KTM 1190 Adventure – 35000km Review

Where to begin. Let’s start 5 years ago when I got my Motorcycle License(at Age 32 mind you).
I started riding on a 2003 BMW F650GS Single. Easy handling but very vibey and with 48HP not exactly a powerhouse, but it was OK as far as Beginner Bikes go(while the pic below doesnt show my bike it looked exactly like this, including the fugly topcase).


After 1 year, a first long distance Trip to Norway and 30000km it became apparent that I would need something bigger. The bike simply wasnt made to handle well with full luggage and my weight on top.
So, the logical step up from that, an R1200GS(2008 model).

There she stands(and my last topcase ever, promise…)


That bike was great. Very comfortable, realitevly easy to maintain thanks to the shaft drive, enough power to keep going even with full loadout and a ton of accesoires to choose from, EVERYONE makes GS farkles.
I owned her for 3 years and did close to 60000km in that time. Then came the point where I had to choose, ride her till she dies or sell her while the price is still good and get something new.

Well, obviously I opted for the 2nd option and ended up where we are now.

KTM 1190 Adventure “S”. Purchased in May of 2015 with 4000km on it and now standing here with about 36000km.

Hellas Rally 2016-11_YGS3020

Two questions to begin with. One, why the S and not the R Model and why not the new GS ?

First off, the Question between S and R.
Easily answered really. I do about 20000-30000km a year and about 4/5 of those are onroad. There is no point in getting the R. I’ve ridden it, I liked it but at the end of the day the S is just better suited for my needs. I might have to worker harder on sand or soft bits but the petter performance on road(yes, you do notice the smaller front wheels) more than makes up for that. Besides, whatever I’ve done offroad so far(and there was some pretty nasty stuff among that) she handled just fine.

Second, why not a GS. Well, not an easy answer to that. I’ve tried both before buying and ultimately the GS, while being a perfectly fine bike, just lacked something that I cant quite put my finger on. She’s “too perfect”, too refined and ultimately lacks the bit that triggers emotions in me. That and she’s considerably heavier than the KTM. It might not be much on paper but the feel when you sit on both bikes back to back is vastly different. Moving from the 1190 to GS after a testride made me realize what a big, heavy bastard it actually is. Sure, the new GS has a quickshifter and nice bling bling but at the end of the day those are just gimmicks. The KTM simply gives me what I need, nothing more, nothing less. That and the engine is just sooooo much fun. Trot along at 3000rpm and then just open her up and feel the power explode above 5500…the GS just wont make you feel that way.
So yeah, more a heart than brain decision but one I’m perfectly happy.

So lets talk about the KTM.

The Engine

A lot as been written about how nobody needs 148hp, how this is just too high powered and blablabla. All crap really. Yeah, I dont need 148hp. I dont need 125hp like the GS has, but it still is a helluva lot of fun to have. I’ve tackled everything on the 1190.
Steep climbs with full luggage, river crossings, deep sand. The engine wont quite on you. The power is there when you need it.
It does get a bit vibey above 7000rpm or so but that’s about the worst thing you can say about it.
The electronically adjustable mapping does it’s own part to smooth out the ride. Street is for everyday commuting and gives a very soft yet powerful throttle response. Sport is for when you really need that front wheel in the air and a grin on your face. And offroad and rain, well, rain makes sense if you’re running knobbies in wet conditions but offroad is a bit pointless. Personally when offroad I just leave it in street and set the suspension to hard, works just fine.

On the downside is the heat. This is what the bike is infamous for. It generates copious amounts of heat from the engine. On hot summer days stop and go traffic in the city with this thing is a major pain. There are various parts from KTM as well as third parties(namely Wings) that address this issue but it’ll never be entirely gone. It’s just the tradeoff you make for the power.
On the upside your butt wont get cold even in winter 🙂


For all intents and purposes: Perfection.
Kinda what you expect from KTM with WP Suspension Parts used. When I initially started riding offroad with the bike I was a bit concerned with bottoming it out due to the relatively short travel compared to the R but that was completely unneccesary.
From time to time it does bottom out but those are the kind of potholes that also the R would bottom out on.
Other than that I dont see how the setup could be better(especially given the Electronic adjustment). The preload settings work nicely(not like BMWs who assume a rider will weigh 85kg INCLUDING all gear) and the damping is just great. I noticed this especially in Iceland on the washboard surface in the Highlands. Even fully loaded the ride was still somewhat smooth.

One thing on my todo list is to replace the stock front and rear springs with ones from Hyperpro. Not that im unhappy with the current setup but considering I will be on the road for a year fully loaded it just makes sense to use springs that are made for higher loadouts to begin with.
If you just do your once a year trip with a couple of thousand km there really is no need for this.


If theres one thing you should do if you buy one of these is to replace the stock seat with the powerparts one. It’s just that bad.
Personally I switch between the Single-part bench from the R and the Powerparts Comfort Seat. The R bench is worlds better for offroad riding as it’s much narrower in the front but ofc as a tradeoff offers no long distance comfort whatsoever.
The Powerparts seat on the other hand isnt that great for offroad as its very wind in the front and its kinda hard for me to hold on with my knees but the long distance comfort is great. Just spent 5500km riding it in 15 days time and not once did my butt(or lower back for that matter) hurt.
The handlebar position ofc is up to the riders size,etc. For me I added the Touratech Handlebar Risers to add 2,5cm, now it works perfectly, without those the bars are a tad too low to ride comfortably while standing up.

