ABR Bike Tester Julian Challis visited Morocco to put the KTM 790 Journey and 790 Journey R by way of their paces.
If there were to be one word that would encapsulate KTM, it might be willpower. In every single one of the company’s tasks because the company was reborn again in 1992, the Austrian model exhibits an unwavering focus and drive to supply one of the best bikes within whichever sector it decides to focus on.
From the domination of the European enduro market to the vice-like maintain on the world motocross championships, its ‘Ready to Race’ mantra has proved 100% accurate. Nevertheless it’s KTM’s achievements inside the Dakar Rally which have maybe been the most effective example of its willpower to succeed. Since Fabrizio Meoni took their first win back 2001, KTM has taken a staggering eighteen consecutive victories and secured 46 of the 54 podium positions in that point.
Even the swap to 450s in 2011 that was meant to open up the competitors to other manufacturers was taken in its stride, with Marc Coma ticking off his third of five wins on the new smaller bike.
So, it’s towards this backdrop of phenomenal off-road success that KTM has launched its all-new and far anticipated journey bike, the 790 Journey. The bike marks the end result of a process that started in 1997 with the very first 620 Journey and has taken the corporate by means of a succession of technically advanced and very succesful machines that have all benefitted from the model’s sporting expertise and success.
There is a sure irony that while KTM and different manufacturers journey bikes have seen a gradual improve in measurement, performance and sadly, weight, to satisfy the demands of the market, the new 790 Journey sees a return to the smaller capability and lighter weight of their first adventure bikes.
The method to develop the new bike began over 4 years in the past and has concerned KTM’s design and engineering workforce taking a look at every facet of both type and performance on the 790 to ensure it performs in addition to attainable in probably the most testing of circumstances. An ideal example of this obsession is once they took the just about completed bike to the desert to run it in over 40C warmth for hours on end to test the cooling system.
When the bike ran hotter than they have been proud of, they went again to the manufacturing unit and totally redesigned the cooling system, becoming greater radiators and a second cooling fan to unravel the difficulty. All good, however to suit around the new elements all of the entrance bodywork needed to be scrapped and designed again – this can be a group that refused to compromise on their imaginative and prescient.
Whereas it may need been straightforward for KTM to launch the 790 Adventure at some plush resort within the south of Spain, with solely small sections of off-road driving to show its prowess within the filth, the truth was predictably much more hard-core. KTM had set up camp within the remote city of Arfoud within the east of Morocco in the midst of a desolate and barren desert landscape.
This unimaginable location is used as the training base for the Dakar riders, the infinite dunes and unremitting open plains mirroring the punishing circumstances in Peru and Bolivia the place the riders compete. Sam Sunderland, the winner of the 2017 Dakar Rally, was available for the launch, as was the legendary Marc Coma and the annoyingly gifted Chris Birch – no strain then…
It’s value stating at this stage that whereas we’re talking concerning the KTM 790 Journey as one bike, the launch is actually for two distinct and totally different fashions, the 790 Journey and the 790 Adventure R. KTM has very clear ideas on the markets the 2 bikes are targeted at and the riders that every of the 2 variations ought to appeal to.
Its goal for the 790 Adventure was to supply ‘probably the most off-road succesful journey bike’ whereas the goal for the 790 Adventure R was to be ‘probably the most journey succesful off-road bike’. It’s a really clever approach of defining the essential functions of the 2 machines, and perhaps serving to the client to determine which one is the perfect for them.
With journalists flying in from everywhere in the world for the launch of the new 790s, there was a palpable feeling of excitement within the camp previous to our first journey on the bike. We’d seen them on the exhibits, we’d poured over the small print, we’d written previews, we’d debated the design, however that counted for nothing compared to slinging a leg over the saddle and dropping the clutch. Have been these bikes going to be nearly as good as we hoped?
Our first journey was on the 790 Journey, in order that’s the more street/journey choice. As quickly as we headed out on the street into Arfoud city, the work the engineers have put in was immediately obvious. The driving place is properly thought-about, from the relatively low seat peak (adjustable between 830 and 850mm), something that was a robust standards within the design, to the broad sweep of the off-road type bars.
