KTM 790 R and Yamaha T7 / 700XTZ Ténéré: Are Hardcore, Adventure-Rally Motorcycles Finally Coming to Market?

Are you ready to acquire, right off the showroom floor, a light weight, twin-cylinder, hardcore adventure motorcycle? Something that you can take on a long adventure ride but which you can also engage on a rally-style ride if you so desire?

Yamaha T7: will it be the first to deliver a true adventure-rally machine?

Ladies and gentlemen, I think we are closer than ever to finally have this option available.  I’m not telling anything new here, we all know Yamaha and KTM have officially informed they are working on adventure motorcycles that are light and built for the off-road.  We also know these two companies are serious when it comes to designing and producing adventure or dual purpose motorcycles.  Therefore, there’s hope at least one of these two bikes, hopefully both of them, will be what we’ve been waiting for a long time.

One of these bikes is the Yamaha 700XTZ Ténéré, based on the T7 concept Yamaha presented at EICMA 2016.

2018 or 2019 Yamaha Ténéré XTZ700

The other is the KTM 790 R, or adventure, which will be built around the new 800cc parallel twin motor developed for the KTM 790 Duke, presented at EICMA 2016 as a concept.

2018 or 2019 KTM 790 Adventure or R

The names I’m using for the Yamaha (700XTZ Ténéré) and the KTM (790 R) are educated guesses based on how these companies have named their bikes in the past. T7, the official name of the Yamaha concept, an obvious short version for Ténéré 700, could as well become the official name of the production motorcycle.  I assume the KTM will have an R or SE R (super enduro) version of this adventure model.  The “R” would be similar to what KTM offers on the 1090 and 1290 adventure lines.  The SE is a reference to the super enduro version available in the KTM 950 line in 2006-2008. That would be something, right?

We don’t know much about these bikes at this point, we will likely come across more information about them along the way and we will report it here.  Otherwise we are left to our own devices to speculate at will.  Here goes a brief description of the long journey it took the industry to finally hint at building these bikes, my thoughts about why we are getting these kind of bikes now, and what I expect these bikes will realistically deliver.

The long journey… Unicorn or new Goldilocks?

Will these two bikes be what we (well, realistically speaking, some of us, maybe a few of us) have been expecting for a long, long time?  On the adventure riding world the term unicorn has been used to describe that elusive light-weight, multi-cylinder, rally-ready motorcycle which is also ready for adventure.

We are talking here something that weighs 400-440lbs (under 200kg) ready to ride, with great off-road performance, built around a twin-cylinder motor, with reasonable power (my numbers would be 70-90 hp), and capable of reliable long distance adventure riding.  That’s my set of numbers, my goldilocks set of numbers, what would make this bike just right for me.  I’m not looking at a single cylinder motorcycle, nor looking at something that is heavier than 200kg. Hopefully less than 200 kg, something that is not currently available as a production motorcycle.

Dream on, it is impossible to build such a motorcycle, what you want lies only on your imagination, a Unicorn, go get a single-cylinder motorcycle many in the riding community have said. 

Some riders have defied the general opinion that these bikes cannot be built and managed to create their own motorcycles.  Perhaps they have paved the way to changes in the industry we may be witnessing today.  By actually building something themselves, they prove it can be done.  That’s the case of a few mechanically skilled, independent creators here and there who have built one-off rally machines based on existing motorcycles and motors.

One favorite motor for these builds is Honda’s 470 cc, 48 hp, parallel twin, 180 degree crank motor of the Honda CB500 (a bit low on power but actually plenty good on a light weight frame and even on the CB500X itself).  There are at least three builders as far as I know who have put the Honda CB500 parallel twin motor on a Honda 250cc dual-purpose frame (CRF250L) and they claim great results from those applications.

The bike depicted below, built by Michael Kozera, weights around 360 pounds.  48hp matched with that lower weight seems like an extremely reasonable match, great power-to-weight, and then you add the reliability of a Honda motor, and the smooth operation of this motor and voilá, you have a great hardcore adventure machine which should be capable of long distance travel as well.

Michael Kozera’s CRF500L (CRF 250L with CB500X motor)

There are others with less radical approaches to resolving this issue, like Rally Raid in the UK, produces kits and accessories to modify existing motorcycles.  One set of kits was designed for the Honda CB500X, turning it into another option for this missing link on the adventure motorcycle spectrum.  This kit uses a Honda CB500X as a base and from there it provides a 19-inch front wheel, better suspension, and spoke wheels among other strategically designed accessories. Modifying an existing motorcycle will likely not produce a seamless result, but it shows people are working on solutions, proving that if something is not available, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

2015 Rally Raid Honda CB500X

The CB500X with the Rally Raid kit, level 3, the most “adventure” kit they make, does very well, extremely well actually, power slides on gravel roads are easy and fun when you can twist the throttle with abandon.  The bike does two-track roads very well, manages sand superbly, and travels on deep gravel well enough.  I know, I’ve taken it twice to the Death Valley, it has done the infamous Mengel Pass and a few other rough canyons in that area!

However it has the limitations inherent from being based on a street bike: its clutch’s narrow friction zone especially when tied to the street motor’s narrow torque band and the weight of the motorcycle, besides the absence of a 21-inch front wheel, and the although improved, still narrow suspension travel makes it hard to ride it on technical terrain. So yes, there are limiting factors, it is not a rally machine, but these factors could had been resolved by Honda if they had built this bike from the ground up with an enduro/rally application as the end goal.  Rally Raid proves it can be done.

I don’t have Michael Kozera’s skills for building a machine like what he built, therefore, and despite its limitations, the Rally Raid Honda CB500X is my compromise for now, as there is nothing out there yet, around 200kg (440lbs) or less, with two cylinders, that would take its place in my shed if the focus is rally, adventure, or back-country riding. At about 440lbs the CB500X is light enough to allow for plenty of adventure riding and it is still very comfortable on long road rides. It is a solid motorcycle that delivers good fun.

CB500X Rally Raid Level III kit: Ready for adventure – at Titus Canyon, Death Valley 2017.

Let’s not forget Aprilia. They have built multi-cylinder enduro bikes in the past, the RXV 450 and 550.  They are perhaps the best example of what can be done with two-cylinder motors while still keeping it light enough for off-pavement adventures.  These bikes have a 77 degree V twin motor matched to a dirt bike frame and vocation.  These bikes were short-lived, and the few people who owned them say these bikes were/are great, as long as they worked/work (they were famous for not being reliable, but that is another issue).

2009 Aprilia RXV 450 V-twin

Finally, at the extreme end, you would have KTM’s 950 SE and BMW’s HP2 Enduro.  Those bikes were the closest thing ever made by a manufacturer as a hardcore adventure machine.  At about 450lbs, both were on the heavy side.  But still, rated at 90+ hp and with an off-pavement purpose these bikes were plenty good.  Both were short-lived. The KTM being available for only three years (model years 2006 to 2008).

KTM 950 Super Enduro R

The KTM 950 SE R, the BMW HP2 Enduro, the Aprilia RXV series, the Rally Raid effort based on the Honda CB500X, as well as the individuals who have put twin cylinder motors on dual-purpose bike frames show that, technically speaking, it is possible to build light-weight multi-cylinder rally machines.

If it can be done, then why manufacturers don’t build them?

If it is not a technical issue, then what is preventing us from having a production-based, light-weight rally-adventure (or adventure-rally) beast? The answer can only be a market issue, likely in association with an industry bottom line issue.

First, perhaps most important of all, we haven’t had enough customer interest to justify building such a bike.  Such a bike would certainly be too expensive for its size and displacement.  Go to the motorcycle forums and you will see people already comparing these speculated bikes from Yamaha and KTM to Suzuki’s V-Strom 650, or talking about wanting a low price adventure motorcycle. Nothing wrong with a V-Strom, or low price motorcycles, but it is not what some of us want. I fear we have been a small number of riders in the world who want such a light weight hardcore adventure machine.  That is why production motorcycles such as Aprilia’s RXV series and KTM’s 950 SE-R series did not last. There is a strong following for these motorcycles, but it is coming from a small group of riders, not large enough to justify their continued production, to take these motorcycles from being a niche product to a mainstream product.

