Desert Sled vs Africa Twin vs 990 Adventure

Discussion in 'KTM 950/990' started by morini, Apr 21, 2017.

  1. morini

    morini Newbie

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    Now that is a comparison I have not seen before, but it kind of makes sense. The Africa Twin is probably closest thing to the 990 Adventure on offer today, and the Desert Sled is so beautiful that an aesthetic like me could forget all about the adventure bikes advantages and just have a simple playful bike, as the testers say the Desert Sled is. And that is why I nearly bought one today. After the test ride I had to take an extra breath and tell the seller I would think about it over the week end. Meaning I will trash my 990 Adventure and compare notes.

    Some months earlier I also test rode the Africa Twin. Mostly of curiosity - I do not plan to buy one but I understand those who do. I will throw my thoughts on this bike in as well to make it more interesting, but I can reveal the result already. I left the shop keen on buying the Desert Sled, but after playing around with the 990 there was no doubt: I will keep it. Upgrade the seat and the screen, fix the throttle issues and maybe give it a Wings exhaust and be happy. Damn - this is a good bike!

    These are my notes (test pilot is 184cm/85kg, 45 years old, has been riding since before I was old enough, but mostly 70ies Guzzies/BMWs/jap 2-strokes and 60ies brits):

    Ducati Desert Sled - what I like:
    - I have not lusted for a new bike for ages, but the Desert Sled is a beautiful bike. It is the scrambler Ducati should have built from the start instead of the low girly lifestyle oriented town transport they released some years ago (sorry Scrambler owners out there:-)). Many compare the looks to the XT500, but it is also much of the 60/70ies Ducati Scrambler in the design, and I have been close to buying that several times.
    - The offroad abilities: After some uninvolving road kilometers I found some gravel roads and even some easy single tracks. THAT was fun! Compared to my 990 Adventure, which is far too competent and scary powerful for my limited abilities, the DS feels light, confident inspiring and surprisingly at home in these conditions. Maybe it is the lower point of gravity and lack of screen and plastic in sight that makes it feel lighter than the 990, because the weight difference is not significant. Lifting it from (10cm over) the ground was much easier than the 990 and getting the back wheel out when braking or drifting was easy.
    - The looks
    - Very comfortable seat, low wind noise and good ergonomics, but no wind protection (that is a plus for someone living with the 990s deafening buffeting)
    - It looks great!
    - I can ride the DS at sane speeds and be a happy camper (unlike the 990 where i often end up riding at speed that will have me in jail and without a license for several years here in Norway. Or dead.)
    - Throttle control is very smooth compared to the snatchy throttle on the 990.
    - Look at it!
    - For a modern bike it is quite simple. Not a bunch of CPUs or Apps that need updating every second week.

    Ducati Desert Sled - what I do not like:
    - First impression after 5 minutes was: «Forget it. Return it and go home». It is fun to ride (of course - it is a motorcycle!), but the Desert Sled did not feel very involving on the road. The front is vague, not very communicative and a little slow to turn (probably the 19` front wheel), and the engine is just a power source - no personality (more on that below).
    - With my love for italian bikes i wanted to like the Ducati V-twin engine, but honestly, it was a little boring. Nice throttle response, smooth, but I had expected more grunt from the claimed 75hp. Subjectively it feels slower than my old sports tractor (tuned ´76 Guzzi Le Mans), but the speedometer has a different opinion on that. Since I am used to old bikes I miss having contact with the engine through vibration, smell, spitting carburetors and rattle and hum. This is not Ducati´s fault. It is me being a dinosaur thinking everything was better in the old days.
    - Needs bar risers, bigger pegs and hand guards to be used as marketed.
    - It says «Born Free» on the filler cap. Honestly. Is this the hipster version of the «Live to Ride» T-shirts and Captain Sparrow inspired skulls used by the previous poseur trend?
    - All the Ducati Scrambler merchandise. It not as bad as HD deodorant, but it is close.

    Honda Africa Twin - what I like:
    - Honda wins hands down on comfort. Good seat, ergonomics, wind protection, etc. I feel I could ride very long distances on this. I have only tried it on tarmac, but I would expect it to be far more competent than me off road.
    - Strong engine, with an an impressive bottom end. Surprisingly nice sound with some popping on the over-run.
    - The sensible choice.

