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2009 KTM 990 Adventure Long-Term 2


by Marc Cantin ,

A mountain bike -- that's the very first impression I got as I straddled this baby. I left my German-born everyday hero (a 2006 BMW R1200GS) in the garage and took off with this Austrian dirt queen. Despite these two countries being neighbours, the contrast couldn’t be more striking.

The KTM 990 Adventure proves to be a very enjoyable two-wheeler -- simple, capable and easy to live with.

First, let’s talk about one of my favourite attributes: simplicity. There are no braking aids on the KTM 990 Adventure (ABS or Brake Assist). You won’t find traction control, an onboard computer, a tire pressure gauge, push-button suspension adjustments or any kind of fancy stuff, either.

Yet, this enduro-type machine has qualities aplenty, including more than adequate brakes (albeit limited on pavement by the multi-purpose tires), true KTM-style fairings that prove highly effective at 120 km/h and beyond, a straight-up riding position that’s perfect for me along with ideally-wide handlebars.

Riding the 990 Adventure involves instincts more than conscious physical effort. Instead of a "big" 990-cc V-twin, the engine feels more like a 650-cc single-cylinder. This time around, I rode exclusively on asphalt, where the Pirellis performed admirably. The tread in the front rubber, similar to a snow tire’s, changes shapes upon attacking corners and creates a bit of understeer -- it's always predictable but it impedes performance at the limit. Nothing major, but a definite price to pay for the much-vaunted grip on dirt.

After falling in love with the chassis of the 990 Adventure, I realized that the engine was the most impressive component. With 105 capable and spirited ponies, this bike hauls… provided that you stay above 3,000 rpm. The low weight certainly helps a lot here, but the 990 is still super fun to ride on the road. At lower revs in the city, the powerplant feels somewhat grumpy as its relatively-high compression ratio translates into significant variations in the rational speed of the crankshaft, which results in jerky action or bucking if your prefer. Therefore, you have to use the first gear which, fortunately, is long enough for this type of urban riding. Ultimately, this prolific, fairly high-strung mill feels way more at ease attacking than cruising.

I realized that the engine was the most impressive component.
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