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  • tcoyles-gould

KTM 990 Adventure Ownership

Twist the throttle and you are greeted with a guttural roar which becomes a crescendo akin to thunder as you surge forward on a wave of torque that propels you towards the horizon, often showing three figures on the speedo much more quickly than you imagine.

It's a fantastic feeling throwing a leg over, or in my case having to do a near triple jump to sit astride the Austrian behemoth, but an even better feeling is being on the move. I may only stand at 5'10 (on a good day if my posture is right) which as mentioned makes for slightly difficult entrances and exits from the very tall seat, the beauty however comes from once above 3 mph how effortless everything seems.

The 990 adventure manages to instil low speed confidence like no other bike this side of a trials bike that I have ridden, it defies it's weight and size by easily allowing you to potter along and less than 5 mph meaning putting you foot down is a much rarer occasion.

Opening the enticingly light and direct throttle a little more and you begin to see why Adventure bikes are so highly sought after, a commanding position giving you greatly increased vision over the tops of cars hedges and the like. Furthermore the long supple suspension glides over bumps, holes and poor surfaces without a care in the world, it essentially feels like an overgrown motocross bike with added weight and power, meaning if you see gravel in the road, instead of being scared and tensing up, you aim for it and grab a fistful of throttle. Spinning up the rear in 4th gear at the national speed limit has never been so much fun!

Ride and Brakes - For just a simple twin piston sliding calipers up front, albeit adorned with the word Brembo, it stops the not insignificant weight of the KTM from good hussle down to walking pace remarkably quickly, all the while providing great feedback. My only concern with them is sometimes on the rear brake it's harder to get a true feel and because of that the ABS has kicked in a few times which never feels pleasant... then again I'm sure sliding on my arse down the road would feel less pleasant.

The ride is incredibly comfortable in terms of suspension and having previously owned an old Fireblade with much stiffer suspension in comparison, where by things such as cracks in the road or speed bumps become a chore, the KTM soaks them up and now speed bumps are viewed as a play thing. It's a choice depending on timing, would you prefer to float the front end, or perhaps hopping the titan that is the 990 is more to your tastes. It will happily do either.

Engine - What a fantastic engine the LC8 V-twin is, it isn't the most refined although this can be largely attributed to the amount of play in the throttle which if the internet is to go by is easily solved with an RC8 throttle tube or indeed an expensive aftermarket throttle cams, however it isn't a great problem. The difficultly comes with picking up the throttle mid-corner smoothly or keeping the throttle steady when cruising, the amount of play before the throttle butterflies move is alarming until you are used to it yet the movement in the throttle is directly proportionally to the bark of the exhaust note which makes for a slightly hair-raising moments from time to time.

Frugality however isn't this bikes pièce de résistance, in fact it could quite easily be considered it's Achilles heel, with two fuel tanks allegedly giving 19.5 litres of fuel you would be forgiven for thinking it may translate as mega mileage, with "spirited" riding I have seen less than 100 miles between fill ups and averaging around 110-130 miles between fills. Roughly achieving around 35mpg.

The grin factor can be found from 4000 RPM upwards, for those that have ridden SV 650's you will know of a twin that likes to rev, but where the SV runs out of puff around 7-8000 the KTM is hungry for more throttle and more revs, only stopping once at the limiter. Hurl another ratio at it and the engine begs for more all over again, it is genuinely giggle-inducing stuff!

Build Quality - When friends have KTM's naturally you hear the horror stories of snapped headstocks, swinging arms and gearboxes being a bit... sensitive. I'm not entirely sure I have ever heard any real detriment surrounding the road bikes however and even though the bike has done minimal mileage it certainly doesn't feel shoddy. It does however have slight panel gaps here and there and I have managed to somehow break the plastic guard that stops mud being flung at the rear shock.

On the contrary I did drop it off the centre stand and let it have a little lie down on it's side and all I had to show for it was a minimal scuff on the hand guards and a little chunk of colour missing off the engine bars.

Equipment - Having only owned from bikes built in the 1990's even having a digital dash raises a hint of excitement for me however taking a generic look at it the KTM comes with no real surprises, but a couple of nice touches.

The 12v socket I'm sure would be fantastic, considering where it is mounted (next to the speedo, underneath the screen), for powering a sat nav although I am yet to test it.

The ABS I believe can be turned off but has certainly saved me a couple of times in colder conditions when being a little lead footed, I am yet to induce hard enough braking to set the front end off although I'm not sure I'd want too. It does however dampen the child inside when wanting to hark back to days on BMX's and pull mad skidz when arriving next to friends on a loose surface.

The TFT dash is basic yet gives all you need and more, time, coolant temp, speed, mileage, trips and also a nice little ambient temperature readout once you cycle through, my biggest gripe about this is you can't view a trip, total mileage and ambient temp all at the same time but I'm splitting hairs, it's not a necessity at all.

Seating - KTM seem rather renown for making wooden seats and fitting them to their motorcycles and unfortunately this 990 Adventure is no exception to that rule, it does however handily tie in with the below par fuel economy meaning more often than not about 1.5 hours in the saddle is all you get.

It did occur to me perhaps the reason they did it is because they expect people to be going off-road on their machines and ergo they wouldn't be sitting as often but that's yet to be confirmed.

In terms of position you do get a great ability to move and slide around to help get more comfortable or find a better position for corners, the seat actually extends almost all the way to the tank fillers!

Being sat up high you have fantastic vision above, well most objects bar arctic lorries and the screen is so tall that I managed to have my visor wide open at 90 mph and didn't have a tear in my eye!

Summary - Overall it's a fantastic package but for me personally it just doesn't feel like "My" bike. It's undoubtedly capable, raises smiles all the time, get's lot's of attention due to it's presence but ultimately it just isn't me. I think partly it's down to the servicing element with how ridiculous the service schedules are and also how much time is involved in doing said service although as a whole it's right on paper for my wants and needs , it really hasn't stopped me eyeing up other bikes as I hoped it would.

Sadly this means going down the route of selling it and the hassle involved there but I think it's the right choice and will give me opportunity to spunk the money on other bikes (I'm eyeing up an enduro bike already).

When it's all said and done I'd give the KTM a 4 out of 5 bike rating.

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