KTM 790 ADV-R vs BMW F850GS

We have been riding KTM and BMW for the last 15 years and have owned most of their motorcycle milestones. Even though most of these motorcycles are great for all-round purposes, one always stood out for pure adventure riding, so

the bet was to find a genuine replacement for the KTM 990 Adventure R, the best twin-cylinder adventure motorcycle ever created.

Join our Central Greece Adventure for an epic trip, testing in real-life adventure conditions the brand new KTM Adventure 790 R head to head against it’s best rival today, the BMW F850GS Rally and KTMs most hardcore incarnation yet, the KTM 950 Super Enduro R.

BMW F850GS Rally


Last year we switched back to BMW and it’s brand new F850GS Rally, the best-suited model for our needs. Its 21″ front wheel, relatively lightweight and use of chain instead of shaft drive made it ideal for off-road adventure. We wanted something easy to ride, comfortable enough and able to carry our luggage. Also, since we ain’t getting any younger, cruise control, heated grips and electronic assistance were welcome. We also installed the optional BMW rally pegs since the OEM are not suited for riding in a standing position and AltRider 1” bar risers to help handle the many kilometers in standing position.

The twin BMW inline engine of the F850GS operates flawlessly and performs exactly how an adventure motorcycle engine should. It delivers enough torque to wheelie when it is required and produces minimal vibration, contrary to BMWs boxer engines. Brakes are fairly good with strong initial bite and can handle very well the excess heat generated in adventure riding conditions. The rear brake has an excellent feeling and in the “Enduro Pro” mode helps ride the motorcycle with controlled slides while keeping the ABS on for the front system.

The F850GS is a fantastic motorcycle to ride on the tarmac and feels like a proper street bike making you feel very safe. It is stable in all speeds, has moderate wind protection but zero helmet buffeting and is one of the most comfortable bikes we have ever ridden, with the optional comfort seat. It also features a nice quick shifter system, with a not so nice feeling of the gear lever, and a full off-road electrics package called “Enduro Pro” that helps you ride fast and safe.

When riding the middleweight beemer off-road in a seated position, or with slow sub 45km/h speeds, it performs flawlessly. Once you get excited and start asking for more the GS starts showing its various construction limitations with the lack of a proper suspension being the most notable. The front suspension keeps bottoming out as soon as you hit something hard, making the need for engine protection a true necessity since it keeps hitting every extruding rock. We addressed that with the built-as-a-tank construction of an AltRider skid plate.

A second side effect of the same problem is that even though it feels comfortable at low speeds, as soon as speed rises above 50-60 km/h every generated force is poorly damped and directed to the entire front system and your wrists. Another suspension problem emerger when the terrain became hard with planted rocks and the ESA equipped GS makes it impossible to find traction because of its very slow, non-adjustable, rebound setting.

In our opinion, if BMW had raised the bar on the F850GS suspension system we would be talking about a completely different motorcycle, very suited for all purposes and possible best adventure middleweight contender. It kind of reminds us of the HP2 Enduro that had the geometry characteristics to be a Super Enduro rival but is stock form was seriously lacking in suspension.

KTM 790 Adventure R


After owning almost everything in the legendary LC8 range, from the touring-oriented 950/990 Adventure to the radical 950 Super Enduro we were eager to find out if the 790 would win where the 1090/1290 failed: to become a true successor of the 990, the benchmark in twin-cylinder adventure motorcycles. For 2019-2020 we have ordered a couple of KTM 790 Adventure R since we were pretty confident that the ingredients for success were there. The brand new 790R is behaving completely different from what it looks and it is the first time an adventure bike ever looked that weird!

Our 790R is fitted with almost every available from the KTM Power Parts and we added the AltRider 1″ bar raisers and swapped the pegs for a set of 3″ wide PivotPegs for added rider comfort. We also turned the upper handlebar clamps 180 degrees to move our shoulders in a more relaxed angle for standing up position. An issue we had with the KTM right out the box is with the fuel level indicator not working properly, hopefully, fixable with some future software update.

Also if you are using the S model taller screen as we did, the bike gets higher overall wind protection, but helmet buffeting is very annoying, so we ended using the stock smaller R screen. Nevertheless, the F850GS has a cleaner helmet airflow.

The ergonomic characteristics of the 790R are great since you fell “on” the motorcycle and not trapped “in” the motorcycle as per all GS designs. Only weird thing is that the position of the footpegs is a bit back from its ideal position, so you keep adjusting your foot every time you place it on the pegs. A possible reason for this is that your toes keep touching the lower part of the tank, especially if you are an 11+ US size boot.

Another issue with the 790 design is that the rear side fenders that hold the tools are some made from some sort of thermoplastic and when riding with the added weight of soft saddlebags rested on them, they become loose. As a matter of fact, in our 3 days tour, one side came apart from the bike while riding.

