2021 KTM 890 Adventure and Adventure R

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The 890 Duke that was released last year was an absolute banger. It took everything good about the 790 Duke and made it even better. So when the news came out that KTM would be gracing their stable with a KTM 890 Adventure and Adventure R, the people did rejoice. But not half as much as I rejoiced when I got an invitation to Sweet Lamb to test both of the new middleweight adventure bikes out.

What’s new?

Quite a few bits actually, but the main difference between this and the 790 is, not surprisingly, the engine. It’s up by 90cc (thanks to a bigger bore and stroke), there is more compression and bigger valves. Because of all that, they’ve managed to eek another 10hp out of it (105hp). There’s a bit more torque too (100Nm). It’s got a new crank with 20% more rotating mass, a new balancer shaft and a stronger clutch, too.

The suspension has been faffed with on both models, as have the brakes, the electronics, and the chassis. But none so much that any of it is hugely transformational. And you can tell when you sit on both the Adventure and the Adventure R; neither feels a million miles away from the outgoing model.

KTM 890 Adventure

The first bike they let me ride was the KTM 890 Adventure, the more road-biased of the two bikes. And I bloody loved it. It took me all of about 3 yards to notice the extra power over the 790 adventure; it’s not just at the top end, the motor feels as though it has extra punch right from the get-go. Which is nice. The bike that I rode had a quickshifter and blipper which is cheating a little bit; they are an optional extra but I wasn’t going to complain. For the record, the shifter/blipper was lovely.

The motor has enough punch to hoist the front wheel skyward, should you want to. At the same time there wasn’t so much that you feel like you have to be gentle with your wrist action (because nobody likes too gentle a wrist action). Although the motor was a pure peach when spinning, it did feel ever so fluffy at the very bottom end. And it cut out a couple of times when I tried to blip the throttle from really low revs.

Fast, flowy corners didn’t faze the KTM too much, as long as you were reasonably gentle with your inputs. The chassis made me feel as though it would do anything I wanted it to; as long as I didn’t rush it.

Botty Ache

The reworked WP forks and new shock didn’t protest too much when I started asking a bit more for them, and when the going got a bit rougher, the ride they provided was deliciously comfortable. I’m sure on a red hot day, giving it the berries with sticky tyres on, the forks would be taking you to Dive City when you grabbed the brakes and the shock would be having a squat-fest with every ham-fisted twist of the throttle. But if you’re the kind of person that’s going to ride like that, you’re probably not the kind of person to buy an 890 Adventure. Tell me I’m wrong?

Whilst the suspension delivered a smooth ride, the seat was a tiny bit hard and after a while I did detect the early onset of numb arse syndrome, but it never really set in properly.

On 90% of the roads we were on, the 890 adventure felt like the perfect bike. Those roads were narrow, tight country lanes with a mixture of smooth and rough surfaces. During the ride I couldn’t help thinking that it was the perfect bike for UK roads. When we got to some more open, flowing, fast roads though, I must admit I wouldn’t have minded a bit of extra power… not that I really needed it.

If you’re going touring round Wales by yourself (i.e. not with you’re wife, or anyone else’s on the back) you’ll absolutely love it. But if you need to take the ball and chain with you, and half her wardrobe, get yourself a Super Adventure.

890 Adventure R

Sweet Lamb is KTM’s Welsh adventure bike playground and having not been there before, I was as excited to have a day there as I was to throw my leg over the KTM 890 Adventure R. And I wasn’t disappointed, on either front.

The Adventure R shares the same motor, electronics, brakes, chassis and fuel tank as the R, but it’s got different suspension, a single ‘MX’ style seat and a lower profile windscreen. You’d expect it to feel fairly similar wouldn’t you? Well it doesn’t, thanks almost exclusively to the suspension. Oh, and then of course the fact that we were riding it on gravel.

On tarmac, on the Adventure, I couldn’t really discern the effect of the 20% extra rotating mass on the crank. We were told it gave the bike more rideability. I couldn’t tell (perhaps I’d be able to tell in a back-to-back test; it’s been over a year since I rode the 790 Adventure). On gravel though, it was a different scenario. Despite the extra power, I didn’t feel as though the rear tyre was as keen to spin up as it should have been, and I definitely felt more in control of the throttle. I can’t be 100% sure that was down to the heavier crank, or the fact that I’m a stone heavier since I rode the 790 Adventure and I had a bit more traction because of it, but it definitely felt nice to ride.


I think my favourite thing about the ‘R’ though was the WP Xplor forks, and how plush they felt. Unlike on the road ride, there was plenty of front end dive when you pulled the brakes. It was smooth and controlled though and made you feel as though the front was really digging in.

The setup gave me loads of confidence and I started to ride the thing quicker and quicker and quicker. Before too long, I started pushing it a bit too much for my skill level. I didn’t drop it on the floor, but there were a few times that I nearly did. Because it felt so good, I started to get a bit carried away; that’s when you’re reminded that it’s not an enduro bike, it’s a much bigger, heavier lump.

What’s the damage?

If you want a KTM 890 Adventure it’ll cost you £10,999 and if you want a KTM 890 Adventure R, it’ll be £11,999. Both models are a decent step up from the 790 Adventures, chiefly because of that pokey little engine. There are other middleweight adventure options out there, but you’d have to say that most of them are leaning more towards the touring market, rather than the full-on adventure scene. If I was going on an adventure, and I mean a proper adventure, tackling every type of terrain you can imagine, I think I’d want to do it on a KTM.


2 Responses

  1. Hi,

    Not sure how much of a Q&A session this is 🙂
    I have a Tracer 900 GT at the moment and i am looking at the KTM 790 Adv R.

    Dreams of adventure and riding in the dirt, plus the two bald men raved about the 790 Adv R. So it made me consider that bike.
    I think of the R because i want the suspension (greed?) and the non R is fugly.

    The question is how good will it be on the road as realistically 99% of my miles will be on tarmac.

    Is the R with more road focused tires just as good as the non R in that case? Or even better?

    Or should I face reality and buy something else entirely? As I would be buying the wrong bike anyways.


    1. I’ve got a 790. Went for the R because I found one that was a year old, 1,000 miles for the same price as a new Tenere. It was either of the two but the KTM had all the boxes ticked, far better suspension, much better electronics, much better dash, cruise control, quickshifter up and down, heated grips. I’ve done about 1,200 miles on her so far. Brilliant bike, traded my 1190R in for her.

      I’ve had 21″ front wheels for all my ‘big’ bikes so don’t really get this “oh it’s slow to turn in compared to a 17”. If you were really .. really trying then yes its not a superbike, but honestly the big KTMs can keep up with the best of them and personally the feeling of keeping up with sportbikes on big trips and then going off road and having even more fun is mega. If you want to ride it on the road 99% of the time get the S (Non R) and put some continental trail/ road attack tyres on it. It’s like a big supermoto.

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