2004-2006 KTM 950 Adventure - Smart Money - MC Garage

Smart Money

You ache for an inspirational Euro-spec V-twin, the connubial loan officer wants to go touring, and it'd be nice to get dirty now and again. But there's not enough cash or garage space to accommodate three motorcycles. A nice, clean KTM 950 Adventure just might fit. For those with at least 34 inches of inseam, it carries enough omni-surface credibility and capability to do just about anything.

Those 89 horses at 8000 rpm won't impress R1 pilots, but the chassis lets you use every one. Weighing in right at 500 pounds with a full 5.8-gallon tank, a healthy example covers a quarter-mile in about 11.6 seconds at about 113 mph. Adjust to the relatively soft, long-travel suspension and it sets the sort of backroad pace few pur sang sportbikes can match. The whole package is skewed further toward the dirt side than an equivalent BMW GS, but it's lighter, faster and considerably more athletic on or off the pavement.

No hair-shirt ergonomics here. The seat is slim and firm, a painful combination if yours isn't. Otherwise, racking up 500 miles worth of the surface du jour between breakfast and dinner is no sweat. With hard bags and a GPS you can kiss civilization goodbye on the cheek for a week or three. Commuting? It's like bringing an M60 to a knife fight: perfect.

Instrumentation is a bit primitive. Paint and decals look ragged after some rough stuff. Meanwhile, lessons learned on the international rally circuit help us all. You can unbolt either side of the split fuel tank for wrenching instead of wrestling the whole thing off, and the air filter comes out without touching either one. Such regular maintenance is a really good idea here.

The 60-degree, eight-valve twin is fundamentally steadfast, though there are chinks in the Austrian's armor. The finicky 43mm CV carburetors came with lean jetting that's difficult to get exactly right. According to Don Lemelin, who has sold more of the beasts than most from his shop, Scuderia West (www.scuderia.com) in San Francisco, the water pump can go south. "They don't use a mechanical seal," he says, "so the shaft will wear out over time, usually between 15,000 and 20,000 miles." Water pump problems can be tough to spot from the outside, but if the coolant recovery tank is low or dry, start asking questions. A dying fuel pump can make the bike feel like it's running out of gas. A noisy starter means the Bendix-bit is on the outs. Watch for rusty spokes and dinged rims as well. Otherwise? A diligent owner should have sorted through most annoyances, but have all promising VIN numbers run through the local KTM dealer's computer to make sure. Best bet? A clean, mid-year '05. The stepped seat and wider rear wheel will tip you off.

A superbike for those of us who don't stick to pavement.

Not for the short, the unforgiving or the mechanically disinclined.

Watch For
Impotent water and/or fuel pumps, rusty spokes, corroded electrical connectors, calamitous starter noise.

Sportier than BMW's Boxer, the Austrian omnivore would rather go fast than go long.

$9145 (2004)
$9890 (2005)
$10,735 (2006)