KTM 950 Rally, the last twin cylinder to win Dakar, 2002

Second would be the Dakar race, which is the inspiration for what has become the adventure motorcycle sector, limiting motorcycles to single-cylinder 450 cc motors. This could be playing a major role here, eliminating the industry’s incentive to produce twin-cylinder middle-size rally-style motorcycles.  It would help with the important cool, hardcore factor for such motorcycles, something that could move them from niche to mainstream.

Third, there is no question, the Charlie and Ewan Round the World and Long Way Down series has pushed the adventure riding community toward the larger displacement motorcycles.  Maybe they have created the large adventure motorcycle community, they certainly inspired many to think about the BMW 1150 and then 1200 GS models to be the end all be all motorcycle for round the world travel!  We are still on the shadow of the impact from those nice videos, although they are becoming a thing from the past.  Nothing wrong with Charlie and Ewan, I enjoy watching and re-watching both series.  Just that some of us (and maybe more are joining our team now) have always wanted  something different, more nimble, more hardcore.

Fourth, and probably related to all the above statements, we know the industry relies on profit, nothing wrong with that either.  Manufacturers maximize profit by selling upscale machines or on volume of sales of popular machines (or a combination of both along a gradient towards more upscale motorcycles). Niche products that are not on the top of the scale do not get a space under the sun in this very realistic, financial bottom-line scenario.  We all know this, and we understand how this works.

Therefore, unless something changes on this scenario, nothing is going to happen. I’m betting on a change. Reasons 1 and 3 on the above scenario are probably the ones making this happen.  That is, midsize adventure machines may have a new popular machine in the Yamaha and a more fashionable, cool machine in the KTM.  These bikes will be less of a niche, and hence there is a build up for the economies of scale needed for the industry to justify the investment on such motorcycles.

A new vision of what is goldilocks for an adventure motorcycle would start making sense to more riders out there.  Having said that, I hope these bikes won’t be watered down for the larger population and disappoint the few of us who want something special and are willing to pay the price for that.  But how are we getting there?

A Detour on a Tipping Point Example

Just recently I started hearing the term goldilocks in reference to motorcycles, starting with the Ducati SuperSport and the KTM 790 Duke concept.  In the Ducati case, goldilocks was used to describe it as a sports motorcycle with non-radical sport riding ergonomics, with reasonable power (not too much, not too little, just right, at its 113 hp), easy handling, and sufficient level of electronic riding aids (three levels of ABS, Ducati’s typical 8-level traction control, and up and down quickshifter with throttle blip on the downward action) and on top of that, it looks like a real sports bike (it carries clear hints of a Panigale in its design). It is just right for many riders out there! Heck, I want one based only on the reviews I’ve read and seen so far.

2017 Ducati Supersport S – Just Right?

The KTM 790 Duke concept is another example.  With the new 800cc parallel twin motor expected to deliver close to 100hp, it has been described by KTM themselves as a new direction, away from the top displacement and power machines, this machine is about more focus on light weight and handling. Here is text from Motorcycle Magazine, describing and agreeing with KTM’s direction:

As KTM rightly points out, with the 1301cc 1290 Duke already in its line-up, there’s not much point in trying to go bigger or more powerful. So instead the 790 Duke focuses on light weight and handling. And when the production version shows up in around a year’s time it looks like it might be able to hit a Goldilocks zone in terms of power, weight and price. Not too much. Not too little. Just right.

Maybe the KTM 790 and the Ducati Supersport are a great sign that leading motorcycle manufacturers, and riders alike (because as I mentioned earlier, we are the ones who buy the products and ultimately decide whether they are a success or not), are reaching some level of agreement, of the tacit kind perhaps, that there is room for common sense, after all.  We may be tilting to more interest on mid of the road numbers for horse power, weight and performance.  But these bikes need to be cool, they need to deliver performance.  This is where technological advancements play a role, as these machines  deliver usable performance and riding enjoyment for a greater number of riders.

KTM 790 Duke Concept: 800cc Parallel Twin

This is what I’m reading between the lines of the reviews of the Ducati Supersport. The great majority of journalists have written very positive reviews about  this Ducati, no one criticized it for being too easy to ride, or for not having enough power. Quite the opposite as a matter of fact, it seems all of them welcomed those very concepts as positive remarks about this motorcycle.  I project the Supersport will sell very well for Ducati. The 790 Duke should follow the same path both on journalists’ reviews and on sales.  And this is paving the road for a new cool and still hardcore group of machines.  It is where common sense meets performance.

You may see this as a compromise. In my case, the fun of riding (not the fun of owning a motorcycle, necessarily) does not reside on the portion of the performance and power band I never use (the one I don’t have the skills to use), instead it is based on how well the motorcycle delivers performance where I can afford to use, which is at the middle and top end of my comfort zone. I like motorcycles which I can use most of the power and performance it offers, which happens to be the motorcycle’s sweet spot. This motorcycle still needs to offer a margin of performance for me to explore my riding boundaries, go faster or learn new tricks.  It needs to challenge me but not overwhelm me.  I feel like I’m cheating when riding something that has a performance limit I will never reach. Worse yet are the high performance motorcycles which actually limit how much riding I can do with them.  I don’t want a motorcycle for others to think how good a rider I am, I want a motorcycle to maximize my joy of riding.

If these two mid of the pack motorcycles, the Supersport and the Duke 790, are indicators of a change taking place in the sports and naked bike world, where motorcycles which fall within a revised, new perspective of what is a goldilocks zone in terms of power, weight, performance, and price, and they become the new wave of popularity in their fields, could that also happen in the adventure world?  If so, what would the equivalent “just right” motorcycle be in the adventure world?

The goldilocks approach for adventure motorcycles for me, mind you, will be a mid-size adventure motorcycle that:

  1. It is not necessarily an entry level motorcycle as price goes.  That is, being lighter and more compact should not equate with it being a lesser bike, quite the opposite, actually.  I’m not looking for an adventure-styled motorcycle built with inexpensive components that best suit street riding.
  2. It has compromises, because the machine is geared for riders who want it to perform well on off pavement roads, even ride rally style if they so desire and have the appropriate skills.  Meaning it will have spoke wheels, suspension travel, good quality components, engine/clutch performance for technical riding, but will be light.  At a minimum it needs to have the bones (low weight, twin cylinder motor, suspension travel and wheel size) to be made into an adventure/rally machine using bolt-on parts.

To summarize, I’m not looking for a less expensive adventure-styled motorcycle that is more appropriate for city riding (we already have the Honda CB500X, BMW F700GS or Suzuki’s V-Strom 650) or a heavy or middle weight motorcycle (such as the BMW F800GS or Triumph Tiger 800XC and all the larger adventure motrcycles).  I’m looking at a motorcycle which was designed from the ground up to deliver solid adventure and rally performance.

Perhaps the Panigale and the Super Duke needed to exist before the new Ducati Supersport and the KTM 790 Duke would make sense the same way a BMW R1200GS, a Yamaha 1200 Super Ténéré or a KTM 1290 R needed to exist before something else at a smaller scale would make sense in the adventure world.

What is the tipping point that will make this happen in the adventure motorcycle world? These bikes certainly need to be cool, as mentioned before.  They also need to be hardcore enough for people to spend the money considering they are not going to be the largest or the most powerful motorcycle out there, but will not be inexpensive either. People need to see value on what this bike can deliver, when they compare it to a BMW R1200GS or a KTM 1290 Adventure.  Something like what Honda Africa Twin has shown the world, but smaller, leaner, meaner.  Definitely more hardcore.

The BMW GS and the Africa Twin Effects

The industry has its financial bottom line and they have to pursue it, we know this  already, that’s how they survive.  I understand that and the sales numbers clearly indicate larger adventure motorcycles were or still are the sweet spot in their perspective. Nothing wrong with that. But very few of us ride large machines like Chris Burch does and we still want some of the power and the comfort these larger bikes deliver.  They will likely always have their space under the sun.

