2021 KTM 890 Adventure R Review | Motorcycle Test

2021 KTM 890 Adventure R Tested

I was recently lucky enough to spend three days riding some of the awesome trails around the Capertee Valley west of Sydney as part of the local launch of the new 890 Adventure R. It was one for the books. Cold mornings dawning into perfect clear Autumn skies each day as we took in the stunning countryside on the edge of the blue mountains. Covering 700 kilometres that included a mix of urban traffic, highways, backroad tarmac sweepers, gravel roads, logging tracks and tighter forest tracks. We had sandy sections, rocky sections, tricky climbs, slippery rocky descents, fern lined creek crossings, bog holes, decent rock hits and drop offs, erosion mound jumps… you get the idea.

Wayne makes a splash on the 2021 KTM 890 Adventure R

You name it, we tackled it. Basically covering off every type of adventure riding we’re likely to encounter down under. And what an adventure it was: One of the group suffered a hernia, one came down with case of gall stones, another T-boned a kamikaze Roo – and managed to stay upright! There were three bogs (two of them mine), zero dropped bikes and countless skids, wheelies, smiles and utterings of ‘how good was that?’.

Robbo goes alright…

We were aptly chaperoned by a couple of semi riding gods who both have 790 Rs in their shed. Steve ‘Robbo’ Robertson was lead rider and route planner. Robbo qualified as one of two Australian rep’s for the 2019 KTM Ultimate Race which saw 12 riders from six countries compete on 790 Adventure R’s in a special class at the Merzouga Rally in Morocco. And Will Dangar was on sweep duty. Both stupidly talented, bloody funny and all around top humans. Pretty handy to have two relative locals who are intimately familiar with the outgoing 790 when planning an event for the new 890 Adventure R.

A handy group to go riding with

The new 890 is more than just a minor update. The three big things that stand out and really take the bike to a new level over the old bike are the motor changes, the electronics and the suspension upgrades. They’ve taken all that was great with the old bike and added more. More power, more torque, more poise. And its all the better for it. With another 100 cc of displacement, reworked electronics, seriously top spec suspension set-up and a number of chassis alterations it delivers a dramatic increase in capability. All while being even easier to ride. Austrian witchcraft I tells ya. It’s mind bendingly good in the dirt. They really do take the #Adventureharder tag seriously.

Wayne gets a rise out of the 2021 KTM 890 Adventure R

This is a bike very much at the off road end of the Adventure spectrum. It’s essentially an Enduro-Adventure bike. In fact KTM themselves are marketing this as the most travel capable off-road bike, as opposed to an off road capable Adventure bike. They’re not wrong.

2021 KTM 890 Adventure R

Motor updates first – the obvious bump in capacity to 889cc brings a corresponding lift to 105 hp at 8,000 rpm (up from 95 hp in the 790) and more noticeably 100 Nm of torque at 6,500 rpm (up from 88 Nm). The orange crew added twenty percent more weight to the reciprocating mass ie – crankshaft aiding low down lugging rideability and increasing gyroscopic force which helps stability. They’ve also reduced ten percent from oscillating mass with lighter forged pistons and redesigned rods to help linear power delivery (and its Euro 5 compliant). It’s not just a capacity increase though – there’s an increase in compression, an additional oil feed per cylinder and a larger oil cooler, new crank cases, larger valves, a knock sensor, a whole bunch of stuff.. it’s not just a big bore kit…. Still comes with 15,000 km service intervals too.

Lots been changed inside those crankcases…

While it might only seem like a modest step up, the reality is very different. It’s hugely willing – right off the bottom. Wheelie fiends like myself will rejoice. It’ll pop the front in second and third without the clutch. And do so in total ease. The bottom and midrange are just superb, I only occasionally felt the need to rev it right out and bounce off the limiter when being silly or using it more as an over rev if a gearshift was just not quite required, but it’s silky smooth all the way to the 10,000 redline.

