Bike review: KTM 790 Adventure R

Image: Dries Van Der Walt
Image: Dries Van Der Walt

With the range of exceptionally good big-capacity adventure bikes on the market, the mid-size sector seems not to get the buyer attention it deserves – and that’s a huge pity, because there are really capable bikes hidden in that category. 

One of those is the KTM 790 Adventure R, a rally-style machine based on a re-tuned version of the impressive 799cm³ LC8c parallel twin first seen in the KTM 790 Duke.

Sporting an impressive 260mm ground clearance, the 790 is tall but not unmanageable. This is in part due to a narrow waist which allows average-length riders to get both feet on the ground – something that can be quite a challenge with bigger bikes. 

KTM 790 Adventure R

                                               Image: Dries Van Der Walt

KTM makes no secret of the bike’s purpose – developed from the Austrian’s company’s offroad race DNA, the 790 is a serious off-road motorcycle ready to take on whatever the bundu can throw at it. 

KTM says the bike is intended to balance the power of a twin with the lightness and agility of a single-cylinder off-road bike to open up new riding possibilities. From my experience playing around on a dirt road, the Austrians have achieved their design goal – the bike is light and nimble, while the power just seem to keep coming with very little fade at the top of the range.

What really counts, though – as much on the road as off it – is the linear delivery of torque. The bike has ample grunt to deal equally well with thick sand and with the short, sharp bursts of acceleration often required during commuting.

KTM 790 Adventure R

                                                Image: Dries Van Der Walt

Speaking of the latter, for all its off-road focus, the 790 Adventure R makes a remarkably pleasant commuter. Everything that counts in its favour off the road, does on it – the low-end torque, the manageability of its overall height and its nimbleness combine with a surprising level of comfort to make it almost as much fun on the highway as it is on dirt roads. The engine’s power delivery is perhaps even more impressive in this application, making the bike seem to be much bigger than the 800 it is. 

The 790 is equipped with fully adjustable WP suspension front and back that offers 240mm of travel, both front and rear, which, while a fair bit down from KTM’s enduro models, was still ample for everything my skill levels allowed me to throw at it.

The same goes for its stopping power, compliments of twin 320mm diameter brake discs with 4-piston, radially mounted calipers up front, and a 260mm diameter brake disc actuated by a double piston floating caliper in the rear. And despite the fact that the review bike was shod with  Metzeler Karoo 3 adventure knobbly tyres, it was sure-footed and stable even at high speed.

KTM 790 Adventure R

                                               Image: Dries Van Der Walt

The 20L fuel capacity seems small for a serious adventure bike, but KTM claim a tank range of 450km. With the test bike returning an average consumption of 4.8 L/100km, the actual tank range would be 416km, which, while falling short of the manufacturers’ claim, is still a very usable range (I have to add the caveat that I don’t ride review bikes with economy in mind, so owners can probably expect better figures from their bikes).

The fuel tank is rather cleverly shaped – similar KTM’s Dakar racers – to keep the fuel low down, which does a lot to lower its centre of gravity, something that counts in its favour both on and off the road.

I have often said that I rarely come across a truly bad bike, since the competitive nature of the market means that manufacturers can’t afford to make a machine that doesn’t live up to the expected standards. So, while almost all bikes a good, some are definitely better, and while the bulk of KTM’s models fall into the ‘better’ range, the best way I can describe the 790 Adventure R is to classify it as ‘betterer’.

KTM 790 Adventure R

                                                Image: Dries Van Der Walt


Manufacturer: KTM

Model: 790 Adventure R


Type: Four stroke, parallel twin cylinder, DOHC, 4 valve per cylinder

Displacement: 799 cm³Maximum Power: 70 kW

Maximum Torque: 88 Nm Fuel supply system: DKK Dell’Orto, 46 mm Throttle Body

Fuel type: Petrol, Premium Unleaded

Fuel consumption: 4.8 L/100 km (actual)


Type: 6-speed sequential

Final drive: Chain 


Wheel base: 1 528 mmSeat height: 880 mmKerb weight: 203 kg


Passengers: 1+Fuel tank: 20 L


Front: 2x 320mm discs ABS

Rear: Single 260mm disc ABS


Front: XPLOR 48mm WP upside-down forks

Rear: WP monoshock with Progressive Damping System

Wheels & Tyres:

Wheel, front: 2.50 x 21”Wheel, rear: 4.50 x 18”

Tyre, front: 90/90-21

Tyre, rear: 150/70-18

Price: R 173 999

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