    Honda Africa Twin - what I do not like:
    - I had expected more grunt. Especially in higher rpms.
    - A little boring. I have not had sleepless nights thinking about it after the test ride and is not that what motorcycles are about?
    - Compared to the Desert Sled it is definitely not a looker (but not bad for an adventure bike).
    - Motorcycles should not be sensible.

    KTM 990 Adventure - what I like:
    - I already own a very low milage (11 000 km) 2006 bike in the right colour (grey), and have fixed some of its issues.
    - It is still the best looking adventure bike out there (but far from as good looking as the Desert Sled).
    - The engine is a fantastic. Despite the irritating snatchy throttle issues, the KTM has the most charismatic engine of the three with scary power and a nice sound track - even with stock exhaust.
    - Extremely capable off road. Far beyond my abilities.
    - The ergonomics are very good, but the seat is uncomfortable on longer rides.
    - With the GOBI cases I can load her up like a Gold Wing.
    - Uncomplicated compared to newer adventure bikes.

    KTM 990 Adventure - what I do not like:
    - Comfort: The KTM seams to have a good seat, but after a short while it changes into an oak two by four.
    - Wind buffeting: This is so bad that you feel like a WWII fighter plane test pilot whose windscreen and helmet has been stolen. Deafening.
    - Maintenance: Even easy maintenance requires the bike to be dismantled down to a molecular level.
    - Big, tall and heavy for off-road work.
    - If you are tall enough to ride this bike you need bar risers to ride standing up.
    - Uncomfortable at legal speeds. Maybe it is the snatchy throttle or the fact that my other bikes are ancient (I am used to using all the (limited) power on offer), but I keep ending up at twice the speed limit. Not good.
    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG] IMG_1431.JPG
    #1
  2. DesertSurfer

    DesertSurfer Tail sprayin

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    Great write up. Thanks for comparing. I find it interesting that our 950/990's are much older and yet it's still my choice above the others you've mentioned.

    The Duc DS is a "pretty" bike... But I don't think I'd ride it anywhere that "serious".

    I'm still peeved the AT came out so HEAVY... This is 2017 and that's all they could come down to. I think Honda held out big time on material advances in the AT.

    Little by little I've been able to slim down the weight on my 950 Adv and with all the upgrades to an already great bike... It's such a blast in any conditions I throw it into.

    Will I ever replace it? There's nothing out there yet to replace it for what I use it for.

    It's perfect for me right now.

    And another confirmation from your post.
    #2
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  3. getonyourbikeandride

    getonyourbikeandride Been here awhile

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    I don't find the DS particularly good looking and the ergos are very compact (by that I mean really tight).
    Smaller folks 'may' not be bothered by this, I can't say.

    Nothing will replace my 950ADV except maybe a newer KTM down the road IF they ever get it right again!
    #3
  4. JohnnyWaffles

    JohnnyWaffles Been here awhile

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    I've ridden it's brother, the Ducati Scrambler and I really really wanted to like it. I thought the engine would haul ass due to power/weight ratio but I was underwhelmed. I agree with the road manners of the bike as well. Valve checks every 7,500 mi aren't my fav either.

    I think the Honda AT is the sensible updated version of the 990 and I respect that. I still have no interest in any of the newer bikes...besides maybe better fuel economy and electronic aids that make me think I'm a better rider, I'm not sure what I'd gain. The skill curve on off-road riding is what I love about motorcycles and a new bike won't necessarily do shit for me compared to my well-sorted 990. To each their own of course and the new crop of bikes are really quite exciting for the sport.
    #4
  5. Desperate

    Desperate Adventurer

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    Hi,

    I have a 2007 990 ABS version but with longer sexier legs to 265 mm.
    For the items you do not like on the 990 which may help you:
    1. I have a gel seat which makes life more comfortable even for full days in the saddle, I rode a GS1200 around Europe for a month and eventhough comfortable the transition between seat and tank was uncomfortable and painful at times.
    2. Just fitted a Rade Windscreen and it seems to help, will know more soon.
    3. Maintenance is a pain but it also provides protection, so I accept the tool time.
    4. It is tall and top heavy, more so than the GS for obvious reasons. Makes no real difference on road but offroad having some momentum helps. I also ride a 500 EXC and the reality is that the 990 is meant for open going not mountain goat passes, although possible on the big fella. Having years of dirt experience helps to be confident when you need to tackle a challenge.
    5. Agree that bar rises are needed and a steering dampener. I also have pivot pegs which helps to keep comfortable.
    6. Mine has a semi snatchy throttle, much more obvious when riding solo then when doubling. Although my ownly produces 100 HP the torque is significant and is the fun part. The system does auto tune so I do notice the difference when I have been conservative to a hooligan and how it affects the throttle. Changing spark plugs at the 15k intervals and doing the 15min idle thing helps.

