Saturday, November 1, 2014

Test ride: 2014 KTM 1190 Adventure R

My German riding buddy, Carsten. has a 2011? BMW R1200GS Adventure -- loaded with goodies and upgrades. He's been thinking about a second bike -- something a little lighter and more nimble, one that might be better suited for offroad riding. He's been interested in the KTM 690 Enduro since before we met earlier this summer. He's asked me lots of questions about my 690, and I've had lots of questions about his big GS. Funny how he's got the kind of bike I want, and I've got the kind of bike he wants. But neither of us want to give up our current bikes.

He very recently returned from a 16-day roadtrip around Greece. And with the riding season soon to end, he arranged for a test ride of a 690 Enduro at the local KTM dealer and he invited me to come along. So, this morning we met up at the dealer, and I inquired if they had an 1190 Adventure R available. It was my lucky day. Not so much for Carsten: it happens that the very demo bike he was to be riding had been sold (yesterday). Although the buyer wouldn't be picking it up for a few days, and Carsten had arranged his test drive appointment before the bike was sold, they were still willing to let him test the bike, but naturally, they wanted him to be extremely careful, and they wanted the test ride to be very short.  "Fuck that, I said. Take my 690 and we'll go for a proper test ride." 

I was handed the key and registration papers for the 1190 Adventure R demo model. Carsten hopped on my 690, and we were off.

After having ridden the new liquid-cooled 2014 BMW R1200GS last week, I was eager to try the big KTM for comparison. The BMW was so exquisite -- a truly impressive machine. I can't say enough about how amazing that bike was. So refined, so smooth, so powerful, and so loaded with luxury features.  The BMW is a complete package, and hard to beat.

As we pulled away from the dealer, with Carsten leading the way on my 690, we puttered along slowly for a few minutes, then we got stuck in traffic. To escape, we lane-split and made our way to the front and 10 minutes later we were on quiet rural roads.

The 1190 was incredibly smooth. Maybe not quite as smooth as the BMW, but almost. The fueling is amazing -- spot on accurate. Once we got to the deserted back roads, I gave it generous amounts of throttle. Holy shit, this thing hauls ass. It's shocking how mild mannered it can seem when you're winding your way around busy traffic in the city, but Jeezus Christ, when you crack the throttle it's a whole different animal.

Ergonomics are perfect while sitting. When standing, I found the reach to the bars a little low. Not sure if I would want to increase the bar height, or drop the footpegs a wee bit, but 1/2" would be ideal. I'm just a wee bit less than 6ft tall.

The KTM's suspension is better than that of the BMW -- and the BMW has wicked suspension. Same thing for the brakes. What an outstanding machine.

Overall, the BMW has a more polished feel. It is extremely refined. It scores excellent points in every category. The KTM is close behind, but comes up a little short when you start looking at small stuff.  The BMW has a few features that are very nice, like electronic cruise control and heated grips. Nonetheless, the KTM puts a bigger grin on your face when you whack the right hand grip, which makes up for any shortcomings when compared directly against the BMW. Sounds immature and juvenile, but I don't care. The KTM made me smile and giggle like a little kid (the BMW did too, just not as much).  With that scientific proof [the grin factor] my decision is made. In fact, I'm not even going to waste my time arranging test rides on the other 2 bikes that had been on my short list: the new Suzuki V-Strom 1000, and the Triumph Tiger 800XC. The KTM has the most awesome handling, brakes, and acceleration of anything I have ever ridden on the street. While I didn't ride the BMW on anything but paved roads, I'm quite certain the KTM is far more capable offroad.

I've been contemplating a big adventure bike for quite some time. Reading reviews, perusing forums, watching videos, and the like. I decided a long time ago that when I finally choose the bike I intend to buy, the price tag would not enter into the decision-making process. I don't care how much it costs: I'm going to buy the bike that will put the biggest smile on my face. I'm not getting any younger and I deserve it.

As for Casten, he said he was very impressed with my 690's engine performance and that he enjoyed the bike a lot. I'm not sure how serious he is about buying one, but at least now he has a good idea of what a 690 Enduro feels like to ride. While we only rode a few short Kms of some easy sandy two-track, he noted that the 690 is far more manageable in the dirt than his GS with its loaded Touratech aluminum panniers. 

After the test ride was done, we chatted over coffee and enjoyed 
a very sunny, summer-like day (a real treat considering today is November 1st)