Test Ride Thoughts: Triumph Tiger 800 vs KTM 990 Adventure

Discussion in 'Crazy-Awesome almost Dakar racers (950/990cc)' started by TwoWheelExplorer, Jun 12, 2011.

  1. TwoWheelExplorer

    TwoWheelExplorer Livin' the dream

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    I spent a couple of hours yesterday at my local dealership looking for my next bike. I've been looking hard at the new Tiger 800XC's, and while they don't have an XC demo on the floor, they do have a roadie. They also stock KTMs, and while I wasn't looking much at the 990 Adv, I figured it would be fun to try it also.

    The test loop they ask you take is unchaperoned. You head east one freeway exit, get off on a a tight, twisty 2-laner, then back onto the freeway to the dealership. It's probably 15 miles round-trip.

    There were two guys in front of me in the Tiger demo line, so I asked if I could ride their demo KTM 990 Adventure first.

    To even the playing field, both bikes were white, so they should be equally fast.

    A few lines about what I'm looking for. I've been between bikes for about a year and a half after getting tired of my previous bike, a Harley Night Train that I had built as a bobber, which was lowered and with ginormous apes. Great bike, but not the best for travelling on to say the least :eek1. I had traded an '04 1150GS Adv for it. I loved that bike too, and done a lot of miles on it, but at the time my two kids were very young and I realized that I wasn't going to be doing any Alaska trips anytime soon - so when my little brother finally found his Harley Fat Boy after years of saving money, I got the Harley bug again, and made the switch. I also have a '93 Ducati Superlight that's currently being rebuilt. I like quirky bikes, I guess you could say. I love long rides, mostly on street, and don't mind freeway time as long as I'm seeing something new. I ride year-round in Seattle, so I need something that's commuter-worthy in crap weather. I have done Iron Butt rides, solo and rallies, and I want something that's capable of multiday rallies (though probably not the Big One any time soon). When I had the GS, and before had a DRZ400, I loved exploring the dirt roads and trails of WA state.

    I didn't expect to like the KTM much. I've read too many folks saying that the bike is crap on the freeway, at least compared to the R1200GS, and that it's really best at dirt and if you have to ride pavement to get to the dirt, so be it.

    However.

    Oh man, what a grin-maker. The demo KTM had Akrapovic pipes on it, which is probably cheating, because they sound so good.

    The Tiger 800 is a strong bike also, actually a very nice bike, but I was surprised at how, uh, "generic" it felt.

    Some notes I made to myself:

    KTM
    • It had far better than expected wind protection. At 6', 200# with a 33" inseam, I was surprised at how much of my upper body was protected from the wind.
    • I did note some backpressure on my head. Not abusive, but noticeable.
    • I loved how narrow the tank area was - it gave me a good lower body position.
    • Reach to the bars and pegs was very comfortable. Fit seems really good to my body.
    • I liked being able to slide fore/aft.
    • The KTM was a ton more fun than the Triumph at the engine (except for the last 1500rpm on the Triumph's tach, where it screams). Just more usable. more fun to turn into corners. More fun to aim at the potholes. A bit of an unfair ocmparison there, since I didn't ride the Tiger XC.
    • Mirrors were surprisingly good but left side had vibes that blurred the view. The right side was fine. Both felt tight. When you're demo'ing a bike on the freeway and you may theoretically be in triple digit speeds, it's unnerving to not have a good view to your rear for policefolks.
    • This demo bike definitely had fuel surging issues. It surged a bit off idle, and a bit in the 4k range also, I think.

