An Orange Family Feud: A Comparison of KTM’s 1190 ADV and 1090 ADV

KTM hit the adventure bike market hard in 2013 with the release of the 1190 Adventure, their crosshairs aimed directly at the large displacement ADV bikes such as the Ducati Multistrada and the BMW R1200GS.  Now, after just a few years in production, KTM has decided to go a different route. The 1190 is not being offered for the 2017 model year, instead, it’s been replaced by two separate models, the 1090 Adventure, and the mighty 1290 Adventure.

     At a glance, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that this change is simply a marketing ploy. However, this is not purely a case of marketing maneuvering. It’s a product of motorcycle and market R&D that queued a response to customer desires and needs. To fully understand the motive behind this decision, we need to take step back in time and examine the way KTM decided to roost their way into the big displacement ADV bike market in the first place. When KTM entered the multi-cylinder adventure bike mashup in 2003, they did so with the 950 Adventure. An uncompromising, terrain tearing, beast of motorcycle with close family ties to the Rally 950; the bike Fabrizio Meoni used to take first place during the 2002 edition of the legendary Dakar Rally. After the 950 Adventure, the 990 Adventure was introduced in 2006 (2007 in the States). The 990 was essentially the same as a 950 Adventure aside from a few updates, most notably, a Keihin fuel injection system and, as the name suggests, a slight increase in engine displacement. These alterations made the bike even more performance oriented. KTM was obviously catering the more dedicated off-the-asphalt riders at the time. When compared to the other big ADV bike offerings the KTM was much more spartan in nature, with almost nothing equipped on the bike that was not simply there to make the bike run. Standard 990s were equipped with an ABS system but that was about the only creature comfort you got. The 950 and 990 Adventures are essentially big dirt bikes and they beg to be ridden as such. So, in 2013 when the 1190 Adventure was introduced, with its sophisticated electronics package and its relative increase in complexity compared to the older KTM Adventure models, the riders that loved their older bikes for their spartan qualities were not particularly sold on the “newfangled” 1190 Adventure. In addition, the 1190’s MSRP was substantially higher than that of previous models. The 1090R on the other hand, is closer to what the 990 Adventure was listed at when it was first released.

     KTM didn’t want to abandon the customers who prefer an adventure bike that’s heavily biased towards going off the beaten path. Enter, the 1090 Adventure R, KTM’s answer to the folks who felt left behind when the 1190 came out. Admittedly, the 1090 still sits a bit like an F-18 next to a P-51 when compared to the old 950 ADV but in today’s world of increasingly stringent emissions standards and steadily evolving standards for what should come standard on motorbikes, like it or not, the electronics are here to stay. While some will see this as a downside, the reality is that these computer systems help to keep those of us who are not quite on Chris Birch’s level happily stuck to the seat and headed in the proper direction on the nearly 125 horsepower 1090. Seasoned off roaders will be the first to tell you that more power is not always the answer. Unless you are very experienced, a more powerful bike will just get you into a situation you are not equipped to get out of more quickly.

     Unfortunately, many will believe that the 1090 Adventure is simply a stripped-down version of the 1190, built only to compete with the Japanese adventure bikes, and that you’d be far better served opting for a used 1190R. While yes, the 1090, and almost every other vehicle for that matter, is built to fit neatly into a competitive position in a market, it’s certainly more than a budget 1190R. The 1090’s engine is actually a 1050cc engine, and is not to be confused with the engine in the 1050 Adventure that’s also being discontinued with the 1190. The version of the LC8 engine that’s in the 1090 Adventure is completely revised. These revisions include an increase in compression ratio to 13:1 versus the 1190’s 12.5:1, a new crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, cylinder heads, balancing shaft, a heavier flywheel, revised velocity stacks, and improved fuel injection mapping. These changes to the engine help to make the bike feel lighter and more responsive to rider input than the 1190 due to the reduced reciprocating mass of the engine components. Also, thanks to the heavier crank and flywheel as well as the shorter stroke and smaller bore than the 1190 (103mm x 63mm vs. 105mm x 69mm), the 1090 will not want to stall as easily and will feel less clunky when the engine is loping around at very low revs. These revisions combined with the refined FI mapping ensure tractable power from very low revs that comes on predictably and smoothly. The 1090R, like the 1190, comes standard with a slipper clutch, another engine component that will help to keep the big twin under control and headed in the intended direction. The decrease in displacement and increase in compression ratio combined with the mapping changes mean the 1090 will achieve a higher MPG than the 1190 as well… depending on how heavy you are on the throttle of course.

     The engine isn’t the only thing that’s new for the 1090R, the suspension has been updated as well. The suspension travel is the same as the 1190R but the 1090R is equipped with stiffer 6.5 Nm springs compared to the 5.5 Nm springs that came in the 1190. In addition to the springs, the fork valving has been updated for the 1090R. The 1090R also comes with a PDS shock absorber; PDS stands for progressive dampening system and is a system KTM has been using on their EX-C line for years. The PDS system allows for a plush ride over small bumps but in the bottom of the stroke the dampening is significantly increased to help keep the bike from bottoming on the rough stuff. This provides a smooth and supple ride over minor bumps or small obstacles but also helps to keep the bike in check when riding hard through g-outs or over jumps. This doesn’t mean that the suspension can’t be bottomed but when bottoming does occur it will do so in a more controlled manner. As usual, the WP suspension is fully adjustable with regards to preload, compression, and rebound.