As a KTM enduro bike owner, the feel of the bike is instantly acquainted from the profile of the aspect plastics towards your legs to the positioning and format of the bars. There’s also the identical ranges of adjustment in bar place, from the three mounting positions and the reversible clamps, so you’ll be able to fantastic tune the cockpit to your personal preferences.
The dashboard is the regulation TFT selection, however it’s sensibly-sized to show clear info and allow straightforward modifications by means of the myriad of choices from the left-hand toggle switches with out straying into the size of a small TV. Because it was the primary outing, I had the bike in Road mode, with the advantages of the complete traction management, ABS and cornering ABS which come as normal on both the standard Journey and the R.
We’d been warned that although the roads is perhaps dry and clean, the high quality coating of desert sand on just about all the things right here in Morocco means the floor is deceptively slippery – and they don’t seem to be flawed.
The 799cc twin motor is relatively brief (one other criteria which helps hold the saddle peak low) and consequently the brief stroke makes for a vigorous energy supply. Giving it a handful on these unpredictable roads may cause the back to squirm earlier than the MTC traction management does its thing, whereas the ABS know-how is invaluable to offer comparable control underneath braking. What the know-how gained’t allow you to with is going in too scorching on a sandy street and sliding off on the first roundabout, as a Russian journalist managed after just six minutes of driving…
The early slide brings us neatly to the tank on the 790 which has acquired in all probability probably the most feedback since footage of the bike first emerged. Holding with the theme of willpower to supply one of the best bike for adventure, the KTM engineers have, virtually literally, turned the design of the tank on its head. Whereas there’s still a centrally mounted filler cap, the tank is cut up to either aspect of the bike like a pair of weirdly-shaped plastic saddle luggage, with nearly all of the gasoline load held within the decrease a part of the tanks in front of your ft.
The design permits the top part to be nicely slender and straightforward to seize together with your knees and keeps the load low and between the wheel spindles with the centre of gravity.
While driving, this design makes the bike feel secure and planted, and there’s no perceptible feeling of low weight even underneath heavy braking. There’s been considerations concerning the security of the tanks in a crash, but you might be assured KTM has tested them to destruction and is joyful they will stand up to the rigours of the position they’ve been given. The Austrians have been utilizing plastic tanks for over twenty years – they don’t seem to be going to decide on now to put in a breakable one!
The design of the tank and the extra plastic guards allows the bike to slip properly, fairly than dig in as typical crash bars can typically do in case you are unfortunate enough to return to grief. You’ll be able to upgrade to carbon fibre for about £300 in case you are minded, but that is determined by your driving and your price range.
The throttle response on the bike is by way of ride-by wire know-how, a virtual must when it’s working with a number of electronics, however still manages the quick feel of a standard cable which, unusually, is what’s fitted to the clutch. Whereas we’ll typically berate producers for sticking with cable clutches, KTM’s determination to return to the more mechanical actuation appears odd for such a classy bike.
Challenge Manager Adriaan Sinke was joyful to elucidate the rationale for the change: “Utilizing a hydraulic clutch was an engineering answer to the problem of stiff clutch springs and rather more primary clutch know-how. Now that the design of recent clutches has progressed fairly a lot, we will use lighter springs with less clutch plates to realize the identical impact, and with the addition of a fast shifter, the amount of occasions you truly use the clutch are also substantially decreased too.
This enables us to fit a cable clutch, and for journey bikes, that’s actually useful. If the cable brakes, I can go into any city anyplace on the earth and get a cable. OK, it won’t be the right cable, however it’ll permit me to make use of the clutch and continue my journey.”
Leaving the city for the open and sometimes pencil-straight roads across the desert, the bike can carry its skirts and get some pace, which it does with a rewarding surge. Being a center weight engine, you’ll be able to’t rely on the monster torque of an enormous capacity adventure bike, so that you may find yourself having to be a bit more concerned with the gear modifications if you wish to get a wiggle on – bury the throttle whenever you’re already in sixth and travelling at 80mph and it’s a clean acceleration somewhat than a rabbid punch of energy from the 1290.
Our route takes us one other 30-or-so miles throughout unremitting desert, with sweeping tarmac ribbons ahead and behind. The 790 Journey has been designed to devour large distances with ease, and again KTM has nailed it.