    And the Triumph
    • THAT TRANSMISSION!! It's majestic. I as absolutely blown away. Now, I've been on Harleys and BMWs and Ducatis for many years, none of which have good transmissions, but still. Wow.
    • Engine up high, when revved, was a thrill.
    • There is little front-back seat room - you're locked into one position and can't move around. You're also pushed forward a bit. Setting the front seat height adjustor to high and the back to low levels you out. This could be fixed with an aftermarket seat.
    • It was wider at legs, not uncomfortably so, but noticeably so.
    • Shorter seat to pegs, even on high seat and with no footpeg rubbers. Not as comfortable for the low body as the KTM.
    • The wind protection wasn't nearly as good as the KTMs - both for coverage or cleanness of the air. I'd want a wider and taller screen for sure, but upper body and shoulders are in the wind ay more. That's fine on dry days, but in the rain, it gets annoying.
    • The bar was weird. It was both too flat (front-to-back angle) and too far away for my tastes. That's fixable, but it was just an odd feeling.
    • My demo bike's mirrors were wacky. The left was loose and wouldn'tstay put; the right was aimed wrong and not movable. I told the dealer about this on my return and they fixed it before the next guys.
    • Counting myself, I saw 5 guys go out on Tiger demos, and only me on the KTM.

    When I came back, I took out the KTM again just because... nobody else was in line, and I wanted to see if I had been too positive in my first ride.

    Here's the bottom line for what I felt... The Triumph is a great bike. The transmission and engine was great. The cockpit display was good. The engine, when wound up high, was a thrill. It was a bit boring till it got wound up, though.

    The KTM was fun. Fun fun fun. Quirky, growly, oh-crap-now-I-have-to-see-if-I-could-actually-LIVE-with-one fun.

    I'm a reading/research junkie, and I've been reading a ton here

    I need to go ride an R1200GS along the way, before I buy something, but I've been on them before and found them competent but not giddy-fun. That's not a bad thing. Just depends what you're looking for.

    The problems for the KTM for my type of riding are pretty well known. Valve checks are longer to do than on the GS, for example. Gas mileage at mid-ish 30-s isn't great. There's a crapton of plastic to take off for most home maintenance. I already have one fiddly-to-do-valves on bike, do I want another?

    So, a few offhanded comments/questions to Orange Crush.

    I actually called the service dept for this dealership on drive home to start checking into "just how maintenance intensive IS this thing, anyway?". They quoted me ~$150 for the non-valve checks, and ~$500 for the valves. They also said that the Triumph's valve service would cost about the same. They said they usually do valves at 12k intervals on the KTM, though they're spec'd for check sooner. Does that cost sound in the ballpark?

    Fuel pumps and water pumps (both, or am I mistaken?) are the reliability worry, it seems in my last day's reading. The newer bikes are supposed to be "better", but what does that mean - if I found a deal on a 950 which had a new pump, is that up to spec on '10+ bikes?

    I see that the bike has a 450w alternator - which means that running Gerbings liners and also PIAA 910s for night lighting is probably out...

    91 octane gas, right? Not regular, but high octane? Or are folks running 87 with no problems?

    So... what should I keep in mind while I'm thinking about whether my head should follow my heart and start looking for an LC8 adventure and using it at least partly for long tours on the road in addition to exploring the dirt in the Pac NW?
    #1
  2. Bronco3738

    Bronco3738 Mike

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    I got rid of a GSA 1200 because I hated it off road and was bored to tears on road. I liked the wind protection but that was it. Now that I have my 990 I'm totally happy the bike is fun off or on road and two up is no problem. I did trim my windscreen down to clean up the air. The only people who say it's not great on road have never rode one. Since I've had my 990 I've taken it areas I would never consider or have been able to fit the GSA.

    The 950 and 990 are different bikes. 950 is carbureted the 990 is fuel injected. The fuel pumps can be an issue on the 950. The fuel filters are expensive on the 990. It's believed the filters clog and ruin the 990 fuel pumps. The 950 fuel pumps have issues with points wearing out rapidly. So a deal on a 950 is not up to spec on an 2010 model. In 2009 they changed heads, cams and lengthen the valve service intervals.

    Both bike I consider the water pump seals a routine maintenance item. The interval has gotten longer with the upgraded parts, but they still can go bad. Some of the maintenance is tedious, but coming from a sport bike background I don't have an issue with bodywork.