     The suspension and engine upgrades mean the 1090R will have a significantly better feel off road, feel substantially lighter, and handle noticeably better than the 1190R even though the 1090 is only slightly lighter. This brings me the point of what you give up on 1090R compared to the 1190 for the sake of lower weight and cost. Perhaps the biggest sacrifice is that the 1090R does not come equipped with a center stand from the factory. Anyone who has had to change a tube, patch a tire, adjust a chain, or even just lube a chain while out on the road knows that these tasks are much easier and much quicker with a center stand. A center stand is available for purchase for the 1090 if you decide you need one. As previously mentioned the 1090 puts out nearly 125 horsepower compared to the 1190 that’s on towards 150 and while the torque figures are lower on the 1090, it’s not by much. The 1190 has a claimed torque value of 92 lb.-ft. while the 1090 cranks out a less than measly 80 lb.-ft. of torque. The 1090R, like the 1190R, still has four different driving modes, off-road, rain, street, and sport. It still has traction control and switchable anti-lock brakes but, to help keep the price down, it does not have the lean angle dependent cornering ABS that the 1190 had. The driving modes still function as they did on the 1190, off-road mode cuts the power to 100 horsepower and the ABS system will allow the rear wheel to lock to aid in getting around tight corners. Off-road mode also dials back the intervention from the traction control system which allows the rear wheel to step out in a controlled manner for the same reason… and of course, because it’s fun. Street mode delivers all 125 horses but with reduced kick compared to sport mode. These modes are usable off road as well if you are keen to roost your buddies or if you have the skill to really hang the back end out in an epic power slide; just remember to switch off the traction control or the street traction control mapping will be utilized. There are a few parts available from KTM that are necessary in my opinion. First, oversized foot pegs. Second, a decent bash plate, and third, the dongle that retains your ECU settings when you switch the bike off. The 1090R also doesn’t come with tire pressure monitoring sensors or a linked breaking system but it is equipped with some electronics that the 1190 Adventure wasn’t, KTM’s ATIR system. ATIR stands for automatic turn indicator reset and as the name suggests, it’s a system that cancels the turn signals after ten seconds of forward movement or 150 meters. This is a safety feature I can get behind, as someone who leads/chases lots of rides, I don’t know how many miles I’ve ridden while watching another rider’s indicator flashing away. Not only does it make you look like the new guy, it’s completely dangerous. It’s one of the leading causes of cagers pulling out in front of bikers.

     Rideability is easy to overlook during the quest for the tallest suspension and the most powerful engine. KTM has been in the business of making high performance machines for quite some time now and they produce some of the most charismatic machines on the market. KTM engineers intimately understand how relatively small differences in an engine’s power delivery or a chassis’ handling characteristics can completely change the dynamic of a machine. The 1190 is not around to make compromises or to be your friend; it’s certainly more friendly than the 990 ever was but it’s nice to see that KTM has started making motorbikes that are accessible on many skill levels by many riders. The previous big twins were very powerful and equipped with lightweight engine internals. This ensured that they were quick to find RPMs and subsequently high power; most of us mere mortals would be up an Amazon sized stream of proverbial excrement before we knew what hit us without the aid of the electronic nanny dialing back the power output. This is not to say that the 1090 Adventure is underpowered or boring, just more accessible, and definitely better off the pavement. The KTM engineers earned their check on this project, ultimately, the 1090R sacrifices very little in order to shed weight, gain off-road capability, improve rideability, and reduce the price of the motorbike.

KTM 1090 Adventure R Specifications:

- Engine -

Configuration: 4-cycle, 75° radial twin

Displacement: 1050cm­­­­­3

Bore: 103mm

Stroke: 63mm

Power(HP): 92 kW (≈ 123.4 HP)

Starter: Electric Starter

Lubrication: Forced oil lubrication (3 pumps)

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Cooling: Liquid cooling

Clutch: Hydraulically actuated slipper clutch

EMS: Keihin EMS with twin ignition

- Chassis -

Frame: Powder coated Chromium-Molybdenum steel trellis frame

Front Suspension: WP 48mm forks

Rear Suspension: WP-PDS Mono-shock

Suspension Travel: Front – 220 mm, Rear – 220 mm (≈ 8.6 in.)

Front Brake: Fixed four-piston Brembo radial calipers with floating disk break (x2)

Rear Brake: Fixed twin-piston Brembo caliper with disk break

Brake Disk Diameter: Front – 320 mm, Rear – 267 mm

ABS: Bosch 9M+ Two-channel ABS

Steering Head Angle: 64°

Wheelbase: 1580 ± 15 mm

Ground Clearance: 250 mm (≈ 9.8in.)

Seat Height: 890 mm (≈ 35 in.)

Fuel Tank Capacity: 23 l (≈ 6.1 gal.)

Dry Weight: 207 kg (≈ 456 lbs)


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As seen in Adventure Motorcycle Magazine!

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KTM 1090 Adventure R

MSRP: $14,699 USD

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