The seat is on the agency aspect of snug as with each bike within the KTM vary, and the display, when set on high using the one adjusting bolt on the entrance, deflects enough wind to make issues snug. The massive hand guards maintain away the chilliness too, although this was less of an issue in the hazy sunshine of a Moroccan afternoon. We just set the cruise control and loved the journey as the 790 flowed by means of the landscapes as easily as spun silk.
As we reached the photograph location there was predictably a bit of time to look round the bike and recognize the finer factors of the 790 Journey and Adventure R. Each bikes run the new 799c twin DOHC Eight-valve motor that was particularly developed for these bikes and the street going model. Opposite to what you may assume, the motors aren’t the identical, but their improvement, like the cylinders, ran in parallel.
The new unit places out 95bhp at Eight,000rpm and 89nm of torque at 6,600rpm, the torque curve markedly totally different and lower down the rev range compared to the 790 street bike. There’s a purposeful six geared box with electronic quick shifter, and drive is thru a standard chain and sprockets as favoured by adventure travellers. Cooling is thru an enormous, centrally mounted radiator and fans with an oil cooler, and fuelling is through 46mm DKK Del’Orto throttle body managed by an EMU.
On the chassis aspect of issues, many may need anticipated to see the trellis design favoured by the rally teams, but again KTM has gone again to the drawing board for the totally different wants of journey bikes. The result’s a chrome-moly body that arches excessive of the brand new motor and makes use of it as a burdened member, thereby growing the rigidity while maintaining the load low. At the rear there is a trellis-style steel subframe to help the seat and house the airbox, the choice of metal again a nod to the potential of effecting repairs in distant places. Both models may be fitted with the aftermarket racks and panniers.
The frame on the R model is slightly totally different up entrance, with a shallower steering angle of 63.7 levels as in comparison with 64.1, giving the extra off-road focussed bike slower steering and a touch longer wheelbase. When it comes to the seat, the Adventure comes with a two-piece unit which is peak adjustable, whereas on the R, it’s a flatter profiled single piece unit to permit freer motion. You’ll be able to match both choice to either bike although.
Holding with the smart designs, the intake snorkels for the air filter are right behind the subframe, underneath the seat, they usually level backwards. The excessive and guarded place is right for water crossings and will permit the 790 to ford depths over the wheels without concern. On the other finish of the seat, the fuse field and battery are easily accessible underneath a canopy that may be eliminated with two bolts, whereas the enduro type aspect panels are detachable with out tools but can hold the toolkit and different essentials.
The dashboard has an influence adapter socket quite than a USB port to allow charging of all the things from a GPS to a searchlight, laptop or razor – adventure riders have quite a lot of needs! Each machines have LED lights, the font ones housed in that controversial Mantis-style headlight unit
While most dual-sport adventure bike manufacturers are investing closely in electronic managed suspension, as indeed is current on KTM’s bigger machines, the 790 goes again to basics with correctly specced suspension that does all the things you want without all of the wires and cables.
Working with WP, as they have for a few years, the 790 Adventure uses 43 mm Apex open cartridge USD forks up entrance, whereas for the R there’s the 48mm Xplor USD fork originally developed for KTM’s enduro bikes. Each forks have what is termed ‘separate fork perform’ with the compression and rebound damping cut up between the 2 legs and, in the case of the R, adjustable via the dials on the top of the models.
There’s a WP Apex shock unit on the rear of the 790 Adventure, however again the R will get the WP Xplor shock, with each working by means of KTM’s linkless and maintenance-averse PDS system. When it comes to journey, the models ship 200mm at both ends for the Journey and an enormous 240mm for the R.
With the pictures within the can, we had the prospect to actually attempt the 790 Journey away from the tarmac, and that’s when all of the tech and design really begins to return into its own. Even on the road-based Avon Trailrider tyres teamed with the 21/18-inch spoked wheels, the 790 is just unimaginable on the filth. The driving position is neutral with an amazing relationship between bars, pegs and rider, and the slender profile lets you control the bike like a 250cc trail bike relatively than an 800cc adventure bike.