Wheelie good at wheelies

I need to talk about the electronics here too, because I reckon they’re the new segment benchmark. With the optional Tech pack as ridden (more on that later), you get access to Rally mode. It gives you another ride mode and throttle map to choose from on top of street and off road that’s even more aggressive, which might seem counterintuitive – but it’s essentially sport mode, sitting above street. Super direct mapping and throttle, which you can select individually. For instance, I personally found that Rally ‘mode’, with Street ‘throttle’ was the sweet spot. The slightly softer street setting for throttle was perfect even in the dirt. I left ABS in off road mode too for what it’s worth, which deactivates the rear.

2021 KTM 890 Adventure R

You can still choose off-road throttle for really slick, snotty stuff which cuts a bit more power and response, but I found that just leaving it in that Rally-street combo and adjusting the TC on the go as needed was the bomb. The TC adjustment works so well via the two buttons on the left switch block that you barely need to look down to check what you’re doing. And you don’t need to reset it to your preferred settings every time you turn the key off! It remembers! Hel-ay-lu-ya! Other manufacturers please take note. My tip, TC set to 1 (the minimum) will allow wheelies on the tar. Bump it up a little more to 6 or 7 for creek crossings and slipperier stuff, while 9 is the max buzz kill mode.

2021 KTM 890 Adventure R

I ran it mostly between 3 and 5 while off-road depending on the conditions, which still allowed lofting the front in the dirt. It also allowed ludicrously long near lock to lock drifts while not letting the rear get too sideways when firing out of lower speed corners. Day three had a bit of a highlight on a smooth flowy hard pack-but sandy surfaced back road when I slipped into skid mode. On corner exit, you can light it up and drift from one lock to the other in third, holding it pretty much until it’s time to shut down for the next bend… I’m a simple man. Give me a bike that handles well, does wheelies and skids and I’m generally happy. This thing rips.

2021 KTM 890 Adventure R

The clutch and gearbox get updates to match the power increase with new friction material in the slipper clutch and revised shifting with a shorter throw lever and glass beading in the top three cogs. The quick shifter as ridden is also revised for quicker shifts. I still found myself clutch past neutral out of habit but it shifts damn well. I only had a handful of missed shifts over the three days, almost all in the higher gears and I attributed all to my lazy foot not really engaging the quick shifter properly. Has a nice auto rev matching on downshifts which combined with the slipper clutch meant compression locks just don’t happen.

Suspension wise the new 890 Adventure R gets updated serious spec WP EXPLOR forks and shock with 240 mm of travel at both ends. And they’re remarkable. Out of the entire group on the launch, with riders ranging in weight from probably 80 to over 115 kegs, not one asked for any suspension changes. I find that incredible. While at first sit and bounce on the bike they feel firm, they have an uncanny amount of feel and absolute reluctance to bottom out. Super controlled and progressive.

2021 KTM 890 Adventure R

We took some seriously hard impacts. Rocks, ledges, jumps. Everything was handled without fuss. I managed to bottom out when arriving at one of the more serious erosion mounds several degrees too hot and landing on an uphill slope on the other side. Even that wasn’t the hard hit you’d associate with normally bottoming out. No squirrelling or bouncing offline. Just a gentle stop. Overwhelmingly the whole bike feels super stable and confidence inspiring. The way it carries its weight low translates to a bike that happily flicks from side to side beneath you and feels significantly lighter than the 196 kgs as per the spec sheet.

In fact the only time you do feel the weight is if you happen to be silly enough to bury it in a bog hole.


Within 5 minutes of each other.

I maintain that I was testing every facet of the bike’s ability and it wasn’t just a shit line choice. Ahem. Thanks to the two semi pros for each helping me haul it out. Legends.

