I’m seriously looking at buying a proper adventure bike for touring around India and the KTM 1050 Adventure is high up on the list. I already have a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, a KTM Duke 390 and a Royal Enfield 350. The Harley is best for cruising on smooth roads and unfortunately India doesn’t have much of them. The Enfield is best for riding slow on village roads, not exceeding 60 kmph, although I have painfully ridden it to Marsimik La in the Himalayas. I bought the Duke after I got fed up of waiting for KTM to launch the much rumored 390 Adventure and decided to build one myself.
During a business trip to the Netherlands, due to a logistical problem, I somehow ended up with five days all to myself and decided to use the opportunity to take the KTM 1050 Adventure for a very long test ride. So I rented one in the Netherlands and rode it around Europe for four days covering a total of 1,670 kms. I wanted to experience the motorcycle as much as I could and arrive at a buying decision before KTM launches the bike in India later this year. I had done something similar before I bought the Fat Boy. I had rented one in the Netherlands and rode it for a whole day along a mixture of highways and rural roads. Back then I arrived at a clear yes/no decision on the Fat Boy and this time I was hoping to do the same thing with the 1050.
Here are my thoughts on the KTM 1050 Adventure in no particular order of importance.
Weight and Size
The KTM 1050 Adventure weighs 212 kgs without fuel and has a seat height of 850 mm. The motorcycle is as tall as a horse and you mount it like one. I’m 6 feet tall and when I sit astride the 1050 my heels just touch the tarmac. I’m used to heavy bikes. After all my Fat Boy weighs 330 kgs and I can wheel it around relatively easily. But I found wheeling around the 1050 to be far more difficult than my Fat Boy and the reason needs to be explained.
The key to wheeling a heavy bike really doesn’t lie in its weight. Rather it lies in the seat height. The Fat Boy’s seat sits at 690 mm, that’s 160 mm lower than the 1050. This low seat height ensures that your knees are bent when you sit on the bike. The high seat height of the 1050 ensures that your legs are straight and your knees are not bent. And there lies the problem.
Imagine trying to push back a motorcycle with legs straight and perpendicular to the surface of the road. You don’t get the traction you need and your feet slip on the tarmac. Now instead of tarmac, imagine if you are on a dirt road with gravel and you need to pull the bike back. Believe me, it becomes quite a task.
This actually happened to me during the ride. I decided to go off road and ended up on a path strewn with pebbles. At the end of the path I had to turn the bike around and that involved me reversing the bike a little. I couldn’t do it. My boots kept slipping on the pebbles and there was nobody around to help me pull the bike back. In the end I used a technique of pressing the front brake, forcing down on the handlebar compressing the front suspension and then yanking back as hard as I could while releasing the front brake so that the bike would use my weight and the wonderful concept of inertia to move back a little. I slowly inched my way backwards and managed to turn the bike around.
My point here is, like all big adventure bikes, the KTM 1050 Adventure is a tall bike and you may have a problem managing it if you are not a tall person. Having said that I have seen not so tall people do wonderful things with tall adventure bikes. Ultimately it comes down to a healthy combination of confidence, technique and brute force.
The specs say that the 1050’s V-twin engine delivers 70 KW of power, which is a nice round number. But what does it really mean? I’ll tell you. It means that if you are cruising at 150 kmph on 6th gear and you decide to twist the throttle all the way, you will reach 160 kmph in exactly 2 seconds. No downshifting to 5th gear. Just twist and feel the bike take off. I know because I did it. Many times. When riding the German autobahn. In fact, I touched 200 kmph on the autobahn, which may not sound a lot to people who ride crotch rockets. But try sitting upright on a big and tall adventure motorcycle at 200 kmph, instead of being crouched down with your belly stuck to the fuel tank, and you will know what I mean. The shake of my chest mounted GoPro camera should give you a good idea of the wind blast.
The 1050 Adventure is KTM’s entry level large size adventure bike, with the 1190 Adventure and 1290 Super Adventure being its older siblings. The 1190 and 1290 boast of 110 KW and 118 KW of power respectively, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why someone would want so much power. At least not someone like me who is merely interesting in cruising along bad Indian roads and maybe take the bike off road if absolutely required. Maybe a professional wanting to do some crazy stuff like jump over large tree trunks and boulders will find use for more power that what the 1050 has to offer. But even if I loaded the 1050 with a pillion rider and strapped luggage for both of us, I’m pretty sure it would let me do whatever it is that I wanted to. Bottom line, I doubt there is anything that I (emphasis on I) would want to do on a 1190 or 1290 that I could not do on a 1050. For me the power that the 1050 leaves at my disposal is more than enough.
