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2020 KTM 790 Adventure R Review MC Commute

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Adventure motorcycles are choice do-it-all solutions for motorcycle riders who want to venture off the beaten path. And for those seeking a lighter and more manageable adventure bike, one with serious off-road chops, KTM presents its 2020 790 Adventure R ($13,699). This R-spec model adds heavy-duty suspension and a few other tweaks designed to make life more accommodating when the going gets rough.

The 2020 KTM 790 Adventure R lives up to its moniker as we find out in this review.
The 2020 KTM 790 Adventure R lives up to its moniker as we find out in this review. (Adam Waheed/)

The R-Spec 790 is powered by KTM’s recently released 799cc LC8c parallel twin. This ultra-compact engine features an unique bottom end setup and engine firing order designed to emulate KTM’s signature 75-degree LC8 V-twin.

The R-spec model trades a height-adjustable two-piece saddle for this fixed seat. It is designed to be easier to maneuver across when riding across treacherous terrain.
The R-spec model trades a height-adjustable two-piece saddle for this fixed seat. It is designed to be easier to maneuver across when riding across treacherous terrain. (Adam Waheed/)

This affords good torque feel off the bottom with upwards of 50 pound-feet torque from 3,500 rpm. Top-end power-wise, the LC8c engine pumps out 85.4 hp at 8,230 rpm. This twin has a pleasing character and exhaust note, with just the right amount of engine vibration. You know you’re at the helm of a KTM. A underslung and generous capacity 5.3-gallon fuel tank feeds the engine and gives a range of nearly 200 miles.

Related: 2019 KTM 790 Duke MC Commute Review

The 790 Adventure R employs a larger-diameter enduro-style fork. It rolls on a 21-inch front wheel shod with Bridgestone’s Battlax Adventurecross AX41 semi-knob rubber.
The 790 Adventure R employs a larger-diameter enduro-style fork. It rolls on a 21-inch front wheel shod with Bridgestone’s Battlax Adventurecross AX41 semi-knob rubber. (Adam Waheed/)

A highly customizable electronics suite lets you tailor the 790’s powertrain from mild to wild. Of the four settings (Street, Off-road, Rain, and Rally), we preferred Rally mode since it offers the most aggressive power delivery. We also valued the ability to independently tweak ABS (Off-road setting was our favorite both on the street and dirt) and the on-the-fly adjustable slip (wheelspin) control. Curiously, heated grips aren’t standard, however the OE-fitted hand guards provide a degree of protection from chilly air.

Related: 2019 KTM 790 Adventure MC Commute Review

Vehicle settings are manipulated through the left-hand-side switch gear. The tactile functionality could be improved.
Vehicle settings are manipulated through the left-hand-side switch gear. The tactile functionality could be improved. (Adam Waheed/)

A 5-inch color TFT display serves as the rider’s command center. While replete with information, menu navigation is clunky and the fonts could be larger. Still we appreciate the ability to activate “dark mode” (white characters on a black background). Bluetooth connectivity is another welcome feature, allowing you to pair your phone and Bluetooth-enabled headset to the motorcycle for on-screen navigation and music control. Still, we hope KTM replaces this older display with the new and ultra-slick setup employed on the 2020 1290 Super Duke R.

In typical KTM spirit, the 790 Adventure R offers a high level of adjustability, both in terms of chassis and electronics.
In typical KTM spirit, the 790 Adventure R offers a high level of adjustability, both in terms of chassis and electronics. (Adam Waheed/)

On the road, we love the 790’s cozy ergonomics package. The cockpit is accommodating for a 6-foot-tall rider and the standard 790 Adventure’s tall clear windscreen wasn’t missed. Instead the R model’s tinted fly screen provides effective protection, even in its lowest setting. The height is adjustable, however it requires an Allen wrench (included in the tailsection’s tool kit).

Related: 2020 KTM 790 Adventure R Rally Preview

The 790 Adventure R employs bold LED lighting that illuminates the road effectively during night rides.
The 790 Adventure R employs bold LED lighting that illuminates the road effectively during night rides. (Adam Waheed/)

More adjustability comes in the form of handlebar position (fore and aft), clutch and brake levers, as well as the rear brake pedal. As opposed to the standard model’s adjustable rider height two-piece seat, the R model uses a fixed single-piece component. This design makes it easier to slide back and forth when navigating challenging terrain.

Ready for adventure. The 790 Adventure rolls on a real off-road-sized 18-inch rear wheel. Note the double-piston rear brake caliper that delivers a high degree of feel when off roading.
Ready for adventure. The 790 Adventure rolls on a real off-road-sized 18-inch rear wheel. Note the double-piston rear brake caliper that delivers a high degree of feel when off roading. (Adam Waheed/)

Suspension-wise the 790 R benefits from a larger-diameter enduro-style Xplor WP fork. In addition to tool-less compression and rebound damping adjusters, the suspension includes a twist-style three-way preload lever, so riders can tweak the spring tension, based on weight, terrain, or riding preference. Handy red wipers visually demonstrate fork travel so you can adjust preload accordingly.