    As far as surging... I don't have issues with mine, but it does require a steady hand any movement in your wrist and it responds. The only fueling issue I have is cold starting I have to blip the throttle till it hits 1 bar on the temp.

    I just picked up a cable and downloaded TuneECU. With that I have loaded the 990 R map and have the ability to do pretty much whatever you want to the fueling maps.
    #2
  3. ghostdncr

    ghostdncr Burnin' daylight...

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    I just ride a 950, but the giddy-fun thing is about the same. You get used to the maintenance, too. I am literally on a first name basis with the local KTM folks and have never managed that with any other motorcycle. :freaky
    #3
  4. Cumminsman76

    Cumminsman76 befuddled

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    Have you riden a BMWF800 and if so how did it compare?
    #4
  5. TwoWheelExplorer

    TwoWheelExplorer Livin' the dream

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    Cool, thanks for the input!

    Roughly how many hours' work is a valve check? 5-ish?

    I haven't, yet. When I was looking hard at the Tiger, every reviewer said that it was better on-road than the GS, so I was aiming there. I think if I were looking hard at BMWs, it'd be the 1200. But it's lower on my list than some other stuff.
    #5
  6. ghostdncr

    ghostdncr Burnin' daylight...

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    I would dedicate an entire Saturday to it. When I get the bodywork off there's always something else I see that needs a bit of attention. These bikes are terrible for "mission creep" and if you find that bothersome, you should probably buy something else. Aren't the valve adjustment intervals on a DR650 something ridiculous like every 24,000 miles?. That said, I'm pretty sure I could do the Katoom's valves in five if I went in focused on nothing else.
    #6
  7. Cumminsman76

    Cumminsman76 befuddled

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    I've riden a 990 and unlike Bronco I find the 1200GS far better on the road than a 990. Then again I'm more comfortable on the GS on gravel than I ever was on my DRZ400S.
    #7
  8. Bronco3738

    Bronco3738 Mike

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    Didn't say the GS was bad, I said it was boring.:cry But now that you mention it the GSA made mine and my wife's buts hurt after a few hours. I always find it funny the GS guys spend so much time in the Orange Crush defending their choice of bikes.:lol3

    And a 990 is nothing like a DRZ. Try riding a 990 before you dismiss them on the road.:deal
    #8
  9. Cumminsman76

    Cumminsman76 befuddled

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    The main reason I bought a GS over a 990 was the local dealer closed. And read what I wrote and you might learn something.:lol3
    #9
  10. Cumminsman76

    Cumminsman76 befuddled

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    It should say I was more comfortable on gravel on the 1200 than the DRZ.
    #10
  11. Iwantabikesobad

    Iwantabikesobad Long timer

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    I think if someone does a 10 minute idle on the demo bike your mind would be set.
    KTM's learn and remember throttle habits and become jerky just off idle and around 4K. This is probably really bad on the demo bike as everyone cranks hard on the throttle about every 100' just for the thrill of it.
    I idle mine about every other month to every 3 months and it makes a big difference in the smoothness.
    The 08 models seeming were the worst and really need mapping according to the dealer. The 09's were improved and work great with a lower throttle cam and a 10 minute idle once in a while. No experience with a 10 or 11 model.

    Drink the Cool-Aid
    #11
  12. TwoWheelExplorer

    TwoWheelExplorer Livin' the dream

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    I'm in the opposite boat - closest dealer for me, 20 min away,does Triumph, KTM, Honda, Yamaha. Two BMW dealerships are an hour's ride, or a bit under.
    #12
  13. Bronco3738

    Bronco3738 Mike

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    GS better off road than a DRZ. Really how? :lol3 But to each his own. ... :norton But again then again the point of the thread was

    "So, a few offhanded comments/questions to Orange Crush."

