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KTM 1190 - have your cake and eat it


KTM has destroyed perceptions of what you can do with an adventure bike. Previously, the company was all about touring and taking on the great outdoors with its comfortable suspension setup and higher ride height for off-road capabilities.

However, since the launch of the formidable 1190, people have had to re-evaluate what they wanted from an adventure model, because this Austrian machine is everything rolled into one good-looking package, meaning you can now have your cake and eat it too.

I recently put the 1190 to the test by taking it around Kyalami. Now it’s by no means a track bike, given its high stance and upright ride position. But it does have superbike DNA embodied in it. The massive two-cylinder, four-stroke engine is a slightly tuned-down version of KTM’s sports bike, the RC8.

Producing 110kW of power, this tall giant can reach speeds of well over 250km/h. It’s difficult to fathom that a bike with so much Dakar heritage and adventure in its genes could tackle a race track so convincingly, so much so that I had a ZX10 rider flabbergasted at just how quick the bike was, particularly out the corners when I laid down the power. Being blessed with such rampant acceleration didn’t hurt either.

The fact that it is packed with technology, and rider’s aids to assist, meant that I could push the bike to the limit, well, my limit, and whenever things looked like they were going to get messy, the traction control would step in. But not in a ‘horrendous stepmother taking away all your privileges’ kind of way. Instead, it gently nurtures you and straightens you out. Most of the time I didn’t even feel the traction control working and only saw the light flashing on the odo cluster.

Weighing in at 230kg, it’s bulky but easily manoeuvrable. The fact that I could arrive at the track with a luggage bag and two camping chairs strapped to the pannier box bracket also highlighted its practicality.

Of course, the KTM wouldn’t be living up to its name if there wasn’t some dirt riding involved. Naturally, I went searching for some gravel-laden roads, slapped the bike into off-road mode and headed down the road, leaving a giant dust cloud in my wake.
The engine is ‘business-like smooth’ and opening up the throttle makes a throaty groan. The bike really does feel planted on almost any surface and it’s difficult to fault.

So, is it an adventure bike, a superbike or what? Well, this motorcycle is anything you want it to be. It’s just housed in an adventure-bike skin.

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