Breakfast was being served at home as I started talking to my fantabulous wife about what was going on regarding the bikes in the garage. “I am so bored of this conversation.” She says. “Every time you want a new bike you ask me to justify it for you, and I’m not going to do it anymore… But, if you want one, just go and buy it. I’m glad you want to talk to me, but just tell me what you’re getting with no explanations……please.” And there we have it. The culmination of the activities this past week.
Allow me to expand. It seems I recently came down with a nasty case of Orange Fever. “No”, it’s not the political or religious type, nor is it the type derived from a crazy obsession with a certain soccer team from The Netherlands.
Am I ok?
Well, yes, I am ok. Thanks for asking, and lucky for me I found the remedy in time, but more of that later.
So, what the beenoodles is it then? You are probably saying to yourselves – this is a bike-themed blog. Does it involve an orange bike?
Now, I know my ‘About Andy’ section lists an R1200GS, a Monster 1200S, and a Triumph as my current rides, but the R1200GS morphed into a K1600GT a few months ago, and the Monster is on the chopping block due to my aging knees and the motorcycling abuse I’ve put them through over three decades of riding. Anyone who knows me is aware of my frequent changes of motorcycle costume.
The whole saga seriously started about the time a KTM started appearing at our local club events. It is ridden by a lovable guy who was newish to the circle of friends, and who didn’t mind getting his 990 Adventure a bit muddy. Next up was a friend who I’ve known a decade or more who stumbled into owning a 990 SM, and lastly a Triumph/Honda owning friend (just because he rides a Honda there’s no need for any jokes about large chicks and mopeds if you don’t mind – both being fun to ride, but you don’t brag about it to your mates, if you know what I mean 😉 ) came around to asking what I thought of my GS because he was looking at a GSA. Ultimately he opted for the 1290 Super Adventure to replace the ‘Onda for long walks on beaches and fun times with his better half.
So, a guy I respect for his riding gets one. A guy who’s probably got more miles under his belt than Drew and I combined at the moment, although a few years back we were probably in the same region for total miles covered, even if he probably does all his miles in North America, and mine covers 200,000 miles in the UK and around southern France and Spain.
What is it with these Austrian orange dirt bike derived things anyway? I better go and find out. It just so happens that the place I got my K1600GT had two used examples on the showroom floor, a 1290 Super Adventure and an 1190 Adventure R.
What a great looking bike the 1190 Adventure R is, and by all YouTube reviews, an epic off-roader. I arranged a test ride on both having fallen under the spell of the 1190 Adventure R just from the pictures and the YouTube reviews.
1190 Adventure R
Armed with my driving license and insurance card I go to take these bikes out for a spin.
First up is the discussion about seat height, and whether I need a step ladder to get on the 1190. I take a look around the bike. It’s a 2015 model but is essentially still new as it only has 1034 miles on the clock. The fit and finish are really good, the colors and graphics are notable. It’s in fantastic shape. It tickles my fancy as much as I’d hoped. I may be in moto-lust. I decided to take my usual approach to get on tall bikes and take full advantage of the left side riders peg to climb on board. What immediately struck me was how light it feels when I stand it up. It does not feel like 518lbs, even with the 35-inch seat height. I’m on tiptoes if I put both feet down, but I am comfortable flat footing one side and pegging the other foot, I’ve done it before with my old Hypermotard 1100 Evo SP and I’m still happy to endure this routine daily if the need is there, and the reward large enough.
I turn the ignition key and wait for the controls to boot, then start the motor. It fires up readily and quickly settles into a steady beat. A quick blip on the throttle and the raspy sound of the engine tells me it’s eager to get going.
