KTM’s 1190 Adventure R has to be one of, if not the, best large adventure bikes on the market today. Its off-road prowess is the stuff legends are made of. The only real problem with a reputation like that is that the rider can easily forget that he is on a 500-pound motorcycle, which can get him into trouble real fast. We know guys who own the 1190 R who complain that the suspension feels soft on the very bottom of the power curve. The front fork has garnered the majority of the quibbles. It’s sprung way too soft for real off-road adventure. The rear shock is better than the fork, but it still could pack better damping and a focused spring rate. The power down low may not feel too soft for those stepping up from 990cc versions, but riders who’ve jumped the BMW ship really notice a lack of grunt. Thankfully, none of these issues are really that hard to address.
Enter Dick Wilk, owner and tuning guru of Dick’s Racing. Dick picked up a 2014 KTM Adventure R and nearly killed himself on his first ride because the mighty 1190 R lulled him into thinking it was a really big 500exc. While crossing a medium-sized washout on a singletrack trail behind his shop, he bottomed the bike so violently that he immediately turned around and headed back to the shop. Before he made it inside the building, he’d already decided what needed to be done to improve the dirt manners of his new ride.
The first order of business was to address the fork. Dick pulled the forks apart and modified the valving to keep the front end up in the stroke and give it better bottoming resistance. The rear shock was better than the forks, but it too needed a little massaging. The shock was pulled apart, and a new valve stack was created to improve the overall performance. Dick also tweaked the EFI settings to increase the power at the very bottom and provide a big boost on top. Once the motor and suspension were to his liking, he turned his attention to the aftermarket industry to improve the riding position and give the bike some much-needed protection. Touratech provided a set of upper crash bars and an aluminum skid plate, which is mandatory if the bike is to be used off-road. Dick also mounted up a set of Fasst Company Flexx handlebars with Fastway full-wrap handguards and a set of sweet AME grips. He also added a Bags-Connection tank bag and DrySpec duffel to provide storage for extended rides. There’s a huge list of additional items that Dick bolted on to his 1190. Check out his web page for more information.
After riding our loaner KTM 1190 Adventure R, on the road and off, we got pretty comfortable with the new bike’s features and little quirks. The Dick’s Racing rendition has a few mods that are apparent the moment you swing a leg over the bike. The Seat Concepts seat is one of our go-to favorites, and the Fasst Co. bars with risers really opened up the cockpit. Once the start button’s been pushed and the motor comes to life, little twists of the throttle make things jump. There’s a new sense of urgency about the motor. Riding the bike on the pavement with the mapping on the performance setting resulted in a big bottom hit that continued to a big increase in top-end power. This bike had never been lacking in horsepower, but now it had more—everywhere. On pavement, the suspension was firmer without being over-damped. Small bumps and frost heaves were easily absorbed without any undo harshness. Under heavy braking, the front end stayed up in the stroke and didn’t dive nearly as much as with the stock forks. The changes in the rear shock weren’t as noticeable as the forks on the highway. Once we got to the dirt trails, however, the full extent of Dick’s mods really hit home. The motor had a lot more bottom pull, which allowed the rider to drop low in the rpm range without worrying about having to cover the clutch all the time. A small twist of the throttle made things happen a lot quicker. A judicious right wrist is a must, because things happen faster even when using the off-road settings. The overall performance of the motor was much more aggressive than with the stock setup.
The suspension changes have to be the sweet spot in this bike build. The performance in the dirt is vastly improved, making the entire chassis feel lighter and more nimble. The fork rides higher in its stroke, with a major improvement in damping control. The stock forks would dive and blow through their stroke on moderately rough dirt roads. With the improved suspension, G-outs and whoops can actually be attacked as long as you remember you’re riding something with 160 horsepower and 500 pounds of mass. With the forks riding higher in the stroke, the entire attitude of the bike is lighter feeling and livelier. If you’re only making one change to your 1190 R, Dick’s Racing fork valving would be the best choice. The rear end is on equal ground with the front in terms of performance gains. It no longer blows through its mid stroke and handles successive hits with much more control. With the suspension mods, the KTM 1190 Adventure R has been elevated to a whole new level of performance for off-road exploration. We contend that it is the undisputed king of big-bore ADV bikes.
Dick Wilk is a real proponent of the one bike that does it all—sort of. When it comes to big Adventure bikes exploring the dirt world and then being used to scrub a set of tires on the twisties, things get complicated. For serious dirt work, a set of knobbies is mandatory. Switch to canyon peg-dragging and those knobbies are your worst enemy. Dick’s solution is having two sets of wheels with the correct tires for the conditions. That’s why he spec’d his bike with Pirelli Diablo Rosso II tires mounted on 17-inch wheels both front and rear. Who needs a Super Duke when you already have its cousin, an 1190 Adventure? The sticky rubber mounted on 17-inch hoops makes for one fun canyon-burner. This bike turns on a dime, with the only limitation being your personal pucker factor. The Pirelli rubber is super sticky, and with the right rider, the footpegs could probably drag in the turns. Big rubber also means big braking power. This setup could result in some serious hooligan antics, not to mention jail time. Dick simply backed the compression adjusters out on the forks and shock to give a plusher ride on the tarmac. The only issues we had with the swap in wheel size were the ABS and traction control. The computer on the KTM doesn’t recognize the change in wheel size, so it creates a fault code in the system and turns both of those safety features off. For the guy looking for a Super Motard machine, this won’t be an issue, since he would disable those features anyway; however, the average Joe who’s been riding with ABS and TC will have to make some mental adjustments if he’s used to pushing the traction limits with them. If it were up to us, we’d jump on a set of 17-inchers with smooth rubber for those occasional track days. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper than buying and maintaining a second motorcycle.
–Dick’s Racing fork/shock mods — $450 + Oil
–Dick’s Racing engine Package — $2495
–Rad 17-inch wheels w/cush drive rear hub — $1800
–OEM rear disc/sprocket/bolts/sensor plates — $275
–Seat Concepts seat foam/cover — $175
–Complete tall seat — $495
–Shorai battery — $160
–K&N filter -$60
–Dual Quad Flow Torque wings — $199
–Rear grab handles removal kit — $25
–Skid plate — $385
–Upper crash bars — $360
–Headlight guard — $135
–GPS mount — $90
–Folding mirrors — $105
–Electric tank bag w/quick connect — $360
–Waterproof rear bag — $140
–Radiator guard — $135
–Brake pedal extender — $35
–Axle sliders — $125
–Scorpion Rally tires — $275
–Diablo Rosso Corsa tires — $450
–Flexx bar — $360
–A’ME grips — $15
–Fastway adventure footpegs, V3 handguards — $250/$125
–Nihilo license plate bracket, frame protectors — $50/$20
–Galfer front brake rotors — $475
–STR fork adjusters, bleeders, threaded bar inserts — $100
1204 Imperial Lane
Washington, Utah 84780
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