What has two cylinders, 161 horsepower and makes Ducati very nervous?
Razor-sharp creases in signal-orange bodywork are your first clue. A twincam 75-degree V-twin is your second. The answer could only come from KTM's Austrian works. Astute readers will recall the RC8 concept bike floating around the show circuit a few years ago. But as of the 65th EICMA show in Milan, KTM's first bona-fide Superbike has made the jump frm hot air to cold, production reality. Or at least it will very soon.
Though it's derived from the familiar 999cc LC8 lump that powers its sister Adventure and Supermoto models, this 1148cc version is a new, more powerful beast. Bigger 103 x 69mm cylinders housing 12.5:1-compression pistons are fed by 52mm Keihin throttle bodies, and according to the latest press propaganda crank out 161 horses at 10,000 rpm-essentially identical to a Ducati 1098's peak output. Interesting, eh?
Mattighofen and Bologna prefer a lattice of steel tubes to aluminum spars when it comes to welding up a Superbike skeleton. At 56.3 inches, the RC8's wheelbase is the same as a 1098's as well. But steering geometry-23.3 degrees of rake and 3.5-3.6 in. of trail- suggests a more flickable demeanor. Factor in a 4.4-gal. tankful of super-unleaded and other essential fluids on top of KTM's advertised 414-lb. dry heft and you're right on top of the 1098's 443-lb. wet weight. Judging by such preliminary data, the inevitable shootout should be close.
Rolling stock is world-class as well. A 43mm WP fork handles front suspension chores, followed by a suitably adjustable WP shock out back, cued from above by an intriguing linkage. Radial-mount Brembo front brake calipers slow the proceedings via a pair of 320mm floating rotors. Ergonomic adjustments include a pivoting subframe that sets seat height at 31.7 or 32.5 in.
The only tangible negative in all of this is time, as in you'll have to wait. KTM USA will introduce the RC8 along with the rest of the '09 lineup at its dealer show in August. Any guess as to when actual bikes will materialize in showrooms or what they'll cost would be exactly that at this point, so stay tuned.