Ever since the 2008 launch of their all-new Superbike, a premiere for the Austrian brand, KTM has worked to develop the now notorious RC8 model into a more powerful, slightly lighter and sharper cornering motorcycle, improving so both the times around the track and the appreciation among street riders. So while carrying on producing the Standard RC8 as a 2009 model year, KTM also puts on sale the RC8 R model, a nightmare for all competitors out there, be them Japanese or European.
When KTM is set towards success, there’s nothing to stop them from achieving their ambition so although the RC8 was brand new last year, now we’re dealing with an upgraded version of it called “R”. But this is not just a base model with racing pipes, a power commander and a stiffened up chassis. In fact, KTM has increased the twincam 75-degree V-twin’s displacement to 1,195cc (1,148cc on the standard RC8) and brought in more power (15 horsepower, to be more precise) and torque (3 Nm more) while managing to slightly reduce overall wet weight with 0.37 lbs (2 kilos).
2009 KTM 1190 RC8 R
Also, handling is now suppose to be more aggressive in order to match the engine’s capabilities and it is all achieved with a 3.82" trail, 0,20" shorter wheelbase (or 5mm) and 4.7" of rear suspension travel instead of 4.9", for more stability around the corners.
Another great feature that the “R” model gets from its standard sibling is the 20mm altering seat height (from 805mm to 825mm or 31.69/32.48") as, most likely, KTM is aware that the bike is rather tall so they plan to make it adequate for most riders out there. What’s sure not to miss is the sweet riding behavior achieved with an unbeatable chassis and impressive power to weight ratio – 2.38 lbs for every horsepower.
From the performance point of view, the 2009 KTM RC8 R is a totally new bike, but so are the 2009 BMW S1000RR and Aprilia RSV4 European alternatives. The Ducati 1198 is a consecrated name already, just as the Japanese square is. Apart from the BMW superbike, these bikes are powered by twin-cylinder engines while the four-cylinder engine is synonymous to the Honda CBR1000RR ABS, Yamaha R1, Suzuki GSX-R1000 as well as the Kawasaki ZX-10R. In comparison to these last four, both the simple and “R” KTM model are new entries still, so it’s the recommended thing to start distinguishing through something in the collective mental.
2009 KTM 1190 RC8 R
Style is a good thing to start with and, despite the fierce competition, KTM has managed to set the RC8 apart by simply implementing their unique razor-sharp lines and not just trying to make their bike resemble something that other manufacturers did. That’s how the single headlight that is longitudinally mounted on the front fairing and perfectly integrated with the windscreen originally ended up on the bike and now is carried on the “R” model. The angular lines from across the side fairing and 4.36 gallons gas tank make no exception as well while the exhaust, which is mounted underneath the engine, will most likely make its presence heard rather than seen so it’s all about delivering and absolutely clean looking motorcycle with a fair share of aggressive touches to match the racing performances.
While the rider seat is positioned at a manageable level, the passenger one looks like saying that the sky is the limit. We don’t know if that’s quite safe, but it looks like nothing we’ve seen before. The five-spoke wheels measuring 17 inches in diameter do look like the appropriate thing for the RC8 to ride on and, as mentioned before, these are brought just a little bit closer together on the brand new RC8 R. Also, this last distinguishes mainly thanks to the Black/White color scheme and Orange frame, which are nothing more or less than the individual colors available for the standard model in 2008 and this year as well.
The 2009 RC8 R is an even greater blast compared to the standard model and it all starts with the bigger and retuned engine. This also required another set of pistons and the fuel injection system now brings a much bigger contribution to the engine delivering a much healthier low end rush. This is one great characteristic that V-twin engines have and the Austrians exploited it to the maximum on this brand new model. Maximum horsepower (170) is now achieved at 10,250rpm and despite the engine type, vibrations don’t become bothering at no time while the sound is the sweetest thing ever if we tend to forget about four-cylinder engines for a little while. And that’s what the new RC8 manages to do with its unique power and torque curves.
As known, the RC8 works with a six-speed gearbox and this has also been improved on the last model so that it would work smoother and not overwhelming for the average street user. The clutch pulls in easily so shift sixth and head to the straight track section where it’s very easy to notice how good the aerodynamics actually are as the bike is practically built around the rider. Even more, ergonomics are adjustable so that all riders can find their adequate riding position on the RC8, but as good as that sounds, the bike will never manage to feel like being destined for the street. So it’s almost pointless to buy this thing if planning to ride it only on the streets as you’ll be much better off with a Yamaha R6S in that situation.
2009 KTM 1190 RC8 R
The chassis further enhances our positive opinion about the “R” model. Built for the track, the suspensions (a compression and rebound damping adjustable WP 43mm USD fork and a fully adjustable rear shock) ensure great stability at racing speeds and an unbeatable reassuring feel around tight corners. Virtually all that this bike requires is for the rider to lean a little bit more and it will wear your knee pads entirely in no time.
It’s a great overall feel that KTM delivered a marvelous superbike, but not complete. Not until you hear about the Brembo brakes featuring two 320mm disc up front and a rear 220mm rear one. Right after worming up properly, these provide great stopping power and that irreplaceable feel that braking later before a corner won’t result into a high side.
Finally, the 2009 RC8 R is that exact bike that nobody thought KTM capable of delivering and which changes our opinion each time we look back at the time we had on it.
Although KTM hasn’t yet made the MSRP of the 2009 models public, we know that they will officially introduce the bikes to their US dealers in August so that’s until when we’ll have to wait in order to find out.
2009 KTM 1190 RC8 R
The word is out that the brand new 2009 KTM 1190 RC8 will be a little pricey, but as long as it remains in the European superbike price range, we’ll keep on recommending it for those who seek for a unique ride around the track without sacrificing lap times. It’s great overall bike which, as long as you don’t take for a sport-tourer, it delivers just as much as it promises and more.