    Not how great the GS is according to it's current riders. You guys really don't have to defend the GS in every thread. We all know Charley and Ewan chose the BMW first and foremost and there was never any other model they considered.
    #13
  14. motomuppet

    motomuppet Been here awhile

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    Actually I think Charley really wanted to ride KTM's but KTM wanted them to buy the bikes, BMW gave them the bikes, so they were stuck with them. They ended up loving them, but if someone gave me one and told me to ride it round the world I would probably love it as well.



    Then again, I would probably sell it and buy the 990....:D
    #14
  15. neatster

    neatster n00b

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    KTM 990 (SMT)? Pure unadulterated fun, ear-to-ear grinning stuff! Actually, it's probably a license-loosing choice. :evil

    BMW 1200GS? Sensible all-rounder. Smooth. A better fit for my 192cm height. And buying it through a BMW dealer was scary easy - a copy of my license, a single sheet contract to sign, and I was in business!

    I wanted both. Had to get one. Chose the 1200GS. 7,000 k's on, I'm ecstatic about my choice, but still pine for the 990 at times. But then, like most of us I want a different bike for every day of the month...

    I also tried the 800GS, which is probably a fairer comparison to the 990. It was uncomfortable, snatchy...much harder work than either the 990 or the 1200GS.
    #15
  16. Clrblu22

    Clrblu22 Flyn' Floatn' Ridn'

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    PATL - I assume that you are talking about I-90 motorsports - I'm in the Maple Valley area and am having the same decision making problems that you are. I took a GSA1200 for a 3 day weekend test ride from Ride West - what an incredible bike. It truly is an all-rounder. Having said that, I didn't get the feeling that I would take that bike on anything more than a logging road. The KTM on the other hand (I haven't test ridden yet) gives me the sense that it is simply a dirt bike on steroids. Just as I think I've convinced myself that I want the BWM, I go for a ride on my CRF450 and remember just how much I love riding dirt. The other problem is this damn Orange Crush forum - I can't help but appreciate the loyalty that these guys have for Team Orange and their quirky looking 990. I have recently began to look at these two bikes kind of like women - the questions is, do you want a really nice girl that you can take home to mom, have a few kids with and live with the rest of your life - or - do you want a naughty, high maintenance little mistress who will take you for the ride of your life every time you strap her on. Needless to say, I'm starting to lean toward the mistress :D
    #16
  17. ChR1s

    ChR1s Spherical Bastard

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    Yes, high octane. There's an alternate map to run 87 (via wire disconnect, located beneath the seat on my '07), but performance is much softer with it enabled.

    For the most part, I hate riding slab on my 990. With a 1200GS, not so much. There's just something about the 990's form, when combined with certain situations (70-85mph, crosswinds, dirty air from traffic), that produces some of the most irritating buffeting I've ever experienced. I have yet to mess with the OE windscreen though, so I suppose it's not really that terrible? Off pavement or on secondary roads, I much prefer the 990's more familiar dirtbike-ish handling and punchy thrust.
    #17
  18. Xanadu

    Xanadu Been here awhile

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    Saturday I hit the pavement on my 04 950A and rode 200 miles of freeway at 80mph to northern Michigan. After lunch I hit the trails and rode 150 miles of forestry roads, two track snowmobile trails and some limited single track. I experienced loose dirt, sand, gravel, mud and three water crossings over 2ft deep. I had dinner then drove 200 miles home at 80mph. 20 minutes with the power washer and this is what she looks like.

    [​IMG]

    IMHO you get a 20% improvement with the BMW on the pavement over the KTM which is not worth the 70% superiority of the Katoom in the dirt over the Beemer. :evil
    #18
  19. ChR1s

    ChR1s Spherical Bastard

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    :freaky
    #19
  20. Clrblu22

    Clrblu22 Flyn' Floatn' Ridn'

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    It's precisely this type of posting that makes me want this bike. I rarely ever go more than 200 miles on the slab and I love the hell of the dirt. The only thing stopping me from pulling the trigger on one of these is the maintenance. I love to do my own maintenance, but there are a lot of horror stories on here about how much pain it is to do anything on your own.
    #20