RIDING THE 2020 KTM 790 ADVENTURE R: THE WRAP

We’ve had the opportunity to spend some time on adventure bikes this summer, and loved every minute of it. The highlight was the return of the KTM 790 Adventure to the garage, which has reconfirmed its status as the pick of the litter.  Paul Krause has joined us on several rides in the Southern California area. We rarely have time to cross continents, but day trips through the San Bernardino mountains and the Cleveland National forest are still great fun

Paul Krause on the KTM 790 Adventure R

There are several different versions of the 790. They all have the 799cc parallel twin that was originally featured in the 790 Duke. The standard 790 Adventure ($12,699) got a whole new chassis and different motor tuning in order to make it more adventure-worthy. The 790 Adventure R ($13,699) is a little more dirt oriented with upgraded suspension, more travel, more aggressive tires and a high fender. There’s also a limited edition 790 R Rally ($19,499) which has works-level suspension and an Akrapovic exhaust. We’ve never actually seen one of those–there were only 500 imported. The version we have now is the 2020 version of the Adventure R. It is unchanged from the 2019 KTM Adventure R, which you can read about here.

 

 

The MSRP of the KTM 790 Adventure R comes in just under $14,000.

In recent months, we’ve ridden other adventure bikes which might be considered competition for the 790. Riding the KTM one year after its introduction allowed us to put in in perspective. There are several things that it does far better than any other bike that falls under the adventure bike umbrella. And there are still several things we would like to see changed.

On top of the Things We Love list is the fact that the bike feels small and light by adventure bike standards. It weighs 419 without fuel, and even though that sounds like a lot, it’s 50 pounds lighter than an Africa Twin and around 15 pounds lighter than the new Yamaha Tenere 700. What really makes the 790 feel small and manageable is the fact that it has a low center of gravity. KTM did this with a fairly compact motor and a truly strange fuel cell. Gas is carried down around both sides of the motor. Aside from making the bike feel lighter, it also has the benefit of not making you sit behind an enormous fuel tank, which typically pushes the rider too far rearward. It still carries 5.2 gallons.

The instrument panel is excellent–except for the lack of a good fuel gauge.

Also on the we love list is the power. It has a lot. The motor is quick revving and sounds like a sexy Ferrari. Output is said to be around 95 hp, which isn’t far off the new 1100 Africa Twin and  a bit higher than a BMW F850GS. To deal with all that power, KTM allows you to choose from three levels of throttle response and 9 levels of traction control. The variable throttle response is useful, and we typically will change it in the course of any given ride. But the star of the show is the traction control. No one, but NO ONE has traction control that works this well off road. Instead of making the bike hiccup and sputter, it seamlessly lowers the power output according to the situation.  Levels 0 through 6 are all perfectly useful and appropriate off-road settings. Above that, you start to encounter some of the glitches that are common on other adventure bikes–those levels are for riding in the rain or on slick pavement.

There are some things that we aren’t crazy about. The KTM doesn’t have a good, accurate fuel gauge. That fuel tank must be shaped too weird. The tank also makes us nervous in the rocks. KTM test riders say they never punctured one, but it still makes us tense when squeezing around a large boulder.  A few companies are making crash bars now, but expect to pay around $700. We’re also a little baffled by the lack of a hydraulic clutch. That’s a KTM signature item that even comes on mini bikes. When you get stuck in the sand–and you will if you ride off-road enough–the clutch will heat up and you’ll have to adjust the freeplay. Just like old times.  Overall, though, the 790 is an amazing motorcycle. We love it and hope that it influences other manufacturers to take off-road adventure riding as seriously

UPDATED NEBDR

The North East Backroads Discovery Route ran into some snags with land-use considerations. If you plan on riding that route, be sure to get the latest updates, which takes you around problem areas. Here’s what the guys at ridebdr.com have to say about it:

Thousands of riders a year travel along BDR routes. So, when BDR became aware of motorcycle-access issues in Maine after the initial release of the NEBDR, the responsible thing to do was to pull Sections 7 and 8 out of the GPS files and pause the sale of Butler maps until we had a solution. Section 7 was vetted and back in the GPS tracks within a few weeks. Section 8 however was a little more complicated.

