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Common Tread

The bike no one is asking for: A bigger, more powerful KTM 1090 Adventure R

Aug 30, 2018

According to the UK-based publication, MCN, KTM is planning to update the 1090 Adventure R, a claim they support with spy photos. The TL;DR of the article focuses on their hypothesis that the new bike will feature a larger, more powerful engine, along with updated electronics. Which leads me to my main thought: What the hell for?

For those who are unfamiliar, KTM recently discontinued the 1190 Adventure R, replacing it with two models. The first was the more powerful, 160-horsepower, 1290 Super Adventure R. The second was the 1090 Adventure R, which features a 1050 cc engine that makes 125 horsepower. The 1290 received additional creature comforts like electronic cruise control, an IMU for cornering ABS, and a TFT dash for folks looking for additional long-haul features whereas the 1090 was essentially pared back to focus more on the off-road contingent.

According to MCN’s reporting, they’re expecting to see a displacement bump up to 1150 cc with peak horsepower hitting somewhere in the mid-130s. If that is true, I go back to my original question: Why? Who is asking for this bike?

MCN Article
According to MCN's sources, KTM is designing a more powerful engine for the 1090's chassis. MCN's website.

Speculation by the UK outlet is that the 1090 Adventure R, in its current trim, is going to be too close to the 790 Adventure R that we’re expecting to see released around this time next year.  OK, I'll bite. But you're telling me that the best response to better differentiate the 1090 is to increase its displacement and weight but still leave it positioned in the exact same spot in KTM's lineup?

I mean, it will still sit below the 1290 Super Adventure R and above the 790 Adventure R. And if this 790 is everything we're expecting it to be, the off-road crowd is still going to gravitate toward that bike. And for those who are on a crusade for more power? Well, they aren't going to be satiated with 10 measly ponies, no way. They'll need that 1290 Super Adventure R. So you’ve just dumped a lot of money and time into reengineering a bike that most people are going to view in the exact the same light. 

The thing is, I have actually yet to meet someone who is riding a 1090 off-road who will tell you they need more power. That is why so many folks are excited about the 790 Adventure R. Smaller, lighter, less power. KTM has hit a point with these bikes where the power is useless anyway. You can’t get 125 horsepower to the ground in most situations when you’re off-road. Don't get me wrong, I love my 1090, but I opted for it over the 1290 because I have no use for more ponies.

Earlier this summer, I was out riding with Jeremy LeBreton of AltRider and he was riding a 1090 Adventure R for the first time. I overheard him talking about how he was disappointed with the bike's power and throttle response compared to what he had read. I asked him what rider mode he was in. Turns out he was in Off-Road mode which limits the engine to 100 horsepower. After switching the bike to Sport mode and disabling the ABS and Traction Control for him, I sent him on his way. Meeting up at the next stop I heard him exclaim, “Holy shit, this bike’s a rocket”.

Jeremey LeBreton on the KTM 1090 Adventure R
Jeremy LeBreton unleashing the 1090's full potential after he took it out of Off-Road mode. Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.

Jeremy is easily one of the best big-bike, ADV riders I’ve ever ridden with. He’s insanely good on a motorcycle. If he can’t use the majority of the power on the current 1090 Adventure R, than chances are, neither can most people.

So if KTM wants to update the current 1090, why would they focus on giving it more power? Why not just add electronic cruise control, a TFT dash, and an IMU for people who want the creature comforts of the 1290 Super Adventure R but not the price tag? Or strip it of all the fancy electronics and make it bone-dead simple so big-bike enthusiasts have an off-road option that doesn’t require a degree in computer engineering to work on? Or just drop it all together and focus on the 790 Adventure R as the new, smaller option.

I am not an engineer or a executive in Austria with reams of sales data and customer demographics, but I am an avid rider and a enthusiast in the ADV community. Maybe they know better, but maybe they don’t. Everyone I talk to is begging for a smaller adventure mount like what the 790 Adventure R is expected to be. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has said to me, "Spurg, that 1090 of yours needs more power, but not 1290 power, that's a bit too extreme. Do you think KTM could split the difference?"

This just seems like a wrong move to me, but maybe I am the only one.