Sabie, Mpumalanga – The KTM 1050 Adventure, released in South Africa at the same time as its flagship sibling the 1290 Super Adventure, takes the company’s touring ethos down an altogether different road.
Where the 1290 is hugely powerful, superbly well-equipped and luxuriously appointed, the 1050, at little more than half the price, is the entry-level offering in KTM’s long-haul line-up. Yet it delivers almost the same big-hearted V-twin muscle in a lighter, nimbler package, with fewer bells and whistles, far less sophisticated suspension and a simpler electronics suite.
The weight difference isn’t much in absolute terms - about 17kg not counting the weight of the fuel in the tank - but most of it is high up on the bike, where the perceived effect is much greater. The 1050’s cast wheels are also a little lighter than the wider, spoked wheels on the Big Gun with their heavier tyres, significantly reducing unsprung weight and thus sharpening handling.
The engine is based on that of the mid-range 1190 and 1190 R, with bore and stroke reduced from 105 x 69mm to 103 x 63mm for a true 1050cc, a smaller airbox and re-mapped ECU, to deliver 70kW and 107Nm, compared to the 1190’s 110kW and 125Nm. That sounds like a lot, but in fact the smaller bike has almost the same outputs up to the point where the 1190’s power curve steepens above 6000rpm, so around town and through the tight twisties of Mpumalanga there’s not much in it. Give it a reasonable straight, however, and it’s as if the bigger bike has an extra cog - or two! - in its gearbox.
Nevertheless, the 1050 revs sweetly up to its power peak at 6200rpm and way beyond - I never actually found the rev-limiter - with surprisingly little vibration for a litre-class 75 degree V-twin and well-damped but accurate control from the ride-by-wire electronic throttle.
Coupled with a crisp-as-fresh-lettuce gearshift and a tall top gear, it also has long (220km/h) legs when given enough space to get its groove on. It runs rock steady in a straight line, although it will give you a slow, disapproving headshake - more in warning than in misbehaviour - on long, bumpy sweepers.
I suspect that’s partly due to the bike’s long-travel 43mm WP front suspension; without any form of adjustment, it is essentially a compromise, and a remarkably effective one at that. The rear WP monoshock is tuneable for preload and rebound damping, although to move too far from the factory’s median settings could invite the sort of mismatched chassis set-up that gave early multi-adjustable dampers a bad name.
Seat height is low for an adventure tourer at 850mm, as is the rear carrier, so you’re less likely to crack a knee-cap on the grab rails when you swing a leg over it. The one-piece seat isn’t adjustable for height, but has the same ‘orthopaedic’ foam as its more luxurious siblings.
The ergonomics are well-nigh perfect out of the box, with 10mm of fore-and-aft movement available on the handlebar risers, the same on the footpegs and five-way reach adjustment on the hand levers for fine tuning. The screen is also hand-adjustable over 25mm.
Probably the only visible evidence of the budget restraints on the whole bike are the mirrors – plain, round aftermarket items rather than the fancy trapezoidal shapes on the rest of the range – but they work just as well and will be easier to replace if necessary.
The one-piece instrument pod by VDO looks just the same as that of the upmarket variants, but with far fewer options, based on ABS (On, Off or an optional Offroad setting, in which it works on the front wheel only) and Traction Control, which can be set to Rain (early intervention and minimum slippage on wet roads) Street, Sport (which allows a perceptible rear-wheel spin before interfering), Offroad (optional) which will allow the rear wheel to turn twice as fast as the front for rear rooster-tails on dirt roads, and Off, which means exactly what it says.
In addition, the info page will display the oil or ambient temperature, onboard voltage, one or both tripmeters, average speed, average or current fuel-consumption, range or the distance to the next service.
It’s all very straightforward, as is the rest of the bike’s no-frills persona, making it a confidence-building package. I was able to maintain impressive (by my conservative standards, anyway) point-to-point averages on the launch ride, over roads I don’t know very well - which is a strong plus point on a bike that’s intended to take you to places you’ve never been before.
At R139 999, it’s arguably the best all-rounder in the range, versatile enough to be a better than fair commuter as well as a kick-ass weekend hooligan tool.