Riding the 790R KTM on road, the front high fender produces some tremble on the bars and the motorcycle wobbles after 150km/h with the std Metzeler Karoo 3. From the first few kilometers, the KTM feels super stiff and stopped to check the std suspension setting that the bike was delivered with. Our goal is to find the perfect long-distance adventure motorcycle and not some rally replica. The std setting was adjusted to comfort setting and immediately the 790R felt more friendly both on and off the road.

The geometry of the 790R is super crisp and you could say that it is a 950 Super Enduro with some specs from 950-990 Adventure. Typically KTM, power and throttle response was there to help you pass anything on your way. You simply open the gas and orange magic makes all obstacles disappear! Even though this is the first parallel-twin adventure motorcycle for KTM, and even though it lacks its ancestor’s engine displacement, it will be hard for any V-Twin like the 1090R and 1190R to escape it when ridden hard on gravel roads. Of course, when talking brute power, the Super Enduro will easily outrun it on a drag race.

The suspension is typical KTM. Perfect and precise transforming any gravel road to smooth tarmac. It’s better than the old std 950/990, but not as precise as the 990R was. Travel isn’t much, for KTM standards, but it’s enough. KTM electronics work and in the 790R work very well. As per engine management, there are many settings to choose from, but when chaced by two Super Enduros, maybe you should stick to “Rally Mode”. Even though electronically aided riding is the only way forward, many KTM purists insist that it takes all the fun away.

Talking to a Belgian friend about the 790R Rally mode and the 9 levels of engine management, he replied that his beloved Super Enduro has only two modes: full gas or no gas! He did order whatsoever one of the first European limited production 790R Rally models, so we will be making a future test of the updated suspension kit. Regarding electronics, even Chris told us when we met him at the KTM Adventure Rally Bosnia that electronics are the future of adventure motorcycles.

Conclusions


Riding both bikes on the tarmac has a similar feeling since both bikes feel light and agile. Both feel too small for your average north European rider (I am 1.88m tall) and for tarmac-only riding we would rather choose their bigger equivalents.
Comfort-wise there is no doubt that the F850GS wins any day and this is simply because it is excessively soft. You will get diving under heavy braking on both motorcycles, but except for the R1200/1250GS, there no other way to get soft suspension settings and avoid diving under braking or heavy acceleration. KTMs electronically assisted try on this with the anti-dive system on the 1290T simply never worked well.

On the other hand, when road conditions deteriorate or when you start asking for more than mere transportation, then the orange beast leaps away howling at the mountains. Then you get reminded that the “ready to race” motto is more than a catchword.

The last thing to consider is history if anyone is interested in that in an age where we keep swapping motorcycles faster than helmets. If the KTM 790, rumored to become an 890 next year, make such a long-lasting impact as the 950/990 did remains to be seen. The miderange BMW, on the other hand, will not last in time, since it is always growing under the heavy shadow of a bigger brother. BMW is aware of this and maybe this is the reason for their sudden change of motorcycle choice for the GS Trophy 2020. Maybe this is an effort to make the midrange parallel-twin a true protagonist in BMWs future.

We will be sticking with both brands for the near future, using them more according to their design. Time to go back for another Mythical Routes adventure.

Featured Gear


All BMW and KTM motorcycles featured in this article are the property of Mythical Routes, so there is no sponsoring involved in our review.
All Klim, Enduristan, and AltRider equipment featured in this article is provided by Most Wanted Warehouse, sales agents of all the above brands in Greece.

KLiM Badlands Pro

I was planning for our next Mythical Routes tracking ride when the new 2018 KLIM Badlands Pro showed up in the office. What a great timing, I thought. This year’s first ride will be with brand new gear! Packed the old Super Enduro and headed to Mount Parnitha for a first ride in the new suit to see how it stands against our current 2017 KLIM Badlands suits.

As soon as I tried the pants, the fit improvements are obvious. It has a looser fit than the previous Badlands and the second top strap (above the knee) has been eliminated. That strap was something that was always bugging me with the old Badlands. That top strap, even fully loose, was pulling and squeezing my thigh every time I sat on the bike. Now that it’s gone, the pants are much more comfortable. Another nice improvement is the bigger size of the pants hem. My MX boots fit perfectly and the pant zipper closes without any effort. The jacket has an almost identical fit with the old one, with just a little more room at the belly area.

Ice and snow are ideal conditions for a great test ride

One thing that strikes you as soon as you use the new suit is the extra protection added with the all new KLIM® D3O® AERO PRO Armor. With 44% more coverage, these things are huge! You really feel the upgrade here. On top of that they ventilate 5 times better due to their innovative design.