The Honda Africa Twin came very close to be that lighter machine we have been talking about, and for many it is what they were expecting.  Honda advertised it as the “True Adventure” motorcycle, and they certainly made their point about it. Although it is heavier than many anticipated, I believe it has ignited a change in the industry for being a motorcycle with better dirt vocation than all other large adventure motorcycles out there. True adventure. A believe the Honda Africa Twin is a key element for the tipping point in the Adventure World.  If it did not create the change, it rides that wave rather well.

Honda’s prototype of the New Africa Twin

The industry’s expansion toward the 1,200cc (and beyond) side of this market was a result of the success of the BMW 1200 GS, I don’t think anyone can dispute that. This is what I call the BMW effect, with new models being launched every year by many manufacturers to compete with the BMW, the yard stick of large adventure motorcycles. As a result, basically every manufacturer has a 1200cc or larger “adventure” model in their line up.  That’s where “cool” has resided for the last 10-15 years.

There are plenty of options at this high end of the market with some branded words associated to their names such as Enduro, Rally, Rallye (that “e” makes it special right?), SE, NTX, R.  This is marketing at work for which is the coolest and most hardcore adventure motorcycle.

It defies technical logic when the heavier motorcycles are the ones with all the off road components while the lighter motorcycles, which seem just right for rally riding in terms of weight and size, would be the ones brought to market with less off-road equipment.  Maybe others are starting to see it the same way I do? If you want real rally performance, the average rider, and even the great rider, needs something different, not 160hp attached to almost 600lbs of weight. Maybe 80hp attached to a 400lbs machine is a good number?

When the Africa Twin was introduced, although it was larger and heavier then most expected, it actually showed to be more seriously destined to off-pavement riding than all these other larger motorcycles.  It may have been what shook things up on this top motorcycle market, since the Africa Twin has been selling very well in Europe.

Honda Africa Twin – may have a true adventure competitor soon!

Maybe now we are experiencing the Africa Twin effect. Since the Africa Twin was in the works and then introduced, coincidentally or not, KTM has bifurcated its 1190 adventure line into the 1090 R and the 1290 R models.  The 1090 R being the more appropriate off pavement machine and closer to the Africa Twin in size and performance. BMW has slightly modified its 1200GS line to make room for the R1200GS Rallye (yes, that’s the one with the “e” mentioned earlier).

There is something good here, this is a sign of a reaction, which makes me think we are on the verge of changes for the better.  Both the KTM 1090 R model and the BMW Rallye could be interpreted as manufacturers reacting to the Africa Twin presence and making their machines more off-pavement ready.  But that is not enough.  Or will not be enough.  More action is needed than putting lip stick on a pig, pun very much intended.

Overall, although we have more “Rallye” and “Enduro” names attached to motorcycles and we have the Africa Twin as a middle of the road machine, we are still talking about 500lbs or heavier machines! Far from being the Unicorn, these machines, however, may be changing the locus of what is the Goldilocks for an adventure bike.

Maybe this new focus is what is making room in the market for true rally-ready machines?  We go from adventure to true adventure to rally and true-rally, perhaps? Hopefully it will open the space for the smaller machines that will be a lot more capable for off-pavement riding.  That’s where the T7 concept and KTM’s 790 Adventure (or whatever it will be named) come to the conversation.

Yamaha T7 Concept: Unicorn or Goldilocks?

The Yamaha T7 Ténéré 700 XTZ, or KTM 790 R or…

Are we ready, as consumers, to act on such level of common sense and buy motorcycles that are smaller, that may be expensive for their size, but which could potentially be commensurate with the title “rally” for the first time? If so, a new Goldilocks for adventures motorcycles seems to be just around the corner.

Let’s talk about the Yamaha T7 first, which seems to be further ahead in development than the KTM offering.  Yamaha calls the T7 a concept and defines it as follows:

Created using the race-bred DNA that has made Yamaha one of the most successful names in the Rally world, the Yamaha T7 Concept is a fully functioning prototype developed to achieve a perfect balance between road and off road capability.

This lightweight machine is based on an all new chassis that has been designed to complement a specially developed version of Yamaha’s highly acclaimed 700cc CP2 engine, delivering strong torque and an easy power delivery for perfect traction in all conditions.

Equipped with an aluminium fuel tank, 4-projector LED headlight, a carbon fairing and skidplate, and a custom made Akrapovič exhaust – as well as high specification KYB front suspension – the T7 is a vision of the ideal adventure machine, and is playing a major role in the development of Yamaha’s next generation adventure models.

A new chapter from the book of legends will be on the street – and on the dirt – from 2018.

The Yamaha T7 was presented at EICMA as a concept based on the 700 cc parallel twin, 270 crank, 74hp motor found in the MT/FZ07 and its derivatives. The motor is a well know machine. This bike could be just the right machine, 74 hp is the right amount of power, its torque curve is great and this combo could deliver sane but plenty of fun, at the right weight, and perhaps even the right price.

Yamaha T7 Concept, EICMA 2016

Of course, Yamaha made it clear that the T7 , as a concept, is only a “vision of the ideal adventure machine” and then it says it is “playing a major role in the development of Yamaha’s next generation adventure models”.

Yamaha T7 Concept, EICMA 2016

The spy photos already show many differences from what we’ve seen on the T7 concept to what may be coming to market.

Yamaha’s 700 Ténéré – 2018?

However, what we know is that it has the right bones: a light weight motor, plenty of power at 74 hp, a compact frame, the right wheel sizes (21 front / 18 rear), and plenty of suspension travel.  That means, at a minimum, we can make it look like the T7 in appearance and in function.  Right, Yamaha?

Yamaha T7 Concept at EICMA 2017

The FZ-07, where this motor resides, is rated at 182 kg, or 400lbs.  The XSR 700, which also has this motor, is rated at 186 kg, or 410 lbs.  I’m not sure these numbers are correct, but if they are close to reality, it seems Yamaha can produce an adventure motorcycle based on this compact motor,  which could weight about 440lbs, which is what we have on the CB500X with the Rally Raid kit.  Now add 26 hp to this equation, a 270 degree crank on the parallel twin (as opposed to the CB500X 180 degree crank), the right wheel sizes, and this is an awesome machine already.

The KTM 790 R is probably going to start from a different perspective. It is likely being developed already and will be based on the new KTM 800cc parallel twin which is expect to deliver power, in KTM-style, at the upper 90’s, if judging by what has been speculated about the machine that already has this motor, the KTM 790 Duke.

KTM 790 Duke – Concept or Prototype?

Knowing KTM, we can assume this motorcycle will be “ready to race” in adventure style, meaning it will be as “rally ready” or better than the defunct 950/990 line. It will likely be light from the start, and it will come with great suspension from the start as well. It will likely be expensive but it won’t require much to be added to it to make it ready for adventure-rally riding.

KTM 790 R (or Adventure)

If the spy photos are anything to go by, the bike will be compact.  Similar to the Yamaha 700, it has the right wheel combo (21 front, 18 rear).  The spy photos also show WP suspension, which I bet will be better than what Yamaha will offer.  Check that swingarm, it talks about serious, and light. And the machine doesn’t look to be tall and still has good ground clearance.

KTM 790 Spy Photo

Finally, as a wild card, we have the revised F800GS.  I’m not sure which direction BMW will take on their 10-year revision of the tired F800GS, if they will go towards the Africa Twin and make it heavier but more off-pavement oriented than the motorcycle being replaced, or whether they will make it a lighter-weight, more rally focused machine.  I would prefer the latter, of course.

The F800GS has only had minor updates in its almost 10 years (it will be 10 years if the new F-type GS will be ready for MY 2018).  We hear this new F bike will have an 850 or 900cc motor, final drive (chain) on the left side (hence not the rotax motor consequently not the Nuda motor as many had anticipated), tank on a regular position (not under the seat), new aluminum frame (hopefully fixing the infamous shock bolt problem), and tubeless wheels.