Related: 2020 KTM 790 Adventure R Rally Preview

In addition to independent damping adjustment, the enduro-style WP fork integrates tool-less spring preload adjustment. This allows the rider to tailor front suspension ride height based on preference.
In addition to independent damping adjustment, the enduro-style WP fork integrates tool-less spring preload adjustment. This allows the rider to tailor front suspension ride height based on preference. (Adam Waheed/)

Rear suspension duties are handled by a four-way-adjustable PDS-type shock mounting directly between frame and swingarm. In total the 790 R has 9.4 inches of suspension travel—0.7 inch more than the standard model.

The 470-pound KTM handles beautifully on and off pavement. Simply put, 21-inch front, 18-inch rear wheel-equipped ADV bikes shouldn’t handle this well on asphalt. The suspension glides over rough pavement yet has enough damping support when loaded with the dual radial-mount Brembo front disc brakes. The OE-fitted Bridgestone Battlax Advenurecross AX41 tires have a surprising level of bite against asphalt yet deliver acceptable grip over dry hard-packed surfaces.

The 790 Adventure R is powered by a 799cc LC8c parallel twin. It pumps out usable low-end torque and 85 hp at the business end of the rear Bridgestone.
The 790 Adventure R is powered by a 799cc LC8c parallel twin. It pumps out usable low-end torque and 85 hp at the business end of the rear Bridgestone. (Adam Waheed/)

If there was room for only one motorcycle in the garage, KTM makes a strong argument for that spot. The 790 impresses with its cozy manner around town. Yet when it’s time to gear up and head out of the city it eagerly complies. Factor in its fantastically capable enduro-style suspension and highly customizable electronic and chassis components and you have a practical motorcycle that’s up for most any adventure.

Gear Box

Helmet: Shoei RF-SR

Jacket: Firstgear ADV Air Mesh with Firstgear Heated Vest Liner

Gloves: Firstgear Airspeed Textile

Pant: Alpinestars Copper 2 Denim

Boots: Alpinestars Oscar Monty

2020 KTM 790 Adventure R Technical Specifications And Price

PRICE $13,699
ENGINE 799cc, DOHC, liquid-cooled parallel twin; 8-valve
BORE x STROKE 88.0 x 65.7mm
COMPRESSION RATIO TBD
FUEL DELIVERY Fuel injection
CLUTCH Wet multiplate slipper clutch; cable actuation
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
FRAME Steel trellis
FRONT SUSPENSION 48mm WP inverted fork, three-way adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 9.4-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Sachs gas-charged shock, three-way adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 9.4-in. travel
FRONT BRAKES Radial-mounted 4-piston calipers, 320mm discs w/ Bosch 9.1 MP ABS
REAR BRAKE 2-piston caliper, 260mm disc
WHEELS, FRONT/REAR Die-cast aluminum; 21 x 2.5-in. / 18 x 4.5-in.
TIRES, FRONT/REAR Bridgestone Battlax Adventurecross AX41; 90/90-21 / 150/70-18
RAKE/TRAIL 26.3°/4.3 in.
WHEELBASE 60.2 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 34.6 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 5.3 gal.
CLAIMED CURB WEIGHT 470 lb.
WARRANTY 12 months or 12,000 miles
AVAILABLE February 2020
A heavy-duty PDS-style shock attaches directly between frame and swingarm, sans linkage. The shock offers four-way adjustment and 8.4 inches of travel.
A heavy-duty PDS-style shock attaches directly between frame and swingarm, sans linkage. The shock offers four-way adjustment and 8.4 inches of travel. (Adam Waheed/)A 5-inch color display keeps tabs on machine vitals. However the fonts could be larger and the menu navigation is clunky. We hope KTM replaces it with the new and super-slick 1290 Super Duke R’s dash.
A 5-inch color display keeps tabs on machine vitals. However the fonts could be larger and the menu navigation is clunky. We hope KTM replaces it with the new and super-slick 1290 Super Duke R’s dash. (Adam Waheed/)You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more versatile motorcycle than KTM’s fabulous 790 Adventure R.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more versatile motorcycle than KTM’s fabulous 790 Adventure R. (Adam Waheed/)The 790 Adventure R has an inviting cockpit that’s well setup for touring and around-town riding.
The 790 Adventure R has an inviting cockpit that’s well setup for touring and around-town riding. (Adam Waheed/)

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