    Some other points to compare with a GS:
    1. The gearbox on the GS is dreadful whereas the KTM is super smooth.
    2. The GS has torque from 1000 rpm which is really handy, the KTM needs atleast 2,500 rpm.
    3. The GS had heated grips which were great so just installed them on Kato.

    I cannot see me selling the 990.
    #5
  6. MiniNL

    MiniNL Dutchie in the US

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    Have you looked at the new 1090 adv R?
    #6
  7. squadraquota

    squadraquota mostly harmless

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    If all goes well, the 790 adventure is to be launched for next year. If it is anything close to what we have seen so far in spy photos etc, it could well the true successor to the 9x0. Especially if KTM can manage to keep the weight well under 200kg. Now add that to your comparison :lol3
    #7
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  8. Questor

    Questor More Undestructable

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    I keep looking at all these "new" bikes and I'm puzzled.
    How come they all weigh so much?

    KTM, a brand I hold dear to my heart, has the new 1090 Adventure. Its 507 pounds gassed up.
    Honda 2016 Africa Twin has a wet weight of 503 pounds with 4.9 gallons of fuel.
    BMW R1200GS wet weight of 516 pounds.

    However the 2005 KTM 950 ADV weighs 426 dry. With the same 6 gallons of fuel (@ 6 pounds per gallon) = 36 pounds for a gross weight of 462 pounds. That's 45 pounds lighter than the 1090. Approximate HP = 100 and 95 lf/ft torque.

    Or...

    KTM 950 Super Enduro at 100 hp 95 ft/lb and 407 pounds dry.. :viking :raabia :clap

    And if you want to go sub 300 pounds, you have to look at a 2005 Honda XR650R (with a aftermarket steel subframe) with a dry weight of 276 and 4 gallons of fuel (IMS tank) for a wet weight of 300 pounds. That's about 65 HP and 50 ft/lb torque.

    Sure, there are WR250's that weigh less, but that's a totally different animal.

    I'm going to wait for the 2019 KTM 790 Adventure, although it's a parallel twin...
    (I wish they would make a smaller V-Twin...)

    Or rumor has it Honda is going to make a mid-sized Africa Twin. A CRF-540 Rally perhaps?

    But until some company delivers us the next generation of perfect dual sport bike, I'll have to be happy with my KTM 950 ADV or 950 Super Enduro.
    Q~
    #8
  9. MiniNL

    MiniNL Dutchie in the US

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    The 1090 weighs the same or a little less than a 990 R without fuel.
    #9
  10. dumbgirl

    dumbgirl Been here awhile

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    ktm 990.jpg I'm in full agreement with your comments. I think the Ducati is old school SUPER SEXY! I've ridden my buddies new Africa Twin...just on a dirt road and a bit of twisty pavement but it didn't really move me. It seamed like the right tool for the job but didn't make me dream about it that night. My 990 on the other hand...well that bike is just naughty! The sound of the engine alone makes my heart race and my palms sweat. It's by far the easiest bike that size that I've ever taken off road. I did shave the seat a bit to make it more narrow. And I sent the suspension off to James at Super Plush who actually put STIFFER springs in the front for me! (I'm 5'6 and about 133lbs) He also lowered it about 1/2" so I can get a solid front of one foot on the ground. I even thought the 990 was ugly before I owned one...I got an 800GS before this bike because I liked the way it looked and that was the worst motorcycle mistake I personally have ever made. You could outfit my 990 with a concrete block instead of a seat and I would still LOVE that bike and ride it, block and all over any other choices out there!!!
    #10
  11. dumbgirl

    dumbgirl Been here awhile

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    :roflThese are the funniest and most true words ever written about a KTM!!! LOL. My neighbor, who doesn't ride, asked me why I was trading the 800gs for the 990. The two bikes were parked next to each other...I pointed to my new white one and exclaimed "This bike makes me want to be naughty!" Then, I nodded towards the 800 and told him: "That bike says to me 'keep your legs together honey or someone will see up your skirt.'" "lick it's butthole"!!!! Indeed. :lol3:lol3
    #11
  12. Zuber

