The ranks of lightweight, entry-level adventure bikes will grow by at least one in 2020 with the introduction of KTM’s new 390 Adventure. Ready for touring and light off-roading at a claimed 348 pounds dry with a 33.6-inch seat height, the bike’s high-performance heart is the liquid-cooled, 373cc DOHC single with four valves from the 390 Duke, which has EFI, a balancer shaft, PASC slipper clutch and a Ride-by-Wire throttle for smoother and more refined response. The engine is carried in a steel trellis frame with a bolt-on seat subframe and die-cast, open-lattice swingarm similar to the larger 790 Adventure’s.
The 390 Adventure’s WP Apex 43mm upside-down fork was originally developed for enduro riding and features 6.7 inches of travel with a spring on both sides; compression and rebound damping are separated into the left and right fork legs respectively. The WP Apex shock has 6.9 inches of travel and adjustable spring preload and rebound damping. Extra robust cast wheels — a 19-inch front and 17-inch rear — are fitted with tubeless Continental TKC 70 tires for a blend of street performance and off-road grip.
The 390’s Bybre brake package includes a 320mm front brake disc and 4-piston radially mounted front caliper, and a 230mm rear disc with a 2-piston floating rear caliper. An ergonomically designed 3.8-gallon fuel tank gives the 390 Adventure a claimed range of more than 249 miles. Rider aids include Off-Road and Cornering ABS and Motorcycle Traction Control (MTC), and the 390 Adventure comes standard with an adjustable windscreen, LED lighting and KTM My Ride, which allows for a Bluetooth connection to control incoming calls and an audio player through the full-color, 5-inch TFT display with multifunctional dashboard. An up/down Quickshifter + is optional for the 390 Adventure, along with a number of KTM Power Parts accessories. The 2020 KTM 390 Adventure is priced at $6,199; availability is TBD.
It’s seldom (if ever) easy to pick a Motorcycle of the Year…not that anyone ever feels sorry for us and our “but we had to ride so many motorcycles” tale of woe. For example, we took our initial ride on the first of this model year’s crop of Contenders, the Yamaha Niken, way back in May of 2018. We can’t even remember what we had for dinner last Tuesday, but fortunately Yamaha jogged our memories of the bike by unveiling the tour-ready GT version of its three-wheeled LMW (Leaning Multi-Wheel) in April 2019.
In the interim, Royal Enfield released a pair of highly anticipated 650 twins, designed, tested and engineered at its brand-spanking-new R&D facility in England and built at one of its sprawling factories in India. Triumph showed off its truly off-road capable yet still pleasantly retro Scrambler 1200 XC and XE. Harley-Davidson, meanwhile, was creating a lot of very different noise with its LiveWire electric motorcycle, but as a 2020 model it’s not eligible for this year’s award. The rightful successor to the dearly departed V-Rod, the dragbike-inspired FXDR 114, is a 2019 contender though. At the decidedly non-dragbike-inspired end of the motorcycle spectrum, Honda, which celebrates its 60th anniversary in the U.S. this year, brought us two absolutely adorable throwback models designed to both tug at Boomer heartstrings and appeal to vintage-loving Millennials, the Monkey and the Super Cub. Indian tapped into another vein of nostalgia and good ol’ Americana with its FTR 1200 S flat-track replica, one of the best-performing American bikes we’ve ridden in a while. Meanwhile BMW managed to improve once again on its bestseller by introducing the R 1250 GS, and Suzuki did the same with its venerable V-Strom 650 XT Touring.
So no, it’s never easy. That said, one machine stood out above the rest as our pick for the 2019 Motorcycle of the Year, and not just because it’s capable of scrabbling to the top of a mountain—then carrying you and your stuff comfortably home again. Our choice, as always, goes to a machine that succeeds best at its intent and could be considered a game-changer in its category. We celebrate all new motorcycles, as they each represent the opportunity to get more people on two wheels, experiencing this great adventure we know and love. Congratulations to all the manufacturers, and thank you for keeping our passion alive!
BMW’s big GS
gets ShiftCam variable valve timing that broadens the powerband, increases fuel
efficiency and decreases emissions, a full-color TFT display, updated
electronics and a bump in displacement (and power) from 1,170 to 1,254cc, making what was already arguably one of the
best all-around motorcycles even better.
The V-Rod is dead, long live
the V-Rod! Well, sort of. The newest member of the Softail family is a long,
lean power cruiser that channels the spirit of the VRSC V-Rod, with a 114ci
Milwaukee-Eight V-twin, raked-out cartridge-style USD fork, 33 degrees of lean
angle and a 240-section rear tire wrapped around a solid-disc rear wheel.
years ago, the original Super Cub proved that motorcycles needn’t be feared by
the masses, and this new version continues to make good on that promise, with a
4-speed semi-automatic gearbox, 244-pound wet weight, timeless styling and
modern conveniences like keyless ignition and ABS on the front brake.
