At only 189kg dry and 210kg fully fuelled, with a slim build and a low seat, the standard model KTM 790 Adventure proves to be a user friendly all terrain option... Test by Roland Brown, Images by Marco Campelli, Sebas Romero
We’ve barely ridden a kilometre from the hotel on the standard 2019 KTM 790 Adventure and already I’ve repeatedly been reminded what a unique, exciting and challenging place Morocco is to ride a motorbike. On the road through Erfoud, people and animals appear ahead without warning – kids two-up on bicycles, families of four aboard scooters, old men leading donkeys that are pulling huge carts laden with branches.
Hazards are everywhere but the 790 Adventure lopes effortlessly through it all, feeling remarkably composed and at home. It accelerates smoothly and effortlessly, soaks up frequent road imperfections with contemptuous ease, brakes instantly when a youth ambles into the road ahead, and flicks nonchalantly and swiftly off-line to avoid an erratically driven van.
KTM have emphasised the standard Adventure’s rider-friendly nature which, with so much going on all around, is already welcome. Even before setting off it felt reassuringly manageable, as I threw a leg over a seat which, even in the higher of its two quickly changed positions, is accessible by adventure-bike standards. (An accessory seat and chassis kit can reduce the height to just 800mm.)
The 790 is also a slim bike that weighs only 189kg dry, or about 210kg fully fuelled, and holds much of that weight very low due to the intricately shaped fuel tank. Most riders will be able to get both feet down when sitting astride a bike that also felt fairly roomy, with a slightly raised, one-piece handlebar that has options for horizontal adjustment, and gives a near-upright riding position.
The adjustable screen sits ahead of a colourful TFT screen that displays info including the rider mode, of which there are three (Street, Offroad and softer still Rain) plus an optional Rally, selected via familiar KTM buttons on the left bar. The Adventure’s sweet, ride-by-wire fueling and light, cable-operated clutch also helped make the bike manageable on the slippery streets, where I was glad that it follows the Duke by featuring high-level electronics.
There’s cornering ABS and multi-level traction control, both of which adjust automatically with riding mode, and can also be fine-tuned independently. That top-end power reduction over the Duke wasn’t an issue even when we reached the open road, where I was glad of the Adventure’s torquey mid-range delivery.
The KTM pulled sweetly from low down, picked up the pace at about 6000rpm and had a wonderfully loose, eager, free-revving feel. Parallel twins can seem flat but like the Duke this 790 had an appealing character, despite its efficient exhaust keeping noise to a minimum.
The bike was very stable through fast curves and steered easily though tighter turns, despite that 21in front wheel, though the Moroccan roads had few bends, and suspicion of grip levels meant we didn’t push the Avons too aggressively. The four-piston radial J-Juan front calipers, which bite 320mm discs (compared to the Duke’s 300mm rotors), shed speed with a light touch of the lever.
Cruising at 130-140km/h on the long, mostly smooth and empty Moroccan roads was stable and effortless, thanks also to the respectable amount of wind protection from the hand guards and a screen that gives 40mm of vertical adjustment, after undoing a few screws. More range and easier adjustability, along Super Adventure lines, would be better.
But the screen kept most of the breeze off my chest, and the noisy turbulence was no worse than that generated by rivals including BMW’s F 850 GS and Honda’s Africa Twin. (The shorter R-model screen can be fitted to the standard 790 as an accessory, and vice-versa.)
Comfort in other respects was pretty good, helped by suspension which, like that of the Duke, has minimal adjustability but coped impressively with a wide range of surfaces, from polished urban streets to off-road sand and dirt.
Occasionally I felt a slight bash through my spine, as the rear shock failed to soak up a big bump, but spring and damping rates generally seemed very well chosen, giving sufficient compliance without excessive pitching. The launch route wasn’t long enough to be a genuine test of comfort, or to confirm that the impressively economical engine – I averaged about 5L/100km – would give a useful range of over 400km.
The short, gentle off-road excursion didn’t give the standard Adventure much chance to show whether it would come close to matching the R-model’s ability in the rough stuff, either, though first impressions were encouraging.
What the standard 790 did confirm was that it’s a breath of fresh air for adventure motorcycling and the middleweight division, combining road-going performance and big-bike sophistication with a lightness, agility and lively feel that make it much more genuinely versatile than most alternatives.
It incorporates plenty of neat details too, including an easily reached under-seat air filter, plus storage compartments under the seat and behind both side panels.
