CycleOnline.com.au review at the KTM Adventure Rallye.
Words: Guy Streeter
The 2023 KTM 890 Adventure R is an immensely versatile platform, boasting serious travel capabilities to explore a wide variety of terrain. CycleOnline Tested this highly-capable model at the ‘2022’ KTM Australia Adventure Rallye earlier this year in the Victorian High Country.
Detailed has a more extensive technical rundown, but in short, the 2023 KTM 890 Adventure R aims to improve durability and suitability for whatever lies ahead, with standout features including the new bodywork, reworked WP Suspension, a five-inch TFT display and an impressive electronics software package.
As for the KTM Adventure Rallye, it provided any adventure bike rider’s dream to put a new model to the test, with five days, plus 1500 kilometres of beautiful and exciting Victorian High Country road and trail. The postponed 2022 edition marked the sixth instalment of the rallye down under.
Approaching the 2023 KTM 890 Adventure R, the most notable and obvious change is the appearance – it looks aggressive and really is rally-inspired. The USB port on the side of the TFT display is really handy too, allowing ease of charging your electronic device.
Peeling out of the Lake Hume Resort, the riding component of the KTM Adventure Rallye got underway and we had about 20kms of road and unsealed road winding around Lake Hume, which was perfect to get familiar with the new KTM 890 Adventure R.
Cycling through the menu and the different modes – Street, Wet, Off-road, Rally, cruise control and all the usual – the 2023 KTM 890 Adventure R felt right at home on the road, comfy and plenty of grunt when needed. Scrolling through the new five-inch TFT display I activated Rally mode, tamed down the throttle response a smidge and set the ‘slip adjuster’ to midway at five.
If there was a setting to scale how much fun you can have, the slip-adjuster is it, setting it right in the middle really was a bet each way. With that, I was ready to hit the first of the trails for the week and see what kind of trouble/fun I could get myself into with a conservative start.
After some smooth, dust-filled roads around the lake, we headed inwards and upwards. The Victorian High Country is known for its bush rangers, beauty, gold fields, snow resorts and vineyards, but what gets left out of the description is the rocks and dust.
The weight of the KTM 890 Adventure R and the reworked WP Suspension settings handled really well in these conditions. The suspension seems to sit nicely in the travel and the forks don’t plough through the initial part of the stroke, even with the harder hits from erosion mounds and water bars.
WP and KTM have really done their homework collectively when it comes to this area of the bike and the suspension holds up well compared to a lot of the other motorcycles in the same category.
Up next, the first breakout! Having been given the rundown on the KTM Rallye ‘chilli-metre’ used to gauge the breakouts on the Rallye, we were heading into breakout one with a three chillies warning. Day one, breakout one… three chillies.
Everyone seemed to be facing up to it until we got to ‘that hill’. It became known about, talked about and legends were made and broken. When we arrived at the bottom of the first challenge of the Rallye, we were in a line of about 15 bikes and about a 45-minute wait to just get to the start of the line to have an attempt.
The outlandish amounts of whispers that were being funnelled down the hill at one stage were incredible and later that evening were found to be completely off the charts – ‘Chris Birch had a crash at the top of the hill’, ‘there is someone with a broken leg’, ‘we all have to turn around’, and so-forth. KTM ambassador Birchy did have a crash, just five kilometres away on a fast bit of smooth trail. And someone did break their leg, but on a flat corner with no rocks in sight.
When it finally came time to put the KTM 890 Adventure R into its first real test, the bike proved more than capable. The hill was dry, dusty and slippery, and quite rocky, but for the most part, the latest 890 rose to the occasion and chugged its way to the top. It probably wasn’t the prettiest ascent up that hill, but it certainly was made a hell of a lot easier on this weapon.
Day two brought much more of the same, but with a lot less kilometres, and heading out of Mansfield we continued back to the mountains. Needless to say, we had plenty of rocks, the dust seemed to be less of an issue but ever-present. Standout destinations for the day were Craig’s Hut, a staple in most 4×4 and adventure rides in the Victorian High Country and Lake Cobbler.
During the climb up the mountain to Craig’s Hut, there was not much to reaffirm what we had learnt about the bike on day one. However, getting closer to Craig’s Hut, there were a series of water bars/erosion mounds that are begging to be launched.
We are not talking about sending with the kind of reckless abandon you might have on an enduro/trial bike, however, the 2023 KTM 890 Adventure R did not seem to be the limiting factor in this equation. There were plenty of times the terrain and erosion mounds were begging to be ‘sent’, even in some tight off-camber situations.
Now I am not saying I am a physics expert, I don’t think I even passed physics, but I know enough that a 210kg monster needs some room to pull up and even slow down enough to make corners on some slippery rocky and dusty conditions. What I am trying to say is, the KTM 890 Adventure R is more capable than this rider or what the conditions allowed for.
The bike felt and responded very similar to an enduro bike, but with an obvious weight disadvantage. For me, this really cemented the suspension package was good and could be pushed through more than what we had encountered on the Victorian High Country so far.
Kicking off day three, we headed out around 10km, took a hard left up a mountain and climbed to the top of a mountain ridge and hooked in for the best riding of the Rallye so far. The rocks did not seem to be as abundant and traction was plentiful. It was a definite change of pace from what we had encountered for the previous two days.
The conditions provided the opportunity to push the limits of the bike a little more than we had dared on the previous days, and it wasn’t long until it became apparent that I wasn’t thinking about the bike and the conditions that were unfolding in front of us. Looking back, it seems that is what you should be searching for in an adventure bike – you don’t want to be questioning how the bike is going to react to harsh obstacles or trail conditions when you start upping the pace.