The FTR 1200 S is a light, fast, agile street tracker
inspired by Indian’s championship-winning race bike. It’s also a breath of
fresh, young air in the cruiser orthodoxy that’s dominated American-made
motorcycles for decades, and features include a liquid-cooled, DOHC V-twin and
a six-axis IMU-based electronics package.
The Interceptor 650 and Continental GT are completely new,
the first global models for India-based Royal Enfield and the first to be
designed, tested and engineered at its new facility in England. Powered by an
air/oil-cooled 648cc parallel twin, both bikes manage to evoke the simple
pleasure of riding for riding’s sake.
While we haven’t yet ridden
the 2019 version, we’ve spent many thousands of miles aboard Wee Stroms, and
this is the best-equipped one yet. With tubeless spoked wheels, locking side
cases, hand guards, a centerstand, cruise control, ABS, Easy Start and Low RPM
Assist, it’s ready to take on almost any adventure for just $9,999.
Most modern scramblers talk the talk, but don’t walk the
walk of off-road capability. Enter the Scrambler 1200, a full-on adventure bike
with minimalist, retro styling—and a 21-inch front, nearly 10 inches of Öhlins
suspension travel on the up-spec XE model, multiple riding modes, switchable
ABS and traction control.
They’re a bold, groundbreaking move from Yamaha, and they nearly snagged our top honor. The Niken and Niken GT, based around the Tracer 900—a fantastic bike in its own right—work surprisingly well, with ridiculous front-end grip that must be experienced to be believed and that lovely 847cc in-line triple at their hearts.
It’s no secret that adventure
bikes are exploding in popularity, as riders discover the utility and versatility
of their combination of upright seating position, decent ground clearance and
suspension travel, wind protection, the ability to carry luggage and, to
varying degrees, venture off-pavement. ADV bikes have been getting increasingly
bloated, however, bigger, more powerful—and heavier—each model year. Hard-core
ADV-ers have been clamoring for years, begging for a bike that returns
adventure riding to its truly adventurous roots. Something lightweight and
trail-capable, yet with enough elemental protection, power and luggage capacity
to comfortably travel cross-country, and modern fuel injection and electronic
rider aids wouldn’t hurt.
At long last, KTM answered
the call, and what an answer it is. The 790 Adventure and its even more
off-road-oriented R sibling manage to check all the boxes: light weight at a
claimed 417 pounds dry, a state-of-the-art 799cc liquid-cooled, DOHC LC8
parallel twin that produces a claimed 95 horsepower and 65.6 lb-ft of torque
delivered low in the rev range for optimum grunt, and spoked tubeless wheels in
21-inch front/18-inch rear sizes. The standard, more touring-oriented model has
a still-respectable 7.9 inches of travel from its WP Apex suspension and a
fairly accessible, adjustable seat height of 32.7/33.5 inches. Multiple riding
modes (Street, Offroad and Rain) adjust throttle response and lean-angle
sensitive Motorcycle Traction Control (MTC) settings, and power reaches the
rear wheel by way of an assist-and-slipper clutch, a 6-speed transmission and
chain final drive. The more off-road-oriented R model gets a Rally ride mode,
fully adjustable WP Xplor suspension with 9.4 inches of travel and a 34.6-inch
A defining characteristic of
the 790 Adventure is its rally racer-inspired, 5.3-gallon horseshoe-shaped gas
tank, which keeps the bike’s center of gravity low, creates less bulk between
the knees for stand-up riding and makes air filter, battery and fuse access
easy, plus it does double-duty as engine protection in case of a tip-over.
On paper the 790 Adventure is
impressive, and riding it is confirmation; the seat is flat, spacious and
comfortable, the wide handlebar is six-position adjustable and the long-travel
suspension soaks up road irregularities at high and low speeds. Bosch 9.1 MP
cornering ABS backs up powerful brakes and many useful features are standard,
such as an aluminum skid plate, a 12V dash socket and an underseat USB port.
Cruise control, a centerstand, a quickshifter, heated grips and TPMS are
At long last, the empty slot
between a street-legal enduro and an open-class ADV tourer has been filled, and
that sound you hear is the cheering of all those riders looking for a bike to
rule both mountain and highway.
Congratulations KTM, for the 2019 790 Adventure, Rider’s Motorcycle of the Year!