Pretty forking good

Back to the suspension, because it is integral to the whole package. You get to trust the front end almost immediately. It steers so well. Come in a bit overcooked or need to change line mid corner when you spot an obstacle? No problem. And even when you do push too hard and it lets go, it does so in a way that’s easily catchable. It’s so well balanced front to rear, you can pick the front up whenever you need to, even on surfaces where the traction isn’t great. Bloody hard to fault.

2021 KTM 890 Adventure R

Actually, for those not familiar with the 790 Adventure, I should explain that the fuel tank wraps over and down each side of the engine keeping the centre of gravity as low as possible. While it might seem at first to be exposed out there, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The tank’s made of pretty tough stuff anyway… and has additional protection available (which I’d probably opt for just for piece of mind). On the move, I only had one moment where the tank location even popped into my mind where I flew past a partially hidden stump pretty close to the pegs at a decent speed while ducking around some water. Other than that, it didn’t enter my mind. 20 litre capacity by the way, which will be good enough to see you out to 400 clicks.

2021 KTM 890 Adventure R

Updated brakes are excellent too. That front ABS is just mega, allowing you to trail brake deep into corners even while leant over. Out back I found myself locking the rear slightly more than expected on low grip downhill/off camber corners. To be fair I think it was probably due to how effective the front was and how much weight was being transferred forward. Things never went pear shaped because the front was hauling things up so well that the rear never got out of shape. That said, I’d probably look to experiment with rear pads to try and find something with a smidgen more feel. Could be just me.

Top stoppers

Ergo-wise, I rate it big time. I actually really like the width between the legs. Super comfortable and the overall riding position just feels sorted, standing or sitting – with plenty of room when moving your weight around the bike. I did find myself slowly sliding forward on some of the steeper downhills, but nearly everyone else on the launch was already standing at that point… I sit a bit more than most, it just feels more natural to me. So take that with a grain of salt. That said, there’s a nice flat seat in the power parts catalogue that the Adventure R Rally model comes with standard that would probably be worth a look for some. That’s what Robbo and Will were both running… Speaking of powerparts. There’s a big list of options, you could go nuts. I did like the look of the more hardcore carbon tank protectors and probably couldn’t go past a slip on…

2021 KTM 890 Adventure R

I don’t need to talk about the dash or controls because the five-inch TFT was pretty great on the 790 and hasn’t changed. Some other manufacturers could take note… But it is worth pointing out that the front screen is two position adjustable with about 40 mm difference between low and high. I’m six-foot and found the higher setting gave better highway speed wind protection without being in the way in the dirt. And for those wanting to run an even taller one – the higher screen from the Adventure (non R model) is interchangeable.

2021 KTM 890 Adventure R

Now I’ve talked a lot about it’s off road prowess, so you might be thinking that it’s less than awesome on the tar? Not so. Steers surprisingly well on that 21-inch front. Even on the tractionator knobbies. Heaps of fun lofting the front in second and third, flicks from side to side beautifully and feels utterly composed when cranked over. Seemed ok in the saddle too even on longer highway stints. It’s not as plush as the Tiger 900, but that’s not the 890 Adventure R’s main game…

2021 KTM 890 Adventure R

So where does that leave us? As a package, it’s a pretty clear winner for me if you’re after something with an off road focus. Nothing else comes close in terms of capability in the segment. Sure, it’s more expensive than the Tenere 7, but then everything is simply on another level to the popular Yammie. Better engine, better suspension, better balance, better electronics.. If you want the best, then here it is. You ride to your capability on the 890 Adventuer R, you’re not riding to the bike’s limitations. You can’t say that for anything else in the class. BMW’s F 850 GS is at the other end of the Adventure spectrum and simply isn’t nearly as inspiring or poised. And the Tiger 900 (which I love), does everything well and has arguably more creature comforts that make it a better road mile eater, but feels bigger and heavier and just not as nimble off-road, if that’s your main focus.

