KTM 1190 RC8R
Lacking electro-trickery of any kind—no traction control, no power modes, no ABS, manual damping adjusters, and a throttle activated by cables, not wires—KTM’s RC8R is a throwback to the days when men were men and they managed everything using just their hands and feet. What a surprise, then, that the stone-ax KTM, extracting just 145 bhp from its 1195cc, 75-degree V-twin, lapped Chuckwalla faster than the MV Agusta and Kawasaki, and just a half-second behind the monster-motored HP4.
“The KTM is the only bike in this group that doesn’t intimidate you,” Adams explains. With a classic V-twin powerband that prioritizes low- and midrange torque, the KTM comes off corners easily and builds speed in a predictable manner without scaring you like some other bikes. The Brembo Monoblock brakes are similarly friendly, combining strong power with a manageable initial bite.
It takes some laps to adapt to the RC8R’s unique chassis attitude. It’s tall and narrow, and feels utterly unlike the other more compact, center-dense machines. Initially the front end felt high and stiff, demanding strong steering inputs and staying stuck at the top of the stroke. Dropping the triples and reducing preload alleviated this, but the WP 43mm fork still remained somewhat overwhelmed over rough pavement.
At a sensible street pace, however, the KTM is in its element. Engine vibration is minimal, the adjustable ergonomics coddle any rider, and light clutch action coupled with proper gearing and loads of low-end torque make the KTM a capable—even practical—commuter or sport-touring bike.
That might read like damning with faint praise—it isn’t. Lap times prove the KTM can contend, without demanding too many sacrifices from the rider. At $16,499, the RC8R is not exactly cheap, however, and without proven performance and safety adds like traction control and ABS, it’s at an undeniable disadvantage on the dealer floor. But if you desire the unique V-twin character in a versatile package you won’t encounter at every other stoplight, the Austrian machine abides. It was nice to have the RC8R back in the mix—it sat out last year—to remind us what bikes were like before computers took over. But progress is difficult to resist.
With big bones and a wide-open ergonomic triangle, the RC8R was the bike of choice for freeway stints, and with more ergonomic setting options than any other production sportbike, the riding position can be tweaked to accommodate almost anyone. Hand and foot levers are adjustable for reach and angle respectively, and KTM also makes the foot levers length-adjustable too. Additionally, the rearsets are two-position height adjustable and the subframe is, too, letting you easily and effectively alter cornering clearance and the seat-to-footpeg distance as you desire. Up front, the clip-ons offer two height settings, and two angle choices as well.