just looks like a giant Dakar bike with the high front mudguard, rally tower headlight and screen combo, factory rally style tanks and EXC look bodywork!

Buy Price

Originally dealers reckoned it would cost around $20,000, KTM decided to position it at a higher price that is a little difficult to justify given some of the cheaper components (Asian made Brembo copy brakes etc), when compared to the spec of the 1290 SA it seems overpriced, maybe the high RRP is simply based on supply and demand.

Riding Position and Comfort

At 5’9” the seated position is great but when standing the handlebars are too far back. I’m currently running the bars in the forward position opening the cockpit a little which works a lot better when standing off-road.

Seat Comfort for Extended Riding

It’s typically KTM firm, after 4000kms it hasn’t got any softer. It is workable though and 6 days of road touring went without a hitch (wearing padded cycling shorts under the Klim’s helped!).

Feel and Control On-Road

It’s surprisingly good on the road, the low centre of gravity helped by the rally-style fuel tanks means it’s pretty nimble on the tarseal especially with the right tyres. I used Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR on a 2000km road trip, they look right on the bike and were almost peg scraping sticky in the dry, while confidence inspiring in the wet - would definitely use them again.

Feel and Control Off-Road

Off-road it's a blast, this is the area where it outshines all of the competition! It turns and tracks like a giant dirt bike, where the Africa Twin is stable but a bit soft and soggy, the 790 Adv R feels like a thoroughbred in comparison, taught and responsive. It’s so capable off-road for a big bike that it could easily suck you in a little too deep (unless you’re Chris Birch).

Weight

There’s no escaping the fact that it’s a heavy bike, I think many customers have been expecting the “holy grail” of adventure bikes but the 790 still tips the scales over 200kg depending on fuel load and accessories. Compared to a GS Adventure it's a lightweight, but if you’re stepping off a 500 EXC or even a 701 Husky it’ll feel like a bit of a monster.

Engine Power and Performance

The engine is incredibly smooth and linear and likes to rev, just don’t expect the pure grunt of the big KTM V twins, it’s not comfortable lugging big gears below 4000rpm. The standard exhaust is very quiet and doesn’t do the engine justice if you enjoy the bark of a performance twin.

It's not short of toys when it comes to ride modes, best advice is to play with all the options as soon as you can and get a good feel for what each setting feels like. I did find the “rally” mode throttle response much too abrupt for general off-roading, the only time you’d probably want this is in deep sand for that instant pop!

Suspension Performance

Standard fork settings are stiff for the road, unless you’re lucky enough to have super smooth tarseal on your favourite twisties. I settled on the factory “comfort’ settings for road work with no luggage. Off-road is where the factory set up really shines. The compression and rebound clickers make a noticeable difference and are well worth playing with depending on conditions. Head and shoulders above the competition (Africa Twin, GS850 etc) for aggressive off-road work.

Brakes

On the road they’re strong and work well, but off-road they’re a little too snatchy and lack initial feel - this is always a big compromise for dual sport bikes. Those two big discs up front mean a gentle squeeze is required on gravel and trials type going.

Fuel Tank Size

Just about perfect, off-road and pushing you can expect well over 300km on a full tank, with gentle cruising on tarseal well over 400km.

Fuel Economy

Excellent for a bike this capable.

Service Intervals

The service intervals seem very long which keeps costs down. I’ll be changing the engine oil a little more frequently than the factory schedule, but thats probably due to my enduro background and mechanical sympathy.

Ease of Servicing

Another KTM strong point especially compared to Japanese bikes is the accessibility of key service items. The air filter swap is a five minute job (compare that to an Africa Twin), fuses are easy access, tank removes with half a dozen or so bolts, lack of a linkage means shock is easily removed - I’d go as far as saying it’s just as easy to work as my old 701 Husky.

Reliability

There are a few issues bouncing around the social media groups but over 4000km mine has been faultless other than the rear brake light stuck on, this turned out to be a faulty pressure sensor in the ABS circuit which my dealer sorted right away.

Aftermarket Parts Availability

Not yet, as it’s so new to market. No doubt there will be an avalanche of performance-enhancing parts over the next 12 months!

General Thoughts

If you’re in the market for a long distance adventure travel bike with real off-road performance then look no further, it’s expensive but so far its met or exceeded expectations.

The KTM Touratech hard luggage and rack work extremely well and are easy to fit and remove, soft luggage such as Giant Loop and Moskomoto sit nicely (I remove the pillion handrails)

On the to-do list is to fit a full aftermarket race style exhaust and a fuel re-map, deleting the CAT, this should release 5bhp or so with a bit more torque and should make it sound as good as it looks!

It’s fitted with a quick shift for which you have to pay for an ECU upgrade to activate it, I tried a bike with the quickshifter and it’s bloody great up and down the box even at relatively low revs, very tempting.

The standard handlebars are quite narrow with a lot of dip and sweep, this works well on the road but is a strange setup off-road, I’ll fit some Renthal RC High Fat Bars or KTM EXC bend to get a wider flatter set up.

Standard plastic hand guards are about as much use as a chocolate fireguard so these have already been replaced with Acerbis X Factory wrap-arounds, Bark Busters would also be a good option.

For a bit more wind and weather protection on a road tour, I’d also recommend buying the standard screen as the R screen is very low, it’s not expensive and is swapped by undoing one bolt, good design.

There’s provision for a GPS mount above the dash but the power part isn’t available yet, there is a GPS mount available that fits on the bar clamps which I tried but having the Garmin in “line of sight” will be a lot safer once the new part becomes available!

The standard sump guard is a bit wimpy, aftermarket guys will have a field day selling sturdier options. I looked into the cost of a “strike’ to the underside of the engine and with another clever bit of design KTM has used a separate sump casting bolted to the lower crankcase, pretty easy to replace and not as expensive as you’d think if the worst happens.

Would I buy another one, yes, if you’re into adventuring off-road and can run to two bikes then with a 500 EXC and a 790 Adv R in the shed you’ll have all bases covered.

If you crave a super comfortable bike, love covering huge distances mostly on tar seal with a pillion and loads of luggage then look elsewhere!

Will the Yamaha Tenere 700 be real competition for the 790? Having seen the Yam in the flesh and studying the spec sheet it’s a very capable bike and that CP2 engine is a gem, but it’s not quite on the same level as the KTM in any area, that said its considerably cheaper, doesn’t have any electronics ( a good thing for some ) and should be bulletproof.

 

Bike review by: Al Pendrey (Scramblin Al)
Interviewer: Jessie Meek