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Common Tread

You needed to know: KTM 1090 Adventure R

Nov 03, 2017

The second edition of our series You Needed to Know, in which we answer your questions about the long-term loaner motorcycles we have in the ZLA garage, looks at the KTM 1090 Adventure R.

We were lucky enough to have KTM let us abuse a 1090 Adventure R for a few months, so I became intimately familiar with the bike. It even tried to break my leg when no one was looking. To source the questions from you, our audience, we created a short video asking you to submit your questions and then we shared the video all over social media. These are responses to some of the more than 100 comments (presented unedited here) we received. I tried to make my selections based on questions that weren’t already addressed in the review or ones that I felt needed better explanation. 


The_enduro_cat: What other adventure bikes in its class have you ridden? How does it compare. Would this be the one bike in your garage? Fuel mileage? Actual weight? What does it need to truly be "ready to race"? In what ways is it better than the 950/990? Does it give you a semi?😜

Let’s see… A Tiger 800 XCx (obviously), the Africa Twin and VFR1200X from Honda, the BMW F 800 GS and R 1200 GS, Suzuki’s V Strom 1000, Kawasaki’s KLR 650 and Versys-X 300, and the 1190 Adventure R. In stock form, I found the KTM to be better off-road than any of these. The WP suspension is easily the best in class for off-road use. (While I would consider the R 1200 GS to be in a larger class, its ESA is really good, as well.) The engine still makes most of its power up top, but it'll still lug it down low through the slow stuff. 

I am single, I live cheap, and I don’t have many other hobbies, therefore I am not currently limited to just one bike in the garage. That being said, I wouldn't mind a lil' Spurgie of my own someday as my brother is refusing to let me buy my nephew a dirt bike. In that scenario, if I had to pare it back to one bike, I could easily be happy with just a 1090 in the garage. Especially if it meant I could eventually add a CRF50.

I am averaging around 38 mpg with the 1090 in mixed-use situations (riding the highway to the Pine Barrens, riding off-road, and then back) which means about 200 miles per tank, give or take. It weighs about 508 pounds in stock trim with fuel. Add a skid plate and tubes and it's about 530.

The bare minimum to make this thing “ready to race” can be addressed in my modification section of the written review. Skid plate, hand guards, intake prefilter, spare levers and controls will pretty much get you there.

I rode the 990 once, years ago, and it was on the street, so I can't offer a fair comparison on that bike, but I’ve read a lot of 950/990 owners chiming in that they have been wowed by the 1090. It’ll be interesting to see if this bike is enough to lure those die hard 950/990 fans away from their steeds. As for your last question, I have a full-on wheelie for this bike. 

KTM 1090 Adventure R
How good am I getting at fixing flats on this bike? In this article alone I've included two pictures of me fixing flats. Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.

Onewheelwheatley: Does it take longer than 45 mins to change a flat on the 1090?

After four flat front tires on the KTM, I have gotten my time down to about 35 minutes from start to finish, and that's trailside. I have yet to try the back tire, knock on wood.

Cheyne_ash_uh_ly: Why can't the US get a 690 based adv bike?

Well, I think the real question is, why can’t we get a “smaller” adventure bike. Keep in mind that there are plenty of folks outfitting KTM 690 Enduros and Husky 701s into lightweight ADV machines. The problem there is that those singles can get a little buzzy at faster highway speeds. That’s where the parallel twin engine layout comes into play.

My hope would be that we see two bikes enter the American market in 2018. First would be a production version of Yamaha’s T7, which we saw in prototype form last year. Powered by the same engine in the FZ-07, this could be an awesome opportunity for Yamaha to get into the ADV market with something a bit more off-road-friendly than their current Ténéré.

The second bike would be a KTM 790 Adventure R. We’ve already seen the prototype of the Duke 790, so an adventure bike version can’t be far behind. If it is executed correctly with a fully adjustable WP suspension, around 80 horsepower, and weighing in around 400 pounds, KTM could have a real winner on their hands. Either of these bikes have the potential to be game changers for the adventure segment. 