Once I’m out on the planned route, the height is no problem. The 21-inch front steers predictably and the rear wheel, which also gets off-road sizing at 18 inches, make the washboard road surface easy to roll over. The brakes and clutch actions are two-finger strong and easy to operate (- mineral oil fluid for the clutch). I get onto a little straight with an unperfect surface and get on the throttle to see what this 145 hp motor actually goes like. It’s nuts, it’s absolutely (expletive) nuts. You give it gas and it leaps forward with quite a distinct noise from the exhaust, if you over fuel it, the rasp is joined by what can only be described as a pleasant clang at every spark, it’s a beautiful sound, and the bike adds to the forward momentum; it sends tingles down my spine. A fellow Englishman described his Super Duke GT as being bonkers, “It’s bonking bonkers mate” (nearly his exact words), “It just moves forward so bloody quickly…” and this coming from a former S1000XR owner. It certainly has some level of acceleration I’ve not experienced unless I’m sitting in First Class on a big Airbus. It’s not ‘baseball bat to the bottom of the spine’ snappy because it’s a totally speed x speed x speed kind of gain in forward motion, it gathers ferocity from when you open it up until you close the throttle, or you bang it off the limiter. Nuts. Truly nuts. The traction control works in such a way that you can feel the tire is about to spin-up, but it never does. It is quite impressive, even over less than perfect surfaces. The fueling is spot on for the bikes nature. It’s raw but not rough, it’s smooth but not slick. It manages to feel unbridled. You get the impression it’s just managing to keep things in check before they get totally out of hand. Along with the fully adjustable White Power suspension, it gives the bike the right character. The suspension makes the Ohlins on other bikes feel inferior. Really, it does. The bike is a road going, off-road hooligan tool. Don’t ride it unless you like riding a tiger’s tail. It’s epic. This bike might be my new all-time favorite, edging out the air-cooled Hypermotard 1100 by a hair or three.
1290 Super Adventure
For starters, the seat on the 1290 is an inch shorter than the 1190, so both feet on the ground is entirely possible. This particular bike is a 2016 and has 5,500 miles on it the odometer. It is fitted with the factory plastic hard luggage and has a whole host of electronic goodies the 1190 does not have. It has cruise control, electronically adjustable suspension, heated grips, and heated seats and the same riding modes of the 1190. It weighs 550 lbs gaining only 32 lbs but has a claimed 160 hp motor. It also wears 19-inch front and 17-inch rear wheels letting the rider choose from a wider range of more road-oriented rubber if that’s what they want, and let’s face it, they do.
Indeed, this bike is aimed fairly squarely at the GSA and the Multistrada markets rather than the hardcore dirt rider the 1190 Adventure R is looking to appease. The list of things this bike has as standard is very impressive for the price. To get all the goodies on either the GSA or the Multistrada you would have to select multiple packages or pick through the list of available accessories to get one as well equipped, and I dare say the price would jump significantly from their base prices around the $20,000 range to the mid 20’s whereas the KTM is around the $18,000 mark. Kudos to KTM for doing this, and please excuse me for not listing the whole shebang of prices and options the other two Euro 1200’s. I’d like to keep your attention a while longer….
And while all this added sophistication makes the 1290 Super Adventure much more refined, it’s also accompanied by a little blandness. It’s still fast as fandango, as we Brits like to say, but all the endearing qualities, that make the 1190 such a beast to ride have been sanitized and dulled a bit around the edges. The exhaust note is still there, but a bit quieter, the throttle response is a bit smoother, the suspension a bit plusher and the handling a bit tamer. It all adds up to a better road bike for bunging the better-half on the back and trekking to the other side of the continent in relative comfort, and all well within the capabilities of the bike, but it was the rawness of the 1190 that made it feel like you could push the bike to the absolute limits, even though the chances of that were slim, unless you’re a serious Dakar type. The 1290 lets you know it has everything well under control, so don’t try to be a Dick, Richard.
Alright now we have a decision to make. I really like the 1190 but I need to go away and think about it for a day or two and come back and see if I really like it enough to say arrivederci to the Monster in my garage. I ride the Monster back home and stop in at the Ducati dealer on the way. A funny thing happens. A quick greeting by the shop crew upon arrival is followed by a longer conversation with the owner who chats about Iron Butt rides, what I’ve been up to, and where he’s going next, the Triple Nickel. We end up talking about my old Hypermotard and the virtues of the newish 939SP. I didn’t get along with the first water cooled 821 version while owning my 1100 so the opportunity to try the latest one is welcomed.