The team went to work immediately studying maps, researching laws, and speaking with local officials in the state. As it turns out, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to layout a contiguous, border-to-border, off-tarmac route through the state of Maine that is 100% accessible for motorcycle travel.

Simply put, a good deal of the backcountry land in Maine is privately owned – in large part by giant paper companies who use it for logging operations. While the land owners often give the right of way on their road systems to cars, and in some cases snow mobile and ATV clubs, they rarely extend that invitation to motorcycles. It is a bias that we do not fully understand, but it exists and is not likely to change any time soon.

FACTORY EDITION TRIAL MACHINES AVAILABLE

 

KTM/Pierer Mobility has released more of the GasGas line for 2021. Here’s the official release:

Following the recent launch of the 2020 GASGAS TXT RACING line-up, GASGAS Motorcycles are pleased to confirm the availability of the TXT GP range. The factory edition, flagship trial machines feature an extensive list of upgraded and premium components to ensure optimum performance.
GASGAS TXT GP models available now at dealers
Top-tier models with factory parts
Limited run of 550 units globally
Using the experience and know-how earned from 15 successful FIM Trial World Championship campaigns, each GASAGAS TXT GP model is designed and built to deliver uncompromised performance when used on the most challenging terrain. Providing riders with everything they need to perform at the very highest level, all TXT GP models feature parts used on the official GASGAS Factory Racing machine of Jorge Casales.

Available in four capacities – 300cc, 280cc, 250cc and 125cc – TXT GP models deliver the proven stability, accurate steering, minimal weight and smooth, controllable power attributed to all GASGAS machines. Fitted with premium suspension components, a carbon fibre airbox, factory racing graphics and many other technical highlights, GASGAS TXT GP models allow riders to excel no matter how difficult the competition.

All parts featured on TXT GP machines are available for purchase from official GASGAS Motorcycles dealers, for use on all TXT RACING models.

For further details on pricing and availability, please refer to your local authorized GASGAS Motorcycle dealer.

NBC GOLD STILL HOPING

The 2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season has been postponed again. The proposed opening round at Ironman Raceway in Indiana hit a roadblock when that state suffered an increase in Covid-19 cases. The same thing happened for the only other proposed race at WW Ranch in Jacksonville, Florida. At this time, MX Sports is proposing at start to the season in August. For those who purchased the NBC Gold pass to watch the Nationals, the streaming service is still hoping to present some part of the outdoor season. There has been no talk of refunds, although that will surely become a topic if the 2020 season is canceled altogether. Clickon the image above to read the official press release from MX Sports.

EUROPE IS PLANNING TO GO RACING

Herlings

The MX GP season is said to resume with three races in Latvia, starting on August 8-9 of August, followed by a mid-week special on the 11-12 of August, and the final Latvian stop concluding on the 15-16 of August. For more on the current 2020 MXGP schedule, click here.The ASO is the organization that promotes both the Dakar Rally and the Tour de France. As of now, they say that the Tour will start on August 29–almost two months later than planned. 

Bettini photo

The Motocross of Nations is to be held in England on September 26. If the MXoN does go as planned, it looks like there will be no U.S. team, as Covid 19 recovery is taking place more slowly over here. Round three of the Slovenian Championship took place over the weekend with Tim Gajser taking the win. From the looks of the video below, there were fans in attendance.

RIDING GREG ALBERTYN’S 2000 FACTORY RM250

 

Greg Albertyn’s 2000 Factory Suzuki RM250

In January of 2000, Roger DeCoster brought Greg Albertyn’s ractory RM250 to Lake Elsinore Raceway for Paul Krause and me to ride. It was Suzuki’s first National Championship since Guy Cooper in 1990, and Roger was justifiably proud. Here’s what I wrote about it.

The Nineties were not kind to American Suzuki. The yellow race team had a knack of taking champions and turning them into losers. The record looked bad; first, Roger DeCoster left his winning legacy at Honda to become the manager at Suzuki without much success. Then Greg Albertyn left a string of championships in Europe to become just another rider in the U.S. And even Jeremy McGrath’s unbelievable win streak was broken by his one season on Suzuki.
Was the problem the bike, the company or something in the water in Brea, California? We didn’t know. Roger didn’t know. No one knew, but frankly, it didn’t matter after 1999, because the string was finally broken. Suzuki entered the 2000s with the number one plate in the 250 Nationals, courtesy of Greg Albertyn.
In a world filled with petty rivalries and bad reputations, Albee stood out as a class act. He left no vendettas, burned bridges or broken contracts in his wake. His slow and sometimes painful climb to the top was received with universal approval, even among competitors, who usually took the “If it couldn’t be me, I’m glad it’s him” philosophy.

