The thoughtful KTM technicians dropped the bars, raised the footpegs and firmed up the suspension for our track sessions. The result behaved quite well-and even better with a couple clicks of rebound damping in the 43mm WP fork. The added stability up front let me make the most of those four-pot Brembo Monobloc radial front brake calipers, which grip their 320mm discs with enormous force; slightly less than the Ducati 1098's similar stoppers, which may be a good thing on the road.
Pitching the RC8 into a long, second-gear left-hander with a concrete wall looming a few feet away, I was reassured by the tenacious Pirelli radials and generous cornering clearance. The chassis is equally impressive in faster turns, holding its line and barely shaking its head, even with the adjustable, transverse-mounted WP steering damper dialed back to offer minimal resistance.
Fairing design has evolved since the first '03 prototype. Large vertical slots in its flan
How the RC8 fares compared to the 1098 and other twins such as Aprilia's RSV1000R and Buell's 1125R remains to be seen, but based on this evidence it won't be far off. Perhaps the most revealing commentary on the RC8 came that evening when I asked a group of fellow moto-journalists if they'd take one as their own over the slightly more expensive Ducati 1098. Roughly half said they would-and most of the rest were undecided.
Still, this much is clear even now: The RC8 is key to the extraordinary rise of a company on course to produce over 100,000 bikes this year after having built fewer than 7000 in 1992, when the bankrupt firm was taken over by current boss Stefan Pierer. KTM invested roughly $14 million in the RC8 project, with 40 engineers working 30 months, blowing up more than 50 engines on the dyno and over 30,000 miles on the road aboard each prototype. That's what it takes to create a cutting-edge sportbike from scratch.
Was it worth it? Whether your primary venue is road, track or some combination thereof, Austria's ultimate sporting V-twin merits a slot near the top of anyone's short list.
Hard Parts The Uber-Twin Undressed
The RC8 retains the same basic tubular-steel format KTM has used since the original 950 Adventure. Tubes precisely matched to their respective jobs help keep the structure light, and the engine is employed as a fully stressed member. The compact powerplant leaves room for a long aluminum swingarm to maximize rear-wheel grip and stability. Bolt-on alloy plates connect frame tubes to mounting points on both heads. The aluminum subframe pivots at the front to allow seat height to be varied by .8-inch, while the position of the handlebars, footpegs and controls can all be fine-tuned.
Basic architecture is familiar, but this second-generation 75-degree, eight-valve, liquid-cooled V-twin borrows little more than a few gears from its predecessor. The 103 x 69mm cylinders add up to 1148cc and an alleged 155 bhp at 10,000 rpm-30 bhp more than the 999cc Super Duke. The latest dry-sump design incorporates an integrated oil tank, yet at 141 lbs. is no heavier than the old 999cc lump. Vertical slots flanking the stacked headlights feed a pair of 52mm Keihin throttle bodies, while redesigned cylinder heads set compression at 12.5:1. A Controller Area Network conveys electronic data throughout the bike. The 1190 designation leaves room for a 1200cc RC8R for World Superbike competition.
The 48mm WP inverted fork offers 4.7 in. of travel and all the usual adjustments, while the shock allows 4.9 in. of travel and is adjustable for high- and low-speed compression and rebound damping as well as spring preload. A crafty eccentric adjuster in the rear linkage-located above the shock rather than below-makes changing ride height much easier than most contemporary arrangements.
Wheels And Brakes
RC8 rolling stock is all relatively conventional high-end sportbike stuff. Both five-spoke aluminum wheels are shod with sticky Pirelli Dragon Supercorsa Pro radials. Brembo braking hardware is equally hard-core: a pair of four-piston Monobloc calipers up front, followed by a two-piston pincher out back. If that's not erotic enough for you, the KTM accessory catalog will offer a selection of sexier bits to sweeten up the equation.