There’s little doubt that the R feels like a big bike. But that’s big as in tall, rather than portly or lumbering. You sit up high, partly protected by the upright tinted screen, and with the big braceless bars the riding position is reassuringly enduro-like.
Along with the extra 55mm of suspension travel (over the stock bike), the R receives stiffer settings. And this is immediately noticeable, though not in a bad way. The bike feels lithe and sporty (there’s that word again), and for fast smooth riding it’s very precise. The problem comes when you move onto real stop-start twisties. Hard on the brakes, the forks dive down through their stroke and require a smooth release of braking pressure so as not to upset the balance of the bike into the corners.
The standard Adventure has no such worries. Sure, if you’ve spent your time riding sportsbikes or a Telelever’d Beemer then you’ll have to get used to a bit more movement up front, but you don’t have to be anywhere near as smooth as you do with the R, and can ride the 990 in a real point ‘n’ squirt manner.
Despite the 21in front wheel, the handling is pretty rapid and instils a great deal of confidence. With gusts of wind blowing down off the mountains, it was impossible to predict when Mother Nature’s invisible hand would sweep down mid-corner and lift the bike upright. Thankfully, when the bike was pushed towards the Armco all that was needed to get back on course was a touch of counter-steering through those wide bars and a slight shift in body weight.
There’s an abundance of feedback from the WP suspension and a surprising amount of grip from what are essentially dual sport Pirelli Scorpion tyres. Still, given that KTM are keen to push the Adventure as an on-road model, as well as a giant dirtbike, I had to ask why they didn’t fit the basic bike with a 19in front wheel? ‘It doesn’t need it’, came the simple, and somewhat predictable reply. ‘Plus we wanted to keep the bike’s off-road ability.’ Ah yes, the Adventure’s dirt prowess…