Totally revised for 2008, the KTM 990 Adventure and Adventure S are the models which raise their manufacturer’s name on a pedestal and thanks to a bigger, fuel injected engine which meets Euro ||| regulations and ABS system, these models manage to keep it there.
By creating the 990 Adventure, KTM intended on giving the normal rider a feel of what a Paris Dakar pilot experiences during the exhausting race. I reckon the Austrian manufacturer did a damn good job both winning the Rally many years in a row and riding the streets and the wilderness, the goal being to reach your house’s front alley, not a truly challenging finish line.
First introduced in 2003, the KTM 950 Adventure S (yes, it started with the “S” and then got rid of it, producing in parallel two models) was an incredible entry as it featured the reliability, performance and style of the racing motorcycles that inspired its creation. The LC8 V-twin engine was a must from the very beginning and it displaced 950cc. A true on-and-off-road machine, the 950 Adventure’s engine developed an impressive 98.00 HP (71.5 KW) @ 8000rpm while maximum torque (95.00 Nm) was reached at 6000rpm. Color was KTM Orange.
2004 model year marked the addition of Silver and Black colors which weren’t kept for future years as in 2005 the “S” became a replica of Dakar Rally Racers while the simple version was Black painted.
In 2007 the cylinder capacity increased to 999cc resulting in what a rider can buy today, excepting the 2008 finishing touches. The V-twin is now fuel injected and a regulated catalytic converter allows it to meet Euro ||| regulations. The ABS came naturally, exactly how the fun will come as you gather miles on it.
2008 Suzuki V-Strom 1000
It sure doesn’t have many competitors, but sometimes a single one is enough to get things going in a whole other direction that the manufacturer anticipated. Even though great fun, awesome performing and orientated towards style and comfort, the Suzuki V-Strom 1000 doesn’t manage to dethrone the 990 Adventure. That would mean beating it at its own game.
The Suzy is incredible versatile and adaptable to any kind of riding style so you will have no problems riding it across town or across the Desert. It’s just a matter of taste and ambition. Anyway, the 996cc, four-stroke, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 90 degree V-twin featuring four valves per cylinder is perfectly suitable for the task and performs excellent.
It beats the KTM when it comes to comfort as its seat feels like taken off a touring motorcycle and the height-adjustable windshield keeps you well protected. Suspensions are also good and together with the chassis deliver an easy to handle ride. You will often see the V-Strom right next to the 990 Adventure both on the freeway and in off-road incursions and that proves a lot.
2008 KTM 990 Adventure
Usually when I imagine a Dual Sport motorcycle I tend to miss the fairing part which is so defining in this case. But my brain seems to be still denying the presence of all that covering plastic which looks like molded on and modified in order to look aggressive and kind of cool. This is how you’ll explain the sharp lines encountered only on the 990 Adventure and Adventure S.
It is all about geometry and similitude. For example let’s take the entire front appearance of the bike (the form of the fairing, especially) seen when coming towards you and the shape of the headlight? Despite the size difference you can not miss this detail. The windscreen is perfectly positioned, almost at a 90 degree angle, so that it would offer good wind protection even when the rider is raised up on its feet.
Fully faired and good looking, this KTM proves that designers did their homework. No matter the color of the bike (Orange, Black or Blue) the lower half of the fairing isn’t painted, but made of tough material that won’t be scratched easily when passing through a river and touching branches or anything that might require a trip to the paint shop.
Last weekend I was overwhelmed by the Adventure’s impressive abilities both on and off the road because the sensations that it delivers are truly unique and worthy of bragging words. When I got the bike it was so clean and shiny and although I knew things weren’t going to stay that way for too long I preferred keeping it on the pavement for a while. Here I noticed that the bike is pretty effective even when used in town. The 98bhp of the LC8 engine can be harnessed with a little bit of effort and the bike will remain properly balanced even at slow speeds. But when it comes to slow speed maneuvering, that’s where you have a problem because it tends on losing stability. KTM built the Adventure for being ridden hard in any kinds of conditions so being a bit tall and pretty demanding doesn’t help a lot between sitting cans. Well, you can always choose to make your own road and take it between the blocks and through deserted areas on the outskirts.
Getting tired of the slow speed maneuvering fatigue, I took the Adventure on the freeway so I could get a feel of how it performs under hard acceleration at relatively high speed. Excellent! No matter in what gear I was in, neither the rpm levels, the V-twin delivered the needed grunt that made the KTM feel able to pass cars with no problem whatsoever. Throttle response is great, thanks to the fuel injection system, and the bike will go ahead and amaze you with every twist of its throttle. Passing cars is no problem as this beauty can easily go with 130mph.
But let’s face it, who am I kidding? The off road is where the 990 Adventure belongs and I was in for a rough ride. The trails are a kid’s play and I didn’t manage to find it lacking the ability to suppress any obstacle that it has encountered. This bike relies on its race-inspired character to save the situation and it does it with success every single time.
I adored pushing it out of the corners so that the rear wheel would lose grip and I would make a nice figure, but that was kind of a risky situation at first because I found myself trying to straighten the bike with my left foot. After getting used to it I had a lot of fun.
I’ve always dreamed to split the see’s waves in two with a bike’s front wheel and I couldn’t find a more appropriate bike then the 990 Adventure so I took it down a lonely beach where you can find many riders, only that on top of horses, so I was kind of a scary beast there. Even so, it felt great!
The gearbox felt precise and easy to operate as I went through its six ratios while the smooth clutch made life easier for the adventure seeking rider. What also receives a big plus from me is the windscreen which protected me from the wind while I was getting a fever in my lower body from the riding position.
ABS brakes come standard and they sure get the job done. While I was hardly braking to avoid a big wave that would have left me swimming with the fishes, I noticed that even when the grip is sublime, but doesn’t exist, the 990 Adventure comes to a complete stop and lives to fight another day.
It comes with a 12 months Limited Warranty and with a suggested retail price of $13,998. It is enormous compared to Suzuki V-Strom’s $8,999, but the price clearly makes the difference between these two bikes indicating the expert.
Passing from street use to off-road hardcore exploiting has never shown a prettier face than the KTM’s 990 Adventure and I bet it won’t do it for a very long time ahead. My reasons are simple and very clear: no other manufacturer has the potential or the experience to deliver the performance (in the given category) of the filled-with-heritage Adventure and nobody (except the decent V-Strom) even tries it, so why worry? Just go for the best.
Taking the Adventure even closer to Dakar winning machines is the “S” version of the 990 which promises to deliver the same goods at a higher level. The bike is characterized through an even sportier chassis and seat, but what really shows where its draws its roots from is the “Dakar” design.
I’ve also got my hands on one of these racers and I must say that even though the difference isn’t striking, it is definitely set apart from the normal version by handling better and feeling like it puts down the power more effectively.
No matter what bike you choose, I advise you to take it easy on the throttle from the first rides because you wouldn’t want to discover that you’re a faith hearted!