KTM’s all-new 2019 790 Adventure and 790 Adventure R are middleweight ADV bikes that are powered by a 95-hp, 799cc parallel twin, weigh just 417 lbs dry and are highly capable off-road. The 790 Adventure is aimed at general adventure-touring enthusiasts while the up-spec 790 Adventure R is aimed at more demanding off-road riders. Rider magazine tested them both in Morocco. Click on the player below to watch our video review, or the link below to read our full evaluation.
We’re streaking across the northern edge of the Sahara Desert, following a meandering two-track road that’s a mix of sand, gravel and hardpack. The riders ahead are within sight, but I hang back to let the dust clear and keep an eye out for sudden drop-offs or sharp turns. The herd of camels we pass couldn’t care less about our noisy caravan of bright-orange KTMs. Again and again, as the road dips to cross sand washes, nearly 10 inches of well-calibrated suspension take the gravity drops in stride and a light tug on the handlebar lofts the front wheel over rises on the far side. By the end of the day, our route will have taken us more than a hundred miles across wide-open flats, over and around ancient limestone formations and into the golden sands of the Erg Chebbi dunes.
With 18 consecutive Dakar victories, KTM has been stoking desert rally fantasies for years. So where better to showcase its new 790 Adventure and 790 Adventure R, which were developed alongside its 450cc rally racer, than Erfoud, Morocco, home of the Merzouga Rally and training grounds for KTM’s race team. For those who don’t want or need the size, weight and triple-digit horsepower of an open-class ADV bike, KTM’s 790 Adventures provide a smaller, lighter alternative, with both models designed to be highly capable off-road yet comfortable and versatile enough for long-distance touring. Built on a common platform, the 790 Adventure is aimed at general adventure-touring enthusiasts while the taller, higher-spec 790 Adventure R is geared towards more demanding off-road riders.
Weighing just 417 pounds dry (claimed, probably 450 pounds wet), the 790s are much lighter than their 800cc counterparts from BMW and Triumph. Contributing to their low weight is the 799cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC LC8c parallel twin that also powers the 790 Duke sportbike. Its compact dimensions and vertically stacked gearbox allow for a short wheelbase, a traction-enhancing long swingarm and a moderate seat height. Dual counterbalancers keep vibration at bay while a 75-degree crankpin offset and 435-degree firing order produce the sound and feel of a V-twin. As a stressed member of the tubular chrome-moly steel frame, the LC8c saves weight and contributes to chassis stiffness. Further weight savings come from the engine’s high-pressure cast aluminum cases, lightweight camshaft, Nikasil-coated aluminum cylinders, forged pistons with DLC-coated pins and low-mass crankshaft.
A distinctive feature of the 790s is their horseshoe-shaped fuel tank, which runs from the central filler down both sides of the bike and expands into two large pods that protrude from either side of the engine. Adapted from the tank on KTM’s 450 Rally Replica, the design’s advantages include a lower center of gravity, protection for the engine, less bulk between the knees for stand-up riding, the largest in-class fuel capacity at 5.3 gallons and easier maintenance since the air filter, battery and fuses are accessible under the seat. An exhaust pre-chamber beneath the bike also keeps mass low and centralized, while a short, high-mount silencer allows plenty of ground clearance.
Given the off-road and touring missions of the 790 Adventures, the LC8c has been tuned accordingly. Compared to the 790 Duke, the Adventures make less peak horsepower (95 vs. 105) but slightly more torque (65.6 vs. 64.2 lb-ft) that’s delivered at 6,500 rpm instead of the Duke’s 8,000, with the entire torque curve shifted down in the rev range for stronger low to midrange grunt. Multiple riding modes (Street, Offroad and Rain) adjust throttle response and lean-angle sensitive Motorcycle Traction Control (MTC) settings, and power reaches the rear wheel by way of an assist-and-slipper clutch, a 6-speed transmission and chain final drive.
With spoked tubeless wheels in 21-inch front/18-inch rear sizes, both models are ready for any type of terrain, but the standard model gets more street-biased Avon Trailrider 90/10 tires while the R model gets Metzeler Karoo 3 70/30 tires. As the more touring-oriented of the two, the 790 Adventure has less suspension travel (7.9 inches front/rear), separate rider/passenger seats with a lower, adjustable rider seat height (32.7/33.5 inches), a tall windscreen (height adjustable over a 1.6-inch range using a hex key in the toolkit) and a low front fender. The only adjustability on the 790 Adventure’s WP Apex suspension, which includes a 43mm upside-down fork and a PDS (Progressive Damping System) shock, is rear preload.
