KTM 790 road test and review

KTM 790 – Brief Encounters can be the most fun! Riding Impressions and Road Test

My friend Stu’s fun insight to the KTM790

One of the joys of running a new bike and getting it serviced by the dealer is the option of a loan bike and when the 1290 went in for its 650 mile first service, rather than taking out their 1290 or 1090 demonstrator (both of which I’d ridden previously) I thought it would only be right that I borrowed their barely run-in 790 demo bike for the woefully short run back to work (all of 5 miles across the picturesque city of culture that is Coventry!)
So wearing my usual get up of very worn textiles and a slightly dingy high-vis jacket I hopped aboard what seemed like a learner 125 and instantly felt conspicuous….I imagine that these bikes would be ridden by fully matched and branded would-be 1290 Super-Duke owning 20-somethings who can quite cover the heart stopping insurance premiums…not some middle-aged courier looky-likey (who has just realised the level of heart stopping premiums for a 1290 SAS). Now the last time I sat on a bike this small was a Street Triple and then I felt like a gorilla on a clown bike…so now, I was having flashbacks about losing such a small bike with a Brazilian width saddle in my butt crack. However, I put the key in the ignition (novel…haven’t had to do that for 600 odd miles), switched on the bike and let the LCD screen run thru its start-up routine (yes…….I’m ready to race !) and hit the starter button. I was expecting a muted little sewing machine with a bit of twin lumpiness (bit like the ER5 I road on my DAS training)…but no….this things got some character and when you blip the throttle..there’s a rasp and some fizzing going on….oh, this should be fun.


So, not bothering with any of the suspension or mode settings, I adjust the mirrors (remember…middle aged rider…gotta be safe….or at least see which local Mensa student is going to try and knock me off), thus giving the bike a full 30sec warm up, stamp it into gear and I’m off across the car park and short shift into second so that the service guy thinks I’m a responsible adult.
Around the two junctions (now out of sight of the service guy) and onto the Coventry ring road, I decide that 6k would be a reasonable limit for a bike that I hadn’t sat on until 1 min ago and proceeded to apply the normal loan bike rules….ride it like you stole it ! Suffice to say that 6k doesn’t take long to show on the LCD tacho and once you’re in 4th you’re saying goodbye to NSL…the bike let you slice through the traffic like a scalpel, taking every opportunity for a half gap and a little bit of clear road….it’s like riding a 125 but with speed !! The bike is so thin and light in comparison to the Adventure that it bought the inner “yoof” out in me….shutting the throttle for the up-coming roundabout prompted more rasping and fizzing on the over-run didn’t help either…good job the brakes were good as the aforementioned roundabout was approaching fast and I was carrying way too much speed and at the approach the “scalpel” allowed me to I employ a bit of faster filtering so I could avoid the stationary cars and get back on the power.

A quick detour to show off the bike to the forums resident wordsmith gave me a chance to look over the quality of the bike….looked on par the Adventure (which is good) with solid looking plastics and engine and some nice detailing on the mid-level raspy exhaust.
The last two mile run to work was on dual carriage ways, which gave an indication of what the bike would be like for my commute….very quick up to 70 at which point the wind pressure starts to build….bike would happily do 85 but the wind was getting a bit too much as there was no screen and riding position meant visibility wasn’t as good as the Adventure (ok…I accept riding the Adventure gives you a great view that can’t be matched by a naked bike), I’d need a top box (which would spoil the lines). However, if you could put this peppy engine and drive-train into an adventure style bike….the KTM would be onto a winner…….anyone for a  KTM 790 Adventure?? Bet you can’t guess what my next loan bike is going to be !!

However, as a fun bike…..it would be epic…makes a whole heap of sense with its rapid acceleration, nimble handling, engaging engine and exhaust notes. I would need a new suit of gear to get the appropriate look (well, at least ditch the calf length adventure boots that was making gear shifting entertaining for some racy looking sidi’s) and I would have to do my usual market place sweep for the alternatives (The MT-07 would be first on the list) just to make sure there was nothing better out there, but it would definitely be an option.