The motor looks to be a twin but more compact than the current F800GS motor and as it has become popular these days, we hear it will have a 270 degree crank (the current Rotax motor is a 360 degree crank with a balance shaft).  The motor looks to be compact, but since most people have been referring to it as an F850 or 900 GS, it could be heavier than the current F800GS.  If the frame is being discussed as aluminum, then maybe it will compensate for the weight of a larger motor? My bet is that it should be closer to the Africa Twin in function and purpose, hence size and weight.  Let’s keep it as the wild card for now.

2018 or 2019 BMW F800GS replacement

Based on the tradition of what Yamaha, KTM and BMW deliver, based on what we know about these bikes so far (not much), we could speculate the following from these new bikes (and using the Africa Twin as a comparison):

If these bikes are launched as described above, which could be considered more wishful thinking than anything else, I would be in serious doubt whether I would get the Yamaha or the KTM.  Yamaha offers great reliability, on the other hand it could cut some corners on critical components, delivering less off-pavement performance and more weight to be on a lower price point and target more volume sales.  However, it has a known motor which is compact, so we know Yamaha can organize this bike around a steel frame and sub-frame and still be light enough.  Yamaha will likely cost less than the KTM, BMW, and also the Honda Africa Twin.

Yamaha’s potential Ténéré 700 XTZ

KTM is likely to produce something that is ready for the action, hardcore adventure off the showroom floor. However, we know there will likely be reliability issues – it is a new motor, and a new motorcycle.  Certainly it will be the coolest of the machines, especially if you’ve been addicted to the orange cool-aid or having been tempted to try it. It will be the first KTM for many (I could be on that list). And it will have great power to weight, as it is expected from KTMs.

KTM 790 R (or Adventure)

It would be a great but difficult choice to decide among the Yamaha or the KTM should they come to the market (and very likely will come to the market).  The BMW is very much an unknown factor at this point.  It would be great if they turned the F800GS into a true off-pavement contender.  BMW has had such off-pavement history with models such as the HP2. The F800GS has been a forgotten model in their adventure line up (and as consumers’ choice), with no serious upgrades since its launch in 2008 (MY 2008 in Europe, MY 2009 in US), except for the larger tank on the F800GS Adventure and details here and there.  Therefore, who knows where their priorities reside.  The R1200GS Rallye is pointing towards a more dirt worthy machine in their line up.  Is that going to be the case for the new F800GS?

Finally, the Africa Twin deserves an honorable mention.  It is not completely what I was expecting, but I have to say Honda did deliver a “true adventure” motorcycle.

Although it won’t be available outside of Italy, Honda is going to deliver a limited number of Africa Twins in a “Rally” dressing.  It is said this bike in rally version will weight 7 kg (15 lbs) less than the current models.  That will bring the Africa Twin to 488 lbs in non DCT version.  It still is a heavy machine, but once again it shows the interest of the industry in moving towards a rally focus.

Honda Africa Twin Rally

Four parallel twins with 270 degree cranks… and off-pavement vocation, which one would I get?

Based on what I know, which is not much, of these four motorcycles, my number 1 choice is the Yamaha Ténéré if it will look anything close to the T7 concept. I don’t have my expectations high about that, though.  It will still work if I can upgrade the components (suspension primarily) to fit my riding expectations.  It will have to have the bones, such as light weight, a strong frame with sub-frame, and the appropriate wheel sizes for that to happen. I think it will check all these boxes. The motor is well known, it is light, which is a very positive element, and 74 hp is plenty good.

MT-07 (FZ-07) 700cc parallel twin motor, compact and light!

The KTM 790 is my second choice. I do have hopes KTM will deliver something good, usable for the average rider and still hardcore enough to be taken on rally rides off the showroom floor, by experienced riders. The true goldilocks.  I think this will be the game changer motorcycle, this will be the new effect motorcycle.  What if KTM manages to make it weigh the same as the T7 (Ténéré 700) and then delivers 20 extra horses?  That will be tempting. We will know more about this motor when the KTM 790 Duke becomes available.

KTM 790 Duke concept, EICMA 2016

The Africa Twin is my 3rd choice.  This bike is already a known factor.  The reviews about this bike from journalists and owners have always been positive.  Too bad we won’t have access to its rally version outside of Italy, although it barely makes a difference on its weight.

The BMW is a wild card, mostly because the spy photos showed up with no information from BMW themselves on their intent with the change, therefore we don’t know the direction BMW will take.  It could go either way, as a variant to the Africa Twin or a lighter weight, hardcore machine.  This bike seems to be completely different than the current F800GS. Let’s hope BMW will have the courage to make something lighter and more hardcore out of this line.

Spy photo of the replacement for the F800GS

There could be others in the run, such as Triumph, for example.  Their problem in positioning themselves for a potential lighter weight fight is their own success factor, the triple motor.  It is heavy and offer low torque at low RPM when others are bringing compact and torquey parallel twin motors and making them behave and sound as if they were V-twins (270 degree crank).

Finally, it could be that these bikes may be introduced to the market in their standard or “popular” versions, and we may need to wait for their rally, enduro, R, or whatever they will call their more off-pavement versions, to show up a few years down the road.  Time will tell.

Meanwhile, the 2017’s EICMA will be interesting for the adventure world with some critical new models being launched or presented for the first time.  2018 might be the year when, for the first time, we will be able to buy a true adventure-rally machine in a long, long time, if ever.  Times may be changing.

Thank you for reading.

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106 Responses to KTM 790 R and Yamaha T7 / 700XTZ Ténéré: Are Hardcore, Adventure-Rally Motorcycles Finally Coming to Market?

  1. Remind me again why a single-cylinder is out? Given the quantifiable requirements you list, it seems the Husqvarna 701 should be in the running. Right weight, right power. Much less vibes on the 2017 model thanks to the second balancer shaft, so the bike feels great on the highway at speed. Tank size isn’t great for some BDRs, but with Rotopax containers or a Rade tank, you can easily extend the range from 150 to 200 miles for not much extra cost.

    • cesardagord says:

      Thank you for asking. My answer… it is a question of preference. I’ve had three single-cylinder motorcycles, still have one of them. I’ve ridden twins of all kinds, triples, fours… and it turns out I like all motorcycles and their motors, but I like twins the best. There is a book out there, where the author explores, among other issues related to why we enjoy riding, how different motor configurations vibrate (see, it is not about NOT vibrating, it is about HOW they vibrate) and how people tend to favor one or the other. He went as far as measuring vibrations at the seat, pegs and handlebars for different motor configurations. The book is a bit old but the concept is valid, in the sense that what we experience when riding and what we like as a result of the experience differs from person to person. The bottom line, preference. If you want to explore more about this, the book is called “bodies in motion” by Steven L Thompson. Very interesting book. Aside from that, I like how twins, especially V-twins, sound and deliver power. And a key thing across these four motorcycles is that they are all parallel twins designed to fire unevenly, similar to V-twins. I will write a review about this book at some point.

    • Massimiliano says:

      I own 1 Husqv. 701 enduro, 1 Africa Twin, and 1 Beta xtrainer. Husqvarna 701 is superb, really dual(included street and hard enduro-not only rally). The best bike i ever had. And i’ve had plenty of bikes

      • cesardagord says:

        Ciao Max, thank you for your comment!

      • Patriot159 says:

        One of the editors of a major MC magazine purchased a 701 SM and said it is probably his all time favorite and ‘funnest’ bike and he has ridden hundreds!

      • cesardagord says:

        The 701… in motard or enduro fashion has great positive reviews. But it is not an adventure machine without going through some modifications on an already expensive machine. But certainly it is a great option!

      • Patriot159 says:

        I agree, as good and fun as the 701’s are they’re still really dual sports and need work to ‘ADVerize’ them. My DR650 is set up nicely as an ADV light rig but an FZ-07 motor in it would be smashing!

  2. Mike Taber says:

    One of the absolute best written articles of its kind in while! I’m actually holding back on buying a new bike based on exactly the points you make. Sorry Honda, a 500 pound anything cannot be called Adventure. Hopefully, Yami and KTM lower the weight by 100 pounds and don’t follow Honda. In the mean time, I’m ‘converting’ my KTM500exc to an ADv bike.Hopefully, it will be capable of long slab, to match it’s obvious perfection in the dirt.