Since the 790 Adventure R is likely to spend more time in a wider variety of off-road conditions, it’s equipped with a Rally mode that allows on-the-fly changes to traction control over nine levels as well as a separate, more aggressive Rally throttle map. The 790-R’s WP Xplor suspension, with a 48mm upside-down fork and a PDS remote-reservoir shock, is fully adjustable (including high and low speed compression on the shock) and provides 9.4 inches of travel. It also has more ground clearance, a 34.6-inch rally-style seat, a short adjustable windscreen and a high front fender.
A half-day of street and light off-road riding on the 790 Adventure gave me an appreciation for how much more accessible it is than other models in KTM’s lineup, such as the 690 Enduro R (35.8-inch seat) and the 1090 Adventure R (35-inch seat). Not only is the 790 Adventure’s seat much lower, it’s flat, spacious and comfortable. On both 790 models, arms reach out to a wide handlebar that’s six-position adjustable over a 1.2-inch range and fitted with wind- and brush-blocking hand guards, and feet rest on large cleated pegs with removable, vibration-absorbing rubber inserts.
Our street route was on flat, mostly straight roads sandblasted by crosswinds, so conditions were not ideal for testing cornering performance. Nonetheless, the LC8c engine felt lively and responsive and the 790 Adventure’s long-travel suspension has the stroke and tuning to absorb bumps and dips gracefully at high and low speeds. Even riding across tire ruts and down a rough dirt road, the 790 Adventure maintained its composure, aided by a steering damper that’s standard on both models. Hard braking–such as when a stray dog ran across the road in front of me–was made easy with dual 4-piston radial-mount front calipers squeezing 320mm discs and a 2-piston rear caliper squeezing a 260mm disc, backed up by Bosch 9.1 MP cornering ABS. A full-color, 5-inch TFT display and intuitive buttons on the left bar make it easy to select among the various modes and settings, though a larger font would make the information easier to read at a glance.
The 790 Adventure R was clearly the main focus of the launch, with KTM devoting a full day of testing to the bike, spooning on Continental TKC80 50/50 on/off-road tires for better traction and installing the optional Akrapovič titanium slip-on exhaust for more bark and bite. KTM even enlisted some of its former Dakar racers as ride leaders; fortunately, I was assigned to the group led by Jordi Viladoms, a 10-time Dakar competitor and KTM’s Rally Sport Manager, who set a spirited but reasonable pace. Going from the 790 to the 790-R isn’t a transition from soft to hard. The R is taller, but it’s seat is still comfortable and the rest of the ergonomics are just as agreeable. The big step up with the 790-R is it’s Xplor suspension, which offers an incredible degree of damping control and consistency over everything we encountered—rough pavement, soft sand, loose gravel, hardpack dirt and embedded rock. With ABS in Offroad mode (which disables the cornering function and ABS at the rear wheel) and MTC in Rally mode, I was able to back the rear wheel into and out of corners with control. Standing up or sitting down, the 790-R delivered the engine response, maneuverability, well-balanced weight and electronic assistance to help an intermediate rider like me push my limits with confidence.
At $12,499 for the 790 Adventure and $13,499 for the 790 Adventure R, these bikes deliver serious performance and wide-ranging capability for the money. Many useful features are standard (such as an aluminum engine guard, LED lighting, a luggage rack, a 12V dash socket, an underseat USB port and water-resistant smartphone pocket, storage compartments behind side panels and Bluetooth connectivity using the KTM My Ride app), while others cost extra (such as a centerstand, a quickshifter, cruise control, heated grips and TPMS). Accessories for both models include a low seat (35.2 inches), various types of luggage, additional crash protection and more.
If most of your time will be spent on the road or if seat height is a concern, then the standard 790 Adventure is the obvious choice. But if you enjoy exploring backcountry roads and trails, the extra $1,000 for the fully adjustable Xplor suspension and standard Rally mode is money well spent. Since seats, windscreens and accessories are interchangeable between the two and Rally mode is available as an option on the standard model, there’s plenty of room to tailor either 790 to your liking. Either way, you’ll be a lot closer to turning your adventure fantasies into reality.
Bigger doesn’t always mean better, and fortunately for those of us looking for a fun, affordable motorcycle there are more choices than ever. Nearly every manufacturer now offers at least one model that will fit just about any rider’s size and/or budget.
Scroll down for Rider’s 2019 list of Best Bikes for Smaller Riders and Budgets. When possible we’ve included a link to our review, making it easy for you to get a real ride evaluation. We’ve also included the 2019 model year’s U.S. base MSRP (as of publication), seat height and claimed wet weight (when a wet weight was not available from the manufacturer, the claimed dry weight is listed). For more details, you can read our review, which includes comprehensive specs, or click on the bike’s name to be taken directly to the manufacturer’s page.
BMW F 750 GS
BMW F 750 GS
32.1-inch seat w/ optional 31.1-inch seat or 30.3-inch seat