The windscreen…oh what a painful topic. This is the one I havent been able to fully work out yet. So far I havent been able to find one that doesnt have some amount of buffeting and noise.
What I’ve tried so far:

Stock S-Screen(very bad)
Stock R-Screen(okayish)
Super Adventure Screen(bad)
MRA Vario Touring Screen(very bad)
Touratech Screen large(very bad)
Stock S-Screen with MRA X-Creen(VERY bad)

This, sadly, is an issue I’ve had on all bikes so far and I never was able to solve it.
Right now the solution is the R-Screen and custom made earplugs so at least I wont go deaf.

Maintenance and Reliability

The bike has one fault that everyone hopefully knows about and that is the shitty airbox design.
To make a long story short, dirt can get behind the airfilter and get sucked into the engine, not a good thing.
They revised the design once from 2013 to 2014 and then again from 2014 to 2015. Neither does solve this fully. I run a Unifilter which also provides a foam seal for the airbox, something the stock box doesnt have. That solves the issue at the cost of around 90€ or so and the Filter only needs to be cleaned instead of replaced.

Chain, was a bit of a concern when I bought it but isnt much of an issue. I ran a Scottoiler for the first 20000km and the only time the chain got adjusted was during tires changes(every 8000km or so) and that was just fine. Since I did about 50% heavy offroad stuff this year I dismounted the Scottoiler. Lubing it every day when doing dirt is annoying but that’s just the chain. Still the wear is minimal and it barely needs any adjustment and theres plent to go after 35000km.

Oil, also, minimal, used a bit more during the first 10000km but right now im down to 100ml every 5000km or so…in dirt. When onroading you could probably cut that in half.

Tire-Wear…depends on the riding style 😀
I mostly run knobbies(TKC80, Scorpion Rally) or Semi-Knobbies(K60 Scout) and they last 8000km max. The TKC80 was done after 5500km, the Scorpion Rally after 3000km alltough one must say that the Scorpion is a very soft compound which is even sticky on Tarmac very much unlike the TKC80. With that being said, I think if you’re gentle on the Gas you could probably stretch a K60 Scout to 12000km at least.

Occasionally you’ll have to dip in some coolant(something I wasnt used to from the GS) but thats really neglectable.

So despite being a KTM the bike is actually very well mannered in this regard.

Service Intervals are 15000km.

Sparkles and Farkles

There’s actualy a ton of stuff I added to the bike. Some because I felt its neccesary, some just for shits and Giggles.

Cyclops LED Headlight

As every motorcycle rider knows motorcycle headlights usually are shit. Well, forget about that. The Cyclops LED literally makes Night become Day. I love it. Its so bright its a bit emberassing to tell you the truth.
If you ever ride at night, get this. Screw Aux Lights and LED Bars and whatnot. This Kit is all you need.

Touratech Luggage Rack

Wasnt really happy with the stock luggage Rack so I replaced it with the TT Rack. Fits a Medium Ortlieb Rackpack really nice and offers plenty of opportunities to add straps. Also looks a lot better 😉

KTM Lower Crashbars

These are the Crashbars from the R-Model. Dropped the bike a dozen times during the Hellas Rally and they did their job very well.

Touratech Expedition Bashplate

A neccesity when riding offroad. The stock plastic engine guard will do nothing if you hit a really big rock.
This things massive, easy to install and if the clunk sounds are any indicator has saved my engine casing from a lot of stones so far.

Touratech Handguards

Stock Handguards are somewhat crap. Dropped the bike once at Hellas Rally and the right one broke…go figure. The TT Guards so far are holding up really well and appear to not be as rigid and thus break as easily as the stock parts.
If you want full on metal framed guards go for Barkbusters

SW-Motech GPS mount above Instruments

Initially I had the Touratech Mount, which is crap frankly. The things extremely vibey to the point where the screws eventually come loose. The SW-Motech mount is mounted in a more rigid way and secured differently so it doesnt vibrate nearly as much.
Still, some of the screws came loose and I had to replace them.

Touratech GPS Bracket(lockable) for Zumo 390

Not cheap but I love it, put the GPS in in the morning, lock it, dont think about it every time you get off the bike.

V-Trec Brake and Clutch Lever

Brake Lever broke during a fall at Hellas Rally so there was a neccesity to replace but I love these. They offer more adjustability than the stock levers and you can get them much closer to the grip than the stock ones.

Touratech Extension for Footbrake

The stock footbrake lever is just too small for me so added this little part, also raises it a bit if you need that.

Touratech Zega Pro Panniers

Kinda self explanatory. I’ve had a lot of panniers so far. Hepco & Becker Gobi, Givi Trekker Outback, Holan Nomada Cases and say what you will, the Zega Pros simply are superior to all of them. Even on the worst washboard surfaces they didnt come loose, there is no discolouring(for the anodized and black versions) and they look good too 🙂
I would NOT recommend the Zega Pro 2 Panniers, at least not when you’re doing heavier offroad stuff with them. The mount isnt as rugged as the normal Zega Pros. Also, if sand gets in there the mechanism becomes a bit of a bitch to operate(had that with the Trekker Outback Cases happen).

Think that’s all of it, sure I forgot something.

Bottom Line:

It might not be as comfortable as a GS, it might not be as good looking as a Multistrada, it might not be as cheap as an Africa Twin but ultimately I consider it to be superior to all of those(my opinion). This thing will take you places where the Multi or GS have to give up for one reason or the other, it will eat AT’s for breakfast on the road simply due to the vast difference in power and you can tell that KTM doesnt follow the, pardon my french, halfassed approach other maunfacturers do where they try to please everyone and their mother.
This thing isnt for everyone. It’s the thing the GS pretends to be. Where BMW is moving more and more towards the luxury SUV direction KTM, at least with the 1190 the 1290 SA is a different topic, is headed in the opposite direction. More of the real thing and less of the wantstobe(yeah, you GS riders can be offended by this, you still know it’s the truth).


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