When stood up, the stability is past anything you may need ridden before. In comparison to even the market leaders within the journey market, the 790 is on another degree. And this is not even the off-road focussed model of the bike…
The following morning was once we obtained to tackle the Adventure R, and as a dedicated off-road fanatic, I was beside myself with anticipation of the day. We have been led out of the launch HQ by four-time Baja winner and KTM’s R&D road check coordinator, Quinn Cody, for a quick spell of 15-or-so miles of blacktop before we picked up the paths.
The R feels little totally different to the standard bike on the street, save for a barely taller peak from each the seat and the longer suspension, a bit more wind from the shorter display, and a bit more noise from the Akropovic can on the back. The Continental TKC80s are a lot grippy enough at non-heroic speeds, however it’s on the dust that they’re going to earn their money.
Once we regrouped at the beginning of the off-road route, it was time to click the bike into ‘Rally’ mode, change the ABS to off-road, wind off the traction management and get dirty. And right away we have been off onto quick and sinuous trails throughout the Moroccan desert, constructing velocity shortly as the bike wolfed up trails with an unimaginable urge for food.
The WP suspension copes with every part you throw at it with out grievance, taking within the unsettlingly frequent drop offs and sand sections in the many wadis (dried water beds) on our route. The dust clouds from the other riders forward hung in the air like an uncomfortable silence, which means we had to depart huge gaps to make sure we might truly see the terrain we have been masking.
The ‘Rally’ mode comes on the R as normal however may be added as an choice to the 790 Adventure, and it is perfectly set up for fast driving throughout the stony trails we have been following. An extended sand part was a tad tougher, however it was immediately apparent that the bike was not the limiting factor in the equation, a undeniable fact that even Chris Birch had confirmed the night time earlier than. When he’s saying it, you sort of comprehend it’s true…
We met up for a break and a few extra pictures at Gara de Medoar, an enormous rock formation nicknamed ‘The Portuguese Jail’. Behind the tall front wall and contained inside the confines of a circle of fossil-rich cliffs, African slaves have been as soon as held here earlier than transportation to Portugal. There’s little proof of the darkish history left, however it’s nonetheless an unimaginable place to expertise.
While waiting seemingly in the midst of nowhere, a Moroccan man appeared on a bicycle and instantly unclipped a tray of fossils, from complete trilobites to polished shells and bowls usual from the rocks containing the ancient creatures. With no local foreign money to buy his goods, I supply him an apple from the help truck which he accepts with an enormous grin – it’s a type of moments that make adventure motorcycling so rewarding.
We moved on for some tougher driving, from clambering up rocky trails to tearing throughout the desert piste at speeds that on some other adventure bike would have been both silly, painful or each. Yet the Adventure R evokes such confidence, that 60mph on utterly unknown and sometimes arduous to see trails feels utterly pure. A wadi comes into view, you simply lean back, give the bars a bit of a pull and the throttle a twist, and the bike powers by way of and the suspension shrugs off each hit like prize fighter.
We had travelled a full 70 miles before we stopped for espresso, and with more of the same on supply, we completed another superb 25 mile loop in the direction of Merzouga before lunch. The deep sand sections of the trails continued to frustrate, principally because as a British rider there’s valuable little opportunity to apply, and even 4 years of the Weston Seashore race doesn’t prepare you for mile-long tracks by means of sand finer than caster sugar.
Once I obtained notably out of practice, the bike slid down into a river bed and inadvertently I received the prospect to see how straightforward the machine is to raise. I’m completely happy to report that these low petrol tanks forestall the bike falling too far, and in addition the low centre of gravity makes righting the bike far simpler than anticipated.
The afternoon takes us further up to the desolate panorama of Tesserdmine and with the solar excessive within the sky, the temperatures are touching the low 30s. The bike’s followers minimize out and in within the tougher terrain, but otherwise the Journey R was unaffected by any facet of the hostile setting. Mile after mile of unimaginable trails whipped by with the minimum of effort but the most enjoyment. Man, this bike is sweet!
Return to Arfoud
With the most effective of the day slipping behind the distant mountains and with 125 miles displaying on the trip meter, we reluctantly headed back to base, choosing up the identical trail we’d began on earlier than hitting the black prime as soon as extra. The graceful roads offered an opportunity to sum up the 790 Journey and Journey R, and to be trustworthy, they are maybe more than we might have anticipated or hoped for.