    • cesardagord says:

      Hi Mike, thank you for your comment. Several of us are on a “wait and see” moment here. It just could be that we will have something very interesting later this year from KTM or Yamaha. We could be disappointed as well. Time will tell.

  3. chris forbes says:

    Great article, well thought out and considered, much of mown thinking is on similar lines. I own tiger 800 and an adventureised dr650, both great in their respective capabilities, but maybe one day soon, one motorcycle will do for both.

    • cesardagord says:

      Thanks Chris! And yes, that would be that middle of the road thing. I still think, though, a twin-cylinder rally machine should be a second bike. It will have too many compromises to do everything well. But it is something that is missing.

  4. Joel Thompson says:

    I’m very much interested in these models and have been waiting for one bike to replace my Triumph Tiger 800xc and my Husaberg 570FE. Both great bikes with the Triumph more road oriented and the Berg more dirt. Maybe these new ” Rally style ” bikes will be a good compromise. To me comfort on the highway is important as well as being able to bring along my camping gear, tools, and gear for 2-3 wks of off road touring. Joel Thompson British Columbia, Canada.

    • cesardagord says:

      Yep Joel, you and I, and hope many others are on this boat, enough for Yamaha, KTM and others to pay attention to this, up to now, nonexistent area of the market.

  5. PikiPiki says:

    Goldie locks weight is 140kg – 180kg max fully fueled ready to ride. 200kg is the weight of the old 1200gs. 200kg with luggage and fuel will tip the scale at 280kg which is tar road cruiser heavies 🙂

    • cesardagord says:

      Those are interesting numbers. Never knew a 1200GS weighted 440lbs (200Kgs). It was even 30lbs lighter than the 800GS? My CB500X weights 440 lbs (200kgs).

      • PikiPiki says:

        Yeah the old 1200GS was actually not that bad in weight. But in my humble opinion a proper dual sport bike is no more than 160-180kg fueled. Everything over 200kg is an adventure bike and more for lifestyle. I enjoy your comments thanks for contributing 🙂

    • Edward Bach says:

      This well written article shares my sentiments completely. But I agree, 200 kg is far too heavy to be a too adventure bike. If these same companies can build a Supersport bike weighing less than 400 pounds and put out 200 horsepower, then they can make a 70 hp adventure bike tip the scales at less than 160 kg.
      My money is waiting for that bike. I think KTM will be first and sadly Honda will follow up 10 years later and once one million units are sold by its competitors

  6. Love the Rally Raid kid for the Honda CB 500X. Definately 2018-2019 will be the year for the adventure and the rally adventure motorcycles as that segment of the motorcycle industry is making relatively better than the rest.
    Motorcycle brands are investing more on adventure motorcycles with more off road capabilities. So for the next years we expect to see rise of this market segment.

    • cesardagord says:

      As of now, I’m keeping mt little Honda with its rally raid kit. Really nice and capable machine for its price. But if something better (same weight, same on-road manners, but better off road manners) comes along, it will be gone…

  7. Zooba says:

    I wonder why no one has considered that the Zero DSR is lighter, faster and perhaps the best Dual Sport / Adventure bike currently available. – Is it “range anxiety” that keep it from being considered?
    I have personally ridden a combination of fast roads, two track and even some challenging single track on the new 2017 DSR and nothing else compares to the all-around capability. – Have owned both a 800 Tiger and a 1200 GS and the DSR will blow them both away in sheer acceleration and comes in 100 pounds lighter. – All it needs is a TKC 80 level tire swap.

    • cesardagord says:

      It is not range anxiety, it is range impossibility. Currently they can go some 80 miles maximum, you can’t go anywhere here in Oregon, if you travel east, with that range… For commuters and for single track and some motocross variations electric bikes are good already, check the Alta Motors bikes for motocross and single track models! But for adventure? Not yet. It will be a while, but their time will eventually come, when range will be about 200 miles, batteries will be charged in less than 15 minutes in regular outlets, outlets on a campsite, for example, or from your motel room. By the way battery technology has been evolving, that will take some 10 years perhaps.

      • falcn says:

        What we need for electric bikes to have good ranges is really hybrid bikes – series power plants with small generator motors running at optional rpm for efficiency to provide power to the motor, with a smaller battery for the buffer between the generator and electric motor. Then you could easily get 200+ range and be able to refill and keep riding and not have to charge from a base station.

      • cesardagord says:

        That could be a solution, indeed.

  8. John Haggis says:

    Great article. I’m looking forward to the KTM 790 adventure whenever it appears.

    One bike that caught my eye recently is the Ducati desert sled scrambler.
    Twin cylinder
    456lb wet
    73 hp
    Some real off road ability according to reviews despite the 19/17 wheels and I think it looks great.

    • cesardagord says:

      The Ducati Desert Sled looks like a legitimate old school scrambler. Not a rally machine, but a nice interpretation of the vision of the 60’s in turning standards to scramblers.

    • florinsi says:

      That is a beauty beyond words, i would buy one just to drink my morning coffee looking at her… would add at least 10 years to my life …

  9. Paul. says:

    Why no comparison to the ktm 1090?
    Personally I think we will be disappointed in the 790. Still to heavy for the hard core rally rider types. I have the 701 and many other bikes, 1190, gs1200, dirt etc. I still miss my ktm 950 SE. THE 701 is the go to bike for hardcore ADV riding hear in Colorado.

    • cesardagord says:

      There is a great chance for you to be right. But I reserve the right to be optimistic, if not too naive.

    • cesardagord says:

      No particular reason, except that for one thing the 1090 it is very close to the Africa Twin. And second, I’m not sure what the 1090 really is, it seems a bit lost in KTM’s line up, especially if the 790 is not going to be the light weight rally machine we talk about.

  10. Christof Henning says:

    Thank you very much for this article!

    It is one of the best on this topic. You give a very good overview on the different segments and different classes.

    I truely hope the T7 or XTZ 700 or whatever they want to call it is under 190 KG and about the same hp of the MT07, which has a? Really great engine.

    Best regards Chris

  11. Patriot159 says:

    I too pine for one of these. My modded DR650 does a pretty good job of serving as an ADV lite rig. The suspension mods make it very off road worthy and comfort mods make it a good street bike but the single cylinder engine is not conducive to 75 mph highway droning. I could do a 790 kit that would give me 50 hp. and 50 lb./ft. of torque (plenty of power for me), but alas, its still a single. If I could shoehorn an FZ-07 motor into my DR chassis (motors weigh about the same!) I’d have a 360 lb. wet “Goldilocks’ bike”! but since I can’t, I’ll have to buy a factory one. Come on Yamaha (or KTM if I can afford it) I got a check ready to go!

  12. VintageThumper says:

    Thanks for pulling this article together. I’ve been into Adv bikes since the KTM 950, which was a very cool machine, but still big and heavy for anything more than sliding fire roads (with my skills). Tried a BMW R1200GS, and found it to be very non confidence inspiring off-road. Way to big and heavy with vague feedback as to what the front end was doing. Tried a Triumph Tiger, and while the lighter weight and handling were fun, that triple motor is really better suited for pavement. Along the way I also built a KTM 450 dual sport. It was a blast off-road, but that thumper was not the hot set up for putting down hundreds of miles on the pavement. I now ride a Honda Africa Twin, and while it’s definitely better than the current behemoths in its class, it really is just a trimmed down big pig. The thought of a 400-450 pound twin with real live off-road cred has me all fizzed up. Hope one of these makes it to the states. I’ll be all over it.

  13. Evo says:

    Thx for you great article here. I’m currently in a similar situation looking for a lightweight Enduro. Even a single cylinder is not your first choice I really would like to mention a new Enduro which should come in July 2017 to Market which looks at least on paper very interesting. Time and test drive will tell later this year 🙂
    I have no relation at all to SWM but maybe I will be a new client within the next months if test drive works as expected.

