KTM 790 ADV-R vs BMW F850GS

We have been switching between 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 purpose, 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 Birch told us when we met him at the KTM Adventure Rally Bosnia that he keeps his bike electronics “on”. The minimum setting, but “on”. And this says a lot about 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.

Rent A Ride

Greece is a motorcycle paradise, blessed with majestic scenery and rich ancient history. Our climate is mild and there is almost no probation for riding off-road in amazing routes. Our carefully planned Adventures connect the most important archeological sites with each-other, giving emphasis on the adventure experience while riding through the breathtaking scenery of long mountain ridges, remote dragon lakes and resting under a million stars in isolated hi-planes.

Only when you ride with a local you can see the true face of this country.

While some say that nothing is better than exploring these lands on your trusted motorcycle, this is not always possible. For the biggest part of riders shipping their own motorcycle in Greece for a week or two just doesn’t worth the effort. Should this stop you? Certainly not since you can rent one from us!

We are partners with BMW Motorrad Vagianelis and KTM Mimikos Motorcore, so all of our motorcycles are carefully serviced with the highest standards and certifications available. For On-Road Tours we can provide almost any motorcycle from the GS range, and for Off-Road Tours, we can provide selected options from the LC4 and LC8 range.

ON-ROAD TOURS

BMW R1200GS

BMW F850GS

ON-ROAD / OFF-ROAD TOURS

KTM 790 ADV-R

KTM 690 ENDURO-R

All of our Adventure Tours come with a leading Tour Guide rider and the possibility of a Support Vehicle if required.

Motorcycle Rental Pricelist


MOTORCYCLE

MODEL

1-3

days

4-7

days

Damage

Deposit*

R1200GSA

(APR-MAY)

€160/day €150/day €1000
R1200GSA

(JUN-SEP)

€180/day €170/day €1000
R1200GS

(APR-MAY)

€140/day €135/day €1000
R1200GS

(JUN-SEP)

€160/day €150/day €1000
F850GS

(APR-MAY)

€125/day €120/day €800
F850GS

(JUN-SEP)

€140/day €130/day €800
790R

(APR-MAY)

€140/day €135/day €2500
790R

(JUN-SEP)

€160/day €150/day €2500
690R

(APR-MAY)

€125/day €120/day €1500
690R

(JUN-SEP)

€140/day €130/day €1500
 *Motorcycles used on off-road tracks are not covered by any insurance

Rental Price Includes


All above rental prices include VAT and the following services:

  • 24/7 Road Assistance (valid for BMW motorcycles only)*
  • Unlimited mileage
  • BMW Alarm (valid for BMW motorcycles only)
  • GPS tracking system (valid for BMW motorcycles only)
  • BMW Brake disc lock (valid for BMW motorcycles only)
  • Third-party liability cover by Allianz (valid for BMW motorcycles only)*
  • Full Casco Coverage by Allianz (valid for BMW motorcycles only)*
  • DOT-approved Off-road tires: add €40/day (valid for KTM 690 only)*
  • 15% Discount on any Klim pre-ordered item
  • 10% Discount on any Enduristan pre-ordered item

Extras (Not Included)


There are many additional options that we can provide on-demand in any tour package:

  • DOT-approved Off-road tires: add €40/day
  • Basic Off-road training (1 day): add €200
  • Advanced Off-road training (2 days): add €450
  • Rental of Klim waterproof Gore-Tex Jacket & Pant with D3O protection: add €30/day (Requires €650 refundable damage deposit)
  • Rental of Klim ECE Helmet: add €20/day (Requires €250 refundable damage deposit)
  • Rental of Enduristan 2×30lt saddlebags**: add €30/day (Requires €160 refundable damage deposit)
  • Rental of BMW Vario side panniers***: add €20/day (No damage deposit required)
  • Enduro/MX riding Boots. For any arrangements please contact us.
  • Land Cruiser 4×4 Support Vehicle (for luggage and non-riders): add €400/day dividable to group riders.
 *Not valid for off-road tracks **Enduristan saddlebags can be installed only on motorcycles with pannier frames ***BMW panniers can be installed only on motorcycles without pannier frames