Tyres and Brakes
The KTM 1050 Adventure comes with Metzeler Tourance Next tyres – 110/80 r19 in the front and 150/70 r17 in the rear. They are absolutely awesome and let you lean the tall and heavy bike into corners without fear of a spill. I had loads of fun on the twisties of the Eifel National Park near the German-Belgian border. The brakes are Brembo’s and live up to their fine reputation. Stopping this machine isn’t going to be too much of a problem. The ABS worked as expected and it should do a fine job on wet roads, although I didn’t have any on this trip, thanks to the hot and dry European summer this year.
The 1190 and the 1290 come with spoked wheels, whereas the 1050 comes with alloy wheels. I think it makes sense because people who buy the 1190 and 1290 will most probably want to take their bike off road a lot more and spoked wheels would make a big difference. But I already have a light and nimble Duke 390 to go trail riding. I’m looking for a adventure bike to ride mainly on roads, more specifically, the bad roads of India. And so alloy wheels makes perfect sense for me. The added advantage of alloy wheels is tubeless tyres, which is again crucial for Indian roads. So although alloy wheels may come off as a drawback, I’m perfectly ok with them on the 1050.
You can think of a 1050 as a SUV for people who will rarely ever take their vehicle off road. The lower power and lack of extreme adventure features is proof of that.
I absolutely love this part of the motorcycle. It truly enhances the ride quality and reduces rider fatigue. It has two positions – normal and raised. I found the windshield raised when I rented the bike and I let it stay that way for all the four days. It did an excellent job deflecting the wind away from me as can be seen from the massacre of bugs on the hand guards.
None of the small bugs hit my helmet visor at all. The only ones that crashed into me were the large and heavy insects which made such a big bad splat of themselves that I had to stop the bike and wash the visor clean.
The riding posture is excellent. In the four days the only time I had a back ache was when I woke up one morning from the bed. Turns out the mattress was too soft for my likeness and I ended up twisting my body. But for all the long hours that I was on the saddle, I was sitting upright and the feeling was great. I did use a rider seat pad though, as I always do whenever I ride long distance.
I could comfortably stand on the pegs, hug the tank with my knees and ride at low speeds for quite a distance. I can easily see myself riding this motorcycle for days on end without a huge problem.
This is something I had a huge problem with. The size is great. 23 litres should take you a long way. But the problem was with the opening of the tank. As you insert the fuel nozzle into the tank, it hits a obstruction which splashes the fuel back and shuts off the nozzle in the bargain. So you need to carefully hover the nozzle above the obstruction and if you are not careful the fuel splashes out on to the tank surface. This is a very bad design flaw and needs to be fixed immediately. There is no way to sugar coat this.
Well, it really doesn’t have one. There is a piece of plastic that is bolted onto the front facing side of the engine. But that’s mainly to keep dirt off the engine. However, there is a proper skid plate that you can buy or maybe even fabricate yourself if you have the time and patience to do so.
I didn’t get too much into the electronics of this motorcycle. It has three modes (sport, street and rain) and I stuck to street mode. However I did like the fact that it had a screen called Favorites where only the stuff you wanted to see was listed.
The KTM 1050 Adventure doesn’t come with a center stand. That may be a problem when you want to transport the bike, say across a river by boat or by rail or road cargo. A friend and I once shipped our bikes from Goa to Chandigarh by road. My Enfield had a center stand and reached Chandigarh upright. My friend’s Duke 390 was lying sideways on the floor of the truck. Like the 1050 it didn’t come with a center stand and paid the price.
Every motorcycle has its share of quirks and the KTM 1050 is no exception. However, the pros severely outweigh the cons, especially given my specific needs for an adventure motorcycle – that is to tour the length and breadth of India, its few good highways and its many bad roads, and to do so comfortably. I will conclude this review with something I posted on Facebook after I returned the 1050 back to the motorcycle rental.