    • cesardagord says:

      That’s a nice motorcycle. If I’m not mistaken, that motor is from the the mid-2000’s Husqvarna TE610. Husqvarna was parsed out, motors went one way, brand went another way.

  14. S-Korea rider says:

    Wow. good read, I own 2006 12GS currently, and knowing that there’s huge void in middle class adventurer and somewhat too heavy machine my 12GS is (even heavier the newer models!), I ‘ve been always looking for the right replacement. and this is quite similar to my recent thought. It is so interesting that every adv going rider feels almost same but market is not really fast enough to adapt it.

    • cesardagord says:

      I’m not sure whether the market is not fast enough or whether we are a minority here… that’s the question that remains open, and if KTM launches a light weight 800, that’s when we will learn what the consumers are all about. Are they going to buy it? I have my eyes set on whoever brings the lightest, best performer on this mid range.

  15. Charlie Rauseo says:

    Thanks for this article. Perfectly articulates many of my hopes and concerns. My interim solution has been to strip 40 lbs or so off of an old 950 Adv and flog it off road. (Need the Beta for singletrack.) I have to laugh, though. I’ve been riding motorcycles long enough to see that we’ve been here several times before. Nice to see that we’re still never satisfied.

    • cesardagord says:

      Indeed, we are never satisfied. It is that safe for the companies business model that gets on the way. KTM has taken their risks, but even them have caved in to catch BMW’s leader position.

      • florinsi says:

        Nobody took any risks, they all joined in re-defining “adventure” as 250+ kg, 150hp, DCT, traction control, active suspension, hard panniers, 10 level menus lcd screens and another 50kg in compulsory adv accessories, 12,000 euros minimum price (that was “entry level” !!!!), etc ….. and left a mediocre 800gs for 10 years without real competition in spite the record sales …. meanwhile thousands of riders looked for better suspension, lower weight, better ergonomics, better aerodynamics for highways, 6 gears, better ratios, less vibration, bigger tanks and the likes …

  16. Paul Lewis says:

    Hi, great article and articulates exactly the frustrations and ambitions of many riders myself included. Had 2 KTM 990 Adventures ( last one stolen just 3 weeks ago). I think I’ll wait the winter out to see what comes up next year before making any decision (not sure I can wait that long though!). I love the hardcore essence of KTM and would remain loyal to the brand… but the Yamaha concept looks incredible and exactly right. Give something like that even more power… and wow. My only concern with KTM is that their styling has gone even weirder and the new bike will simply look too ugly. I agree the 1090 is an in-between bike and doesn’t really appeal. The 1984 XT600 Tenere looks great right now even though an old machine and the new MT07 concept bike picks up from there perfectly.

  17. Tony Hood says:

    Recently had my Africa Twin nicked, always an issue in London. Having done 10K miles on it in a year and being a keen off-roader (other bike is a Beta 300RR) I can say the Honda has little use off road. It is big and heavy, not as big and heavy as the other adventure contenders (BMW’s or Triumph) but still feels very heavy and cumbersome off road. I am a location manager in the film industry, I use the bike every day to get around and hunt down locations in the city as well as the country. The bike just gets you there faster and as long as you can carry the kit you are always better off. Since the loss of the AT I have bought a Yamaha Tenere XT660. This has been a revelation and although more agricultural than the Honda it is far easier to ride. It does not have the punch in acceleration and the single cylinder will bog down if you don’t keep it revving but it will go a lot further on a tank of fuel. Additionally, the weight differences and the nimble and slim nature of the XT make it a much more rideable bike in and out of town. If Yamaha can turn the XT700 (T7) into something between the two, I would place an order now.

    • paulmlewis61 says:

      Hi Tony… sorry to hear it – a complete downer!

      I guess we’ve all been waiting some time for these bikes to come along. I was I was very “in love” with the 990, it’s aggression, rugged toughness etc… and was VERY gutted when it was taken.. except for one thing .. it was always a bit too heavy for me, which was limiting for off-road ( but rather good on long distances). But I have learned to ride longer distances slower and enjoy them more – and when I get there and want to explore, then I want something a bit less intimidating and more nimble and easy to manoeuvre. Plus, of course, the exhilaration of a strong engine. So I hope both these bikes come out sooner rather than later!

  18. Jeremy in Western NC says:

    Good article. I was all sold on a 690 Enduro as being the best option for on/off-road adventure riding, and was waiting to see the 2017 model before purchasing. Glad I waited, because as soon as I heard of the possibility of a 790 ADV, I went into a holding pattern. I’ll wait another year without a bike if it means I will possibly end up with a lightweight, off-road ready twin from KTM. If it turns out to not be the case, or if the bike sucks, I can then go back to my decision between a 690 Enduro or a 1090R, so I win either way. But yes, the 790R is worth waiting for IMO.

  19. VintageThumper says:

    We seem to keep repeating the same evolution. Shortly after WWII, Americans were riding their 600 pound Harleys off-road and wanting something lighter and more nimble for the purpose. Along came the Triumph Thunderbird, at just under 400 pounds, which was a joyful change for the better. Lately, we seem to be running the evolution backwards. The original BMW R80 GS weighed 410 pounds. The new GS weighs 525 pounds. We’ve had 400 pound, twin cylinder, off-road capable bikes before. Surely we can do it again. And with today’s technology, they could the best ever.

  20. I will have to stick to my xr650r (140kg weight fast and reliable bike), too bad couse was hoping for something more up to date.

  21. Pete says:

    You’ve expressed exactly what me & my mates have been dreaming of. My KTM 690E is almost right but yes I’d trade some of its light weight for a twin motor, more luggage, and high-end creature comforts like cruise control… the main reason I’m keeping my R1200! I find my brother’s F800 almost right, but with more power, less weight, (& cruise control!). My other problem is seat height, which rules out many bikes for me. At a KTM Rallye I spoke with their engineers from Austria & pleaded can they make such a bike but with frame midsection scooped low to allow serious seat adjustment. Seat height of the lowered F700GS is just right for lots of us, but in the FRAME, not by sacrificing suspension travel or smaller wheels. Thanks for your excellent article. I back you up there’s lots of us out here want the same goldilocks adventure bike. … Pete, Sydney

  22. Garrett says:

    Howdy, I just found your site and your article is great. For me, I’m taking another look at the 690/701. I don’t need 100hp, and I prefer a more Off Road oriented platform that may not need suspension upgrades to make it decent. I have owned a 690 previously and liked the bike a lot. It is very capable for the type of riding I like and want, to do, not to mention it is MUCH lighter than any of the twins in the article.
    Bottom line, buy the bike that fits the riding you do, and want to do. Keep up the good work!


  23. Juan says:

    Hello Chris
    Completely identified with your article, I currently have an Africa Twin but I’ve always wanted less weight.
    dreaming, just dreaming … is it not possible for Honda to put the CB500 engine or the NC750 (parallel 270) engine to an Africa Twin and get less weight?

    Greetings from Colombia, apologies for my bad english

  24. Terrific article, Chris. For me, it boils down to this: I’m 57 years old, and not as strong or capable a rider as I once was, but I still have some adventure left in me. I did a test ride of the Africa Twin, and it’s a lovely bike – it handles and feels much more like the 800cc class of ADV bikes than the 1,000cc plus group. In fact, it feels lighter and narrower than any of the current crop of ADV bikes, other than the smaller KTMs. That said, it’s still a 450 lb. lump. At my age, trying to get that beast upright after a tumble in rough terrain could easily devolve into a survival situation. I feel I need something lighter, much lighter. So I picked up an older DR650 thumper – even with an Acerbis rally tank, still well under 400 lb.s, wet. Compared to my daily ride, an Indian Roadmaster, it’s like riding a bicycle, but one that can run on the freeway. And, it reminds me of my salad days corking around on an XT500. It’ll do, for now. And if the production T7 doesn’t come in real close to 400 lb.s, I suspect the DR will have to do for good.