2021 KTM 890 Adventure R

Bear in mind that the bikes we were on were fitted with Tractionator Rally tyres (they come standard with Metzeler Karoo tyres which would last longer, but not offer as much grip as the Tractionators) and were running the optional Tech pack which includes the Rally mode and map selection, quick shifter plus, traction control and cruise control. I can’t see anyone NOT wanting the tech pack to be honest. This bumps the price up an additional $1,200 to what I think is a competitive $25,500 ride away.

Bloody hell. Another bike that I need in my shed.

2021 KTM 890 Adventure R

Why I like it:
  • Best in class off-road ability
  • Additional grunt transforms the bottom and mid-range
  • Suspension and electronics packages are next level. On the fly adjustable TC is brilliant
  • Overall feeling is so stable yet agile. Never gets out of shape and still does whatever you want it to.
I’d like it more if:
  • A smidgen more rear pedal feel in the dirt wouldn’t hurt
  • Heated grips would have been nice on a -1 degree morning too…
  • Personally I’d like the headlight assembly ‘joined’ to the side fairing for a more cohesive side profile like the 1290 Super Adventure. Looks a bit like a beak sticking out there on its own as it is (though I hear you can get aftermarket bits to achieve the look?)
He’s just a little bit smitten…

2021 KTM 890 Adventure R Specifications

2021 KTM 890 Adventure R Specifications
ENGINE TYPE 2 cylinders, 4 stroke, DOHC Parallel twin
BORE /STROKE 90.7 / 68.8mm
POWER 77 kW (105 hp) @ 8,000 rpm
TORQUE 100 Nm @ 6,500 rpm
STARTER/BATTERY Electric /12V 10Ah
FUEL SYSTEM DKK Dell’Orto (Throttle body 46mm)
CONTROL 4 valves per cylinder /DOHC
LUBRICATION Pressure lubrication with 2 oil pumps
ENGINE OIL Motorex, Power Synth SAE 10W-50
FINAL DRIVE 16:45 / X- chain Ring
COOLING Liquid cooled with water / oil heat exchanger
CLUTCH Cable operated PASC Slipper clutch
TRACTION CONTROL MTC (lean angle sensitive, 3-Mode + Rally, disengageable)
CO2 (GRAM/ KM) 105 g / km
FRAME Chromium-Molybdenum-Steel frame using the engine as stressed element, powder coated
SUBFRAME Chromium-Molybdenum-Steel trellis, powder coated
HANDLEBAR Aluminum, tapered, Ø 28/ 22 mm
ADJUSTABILITY Compression, rebound, preload
ADJUSTABILITY Compression (high and low speed), rebound, hydraulic preload
SUS. TRAVEL F/R 240/ 240 mm
FRONT BRAKE 2 × radially mounted 4 piston caliper, brake disc Ø320 mm
REAR BRAKE 2 piston floating caliper, brake disc Ø 260 mm
ABS Bosch 9.1 MP (incl. Cornering-ABS and off-road mode, disengageable)
WHEELS FRONT/REAR Spoked wheels with aluminium rims, 2.50 × 21″; 4.50 × 18″
TYRES FRONT/REAR 90/90-21″; 150/70-18″
CHAIN X-Ring 520
SILENCER Stainless steel primary and secondary silencer
TRAIL 110.4 mm
WHEEL BASE 1,528 mm±15 mm
TANK CAPACITY approx. 20 litres / 3 l reserve
DRY WEIGHT approx. 196 kg

I can’t finish without thanking KTMs Marketing Manager for Oz and NZ, Rosie Lalonde for organising the whole thing and not only being a champion but riding like one too. Turns out she used to race enduros.. so that explains the latter. Shout outs also to Lewie Landrigan for our 4WD Support over the few days and to Jordan and Andy from Flightcraft for the ripper stills and videos. These guys weren’t scared to get wet or muddy to get the shot and almost make me look like I know what I’m doing. Kudos lads.

Rosie gives Wayne the kind of briefing he likes, wheelies and skids!

Source: MCNews.com.au

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