Moulin6801: So, I have a F800 GS, thinking about getting a KTM… I understand that the Ktm is more powerful, but how does it compare offroad and everyday riding!? Thanks!

We have an F 800 GS in house as one of our regular bikes, so I have had a lot of time on both. The KTM in stock form blows it out of the water. It's more than just the extra power, it's the suspension and balance that allows it to remain composed off-road. The fork on the F 800 GS is just so undersprung and spindly. 

The smaller 1090 lacks some of the creature comforts, like cruise control and a larger windscreen, but it's fun to ride on the street. It feels more composed at higher speeds and sportier in the corners than the F 800 GS. The engine is so much better. The Beemer feels fine on its own, but after riding them back to back, the F 800 just feels like it’s constantly working to catch its breath.

Edfranklin: How expensive will this be to maintain? What are the maintenance interval lengths?

I've done some research for you, Mr. Franklin. First service (oil change and basic stuff) is at 9,300 miles (15,000 kilometers). The valves don't get checked until 18,600 miles (30,000 kilometers).

The full first service, with valve check, on the Tiger occurred at 12,000 miles and ran nearly $1,200 if you were to have the dealer do the service. Figure the KTM will be somewhere around the same price but at 18,600 miles. With that being said, the oil is a bit more of a pain in the butt to change and if you're going to be regularly riding off-road, chances are you'll be fixing a few things from time to time. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the service recommendations on this compared to other bikes in the class.

TheMsolomon4: Currently the owner of a 2017 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R. Is the steering really loose on the 1090? It seems to wonder on higher speed runs.

I haven't noticed that too much and I have had it up near triple digits on the highway. Have you ridden with TKC 80s before? They aren't as bad as something like the Mitas E-09 tires on the street, but they still feel a bit "loose" if you're not accustomed to the way they ride. If you don't think that is your problem, check your steering head bearings.

To do this, put the bike on the center stand and kneel down in front of the front of your bike. Grab the fork tubes, one in each hand, and pull the fork back and forth. If there is play, you need to retorque your steering head. Sometimes the bearings can loosen during aggressive off-road riding. If you've been tackling some gnarly dirt, or ripping wheelies, this could be your problem.

Hopefully this helps. I am interested to hear what you find.

Aaron B: My major issue with the Ktm's is seat height. I'm a little over 5-10 and need 31.5 inches to be flat footed when stopped. All are 33 +.

This comment/question/concern is probably the one that I have seen echoed the most from folks over the course of this review. Yes, the height takes some getting used to, even for someone as tall as myself. However, if you make slight changes in your riding, most people should be able to handle this bike just fine.

Many people think they should be able to get both feet flat on the ground at the same time when riding a motorcycle. In reality, if you're really looking to ride off-road, you should practice sliding your butt off the saddle and focus on getting one foot firmly on the ground. It's a really easy drill to practice and you want to make sure you're practicing with both sides. Personally, I am stronger on my left side, so I practice more on my right. It makes the taller bike much less of an issue and can help even taller riders when stopping on uneven surfaces.

Easy for a guy who is six-feet, three-inches to say, right?

Liz Kiniery with KTM 1090 Adventure R
My friend Liz admitted that this was a bigger bike than she was used to but she still crushed the single-track trail we were on without hesitation. Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.

In an effort to give a holistic opinion on the height issue, I had a bunch of my ADV buddies ride it. The shortest of our group was Liz, who is about five feet, six inches tall and normally rides a Kawasaki KLX250S. She hopped on this thing and ripped off like a pro. While it was a bigger bike than she was used to, she had no problem sliding her butt off the saddle and getting a solid reach to the ground with one foot.

If you’re still concerned, Solid Performance has developed a mod in conjunction with WP that will allow riders to shorten the actual suspension. Theirs is a physical modification to the suspension that allows them to drop the bike two inches while still maintaining decent ground clearance and performance. Because they are working so closely with KTM and WP, their kit is going to be available for anyone to order and have installed at their local dealer, regardless of where in the country you reside.

