What is the KTM 790 Adventure

Driving report KTM 790 Adventure

The touring riders looked forward to the KTM 790 Enduro like hardly any other motorcycle of the 2019 year. They see many of their wishes come true. I feel like the BMW F 800 GS back then or the Africa Twin: The 790 is a good touring motorcycle, but the hype about it lacks any grip on the ground. That is why we are nagging a little down to earth, because you can find the hype everywhere else, including in the PR material from KTM itself.


When I arrived in the test area in South Tyrol after a few hundred kilometers, I thought to myself: "Oh, you have screwed together a good travel machine in Mattighofen." However, I then drove a well-used 1190 Adventure in comparison. The 790 hardly leaves a stab on the road. The cheaper chassis of the 790 suddenly plunges deep when braking. The much better and adjustable dampers of the 1190 solve this better.

The great 75 ° V2 engine of the 1190 delights with a unique punch. The in-line two-cylinder of the 790 annoys between 4000 and 5000 rpm with a loud vibrating noise like a singing bowl on the esoteric market. Otherwise, the engine sounds and lives quite nicely, but there are rows of twos with crankshaft offset just everywhere. Yamaha's new 700 Tenere has one, Honda's Africa Twin has it, and so does BMW's Chinese engine in the F 850. Only KTM has the 75 ° -V2.

Cheaper prevails

The reason is the same everywhere: An R2 is cheap, sounds nice with a corresponding offset and combines good chugging with potential at the top. KTM combines this with a short overall gear ratio in which this engine runs smoothly even at low revs, which is not KTM's favorite discipline. The test machine did not show the constant speed jolting below 3000 rpm, which was criticized at the presentation.

However, the short translation means: switching a lot. The quickshifter with car clipper is therefore more important than the rally mode, should it come to a cost showdown. For trips through bad fuel regions such as India, there is a tamer ignition mapping that the dealer plays. That was more relevant in the past, however. In Africa, for example, there is now, according to hearsay, usable fuel almost everywhere. The 790 lacks a knock sensor.

And finally: Although the 790 weighs significantly less than the 1190, it cannot translate that into better road handling. In a direct comparison, the 1190 paradoxically needs less steering force at the turn-in point. The owner suspected a better operating angle due to the retrofitted handlebar riser. The steering head geometry is very similar on both motorcycles (both approx. 64 ° steering head angle). The 790 series Avon Trailrider tires harmonize well with the motorcycle, but show a remarkable affinity for bitumen. The front wheel locks into place magnetically on this material.

"But terrain!"

Now the 1190 cost more than the 790 at that time and there were other development priorities. But if you are looking for a travel enduro because you like the driving experience (and that is the majority), you will be much better off with a used 1190 Adventure for less money than with the 790. In the forums I read about the off-road suitability for this motorcycle, which KTM also explicitly advertises.

The fact that a motorcycle weighing almost 210 kg with a full tank of fuel without a suitcase is seriously discussed as an off-road machine is a phenomenon in the western world. We drive 99.9 percent of the roads because there are hardly any legal roads without asphalt, and even those are usually in a condition that you can drive 100 there. That is why Europeans buy heavy travel enduros like the 790 with 95 hp instead of light enduros. So: The 790 Adventure is fun on alpine gravel slopes and encourages you to find them. No more. Not less.