After spending the morning on Rally mode, it was time to explore more of what the 890 Adventure R had in its arsenal. With the lack of any rain forecast in the coming days, the only other option at this point was ‘Off-road’ mode, so with some steep, slippery climbs and descents to match coming up, it was time to find the differences.
Anyone that has ridden the Blue Rag knows the conditions are rocky and steep in some areas, but again the KTM 890 Adventure R was rock steady and ploughed through the endless amounts of rock on the downhills, yet the traction and handling hitting the uphills was outstanding. The motor just cruises along, with 890cc and twin cylinders you can imagine it doesn’t need much encouragement to power its way uphills.
Initially, I was pretty timid on how much I could rely on the ABS going downhills, but the further along the trail we proceeded, the more outlandish I got with how much the front brake was let off altogether and how late and aggressive I would get. Surprisingly, there was only one moment that caused me to contemplate what hospital food might be like in the region…
Leaving Dargo, day four hit a little different. Having started at the front of our group at the first breakout, I was really starting to feel at home on the 2023 KTM 890 Adventure R. I had just made some changes to the suspension, slightly softening the front-end in compression and rebound, and was keen to push my luck on the tighter conditions this breakout had presented.
About three-quarters through the breakout, the trail dipped into a small creek and then pointed skyward with a good amount of rock. Two stranded riders were halfway up the hill – neither seemed in a hurry to get back on their bikes and at least make some room between them for anyone to pass.
Hopes and prayers were my best option at this point and one of the riders managed to straddle his bike and straighten it up before I managed to make my way between the two of them. From there, the rest of the hill-climb resembled a newborn giraffe taking its first steps.
That was only the start of our group’s dramas though, because following this I was still miffed at two mis-shifts encountered – one at the start of that hill and one around the same area I missed my GPS showing to take a hard left. I continued on for about three kays before realising the lack of tracks, then checking my GPS and cautiously heading back towards the missed turn.
I eventually found my way back to the end of the breakout and found Birch, KTM national marketing manager Rosie Lalonde and Brendan Fuller having a chinwag. It seemed like a perfect place to wait for my group, but after 30 minutes I guessed there must have been some confusion and I continued on with my new wolf-pack. That was the last time I saw Chris and Brendan until lunchtime, but it was awesome sharing the trail with Rosie into Barnsdale for lunch.
Day five. Leaving Dinner Plain we headed 50kms down the hill to Omeo, where we filled up and headed out to Lake Omeo. The final day didn’t present anything too overwhelming, but some great sights, roads and, yes, more dust. Although, the breakout had about 30 erosion mounds that would make supercross jumps look average size, followed by a steep downhill that seemed to be heading for the centre of the earth, and my legs were on fire descending this mountain.
The remainder of the day was fairly tame, which was probably a good thing considering the state of most people’s bodies at this point in the Rallye. We stopped for a short bite to eat a the Mitta Pub on the river before heading back to Lake Hume resort for the conclusion of the Rallye and celebration drinks with the entire Rallye.
Having not much significant time on adventure bikes in general, I always find myself a little timid at first and past experiences haven’t given me a whole lot of confidence in the way an adventure bike should handle and feel. I can honestly say the 2023 KTM 890 Adventure R is a turning point for me.
Coming from an enduro/motocross background, it’s nice having a bike that is somewhat playful and feels capable in some gnarly conditions. This bike feels fun, especially once I was used to the heavier weight and significant tyre pressure to help prevent flats on the rocky terrain.
The 2023 KTM 890 Adventure R really held its own at anything I was willing to point the front wheel at. We have all seen the videos of Birchy doing some incredible things on these bikes, and by no means am I in the same realm as that, but during the Rallye, there wasn’t a time where if we had a clear track I would be questioning the bike’s performance or ability.
A standout feature for me is the suspension. It held up and didn’t blow through which I had previously experienced on other adventure bikes, which makes me feel more at home and closer to what I’m more accustomed to. We aren’t going to be sending it to the moon, but it doesn’t feel like you have to baby it or slow down as much or avoid obstacles.
Further to that, the motor is strong, predictable and reliable. ABS is a newer feature I’m learning and getting my head around on two wheels, and it surprised me how well it works in tougher rocky, slippery conditions. As well, the TFT display and navigation of the menu are really intuitive and easy to use while riding. The ability to toggle through settings even when in Rally mode make life easier with the graphics that accompany the settings.
After completing the KTM Australia Adventure Rallye, it is obvious KTM staff know how to put on an exceptional event. The effort put into gaining local knowledge to put together a route that is challenging and hits a lot of scenic landscapes and destinations, transferring everyone’s luggage and putting on an event like this is a huge achievement. Combine that with the camaraderie and, it’s safe to say, my hand will be up if we get to go along for the ride again in future.
Engine type: 899cc two-cylinder, four-stroke, parellel twin
Bore/stroke: 90.7mm x 68.8mm
Starter: Electric starter
Clutch: PASC anti-hopping clutch, mechanically operated
Front suspension: WP XPLOR-USD, 48 mm, 240mm travel
Rear suspension: WP Xplor PDS shock absorber, 240mm travel
Front brake:Hydraulic, twin disc, 320mm
Rear brake: Hydraulic, single disc, 260mm
Tyres: Mitas Enduro Trail
Weight: 200kg (dry)
Price: Base price $26,575
Availability: Available now
Further information: www.ktm.com.au