The engine is powerful and versatile, the suspension faultless, the ergonomics effortless and the know-how ties it all together to complete the package deal, no matter whether or not you are a traveller that desires to go off street, or an off-roader who needs to travel. These bikes take adventure driving far past what’s presently out there from any manufacturer and has the potential to dominate the adventure travel market in the identical means that KTM has dominated the Dakar. Willpower all the time pays off.
As a commuter
Of the two bikes, the 790 Adventure would respond one of the best to the rigours of the day by day grind because it has great street manners and stability, however the R might fare virtually as nicely. However to purchase either bike and simply commute to work can be as flawed as preserving a mountain lion as a house cat …
As a weekend tourer
Each bikes would work properly as weekend tourers, however again if it’s street work you’re looking at, the 790 Journey just pips the R to the publish because of decrease suspension and barely faster geometry. Load up the panniers, slap on a tent and head for a night underneath the celebs. The sound monitor? We’re considering a little bit of Latin, so the Buena Vista Social club
As an off-roader
While both bikes are extremely competent off-road, the R model is one of the best when things get grubby. Even for relative novices, the 790 Journey R evokes confidence to deal with new challenges and take on terrain that might show unimaginable on greater boned journey bikes. It’s an off-road natural.
As a continental street tourer
As has already been proved in hundreds of miles of testing, the 790 Journey can destroy continents in consolation because of its 400 km vary, snug ergonomics and usable driving know-how. But in case you are expecting day-long three determine speeds and all the bells and whistles, the 790 could also be left wanting in comparison with the larger journey bikes.
As an RTW overlander
Both bike will happily conquer the world as that’s primarily what they have been designed for. Nevertheless it’s the Journey fairly than the Journey R that is the meant to do the job the most effective as it’s ‘probably the most off-road capable journey bike’ whereas the R is ‘probably the most journey capable off-road bike’. Simple.
As a pillion service
Again, it’s virtually a lifeless heat on these bikes, and which works greatest will depend upon the terrain you plan to journey as either might be fitted with the stepped two-piece seat. Because the bikes are so easy to journey and so confidence inspiring, we’d reckon on buying one every and exploring the world together!
Specs at a look
KTM 790 Adventure
Engine: 2-cylinder, Four-stroke, parallel twin
Maximum energy: 94bhp
Suspension: Front; WP upside-down, 200mm journey. Rear; WP monoshock, 200mm journey
Brakes: Entrance; 2x radially mounted 4 piston caliper, 320mm disc. Rear; 2 piston floating caliper, 260mm disc
Seat peak: 850mm
Weight: 189kg (dry)
Tank capacity: 20L
Gasoline consumption: 68.9mpg (claimed)
KTM 790 Adventure R
As above, but…
Suspension: Front; WP upside-down, 240mm journey. Rear; WP PDS monoshock, 240mm journey
Seat peak: 880mm
All concerning the suspension
We caught up with Chris Birch to get his thoughts on the brand new KTM.
“Whenever you take a look at the 790 Adventure R, there isn’t any comparison to some other journey bike on the market when it comes to off-road capability – there’s just nothing”.
So, might Chris determine the one thing that makes it quite so good?
“For me the most important difference between this and some other journey bike is the suspension – it’s really top quality enduro stuff that permits you to push so much more durable. In order that signifies that whenever you hit that massive hole, that massive compression that you weren’t quite prepared for, you don’t reach the bounds of the suspension, the bike just goes straight by means of it. I can smack by way of stuff that I might be exhausting on the brakes for on some other bike.
The other day we have been truly debating as as to if the 790 truly hits the large stuff better than an EXC enduro bike – it’s fairly close.
“The primary two occasions I rode the bike it took me a long time to get my head round the capabilities of the suspension. I stored backing off out of reflex and I had Quinn Cody telling me via the comms’ system ‘Stop being a pussy – Maintain it on!’ And I’m considering “However I don’t need to!’. However if you do, it’s just positive, the bike doesn’t miss a beat.”
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