One of the key components of the Badlands series was the enhanced protection provided by Superfabric® extreme abrasion panels placed on the highest abrasion zones. These panels were first used at the Adventure Rally and then inherited to the previous Badlands. The new upgraded panels feature variable density fabric that provides a combination of free movement and extreme resistance. The new panels are also larger in total area thus providing an upgraded abrasion protection.

Built and backed up by KLiM’s legendary name and warranty

KLIM has always used motorsports-exclusive GORE-TEX® 3-Layer Pro Shell technology for all previous Badlands incarnations, so waterproofness and breathability was never an issue. No change here for the new model. We feel 100% sure, as with all previous models, that it will withstand all weather conditions and we will always arrive safe and dry, wherever the trail brings us.

Ventilation was always one of Badlands strong points, better even than the legendary KLIM Adventure Rally that we have used extensively in the past. The positioning of the majority of vents have no variation from the previous model, which already worked just about perfect. The new jacket eliminates the lateral vents and replaces them with two front ones, just below the chest. This new configuration should work even better than the previous model, but given the cold we faced during the ride, we did not use the intake vents much. Maybe in the near future we will make a review of the venting system, once the weather becomes warmer once again.

Tan colorway blends perfectly with Greek National Forest colors

Ventilation is also enhanced, due to the use of the new dynamic D3O AERO PRO armor’s open structure. Airflow can now move completely through the best armor in the industry, protecting but also cooling the body by expelling heat at all speeds.
Furthermore the use of KLIM engineered KLIMATEK COOL base layer cooling fabric into the armor pockets, utilizes chemical-free moisture transfer and cool evaporation technology that does not wear out over time. The result is a fabric with hyper-wicking properties that is cooling your skin.

We focus only in the trail ahead and let our gear worry about the weather..

The only issue we had with the new Badlands Pro is the design of the rear cargo pocket. KLIM eliminated the top zipper and replaced it with two lateral zippers. In theory it should work better being easier to reach, but given the lower volume of the pocket, we had trouble storing the exact same items that we used to store in the previous model.

Updates are everywhere for the all-new 2018 Badlands Pro

Is this the perfect Adventure suit? If you had to find the one suit that does it all, from Adventure to Off-road to Touring and everything in-between, this would be it. We said the exact same thing for the previous Badlands model, but this is just the confirmation of how well engineered and executed the Badlands concept has always been. This 2018 new model is a true successor of the Badlands legacy and the key reasons are:

  1. it features the best protective armor produced to date, matching – or even surpassing – the Adventure Rally. That is a statement on it’s own.
  2. it is 100% weatherproof without sacrificing breath-ability. It will keep you dry and comfortable day after day.
  3. it features heavy-duty abrasion resisting fabrics without being too heavy. Weight feels almost identical to the previous model, even with the added weight of the larger protective pads.
  4. it is full of features and pockets and zippers and everything to make your life easier, without being too flashy.
  5. it features kidney belt and chest protector, as any real Adventure suit should feature. Being hit in the chest by a stone is no joke.
  6. it features increased low-light visibility without the need to use Hi-Vis colors, so “I don’t want to get dirty” is not an excuse anymore for those that opted for the Hi-Vis color.
  7. it has more venting ports than I can remember, better placed than the previous models and much more than any other waterproof adventure suit that we have ever used.
  8. it is backed up by KLiM’s legendary name and KLiM’s warranty system that works every time.

We really couldn’t be happier with this year’s Badlands Pro. Now, let’s get dirty !!

KLiM Badlands

Adventure Riding is one of the most demanding applications for motorcycle clothes. They have to perform in many different and often contradictory conditions. They need to be 100% waterproof without the ridiculous habit of requiring a vinyl overcoat, yet they need to be able to breath in warm weather. They have to be able to withstand impact with rocks, tarmac and whatever the road brings your way, yet they have to be in a relatively light so that you can wear them comfortably for 11+ hours per day – every day.

This year we have both switched from the KLiM Adventure Rally to the KLiM Badlands and our thoughts are very positive. The new Badlands feels very light, lighter than the old Badlands Pro and much lighter than the Adventure Rally. As a matter of fact you feel very impressed and puzzled with such a weight difference.

The D3O T5 EVO Pro XT protective pads are smaller in thickness that the Adventure Rally’s equivalent XERGO pads, but they remain thick enough to provide you with the necessary protection. After all they are bigger than anything else provided in the market today (except of the ones used at the Adventure Rally).

KLIM Badlands in its natural environment

In this new Badlands, KLiM added Superfabric (since only the Adventure Rally used to feature it). This stuff really works! I took a 80+km tarmac slide on my Adventure Rally and after I washed it, I could not see any scrape marks on it at all. Crazy stuff.