KTM 1090 Adventure R Snap Jack
If you're using a Snap Jack in soft sand or dirt, place a crushed can, rock, or branch underneath the base for stability. Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.

Matt Kane: Since there is no center stand how do you use the snap jack in soft areas?

I’ve started carrying a crushed can with me in my tool pack. A rock or log works too.


Lee Koontz: How's the air box on those newer models? I know they had sealing issues with previous models with the lid. Have you checked inside the air box yet to see if it's remedied?

KTM allowed me to sit down with Quinn Cody to discuss all of the changes made to this bike, as he was instrumental in the development process. According to Quinn, they made changes to the rigidity of the air box to address the aforementioned issue, which presented itself on the 1190 Adventure R. With that being said, he did recommend that if you are really planning on riding the bike off-road that you beef up the air filtration on this bike with the pre-filter kit that KTM offers.

KTM 1090 Adventure R Air Box
Pulling the air box apart on the 1090 revealed that dust was starting to sneak past the filter after about 2,000 miles. Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.

To see how well this actually worked, I pulled the air box apart on our KTM to see what it looked like. Turns out that my bike was outfitted with the pre-filter kit and the performance filter. With a little over 2,000 miles on the bike, dust was already getting through. I would recommend considering the option from Rottweiler. Some concerns around this kit are that it voids the manufacturer's warranty, which is true. So if you had any intake issues on your engine after installing the kit, you would be responsible for that. However, from everything I've experienced, it actually keeps dust out of the engine. 

Keep in mind that this isn’t just a KTM issue. After just 2,000 miles of off-road use on my Tiger, I noticed my aftermarket filter was completely clogged with dirt that was beginning to work its way around the filter. I immediately installed a pre-filter kit and have been fine ever since. A lot of people forget that maintenance on dirt bikes is much greater than that of street bikes. If you are going to treat these things like giant dirt bikes, you are going to have to take responsibility for maintaining them like such. Even with the Rottweiler intake you need to clean your filters much more frequently. 

James Jeffries: How is it for commuting? Dose it scream in its max gear if rolling down the highway? there's alot of trails by me but there's also highways to run to get to them as well

It’s awesome on the street. This thing will roll at speeds well over the posted limit without even breaking a sweat. In top gear you can cruise comfortably at “Go directly to jail” speeds. You should have no problem hitting the highway or the trails with this bike. 

Eric Rosten: If you're showcasing a bike's capabilities, you need Chris Birch.

I disagree. I think that while it's fun to watch guys like Chris Birch, Quinn Cody, and Mike Lafferty tear it up on a 1090 Adventure R, their opinions aren't the most relevant ones for the rest of us. When I was testing this bike, I was more interested in what everyday adventure and dual-sport riders thought of the bike. The folks I regularly ride with possess more realistic abilities when it comes to riding adventure bikes off-road. So for the testing on this one, I rented a cabin, invited all of my friends out, and let them have a go at the 1090 to hear their thoughts on the bike in order to make my review more relevant.

KTM 1090 Adventure R
My friends' opinions are more realistic for real-world feedback of how a bike performs, as their abilities are are much more similar to yours and mine. Photo by woman serving lunch at Michaux.

Especially when considering things like seat height, I wanted to know what my shorter friends thought about the bike. I wanted to know what it was like from the perspective of my buddies who were normally on 250s and 650s, as well as those on larger adventure bikes. While riders like Chris Birch possess an inhuman ability to do amazing things on these bikes, when reviewing bikes we try to examine them through the most human lens possible.

Andy Kawa: Ktm 1090 or Tiger 800? I look forward to your comparison, Spurg.

It depends on the type of riding you are looking to do and what features are most important to you. But if you’re looking for the best adventure bike to handle off-road riding, I can tell you firsthand that I found the 1090 Adventure R easier and more fun to ride both on- and off-road than even a decently modified Tiger 800 XCx.

Hence, I bought it.