We all know that the KTM Adventure bikes come from an off-road gene pool, and have slowly moved closer to the paved side of the world, where most people enjoy riding light, responsive and generously powerful machine, especially equipped with long-travel adjustable suspensions if they ride in a bump-rich environment.
The BMW R800GS created the genre some 25 years ago and almost every major manufacturer has come out with similar machines since then, in various engine sizes and with differing emphasis, from 95%-5% pavement-dirt for the Ducati Multistrada for example, to 30-70 pavement-dirt for early KTM 950 Adventure models, from which came the 2009 990 Adventure we have on long-term loan this summer.
The 2009 990 Adventure
aims to please on both surfaces, after evolving slowly towards pavement compatibility over the past three or four years. For touring purposes, the nice and somewhat wide seat will remain comfortable over 12-hour rides, while the pedals-seat-handlebar relationship lets a 1.8m lad like myself stand up in relative comfort when going over more difficult terrain. The KTM came with dirt-oriented Pirelli Scorpion A/T tires, on a 21-in. front rim - no doubt about where this puppy will behave best. These tires are squirmy but still adequate on pavement, no more, but grippy as all hell on smooth and gravel-covered dirt roads.
My past includes a Bultaco 250 Matador SD, then a succession of Enduro bikes and GSs (800 and two 100s), so I should have known by now how much fun dirt riding can be. But it took one afternoon last weekend aboard the 990, on nice dirt roads just north of Montreal, to really get it. Thinking back on the ride, a few points come to the fore. First, riding a good street bike on good paved roads is fun; riding them on a bad paved road is shite as the suspensions cannot cope with the bumps and allow you to maintain a safe, fun pace. Second, riding a good dirt bike, on good dirt roads, is more fun than either of the above.
OK, I will admit that riding "The Pace"* on mountain roads in Sonoma or in Southern California is incredible, but I do not live there nor are the Alps an easy commute from my house. And when it comes to the famous Appalachia roads like the Blue Ridge Parkway and such, my experience there is that you are too busy driving, as well as watching out for County Mounties and beserkos coming the other way to have any real fun. And besides, creeping around tight corners in first or second gear holds no joy for me. Montrealers can enjoy New-England's rolling hills and smooth roads, much like the Ardennes in Eastern Belgium (Does the name "Spa-Francorchamps" ring a bell?), but I do not like riding at twice the speed limit to get my jollies.