MCN Fleet: Itching for an adventure with KTM's 890R

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Having done close to 15,000 miles on a KTM 790 Adventure R long-term test bike in 2019, I thought I knew exactly what I was getting into with the all new KTM 890 Adventure R…wrong.

Yes I know that 90cc, 9.4 bhp and 8.8lb.ft more torque may not sound much but in reality it’s brought the already potent middleweight adventure bike to a whole new level. The revised graphics also look sharper but what hasn’t changed is the stiff, focussed chassis and aggressive power delivery when in Rally mode, which have all been enhanced on the 890.

More long-term tests

I’m only 900 or so miles into life with the KTM’s latest adventure offering in which time I’ve enjoyed a trip South to visit Durdle Door and headed East for an off-road lap of Thetford forest. My gut feeling tells me the next 900 are going to be every bit as good, if not better.

Getting to know the KTM 890 Adventure R

Off-road pedigree

So far I’ve only done just over 50 miles off-road in Thetford forest and while the riding there is relatively tame as it’s flat with not many corners it’s still a stiff test, especially for the suspension due to long stretches of random sized whoops.

I’ve ridden the same route on a state of the art Yamaha WR250F enduro bike so I knew what to expect, but I could never have expected just how well the 890R would deal with it. You can’t get away from the fact that the 890 is an expensive bike at £11,999, but after a day riding it’s clear where the money has gone.

Shocks on the KTM 890 Adventure R

The 48mm WP XPLOR forks are simply on another level to its rivals and there were occasions on the ride where the big travel, perfectly damped suspension saved my bacon.

Due to the repetition of the whoops it’s easy for things to get out of hand as the suspension does not have time to recover before the next compression. I’m not saying you couldn’t ride the route on a Yamaha Ténéré 700 or Triumph Tiger 1200 Explorer but there is no way you’d be as fast or as confident.

Real world fast

The extra bhp isn’t a big factor off-road, but it is on the tarmac especially if you’re loaded up with panniers or have a pillion onboard. All the sub 1000cc adventure bikes boast around the same 94bhp  (the Triumph Tiger 900, BMW F850GS, Honda Africa Twin and so on) and all of them lack that mid range grunt or urgency needed for A road overtakes unless you’re riding solo.

I honestly never expected an extra 10bhp to feel so good, but in reality it’s a 10% power increase, which genuinely transforms the bike. For the first time in years I’m searching for any excuse to just take it out for a ride.

Aero woes

If you spend anytime on KTM forums the most posted topic is about replacement wind shields on the 790. Bad aero, wind noise and buffeting are a common complaint which makes it even more disappointing that they haven’t been addressed with the latest 890R.

KTM 890 Adventure R Screen

From what I can see it’s the exact same set-up and while I haven’t found the buffeting too bad even with a peaked Arai X4 helmet the level of wind noise is incredibly high. There’s talk that swapping mirrors can help or removing the lower fairing so I’ve got plenty of investigating to do because even though I’ll be doing less miles than I did on the 790R I’d like to improve the current set-up.

One simple fix is to fit the standard 890 screen which is significantly higher, but it takes away from the looks of the ‘R’ version and is arguably too big for off-road riding.

What’s next

Having had my adventure wings clipped for the last year, I’m keen to get out so have a four day trip planned this month where I get to ride the TET ( off-road route across Northumberland and Cumbria onboard the KTM Adventure 890R and a Yamaha Tenere 700.

Both bikes have been fitted with off-road focussed Continental TKC80s and I’m currently busy sorting luggage from Kreiga and setting up the satnav for navigation. It’s going to be a real test of the bike – a long road ride followed by long days off-road in what will almost certainly be wet conditions. We have a few technical sections to tackle but with the heavier crank on the 890R, dedicated off-road mode, multi level traction control and KTM off-road DNA - I’m expecting good things.

I want to make 2021 my year of adventure with the KTM 890 Adventure R

KTM 890 Adventure R

With more power and even more off-road capability the year ahead on the new KTM 890 Adventure R is definitely orange and most definitely bright. I want to make 2021 an adventure starting with a five-day off-road trip to Northumberland.

The rider Michael Guy, MCN Sports and Features Editor, 48, 5ft 9in. Riding 38 years. Ex-racer, now prefers off-road adventure.

Bike specs 889cc | 104bhp | 196kg (dry) | 880mm seat height

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Michael Guy

By Michael Guy

Sports Editor, former 250-racer and adventure rider