    Zuber Zoob Supporter

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    The new 1090R will be lighter than the 1190, but still a little heavier that the 990 standard with the abs pump. The 990S/R/Baja will be lighter yet. The aluminum bat is the 690R at 305 lbs dry.
    #12
  13. JustKip

    JustKip Long timer

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    I'm presently considering 2 of these 3 bikes...the 2 you can get off the showroom floor. The one I Want is the one that can't be bought new. I wanted a 950 more than a decade ago, but the dealer's demo bike had a leaking water pump. When I pointed it out he exclaimed "Another one?". I bought a GS, and was still making payments when the 990 came out. Shouldda traded anyway, but I didn't. A couple of years later, after totaling the GS, I bought an F800. Hated it the whole year I owned it...f'ing weenie bike. Now I've got a '16 LC GS. More power than before, and tons of electronic crap. Id definitely performs better than the oil cooled one, but the electronics seem to separate you from the riding experience.

    So I have a deposit on a Desert Sled, but I realize that 803cc motor, with the single throttle body, isn't the same as the one in the Monster 796. Take away one of the throttle bodies, and a few ponies, and it loses it's edginess. That, and the 130 mile tank range, and I'm thinking I might just decline delivery. And that leaves the Africa Twin; almost afraid to ride one for fear of disappointment.
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  14. DesertSurfer

    DesertSurfer Tail sprayin

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    If you search diligently, you can find low mileage 990's out there. It's worth looking into and being patient.

    If you've ever lusted for one, don't deprive yourself from ownership. Now that they've depreciated you can get into one for far less then a new one.
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  15. Questor

    Questor More Undestructable

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    In my area I keep seeing mid-life KTM 950's with a good bunch of farkles for about $5000.

    Personally I think these bikes are underrated. Sure everybody wants fuel injection and ABS, but that just adds complexity and weight.
    I've torn down a 950 engine under a tarp and fixed everything from carburetor diaphragms, to clogged jets, to water pumps, to side stand safety switches.
    These bikes are simple, and reliable, and once you get the fairings and gas tanks off, just as easy to work on as a lawn mower.
    I have three 950's with a combined mileage of over 200K miles, and have never been left stranded on the side of the road.
    Sure, they may not have all the modern electronic do dads, but I understand them, and trust them, and when you're heading into remote areas, its very reassuring to know you can fix them without the use of a computer or any special tools.

    Love your 950.
    Q~

    [THREAD HIJACK OFF]
    #15
  16. motoman250f

    motoman250f Been here awhile

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    Good thread, thanks! I feel the same about the f800gs and AT vs 950. Desert sled I haven't tried but now I'm not anxious to do so. There's a guy here local with a 13 990 baja with 1k miles on it for sale. you can get them if your patient.
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  17. JohnnyWaffles

    JohnnyWaffles Been here awhile

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    :clap
    When I was in a purchasing dilemma looking for my first ADV bike, I came across that written on here and it really represented the dedicated culture and breed of the crazy KTM riders as a whole. At the time I wasn't sure whether I'd go the cheap KLR route, the typical BMW F800 or risk all the cookies and go with KTM.

    Someone once told me that you should get the bike that gives you a boner...or gets your juices flowing [gender friendly].
    #17
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  18. DesertSurfer

    DesertSurfer Tail sprayin

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    Not that I want to admit it but...

    I love the way the 950 handles "get offs".

    The tanks are pinned in with no sharp angles to hang up on.

    The blinkers are designed to pop off ( Or go shortie led).

    ECU is behind steering head.

    If you drop it, you just pick it up and go.

    Just make sure you mount the levers independently from master cylinders.
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  19. Questor

    Questor More Undestructable

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    That's true.
    Nothing slides down the road like a fully armored 950. :lol3
    Q~
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  20. DerViking

    DerViking Shred

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    In mtn biking, we learned to leave our levers a little loose. Not so loose they move on their own, bit so a good shove would displace them. That way they deflect instead of braking in a crash. I do the same on the Moto. Makes it easier to change lever angle on the fly as well. (I like my levers different for extended pavement vs dirt) I run hand guards on everything, and this still helps limit breakage. I used to wrap Teflon tape, then squeeze the clamp over it. Discovered it really isn't necessary.
    #20
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