Albertyn didn’t have much success when he initially came to the U.S. By 1999, both the bike and the rider were ready to win.

THE BIKE
Suzuki finished Albee’s 2000 race bike a full month before the start of the supercross season. That’s unheard-of. But the team had several advantages that year. For one thing, the new production bike was closer to Albee’s 1999 race bike than before. The flat-topped piston and larger rear axle on the production bike, for example, were tested on the race bike first. And Albertyn’s outdoor bike and supercross specs aren’t that different. The indoor bike has stiffer suspension and slight differences in the exhaust port for more instant low-end power. Mitch Payton at Pro Circuit had come up with a porting spec that beat anything the race team got from Japan–on the dyno it made almost eight horsepower more than stock. The bike also used a larger powervalve chamber, a programmable ignition and a Pro Circuit pipe that had only slight changes from a production model.
By far, the biggest difference between Greg’s new bike and his ’99 outdoor bike was weight. The race bike would typically weigh in at 228 pounds last year. That might be five pounds lighter than stock, but it’s still five pounds heavier than a stock Honda and 12 pounds over the minimum weight. DeCoster would have no more of that, so he decided to spend some money on titanium. Virtually every bolt on the bike is Ti, with the exception of the case bolts (which are aluminum) and the axles.
Back in 1996, Albee broke a titanium rear axle during a National, so their use has been banned on Suzuki’s race bikes ever since. For 2000, the bike got a slew of magnesium parts from Japan (the top triple clamp, the rear hub and the caliper carriers) and the bottom line was an amazing 10-pound weight reduction. The new bike was only two pounds over the minimum. Goes to show you what determination and money can do. Of course, the suspension was works Showa. Factory forks are things of beauty. The axle carriers were magnesium, the tubes were coated with titanium nitride and the fork caps were flush with the top of the upper tubes (it required a special tool to remove them). The rear shock looked like it should be in the Guggenheim.
Suzuki doesn’t reinforce the frame anywhere; the mechanics just weld on glideplate mounting tabs and the front motor mounts (which are removable on the stocker). Then it’s all powder-coated in bright yellow.
DeCoster was kind to us. He knew that no one on the Dirt Bike staff was capable of making Greg’s suspension move. He revalved both ends so we could take the bike for a spin at Elsinore Raceway. That’s a rare treat. Sure, we get to ride some pretty trick bikes, but they are always someone else’s trick bikes and they really aren’t very comfortable. It was as if Suzuki built the trickest bike on earth just for us. For the first time, we got to see how good works suspension can be. Trust us; it’s awesome. The fork had no harshness and no friction. No wonder all works bikes have some level of factory suspension. It’s a huge benefit over stock.
The engine fooled us. We rode the works bike and it seemed really fast, as expected. But then we rode a box-stock RM, and it seemed pretty fast, too. Not as fast as the works bike, of course, but close, especially on top. Roger overheard that comment and just laughed. “Ride it again,” he said. “This bike makes almost 20 percent more power than stock. It just starts making power so much earlier that it doesn’t have a hard hit.”
We did ride it again and did some impromptu roll-ons against the 2000 model RM. Roger was right. The factory bike was way faster. Goes to show you how deceiving a smooth powerband can be. The factory bike also had much more instantaneous throttle response, as if it had less flywheel. It didn’t, it just felt that way.
Another big difference: the weight. The factory bike was 15 pounds lighter. You really felt it. That’s about the same difference between a Yamaha YZ426 and a regular RM250.
So back to the mystery: Why hadn’t Suzuki won any championships since Cooper in 1990, and before that, Mark Barnett in 1983? That was a whole different story. All we knew was that Suzuki and Gerg Albertyn carried the number one plate in 2000, which made sense to us.hat makes perfect sense to us.

Happy wheelies!

–Ron Lawson

 

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