What is it like to ride a KTM 1190 Adventure for over 200 000 km (125,000 miles) and then jump on an 890 Adventure? Are there really many differences between the larger LC8 and the new parallel twin?
This is probably the question I have been asked most often after I switched to the new KTM 890 Adventure.
After sharing with my 1190 Adventure some of the most incredible adventures of my life, it was clear that I had developed with that machine a unique bond, one I had never developed with a bike before. I personally believe that every motorcyclist has a special one in his/her heart; a motorcycle with whom we have shared remarkable moments or a very memorable adventure.
For me, the special one is definitely my 1190 Adventure.
When a motorcycle manages to steal your heart like that, it’s hard to move on from it. We tend to compare all the others to that one.
Once you get used to unleashing 150 hp with a twist of a throttle, everything else seems pretty dull at first, but my impression soon after hopping onto the 890 Adventure was good.
The 890 has a very different riding position from the 1190. The wider handlebar of the 890 Adventure gave me immediately a different feeling of control and the more upright position highlighted the more offroad nature of this smaller orange beast. Sitting on the 1190 instead, one has the feeling of sitting on a bull and holding it by the horns.
With the 890 the sensations are totally different; the bike is slimmer and the knees are much closer together; it definitely doesn’t give the sensation of being on a powerful motorcycle. Although the 890 weighs only a few kg less than my 1190 (196 kg dry against 210 kg of the 1190), maneuvering the machine is much easier than its predecessor. The lower center of gravity does provide a great feeling while moving the bike from one side to the other, and less effort is needed to lean the bike during sharp turns and quick changes of direction.
I always felt that I had to manhandle the 1190 during rapid maneuvers, but that was what I also liked about it.
The 890 is also easier to slide back and forth while riding offroad, like a true enduro bike.
If there’s one thing that you learn while riding with an LC8 engine with 150 hp, it is respect for the throttle. A little mistake in judgment could potentially send one to the moon.
On the KTM 890 Adventure, I did not feel the constant worry of not being able to open the throttle fully.
The 2-cylinder engine delivers 103 horsepower, landing in the same power category of standard 1000 cc bikes like the Africa Twin and the Suzuki V-Strom, but bearing less weight.
They both have 4 riding modes, customizable MTC, cornering ABS and even adjustable suspension. There are certainly new and improved features on the 890 Adventure, as one should expect, but the point is always the same: technology is there to improve your riding experience, but if one wishes to remove it all, the UI allows the rider to do so, with the flick of a switch.
In this sense I found myself liking the 890 Adventure much more than the 1190. The rider interface is definitely more refined and performing all procedures is now quicker and easier.
Riding modes are now tuned a bit better, but the biggest difference is still probably just the horsepower gap between the two.
In the old 1190, Sport mode was simply a slightly more reactive Street mode; on the 890 the Rally mode can be tuned up according to terrain and riding style, with the addition of 3 different throttle responses (Street, Offroad, Rally) and the progressive Slip Control, which controls the rear tire spin. This last one has 9 levels to choose from, allowing the rider to tune the riding feeling to the conditions.
To conclude, the 1190 Adventure is clearly the precursor to a new wave of highly technological series of motorcycles for the Austrian brand. As a precursor, it had some flaws, but it has many brilliant features which makes it for me one of the best (if not the best) adventure motorcycles ever built.
The 890 Adventure instead is the new kid on the block; perfected in many ways, lighter, quicker and powerful enough to please old KTM fans, but also sufficiently docile to please new customers. It is an easier machine to ride, after all; there is less weight to manage, a lower center of gravity and a more affable attitude in mixed riding conditions.
The 890 Adventure is definitely more approachable by a wider range of riders. It could also be a good first bike for some people. The 1190 is clearly not something that a first-timer would want to opt for.
In all fairness, the 890 adventure is a more everyday riding kind of bike, with better travel and offroad capabilities than the 1190 adventure, which is instead a raging beast that doesn’t want to stay below 4000 rpm. With the new engine, the old issue of heat being concentrated under the rider’s seat, which was an outstanding issue of the LC8 engine series, has been resolved.
Qualitatively speaking the 890 Adventure is definitely at the top of its category. This influences its price which is usually a few thousand dollars more than its competitors.
It’s true that, on the 890, brakes are not the fancy Brembos like those on the 1190 models, and suspension is WP Apex, which is also not the top of the line. But I think that the average user will never experience the difference unless pushing the machine to the extreme.
In all other aspects of design and engineering, both bikes feel qualitatively excellent and pretty much equal. So in this sense, I didn’t feel the 890 was much of a downgrade at all.