These demos are usually accompanied rides with two bikes and riders. This time we had a Multi 950 dressed up with enduro rubber (Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR’s) on spoked tubeless rims, accompany me on the Hypermotard 939SP. While the bikes were being readied another client was returning on a Monster 1200S along with the dealer rider on a Monster 821.
Hypermotard 939 SP
We headed out with me riding the Hypermotard following the rider on the Multistrada 950. Both of these bikes have the same motor (as does the new SuperSport) albeit in slightly different tune, with the Multi having a milder cam and revised fueling for more torque. We got onto some residential back roads and the pace got hotter quickly. The lead rider was riding like a gentleman on the Multi, smooth and rapid while I was doing my absolute best to ride like a hooligan on the Hyper. I would hold back when I knew we were coming into an interesting section and play catch up through the good bit. After about 10 minutes of me doing this, the lead bike pulls over to the side of the road at an intersection and the kickstand goes down as I pull in behind. I’m thinking he’s had enough of my antics and wants me to calm down a bit, so I’m preparing myself for a telling off when he asks if I can ride the Multi back to the shop so he can get on the Hyper for a while. Alright then I think, looks like it’s game on!
He pulls away as I’m getting settled into the seat on the Multi. It takes a second to get acquainted with the LCD dash, so I give chase, and to my utter dismay, the Multi 950 is actually a better hooligan tool than the Hyper. The Hyper is quick, light, refined with uber good brakes and suspension, but again it’s a bike that seems to be missing the raw edge I’m looking for. The Multi, on the other hand, has it all, it is just like riding the 1190 KTM but with a fewer ponies. You can’t notice you don’t cover that extra 10 feet in the first two seconds that you cover on the KTM because you’re going more than fast enough. The seat is an inch shorter (a design feature intended to encourage less experienced owners to give it a try,) so my feet are firmly planted, and you sit ‘in’ the bike whereas you are ‘on’ the Hyper. It’s just like the 1190, the bars are wide and in just the right position to enable you to stand up any time you want and provide lots of leverage making turning easier. The other similarities are the manual fully adjustable suspension, (Sachs and Showa), no cruise, no heated grips or seat, and no lean-angle ABS, but basic traction control and tubeless spoked wheels wearing street oriented Dual Sport tires. The Multi runs 19-inch front and 17-inch rear to match its primary function of a road bike. I was having a blast pitching it into tight turns, late braking and getting on the gas while leaning off but keeping the bike upright dirt bike style. It was asking for more, and just like the 1190 it felt like the bike has enough electronic aids to stop you getting into heaps of trouble at the same time letting you believe you are capable of reaching the bike’s limits. At no time does it get out of hand, the dynamics of the relationship between bike and rider are borne out of the way the bike transmits to the rider what is going on with the tires and suspension through the footpegs, seat, and handlebars. You have a feeling it will let you know when you’re pushing the limits, where the 1290 and the Hyper were so composed it made you uncertain how they would react when things got tricky. In short, they felt a bit wooden because of all the safety functions as opposed to the feeling of excitement you get from the slightly less refined Multi and 1190 packages. For me this was the way I wanted to feel when riding my ‘fun’ bike. I need to feel I can reach the limits of the bikes capabilities before mine, even if I really can’t.
We got back to the shop and I felt great. The other test rider who’d been out on the Monsters earlier was still there. We chatted about the 950. I told him about the 1190, the 1290, my old Hyper, my previous Multi and how much fun the 950 was. He shook my hand and thanked me for confirming his view. They sold at least two “Silk White” Multistrada 950’s with the tubeless spoked wheels right there. It was a good day. I no longer had Orange Fever, it was cured by a healthy dose of Porcelain.
In summary, I actually believe the 950 Multi is a better bike than the 1260 Multi. It is the bike the Multi should have been all along. It’s more Ducati than most of the recent crop of bikes to come out of the Italian factory, although they are all excellent bikes in their own right. Do yourself a favor, go ride one!