Perhaps even the distinctly sporty, slightly frantic standard 790 wouldn’t be the adventure bike I’d choose for a relaxing all-day road ride, especially if heavily loaded. But it would handle a long motorway trip just fine, and be almost unbeatable fun at the other end – on city streets, trails and everything in between.
KTM Australia recently announced Australian pricing and the KTM 790 Adventure R will be available at $22,695 ride-away, while the KTM 790 Adventure will retail at $21,195 ride-away, with both bikes scheduled to arrive in Australia in June (2019).
You can check out the full world launch review of the 2019 KTM 790 Adventure R here:
Launch: 2019 KTM 790 Adventure R
KTM 790 Development with Adriaan Sinke
Adriaan Sinke, KTM Senior Product Manager Mid-Capacity explained, “We began this project at the same time as the Duke, and decided fairly early on that the Adventure would follow a year behind. It was a difficult project and we were not holding anything back – we were full-on the whole time! One difficulty was the split between the really hardcore ability that the Adventure R has, and making the bikes rider-friendly for a wider audience.
“But at the factory we were always very clear about the two models. When we talked about the 790 Adventure and the Adventure R, everyone had a clear idea of what each bike should be, and who the customer is. The [standard] 790 is made with a lot of street riding in mind; for long-distance travelling, and doing some off-roading when you get to your destination. The R is a hardcore off-road bike for extreme terrain.
“The 790 will make adventure riding accessible to many more people. You see many people with adventure bikes, they have the seat hollowed out and they can’t move around. They’re still struggling with the weight and how tall the bike generally is, and not enjoying riding as much as they could be.
“With the standard 790, a lot of people will try it out and it should bring people to adventure motorcycling for the first time. Being KTM, we can’t be too vocal that this bike is good for beginners. That’s not what we are. But because it’s so capable, it makes everyone a better rider.
“We wanted the 790 R to be definitely the most off-road capable adventure bike on the market. With other brands, in many cases the R version has a bigger fuel tank, meaning more weight and complexity. But we have very good fuel range with the standard Adventure so we’ve deliberately not done that. Instead, we’ve put the cost increase pretty much in the suspension. This is the most expensive suspension we’ve ever put on a streetbike.
“Even riders like Chris Birch [Kiwi enduro/rally ace] who were involved in the development have come back saying, ‘I can’t believe what I just did on that bike. I keep doing crazy things on it.’ Last night I asked [five-times Dakar winner] Marc Coma which bike he would choose if he had to race tomorrow, the 790 R or his 950 Rally, and he replied the 790.
“He said, ‘The throttle response is better, the suspension is better, the bike is lighter and has the same power.’ Sure, the 15 years since the 950 Rally is a long time but it was a full-on racebike, so I think that statement says a lot about the Adventure R.”
2019 KTM 790 Adventure Specifications
Price: $21,195 Ride-Away
Warranty: Two-year warranty
Claimed power: 94hp[70kW]@8000rpm
Claimed torque: 88Nm[64.9lbs-ft]@6600rpm
Dry weight: 189kg (claimed)
Fuel capacity: 20L
Engine: Liquid-cooled parallel twin, DOHC, eight-valves, 799cc, 88 x 65.7mm bore x stroke, 12.7:1 compression ratio, Dell’Orto fuel-injection, Bosch EMS with RBW, MTC, Ride Modes
Clutch: PASC anti-hopping clutch, mechanically operated
Chassis: Chromium-Molybdenum-Steel frame using the engine as stressed element, powder coated, lightweight steel trellis subframe, die-cast open-lattice swingarm, WP steering damper
Rake: 25.9 degrees; Trail: 107.8mm
Suspension: 43mm WP upside-down telescopic fork, 200mm travel, WP single shock, preload adjustable, 200mm travel
Brakes: Bosch 9.1 MP Cornering ABS with off-road mode, 320mm front rotors, dual radially mounted four-piston calipers, single 260mm rear rotor, two-piston floating caliper
Wheels & Tyres: Heavy-duty spoked wheels, 2.50 x 21in, 4.50 x 18in, 90/90 x 21in, 150/70 x 18in, Avon Trailrider tyres standard fitment
Seat height: 850/830mm
Ground clearance: 263mm
Instruments: 5in full colour TFT display,
Other equipment: LED headlight, tail light, indicators
Optional: Quickshifter, Cruise Control, Rear Bag, Tank Bag, Top Case, Case Carriers, Touratech Top Case