In the recent Dakar Rally, which is surely the toughest and most dangerous motorsport event regularly held in the world, KTM motorcycles won for the sixth consecutive time, filling the first eight placings with the company's dominant 999cc v-twin machines. Less than a month later, KTM has unveiled its new 990 Adventure -- a motorcycle derived directly from the Africa-conquering machines, but with all the roadgoing niceties you'd like to have if you were travelling say, from Paris to Peking overland. Indeed, if wherever you're going is a long way and very rough, the KTM Adventure and its Dakar-dimensioned Adventure S (35mm more ground clearance and 35mm taller seat) are now the most likely candidates for the job. The Adventure was unveiled to the world press yesterday. Our favourite quote from the release goes to the winner of the 2006 Dakar event, Cyril Despres: "At 190 km/h through knee-deep sand you have to feel confident on your bike. After more than 10,000 kilometers the 990 Adventure is practically a part of you."
It's hard to reconcile touring with KTM's motto of "Ready to Race", yet there is a congruence when viewed in the context of the Dakar Rally winning machinery. A Dakar machine has to be as light as possible given the requirements of fuel capacity, and it must also have razor sharp steering and long-travel suspension and when carrying all your worldly possessions a long way from home, it helps if the throttle and brakes are sensitive to the varying terrain. Whatsmore, when your bum is sitting in the one spot for thousands upon thousands of kilometres, it must also be very ergonomically sound -- all things that KTM has learned to the nth degree given six straight Dakar wins.
The engine offers any amount of performance and massive torque coupled with the bike's minimal weight, yet it is still able to carry a lot of luggage across close to anything.
The new engine management with electronic fuel injection (EFI) is convincing with its excellent rideability while the newly developed Bosch Anit-lock braking system (ABS) has taken the fear out of braking hard when fully laden. If you figure you can do it better, the ABS can be disconnected at the press of a button.
It's not often that we defer to the manufacturer's web site for information and imagery, but after you've had a look through this relatively brief article, there are some amazing images in the official 990 Adventure site.
KTM is also now getting into the business of guided tours using the Adventure 990 and its predecessor, the 950. So you can be taught how to ride and prepare for difficult terrain, then guided through it safely before you cut out for the other side of nowhere. And when you're looking through the site, be sure to click on the challenging button in the bottom right corner, followed by the Cairo-Cape Town button (it's in Flash otherwise we'd link it).
Austrian Joe Pichler used a 950 Adventure on this remarkable trip down the length of the dark continent and some of the imagery is just breathtaking -- Joe has put the imagery together into a book which can be purchased through his web site.
It's a stunning example of just how far you can go and what's possible on a bike with motorcycling's equivalent of seven league boots.