The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.3
KTM are off-road masters so this new take on the middleweight adventure bike has been hugely anticipated. It doesn’t disappoint, either: incomparably capable in the dirt, especially in ‘R’ trim but also a decent, punchy road bike – although not as cheap as Yamaha’s new 700 Tenere.
Reasons to buy
- A new, credible off-road dimension among middleweight adventure bikes
- Punchy with high spec electronics
- More manageable than full-sized rivals
At a glance
Austrian off-road and adventure specialists KTM are no fools when it comes to dual-purpose bikes or lightweight roadsters and it’s used all its experience and savvy to create its new middleweight adventure bikes. Two versions are available: the more road-biased 790 Adventure and the more hard-core, off-road orientated 790 R with off-road 21/19in wheels, uprated suspension, tweaked electronics and shorter dirt screen. Both succeed admirably, mostly due to the punchy 790 Duke twin-cylinder motor at its heart, KTM’s usual quality electronics and TFT screen and clever design touches such as the ‘pannier’ fuel tank, which helps keep weight low.
Despite its off-road credentials, the standard 790 Adventure makes a decent, usable road bike thanks to its natural but slim, upright riding position that’s more comfortable than it looks, aided by a taller screen which does a good job of deflecting most of the weather and wind. It naturally lacks some of the two-up comfort of its larger siblings but that’s hardly a criticism, nor is the realization that nor is it quite as plush and sumptuous as a fully-loaded example of BMW’s F850 rival – that’s the price of the KTM’s extra off-road manouvrability.
An off-road orientated middleweight may not sound like the most versatile of bikes but there’s not that much that betters the 790 Adventure. It’s all-day comfortable yet light and nimble enough to be able to wiggle through city congestion; punchy and a sweet-enough handler to deliver sporting fun and is far better than most off-road, as well. In fact the only areas it lacks a little is in luggage and pillion carrying ability and even then it’s certainly not awful. If you’re after a two-up tourer, you’re probably best looking elsewhere, apart from that, it’s brilliant.
Performance & braking
With the same 799cc double overhead cam parallel twin which debuted to such universal praise in 2018’s 790 Duke, performance was never going to be lacking, even though in this guise it’s been remapped to deliver more midrange, resulting in peaks of 95bhp at 8000rpm and 65ftlb at 6600rpm. That, allied to the Adventure’s light 189kg all up weight adds up to punchy, entertaining drive, and with three switchable modes, cornering ABS and traction control all easily navigated through its swish TFT screen it’s a classy, lively performer, especially for such a small capacity machine. Braking is impressive and sharp, too.
Ride & handling
As with all KTMs, suspension front and rear is by quality WP units, delivering a ride that’s taut and cultured, again aided by the 790 Adventure’s light all-round weight. Although the inverted front forks are non-adjustable (the rear shock has a preload adjuster), it’s no loss as they’re well set up as standard while, despite being a narrow fairly tall bike, the CofG is kept usefully low by virtue of its clever, ‘saddlebag’ fuel tank, which helps it steer sharper still.
A large part of the 790 Adventure’s appeal is its more manageable proportions and weight compared to the leviathan 1200cc, 160bhp, heavyweight adventure bikes which have become the norm and that has knock-on benefits for its running costs, too. Lighter weight and less power add up to less of an appetite for consumables such as fuel, tyres, chain and brake pads while you’ll paying less for insurance as well. Of course, it’s not as low as even softer middleweights such as Suzuki’s V-Strom 650 or Kawasaki’s 650 Versys, but it’s not at all bad…
Although there been occasional scare stories of oil leaks, warped discs and the like concerning KTM’s more performance-orientated bikes and it’s also true that it’s a new model and that the powertrain its based around has only been out for a year, we’ve few reliability concerns. Build quality is generally good and, although having decent performance, the 790 Adventure is certainly not as stressed as the Austrian firm’s bigger models.
Warranty & servicing
As is commonplace with the leading motorcycle manufacturers, KTM offer the new 790 Adventure with an inclusive, two-year, manufacturer-backed warranty covering all parts and labour. Servicing costs should be significantly better than average, too. Service intervals are reasonably generous, due only every 10,000 miles or so and it’s a relatively simple and accessible design so easy to work on.
While some manufacturers keep their middleweights fairly basic in a bid to retain a budget price, this is certainly not true with KTM and the new 790 Adventure – and even less so with the R version. Its electronics are on a par with KTM’s bigger adventures and include three riding modes and cornering ABS, there’s a swish, full colour TFT dash, quality suspension and brakes and tops more extra cost luggage and accessory options. It’s a class act.
Some would have you believe a ‘middleweight’ adventure is a radical idea –not so: the Kawasaki 650 Versys and Suzuki V-Strom 650 being prime examples. What the 790 Adventure is, however, is a serious, off-road capable middleweight with none of the budget spec of those bikes. In short, the 790 benefits not only from being lighter and more manageable, it’s serious about its off road skills and is just as classily equipped as its bigger brothers. If the latest generation of monster adventure bikes with their 1200cc+ engines and vast size and bulk were too intimidating, KTM’s newcomer could be the answer.