Ventilation is an area that the Badlands surpasses the Adventure Rally (and the previous Badlands Pro). It’s not just the number of vents, but the position that they are placed and the extra room you have inside the suit in comparison with a same size Adventure Rally. They just work fantastic. Even the side intake vents of the pant, though they look the same, bring much more air inside the pants. Yes, this is a Mediterranean-hot-summer Adventure Suit as well!

Hydration wise, like the old model’s there is an internal dedicated back-pocket to add a hydration bladder and works great, but if you have used the Adventure Rally’s external hydration pocket + internal harness for weigh distribution, you kind of miss it when you add more than 1,5lt (max is 3lt).

Fit is way better than the previous Badlands Pro and you could even describe it as “European Fit”. Feels comfortable even when you wear it all day long.

The Perfect Suit

If you had to find the perfect Adventure Suits, the one that is protective but not over-built, tough but also light, totally waterproof but breathable, this would be the one. If you could only have one suit for everything, from Adventure to Off-road to Touring riding and everything in-between, this would be it. And the reason is:

  1. it features big protective armor without being overkill
  2. it is 100% weatherproof without sacrificing breath-ability
  3. it features heavy-duty fabrics like the Superfabric without being heavy
  4. it is full of features without being too flashy
  5. it features kidney belt and chest protector for when you might need them
  6. it features increased low-light visibility without the need to use Hi-Vis colors
  7. it has more venting ports than you can remember
  8. it is backed up by KLiM’s legendary name and warranty

In order to be a real World Traveler, your gear must be ready for anything.

Updates are everywhere

Badlands features

  • improved comfort and fit
  • new Gore-Tex® 3-layer pro shell material on main body reduces weight without sacrificing durability/weatherproofness
  • Gore-Tex® 3-layer pro shell talisman superfabric® abrasion-resistant material on shoulders, elbows and forearm shrug off abrasion
  • easier hydration bladder access
  • jacket-to-pant zipper has been standardized (40cm) which enables users to zip different new pants and jackets together
  • new collar fit for greater coverage and comfort
  • collar can snap back to allow for more ventilation
  • custom tpu zipper pulls, pocket flap grips and zipper garages
  • hypalon headphone access port
  • shortened wrist gaiter for increased comfort
  • additional venting ports on outer chest—10 ports total
  • improved cuff material resists wear
  • arm vent storm flaps feature a more secure closure and opening system while providing higher levels of weatherproof construction
  • improved venting via easier-to-access side chest ports and lower body vents
  • refined armor placement and new exterior adjustment straps keep limb armor in place
  • guaranteed to keep you Dry®
  • Gore-Tex® 3-layer pro laminate technology
  • Gore-Tex® pro laminates—the most breathable, most durable motorsports shell construction available
  • high-mobility active fit patterning for unmatched comfort
  • Gore-Tex® 3-layer pro shell material on main body
  • Gore-Tex® 3-layer pro shell talisman superfabric® abrasion-resistant material on shoulders, elbows and forearm
  • Gore-Tex® 3-layer pro shell armacor™ material on back, chest and waist pockets
  • pre-curved arm and rider positioning construction
  • Gore-Tex® stretch back/shoulder panels minimize restriction of movement
  • 3M scotchlite™ industrial grade reflective materials on panels and trim for increased low-light visibility
  • Velcro® brand fasteners adjustable wrist closures
  • forearm and bicep sleeve adjustment straps
  • vt10 YKK® Vislon® aquagard water resistant zippers
  • D3O™ T5 Evo pro XT elbow and shoulder pieces included (exceed level 1 ce certification for pren1621-1:2011 testing)
  • D3O™ Viper pro back piece (exceeds level 2 ce certification for en1621-2 testing)
  • siliconized spacer mesh front chest armor
  • adjustable armor pockets for refined armor placement
  • 7 external pockets* [2 chest, 2 waist, spot pocket on left chest, id/licence pocket on left forearm one large storage pocket on exterior back]
  • four internal pockets + one hidden interior passport pocket [2 zippered, 2 mesh stash, 1 hidden)
  • waterproof internal pocket
  • hydration bladder compartment and internal hose route (bladder not included)
  • removable and adjustable kidney belt jacket-stabilizing support system
  • bottom hem adjustment
  • jacket-to-pant zipper integration system
  • 4 sleeve adjustment straps
  • lined comfort collar
  • moisture-wicking mesh comfort liner
  • velcro® wrist closures
  • key fob: yellow clip attached to shock cord in top of chest pockets
  • 2 chest, 2 side, 2 biceps and 2 forearm intake vents
  • 2 vertical back exhaust vents

* More information about KLiM Badlands here