Booking


  1. All BMW GS motorcycle rentals that will be used for on-road only use require a refundable €1000 warranty damage Deposit prior to departure.
  2. All KTM LC8/LC4 motorcycle rentals that are used in mixed or off-road tracks are not covered by any insurance and require a refundable €2500 warranty damage Deposit prior to departure.
  3. For valid insurance coverage, you will require to be over 25 years old and holder of an Internation Drivers license for over 2 years.
  4. For all necessary booking arrangements for our Mythical Routes Tours (hotels, tickets, etc) we will require a non-refundable €1500 Down Payment. If for any reason the tour is canceled by Mythical Routes, this payment is fully refunded.

Get 10-15% off Gear Discount


We are partners with the best adventure gear brands in the world, so with every participant in our tours, we give our clients the option to get the best with our Mythical discounts.

Win an awesome 15% discount on any Klim Pre-Ordered item and 10% discount on any Enduristan Pre-Ordered item

An exclusivity that we offer to our clients, is the option to rent KLiM riding gear from us, or the possibility to buy brand new KLiM riding gear with special discounts. We take riding experience and protection very seriously and with our Discount you can return home with a real bargain! To check all available KLiM models valid for this great offer, please visit KLiM in Greece.

All motorcycles can be equipped upon request with the OEM hard luggage system, or with the best possible luggage solution from Swiss-company Enduristan, like the Monsoon saddlebags and the Pannier Toppers that give a 100% weatherproof space for everything you might need. For a complete list of all available luggage options for purchase or rent, please visit Enduristan in Greece.

KTM 950 Super Enduro R

The KTM 950 Super Enduro R .. how can you describe that beast? The Super Enduro concept was prototyped in 2004-2005 and took it’s final form in 2006. The project was fueled by the ongoing war between KTM and BMW for the construction of the most extreme large cc enduro motorcycle ever created. In 2006 it dominated it’s main adversary, the mighty BMW HP2, and the rest of the competing motorcycles in the Prologue Race of the Erzberg Rodeo 2006. With only 3000 units ever produced and a 100hp twin cylinder engine, it was the Beast Supreme!

Having the KTM 950 Super Enduro R in the garage, you find it difficult to classify it as an “adventure motorcycle” as it looks like most KTM enduro bikes do. Only when you park it next to one, you realize the sky-hi saddle height, the extra long wheelbase and that LC8 beast V2 hiding, not particularly well, under the tank.

The only way it likes to be ridden ..

Having all the positives of it’s 950/990 Adventure brother (minus the wind protection) and with 40kg less weight, it has phenomenal off-road performance. The WP USD Ø 48mm forks and WP monoshock PDS, even in stock form, work much better than the Adventure – even though they are perfect for solo rides. You can not easily adjust the rear spring pre-load for pillion (the shock has to be removed), but it’s not something it is built for. With 265mm of suspension travel it will swallow any obstacle found in it’s way and it is perfect for high speed dirt riding with very quick handling.

The V2 engine is a real dynamite, capable of destroying a rear tire in just a ride and the aggressive riding position instantly puts you in race mode. At every opportunity you want to fully open the throttle and hold on for dear life. You instantly realize that KTM has created the toughest, baddest naked adventure bike of its generation.

It will literally take you anywhere

As we have said many times (Adventure Bikes | What’s Best for you?), “if you can not pick up your bike fully loaded, in any situation, then it is not an adventure bike“. With 180kg dry weight it can reach the 200-220kg territory loaded with everything you need. So, if you have been doing your dead-lifts, you can pick it up with relative ease. It is not featherweight, but it’s nowhere near as heavy as any twin adventure motorcycle out there. The single cylinder 690/701 are lighter, but they will never have THAT engine ..

Adventurizing the Super Enduro

Having a solid off-road platform, I only had to focus into fixing it’s mechanical issues and adjusting it to our travel-enduro needs. With a 950cc twin engine, road sections are covered with ease. I did not want to add a rally screen, since it would transform it into a 950 Adventure with almost the same weight. It would also loose it’s off-road strong point, the ability to enter single-track gnarly trails without having a visor blocking the view in front of you. The KTM 690 screen does the job perfectly. You have a buffet-free ride, without too much air in your chest and with no added weight. Stick to road limits and you can cover distances without much fatigue. It’s not a GS, but it doesn’t weight 350kg either.