  25. Kawasaki has had the best solution in its arsenal of already developed components, namely the KLR chassis and 650 twin motor from the ER range. The KLR are dated now and discontinued in many countries due to emission laws. Some folks has already done what Kawa should have by fitting Versys650 motors to upgraded KLR chassis. Cheap, light, reliable, capable and range. Think about it as the entry level into the rally adventure segment.

    • cesardagord says:

      If Kawasaki was committed to this sector, they would have done something like that. They certainly have the KLR followers as a captive audience. They could even keep that general attitude for the bike, even if it had the much improved Versys motor.

  26. Garrett says:

    IMO it would be wasting time and money putting a Versys engine in an outdated frame like the KLR. Just buy a Versys and ride, unless you’re hobby is re-inventing a highly outdated wheel with a poor frame, horrible suspension and handling.

    Not trying to start a flame war here. Ciao.

  27. Erik Myhre says:

    How about a modernized version of the 1987 Cagiva Elefant 650. I have 2, they are great bikes and were ahead of their time! I also have a 2003 ktm 640 adv. Although it is a single, and updated version with the 701 moter would sell very well….

  28. Mark says:

    Hi, as an Adventure riding with a few bikes myself and having ridden many more this article seems pretty close on most thing but would slightly disagree about the GS and GSA in your Graph, I would compare the GS to an AT offroad except for front wheel size (they virtually weigh the same) and would put the KTM’s on the harder side to manage as there high center of gravity only suits taller larger riders, I swap from a GSA to KTM1090 and being shorter (5:10″) found GSA better balanced off road and easier to pick up due to cylinders holding it up when it falls over

    • cesardagord says:

      Hi Mark, your point makes sense. I’ve seen how the GS has much better manners at slow speeds, through technical terrain, than the most nervous. taller, and with higher center of gravity KTM 1190. Now 1290…

      • Mark says:

        Cool, yer I was a little disappointed that the KTM was not better in this regard and unfortunately I am shrinking rather than growing as I get older, I was just wondering if was just me but even my GSA seems more manageable than my old 950ADV, which was rather a surprise to me though GS guys had tried to tell me before 🙂

  29. Tigershark says:

    Great article.

    The earliest (2004) and lightest R1200GS spec’d out at 496 lbs wet. 200 kg was possibly a dry weight spec. Since then, it’s gotten heavier. Pretty much the opposite of where we would all like to see this go. I have a 2017 F700GS after a 2017 Triumph XCX. Overall it’s just easier to ride.

    I never understood why KTM couldn’t make a 690 Duke ADV. Single cylinder, but very capable.

  30. Gisle says:

    Great article, i rallye enjoyed it. As a 660 Tenere rider I do lust for the 07 engine. Along with some suspension upgrades it would really make this a very usable bike. Happy to have discovered this site. Thumbs up.

  31. 0xf00d says:

    I’ve been riding a KTM 690 Enduro R with two sets of dressing: as naked as i can get it, and with a full compliment racks/soft luggage. I don’t have two sets of wheels, but I am considering it as I tend to like to run MT21’s or 606’s which are terrible for the road, and it would be nice to go back to stock gearing for highway. I have a Rally Raid tank, but honestly since I’ve last taken it off I haven’t ever felt like i need to put it back on. I also have a Rekluse clutch that generally makes this bike much less of a handful in places like Moab. It is rounded out with a steering damper that I do adjust differently from dirt to road. Oh, and heated grips, which I actually use as much off-road as on 🙂 There is a pattern here though: I’m trying to make something big and heavy work like something light and small. The bike i think is like 141kg dry and I think i saved some weight with a titanium exhaust and Li battery…but then there is skid plate, HDB guards and rally light setup probably zeroing that out.

    I love riding in Moab and the rocky deserts of Utah and I’ll try anything that isn’t super tight singletrack. On the flip slide, I also only have one motorcycle and I love to ride everywhere – including to all the places I ride off-road. But I’d like riding street a whole lot more if the seat wasn’t so wickedly tall and ridiculously uncomfortable, the windscreen so small, and the gearing and vibration so taxing. The small gas tank doesn’t bother me much because it is good to get off and stretch pretty frequently.

    With all that said I am pretty certain I’m buying either the T7 or the 790 when they come out, I want something like this to work so badly. Assuming these bikes are competently executed the weight is going to be everything: too heavy and I’m going to be super bummed.

    Thank you for the great article!

  32. says:

    My 800GS weights 207kg fully wet with a 22 lire tank. If you wanna check it out https://www.tea2wine.com/updates?lightbox=dataItem-j6wdnx17

    There are huge weight gaps in terms of handling for me, 160/180/200/220/250kgs respectively. I can say that having the 800cc engine on 200kg barrier made a huge difference when compared to stock, so news of a possible 800cc stock coming out below the 200kg mark is just top as it allows us to remove some more kg once we bring the bike home. However, I do have my doughts that we will see any of those 2 machines bellow 220kg…. I really hope I’m wrong on this one!

    • cesardagord says:

      That’s quite the work you’ve done there. I would say, judging by my CB500X Rally Raid and comparing to my Tiger 800CC, 50lbs makes quite a difference in how you handle the motorcycle on rough terrain.

      • says:

        Thanks! It definitely does. I mean, an OEM machine like that could have a different CG distribution than we can do removing weight and changing things, that for me is what makes it more exciting. But the weight alone, coming from anywhere on the bike… it’s astonishing.

  33. falcn says:

    SlientHawk Hybrid – being developed by Alta Motors and Logos (Logo provides the hybrid engine/generator) – for the masses – get rid of the two-wheel drive complexity and weight and I bet it can be the unicorn.

    Click to access Logos_SilentHawk_Hybrid-Electrick_Motorcycle_05022016.pdf

    It weighs 350lb, has 170 miles range before refueling – including riding 2 hours on the battery alone. With dropping the second wheel drive and taking that weight and putting it into fuel maybe the range is extended or the one motor can be made larger to increase top speed. 122 ft-lb of torque!!

  34. Mike Bartz says:

    I rode my 430 lb HP2 Enduro through many single track trails in Baja and with worn out knobbies still spanked more than one poser on sport bikes on Campo Road heading back to our staging area. Curious omission in your homage to the adv bike unicorn.

    • cesardagord says:

      Indeed, I realized I forgot to mention the HP2 Enduro. Which went the same way as the KTM 950 SE and all others… it seems we, the public, are not ready for such machines… and the few of us who are, face the problem of small economies of scale from manufacturers, or have to build our own machines.

    • cesardagord says:

      I made the correction, by the way, to include the HP2 Enduro on the post.

    • Patriot159 says:

      The HP2 is an amazing bike. Would I love one, yes. Can I afford one, no (If you can even find one). That is why I’m looking for a $7-8K T7. The KTM may end up be too pricey for me as well.

  35. PaoloR says:

    Dear Cesardagord,
    I agree with your opinion.
    I have a tiger 800 xc for almost 5 years and I’m very happy, but I would like to have a lighter bike, though with less performance, to be able to have fun doing a little more off-road, without risking losing control of motorcycle or failing to raise it in the event of a fall.
    In your very interesting article you start talking about a sensible reduction of displacement even if with less power. You come to the conclusion of desiring a bike between 700 and 1000 cc, weighting not more than 200 kg.
    Among lighter bikes, another example is the ktm 690 enduro, very powerful and lightweight, unfortunately with a single cylinder engine and in any case out of production.
    The ideal for me would be rather a bike with 500-cylinder engine, wheels 21-17 or 21-18, power 50-60 hp, weight within 170 kg.
    A courageous proposition is that of Kawasaki with the Versys-X 300, available in Italy (I do not know which other countries), maybe with a too small engine and too little power, but I would try to test it.
    Greetings to all the bikers of this chat.

    • cesardagord says:

      Ciao Paolo, sono d’accordo con te. Speriamo che l’industria renda qualcosa di interessante questo prossimo EICMA, Non avrà 170kg, forse 200? Ma chi lo sa, se continuiamo a spostare questa direzione… un bel giorno…

  36. patrick says:

    I would also think that once a 450 TWIN will be produced, which is reliable, (i’ve owned the RXV450 – still like it) many/ pleanty people, riders would pay extra to see it in a (near) ready-to-race outfit,
    That said, no manufacterer would walk that way.. sadly… blablabla….
    maybe a new racing class needs to be set-up in roadracing where there engines/ bikes would race aswell… therfore working on both ends of the spectrum..

