Well, it’s been over 1000 miles now on the KTM and it’s becoming more familiar each time I take it out. Am I pleased? Absolutely, I have never felt more at ease. After years of riding a sports bike using soft panniers, plastic bags and bungee cords for trips away it was always an adventure but I’d be more comfortable locked up in a set of gallows. So, if my main interest was touring why the sports bike? I suppose at that time I wasn’t ready to go for a big trailie as the point, squirt and shoot appeal of my Kawazaki Ninja was still fun. When I started to look for an alternative after realising I was only ever going to get my knee down if I binned it on a roundabout I wasn’t prepared to spend on a GS so I considered an old Africa Twin, V-Strom, Varedero and even a Caponord but nothing at the time really appealed so I put the idea to rest. Temporarily.
Riding down the coastal highway in Muscat, Oman with a old friend of mine, between us, an old Yamaha (with no baffles in the exhausts so you had to shut the throttle down when you past the local law enforcement who are not to be tested!) and a Harley, which somehow freely passed by the audio cops despite being equally as loud. We had blue sky, a glass sea to our left and rolling desert and mountains to our right. The ride was the start to of an adventure, we were off diving and then 4×4’ing into the interior though I could help daydreaming about how unbelievably cool it would be to have the perfect bike to journey from blacktop to graded roads to desert tracks. My interest in the big trailie was reignited.
When it came to it, the choice was between a GS and the KTM. I’d taken both out, read the reviews, checked prices, talked to some local bike shops and listened to owner’s opinions. When I finally decided after all the technicalities it was down to the bike that appealed to me the most and the one I felt suited ‘me’, and my riding style.
The KTM is a massively enjoyable bike, adaptable in it’s ability and has loads of character. Initially it’s looks, height and size can be a touch intimidating but feels immediately easy and light to ride once on the go. The simple physicality of the riding position twinned with wide bars really gives you the ability to lever the bike around and being so upright allows for confidence inspiring visibility.
The 990cc V-twin has enough power despite what gear selected. When you need it, you just know it’s going to be there. This in mind, the re-occurring comments about low speed, fuel injection and immediate throttle response do make for a twitchy ride in traffic and the noisy cooling fans kick in not long after you have to wait in any queue. Apparently, top speed is somewhere around 140mph though I’ll leave that to those that know as I’m more interested in how many miles on average I’ll get out of the tank on a steady run. There’s no fuel gauge, the only indicator is a reserve light on the dash that should see you to the next fill up, as long as it’s no more than about 18 miles. The fuel tanks design lends itself to maximising the space available and as a result you get twin filling caps that only add a small amount of time when refuelling. So far, it’s a conservative 150 between stops.
Loading up with the KTM luggage couldn’t be more simple. These robust, waterproof, lockable panniers slot into the pannier rack have a single lever clasp to secure them to the bike and add protection and presence. Keep the luggage weight balanced and the handling doesn’t have a marked effect on the go. Watch whilst tipping the bike at a very slow speed or whilst manoeuvring as only the strongest will be able to keep it upright!
The Adventure’s off road capability just makes you scan the roads for a quiet piece of country track or fire road to take off on to. I’m not going to call myself an off road rider but I’m comfortable on some rougher stuff and when the back end skids around you can’t help but grin after the initial panic. To get the most out of the bike would take many years of practice so I’m going to find a course to learn a few essential skills taught by an expert rather than by my mistakes! Controlling the bike standing on the pegs is a whole new experience. I couldn’t help feeling that if my legs were a couple of inches shorter the riding position would be perfect. Being so tall I find my self hunched over slightly. If the technique is to use your thighs and bend your legs for support I’d best get down the gym. These rally riders must be super fit.
This combination of power, manoeuvrability, practicality and comfort are ideally suited to what I want the bike to be able to do and I’m looking forward enjoying the KTM on a trans Alp trip this summer with Alun. The essence of this bike really is ‘adventure’ and if you’re not inspired to plan a trip or just get out there then you’d best consider another way to enjoy yourself!