Size Matters

Big Adventure Motorcycles Will Soon Die Off, And For Good Reason


July 3, 2018 Cars : Motorcycles By Photo by KTM
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When KTM teased the 790 Adventure R Prototype at EICMA last November, there was a resounding “shut up and take my money” from anyone who saw it. Well, it looks like the Austrian manufacturer is happy to take your hard-earned cash because the production-ready 790 Adventure R just broke cover. Not only is it safe to assume KTM already has a hit on its hands, but I’m ready to call the time of death for gargantuan dinosaurs like BMW R 1200 GS and even KTM’s own 1290 Super Adventure line.

When setting out for an extended adventure ride, a big ADV bike has an incredible amount of appeal. A bike like the BMW R1200 GS is big enough to hold all of your camping gear, stand up to any crosswinds and float effortlessly down the highway. However, once you unpack, set up camp and head out for a trail ride, the behemoth Beemer lets you know just how wide it is and, when you eventually drop it and pick it back up (possibly by yourself), how heavy it is. Don’t get me wrong, its capabilities off-road are astounding and it can tackle almost terrain, but for the average local trail ride, it’s overkill, burdensome.

At the other extreme end of the ADV bike spectrum sit enduros, which essentially amount to dirt bikes with license plates and a few tweaks here and there for comfort’s sake. Having recently tested the Husqvarna 701 Enduro (review coming soon) I’m entirely in the ‘Enduro over all-out ADV motorcycle’ camp. There are some glaring compromises with fresh-from-the-factory enduro motorcycles — no wind protection, incredibly high seats, no immediate luggage space. But those setbacks can be taken care of, to an extent, with a few simple modifications like aftermarket luggage racks, fairings and windscreens. What you get in return, once you get to camp and unpack, is a motorcycle so incredibly nimble, light and hilariously entertaining you’ll think you’re on a dirt bike anyway. And, when the bike does inevitably go down, it doesn’t weigh 800 lbs, like the R 1200 GS. Featherweight enduros lack highway civility, but when it comes to the quick and the dirty, big ADVs can’t match them. Which is where the new KTM 790 Adventure R looks to bridge the gap.

The KTM 790 Adventure R gets power from a 799cc parallel-twin tuned for a more broadly spread powerband, which quenches its (possible) 40 mpg thirst from dual low-slung fuel tanks. (KTM claims they yield a 250-mile range.) Power figures haven’t been released, but when bolted in the 790 Duke street bike, the engine KTM is using makes 105 horsepower at 9,000 rpm and 63 foot-pounds of torque at 8,000 rpm. Expect that torque to be available much farther down in the rev range for the 790 Adventure R.

The seat is wider and slightly lower than the classic enduro-dirt bike skinny plank seat, which will help on those ADV-esque longer runs, but it’s the lighter weight that makes this bike such a threat to the bigger bikes. Again, KTM held back on the weight figures, but it’s safe to assume it’ll be down a couple of hundred pounds from any liter-plus ADV. And that’ll be KTM’s ace in the hole. On paper and from the images, the 790 Adventure R cherry picks the best parts from the enduro and ADV worlds: relative civility of the big, comfy ADVs and the raucous agility from enduros. Where all-out enduros might prove too extreme and too closely related to supercross bikes for some customers, and traditional adventure bikes are just too much bike for most riders, the 790 Adventure R might be the middle ground the market craves — perfect for a weekend up in the trails.

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