    • cesardagord says:

      I agree, it is through racing that we’ve had the major engine developments. In fact, the entire adventure class started with the 500, then 650 and than 700, 750 and 800cc motors in the Paris Dakar races.

  37. Randy Hermann says:

    New to the sport, looking to buy my first bike. I’ll almost certainly get something used to learn on, but am really interested in these future bikes. This post, the comments, etc. are a great resource, thanks for writing it and thanks to everyone for the comments.

    Any updates on the bikes?

    • cesardagord says:

      Hi Randy, welcome to our, your, sport! The updates, if there will be any, will happen this coming weeks. EICMA, the motorcycle show in Milan, Italy, goes from November 7th to 12th. Expect to see at least one of the motorcycles discussed on this post presented at this year’s EICMA. EICMA is the most important motorcycle show around the year, that’s why we expect important product launches to take place there. Once again, Randy, WELCOME!!!

  38. Dracones says:

    What about a Versys 650 adventure? Think about the engine. Could be a good starting point. And just think about it will be helped by a small turbo

  39. Massimiliano says:

    Maybe gli sere restricting the discussion onlu to 2- cylinders bikes. Otherwise you forgot that already exists what you are looking for: Husqvarna 701 Enduro. With an after market screen added? it is wonderful.


    • cesardagord says:

      Ciao Massimiliano,

      Yes, we know about the 701 and the KTM variant of it. We are discussing here the two cylinder machines, that’s why it is not included in this review. Indeed, they are great machines.

  40. ScottEss says:

    One of the most well thought out, balanced and comprehensive motorcycle articles Ive ever read (and I read them daily). My old English teachers would commend your command of the essay format. I admit potential bias as the article expresses the sentiments I’ve been spouting for a few years since I realized the big GS1200 and its imitators are the SUVs of the motorcycle world…most ill-suited for true all terrain adventure. If your article missed anything, it was the factoring of the utility of the Goldilocks bike in the coming zombie apocalypse. Cheers and hope to find more of your work.

  41. florinsi says:

    Just saw the bikes in Milan, 790 so far is a joke of a not even prototype rushed to “market”, a 690 with a sort of rear subframe just to check its there, so they had to move the fuel tank somewhere and not to make one exactly like the acerbis etc aftermarket already in existence they put it in the dumbest place they could find … if left as is will offer 690 enduro capability with less tank bolts problems but with tank holes problems (it looks like a Titanic waiting to happen except the iceberg could come from either side…), zero improvement for on road, zero improvement for off-road and fuel tanks as “crash protection” ….. tenere700 if left 95% as is will be a brilliant bike … the new 850 looks prettier but lost all off-road advantages it had over other similar bikes (africa twin kills it off-road now) … even the desert sled (the 800) looks almost the same off-road capable now …. i think miss Dorit delivered on what she was asked to do… and since they put tft and traction control on maxi-scooter you can imagine what she was asked to focus on and deliver …. the “gap” many of us talked about for years has just widened but fortunately (i pray) yamaha will soon put the 700 tenere exactly in the G-spot of that gap ….

  42. florinsi says:

    ps carbon fibre has been around since 1879, it is not platinum, nor gold, nor iridium, nor uranium so maybe it is time for it to go out of the realm of motorcycle prototypes and into mainstream (we don’t play tennis with wood rackets for decades now, right?)

  43. Charles says:

    It’s a pity that the new bmw 850 s are so heavy, 229kgs, that’s almost as heavy as a full fat 1200GS.
    Looks like I will have to wait for the KTM790

  44. Pete says:

    My thoughts exactly. I was all fired up to buy F850GS: every feature I’ve been waiting for….then I saw the weight! Yes only 15kg shy of a fuelled up R1200GS (which I’ve owned previously)! How can the F850 be 20kg heavier than the F800! I expected the new model to go the other way: lighter not (so much) heavier. Damn! I too shall await the KTM 800, & hope it has the features (& isn’t 9 feet high).

    • Pete says:

      Cont’d: For now I’ll stick with my 690R, waiting for SOMEONE to build a sub-200kg adv bike. Gotta be possible when the almost perfect 690R is what, 140kg? If the absence of contenders continues I’ll be calling Rooney Cycles for a modernized remake of my beloved R80ST/R80GS. Rooney has got them trimmed down to 165kg I believe. That’s the sweet spot I reckon, so that with luggage can still be under 200kg total. Who wants more than that.

    • charles newall says:

      manufacturers need to remember that the Motorcycling demographic is of an ageing diminishing pool of riders, not enough youngsters to replace those leaving the group due to age and infirmities, so there is a big market for lighter and lower bikes, which will keep us oldies riding for longer, but with enough power and range to keep us interested.

  45. Kambo says:

    I wish the Versys x300 had longer/off road suspension, better exhaust header placement.

  46. John Haggis says:

    KTM have put up some pre release blurb and info of the 790 Adventure on their website.

  47. Skip D. says:

    Ducati scrambler x desert sled? I don’t consider a 19” front wheel enough to not even give it a mention.

  48. Vladimir Kalinov says:

    Dual sport is not 200 kg. Dual sport or light adventure should be no more than 160 kg loaded. This is what or DS bikes weighed 30 years ago! Just stick a twin engine in it, and make up the difference by lightening the frame and or subsystems. How hard is that? How are you going to lift a 200 kg “adventure bike” on the trail even once?

    • Wayne Mackert says:

      The 700cc Yamaha engine weighs about 3 kg more than the 650 thumper in my DR650. If only I could put put that twin in my DR chassis I’d have a 165 kg “super dual sport”! Since I can’t though. here’s hoping the 700 Tenere comes in at 180 kg max.

      • Paolo Rota says:

        No comment, just see

      • cesardagord says:

        Thanks Paolo. This is a video where KTM staff interviews crusty KTM riders and ask them what would they change on their current KTM line up. One says: 800cc, twin, 180kg. The other says 800cc, twin, 200kg with 22-23 liters of fuel capacity (which would be a 180kg dry + 20+/- of fuel weight). Obviously these guys testimony were selected (or they were directed to say what they said) because the new KTM 790 adv machine is likely to fit their suggestion. I would say 200-210kg, which is plenty good.

      • Scott Saini says:

        Yep…too heavy. Certainly cherry-picked their testimonies. Given it is advertising…I don’t expect the whole “truth” so I’ll hold the “fake news” insinuations…still a disappointing development, though not unexpected. All hopes rest on the upcoming Yamaha 700 World Raid…but they are being tight-lipped on specs which is not a good sign. Someone mentioned the Ducati Desert Sled…totally fails the weight test…456 lbs…before adding any touring farkles. Most journos fawned over it in their reviews…but independent bloggers seemed more honest in acknowledging it is more a bike that is exemplary for it’s appeal to style, nostalgia and the brand-conscious. I stick to my rough guide of under 400lbs wet. Currently favouring DR650 or DRZ400 with ACT wide ratio gears +/- conservative bore upgrade. The wait for the Unicorn continues

      • P M Lewis says:

        Its very interesting… I had my 990 stolen and bought a 1986 XT600 Tenere because a). it’s beautiful and b). its all the insurance company would agree to insure. Gret fin to ride. Its very light after the 990 – but of course much less powerful. I am still hankering after another 990 for long distance and off road fun – it was always such amazing fun. The 790 looks like it will be less comfortable long distance than the 700t. I guess we have to wait and will know when we ride them. Btw, when I test rode the desert sled it felt like a toy bike compared to the 990 – less fun, less flexible, weaker, only a bit lighter. It was no replacement.

  49. John Haggis says:

    So the KTM 790 adventure and adventure r comes in at 189kg dry. The adventure seems to be more of a road bike. The adventure r looks decent and the seat height isn’t too ridiculous at 880mm ( I’m 5ft 8 ).
    Now waiting for reviews and pricing.

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