At what point is big too big? The network of Green Roads that criss cross England are diverse and varied, from technical trails to wide open gravel tracks. Finding the right bike for the right trail keeps the adventure bike industry in business. TRF member Ed Hillier took the plunge and decided to give one of the big bikes a go, the KTM 1190 Adventure R. Great, until you drop it...

So as a result of too much free time at work one lunchtime, post bonus euphoria and an internet connection, serendipity and the cosmic supply company (Ebay) conspired to deliver me one of Austria’s finest exports in the form of a 2013 KTM Adventure R in January 2016. Now I used to ride a 1150 GSA that I had acquired in similarly fortuitous circumstances but had been looking to change things up for a while and so from all the hyperbole, this machine seemed to fit the bill.

On the basis that it said ‘Adventure’ on the tank, I felt this 227+kg Austrian bruiser would be the perfect way into the world of greenlaning. I mean, hell, I’d seen y’man Birch ride it like a 250 of which I also had no experience so what could possibly go wrong?

 
 
Now I’m the type of guy who rarely lets (patent lack of) ability get in the way of my aspirations however in a rare moment of lucidity, I realised that this course of action could (would) lead to supping long from the cup of disappointment. Turning to the internet again for deliverance I stumbled across the ‘big bike’ Facebook page of the TRF and discovered that I was not alone in my aspirations and so a faux lonely hearts ad was duly placed. As a result this would be Jedi found Yoda in the form of a expat South African enduro rider with the look of the High Velt about him and a mud encrusted KTM 990 Adv which looked as if it had seen the heart of darkness.

Accepting his kind offer to show me the ropes, so began a journey which resulted in numerous outings to the byways of the southern England, involved my reacquaintance with that most elegant of mistresses: gravity and her fickle sisters: mud and wet rock. Along the way and by osmosis, a sound understanding of big bike technique was fostered and I’ve experienced some life affirming encounters with the British countryside at its best.

Now much has been written about the virtues of the 1190 Adventure and so I won’t repeat them but instead I’ll share a few personal observations based on my limitations. Firstly it is an extremely capable machine and greenlaning one is probably not unlike living with a lion cub in that it’s cute, cuddly and playful and then one day you appear in the Daily Mail because it decided to eat you.

With that in mind, I’ve found the electronics package to be an effective pacifier and a great way to mitigate a Daily Mail appearance. However I did find that when stretching its legs over the Shaftesbury Drove, the front forks tended to bury themselves into ruts and on several occasions: bottom out. This was soon resolved with a visit to the “Fork Whisper” aka Mitch at Technical Solutions in Bristol who confirmed that the spring rate was correct but the stock valving was the softest he’d yet seen. The result of laying his healing hands on the forks was that I how have a front end that really inspires confidence and means that water filled corrugations can be taken at pace without feeling like disappointment will surely follow. I’ve been so impressed with this change that I’m planning to get him to look at the rear shock in a few months when I’ve made peace with Santa’s Revenge aka the Christmas credit card bill.

Being an insatiable fettler I’ve naturally changed a few other things, one of which was to sort the ergonomics by adding more padding in the bench seat, lower the foot pegs as well as move the side stand mount off of the engine case. The latter was based on the fear that an awkward landing had the potential to damage the casing with would be a disaster. I found the solution to the latter via a hobby machinist in Germany whilst cruising the Adv Rider forum. If anyone is interested, I’d be happy to pass on his details along with anything else that’s been mentioned here and some other stuff that good editorial manners precludes a description of.

So what of our future: the KTM 1190 Adventure R and me? Well through good fortune and guidance, our relationship has turned out far better than I could have ever imagined. That said it is not a 250 and even with the price drop associated with the release of the new model, I would not suggest that anyone who wants to dabble in a spot of greenlaning lean into one of these.

However if you do decide that your life is incomplete without a thrilling, large displacement V Twin, are fairly long of limb and have friends who don’t mind helping to dead lift the weight of the ‘average’ American (ok, that was a gross stereotype!) then you could do far worse that drink the orange cool aid.


 
 

Have you got a big adventure bike? Want to see what it's like off the tarmac? The TRF can help you find trails suitable for your bike and ability. Our members all over the country are a friendly source of local knowledge about Green Roads, where to ride and where might be best avoided if you're just starting out. Our TRF Adventure Bike Facebook Group is a good place to start