The middleweight adventure bike market is one of the hottest categories right now, with models from BMW, Triumph, and others competing for your attention–and dollars.
But perhaps no bike in the category is as hotly anticipated as the KTM 790 Adventure R. The middleweight solution to those who think the 1290s are simply too big (and there are a lot of them), KTM has taken its off-road expertise and packed it into a model that’s far easier to manage while still packing a big punch.
Media and riders all over are giving the 790 Adventure R lots of praise, so KTM clearly must be on to something. But what makes this bike so good? Here, we’ll examine the 790 Adventure R more closely to see what all the hype is about.
KTM really did their homework with this one, studying the market and asking questions about what we, the consumer, really wanted in an adventure bike. A very common answer was the need for less power, not more, in a package that wasn’t so intimidating and much more maneuverable.
What the 790 Adventure R represents is just that package–a smaller version of the 1290 or 1090, that’s equally as capable, thanks to development help from some of KTM’s factory racing stars.
These are the same heroes that have numerous victories to their names from races like the Dakar and the Baja 1000. That’s some serious firepower, and their input shows when riding the Adventure R.
In case you’re wondering–no, this is not just a 1290 with a smaller engine. The 790 platform is all new, with a dedicated frame and engine (which we’ll talk about next) that it shares with the 790 Duke street bike.
In a twist that’s uncommon for KTM, the 790 Adventure R (and the standard Adventure) don’t use a steel trellis frame, but instead hangs the engine from tubular steel downtubes. But don’t worry, KTM didn’t completely stray away from tradition; there’s still a steel trellis subframe.
With an all-new platform comes an all-new engine. Despite having years of experience with v-twin engines, KTM went in a new direction in creating the parallel-twin, 799cc, LC8c engine.
KTM aficionados are well familiar with the LC8 name by now, but the little c at the end of the name denotes “compact,” and it certainly is.
This is the same engine you’ll find in the 790 Duke naked bike, but with different cam timing for more low-end power.
KTM says the engine makes 95 hp and 65 lb-ft. of torque; the sweet spot for someone shopping in the middleweight adventure bike genre. Dual counterbalancers mean you’ll hardly feel any vibrations at the handlebars.
Adventure vs. R
There are two models within the 790 Adventure family–the standard 790 Adventure and the 790 Adventure R. KTM is treading a fine line with these different distinctions, but to use the company’s words, the 790 Adventure is “The most off-road capable travel bike” and the 790 Adventure R is “The most travel capable off-road bike.”
See a slight difference there? Read too fast and you might miss it, but it’s an important distinction.
The standard 790 Adventure is aimed at street riders mostly, but street riders who aren’t afraid to take the occasional trip off-road and explore some trails. On the other hand, the 790 Adventure R is for the rider who doesn’t care what the terrain is, paved or not, he or she just wants to ride all day, anywhere.
If there was a single category where the standard 790 Adventure and Adventure R differ, it’s the suspension.
WP components are found on both, but the 790 Adventure uses a split fork design, meaning rebound damping is controlled in one fork leg and compression damping is controlled in the other. An APEX shock only has preload adjustability.
Since we’re focusing on the Adventure R model, we’ll spend more time discussing its components. Suspension-wise, the R gets fully adjustable WP XPLOR forks and shock, to handle any terrain with better control and tunability, helped by the fact its 9.4 inches of suspension travel at both ends can soak up even the sharpest of bumps.
Other than the upgraded suspension, the R version of the Adventure comes with all the electronics modern motorcycles are blessed with these days to help keep you safe.
We’re talking riding modes, traction control, and cornering-ABS. It takes it a step further and adds an additional Rally ride mode, giving the rider the ability to pick their own throttle response traction settings (between street, off-road, and rally) and control settings (there are nine TC settings and off, so, ten altogether).
Even better is the fact that you can change the settings on the fly, so you can turn it down (or even off) in the sand, then bump it back up again when you get back on the road. All without having to stop.
KTM clearly envisions owners of the 790 Adventure R to be spending most of their time off-road, but the other aspect of adventure touring is the road portion.
There will be times when you’re logging miles on the road to get to the dirt, and since the 790 uses ride by wire technology it’s ready to accept cruise control. Unfortunately, that’s an option you have to purchase separately.
On the bright side, literally, is the R’s five-inch TFT full-color display, giving you all the information you need in an easily-read format. It’s also effective even in glaring sunlight and has the ability to be customized by the rider to display what they want. Bluetooth connectivity and the KTM My Ride app allow the display and your phone to connect to show turn-by-turn navigation, answer calls, or play music.
Low fuel tank
Maybe the most polarizing aspect of the 790 Adventure R is its bulbous fuel tank placed practically in front of the engine cases. What’s the deal with that? As it turns out, the 5.3-gallon tank means you can ride for a long time (280 miles, says KTM) before needing to refill.
Its low position might look strange, but putting the fuel there helps keep mass centralized. Its biggest benefit is one you don’t fully appreciate until you ride the bike.
By placing the fuel tank so low, it frees up the seat/tank junction to be narrow like a dirt bike, giving you that familiar feeling between your knees and allowing you to move your body around, standing or sitting, for all kinds of riding situations. It’s really quite genius.
At $13,499 USD, the KTM has thrown down the gauntlet in the adventure touring field with the 790 Adventure R. It seemingly has it all, from impeccable off-road performance to mild street manners.
Whatever you want from an adventure bike, this one can do it, all with less weight and intimidation than the big 1290 versions. KTM might have just found the sweet spot in the market.