Ergonomics are dealt with a set of Rox 2” Pivoting Bar Risers and Pivot Pegz WIDE MK3 Foot Pegs. These make a big difference in comfort. The Rox Risers can be adjusted to position you perfectly over the bars and the Pivot Pegz give you a much wider area to stand on. Another option was the KTM Rally pegs, but having used the pivot pegs in previous builds, I just loved the ease of the pivoting action they provide.

The center stand is a must for any Adventure motorcycle. It is way easier to use it than to search for a rock or a log in the event of a flat tire. It doen’t add too much weight (relative to the bike’s weight) and the KTM 990 S/R center stand fits without any modifications. A true bolt-on upgrade.

Free-riding is fun on the Super Enduro

The only actual poor design of the Super Enduro is the position of the oil tank under the radiator. It is tough and will survive a small hit, partially protected the oem bash plate, but a big crush will move it. Once it moves, it will break your radiator and that’s it, you are stuck! I really did not want to go the oil tank relocation mods way, so I opted for the next best thing: The Adv-Spec Bashplate is super sexy, built like a tank with a 5mm aircraft grade aluminum construction, it will keep weight down while providing plenty of protection. It ads a third fixing point just before the center stand (total 6 fixing bolts instead of the stock 4 bolts) that will prevent any movement from the oil tank. Another usual LC8 issue is the leaking secondary clutch cylinder. A great solution is the Oberon Clutch Slave Cylinder. Once added you forget that LC8s even had that problem.

Last issue is the heat. All you can do is remove the SAS crap and the catalytic converter of the stock mufflers. I fitted the delicious FMF Q4 Slip-On Exhaust, fixed the fueling and that’s it. Except for the sound upgrade, the only reason you install a slip-on exhaust is the weight and heat benefits. The Super Enduro does not lack power .. trust me on that.

Mileage is a bit low. The beast is thirsty and the stock 13 liters of fuel capacity (3.43 gal) don’t help. The first solution that comes in mind is to add a 30lt Safari Tank. If we were located in Africa or Australia this would be my first upgrade, even though the added weight upfront does not help the dynamic characteristics of the bike. If you can reach 230+km of fuel range, you can just make it in Greece. You will always be a bit worried about mileage, but you will eventually reach the next gas station. A great solution is Nenduro’s KTM 950SE Rally Fuel Tank that adds 2+ extra gallons, but requires that you convert to 2 into 1 exhaust to make room for the tank. I actually bought it, but didn’t ever use it, since I am in love with the look of the twin pipes. So, my only solution is the use of the RotopaX Gasoline Packs. They help the SE reach the 230+km of fuel range and look awesome! The Super Enduro does not feature a rack, but that was easy to fix. I installed the 6mm aluminum MWW Luggage Rack (fabricated by Most Wanted Warehouse in Greece).

Luggage System

On our off-road adventure tours we are using exclusively Soft Luggage for a variety of reasons. You can give yourself a read about that in our Hard or Soft Luggage  article.

Maximum volume, minimum weight and 100% weatherproof

With the Mythical 950 Super Enduro we are using Enduristan Sandstorm 4H tankbag to keep our cameras and other electronics safe from water & dust. All of our tools, tubes and heavy items we are using Enduristan Blizzard L Saddle Bags to keep everything safe and maintain a low center of gravity, very important wiyh any tall motorcycle. The saddlebags help much as a bumper when the bike falls and keep it higher, so easier to lift. For the saddle bags we are not using any kind of frame, in order to keep the added weight to a minimum. The LC8’s twin pipes tail is just perfect for this application. The pipes support all the weight and the only modification you will ever need to do is to ad the Enduristan Universal Exhaust Heat Shields.

Last storage item used with the Super Enduro is the Enduristan Tornado 2M Pack Sack, above the RotopaX, straped to the MWW Luggage Rack. We keep very light items here like camp shoes and layers, a Gore Tex soft shell, or a power-bar.

 

* More information about almost all items used to upgrade the KTM can be found here