Motorcycle Online: First Look: KTM LC8 Adventure

First Look: KTM LC8 Adventure

KTM LC8 Adventure

A Superbike for the Desert?

By Yossef Schvetz

Torrance, California, November 8, 2000 -- If KTM were located in Japan, you could be rest assured that the factory's rally race team managers would have committed Hara-kiri after the 2000 Paris-Dakar race. After years of having to play David against Goliath to Yamaha's all conquering big bore twins, the last two P-D editions should have been a KTM walkaway. With Yamaha withdrawing their works bikes in the last two years, nobody was supposed to spoil KTM's party. But, it was not to be. The good old early '80s Dakar winners, BMW, made an unforgettable come back and stole what seemed like sure bet wins from the Austrian firm.

Enough is enough. Someone in Mattighofen, Austria, must have thought it was about time to show the KTM racers how it feels to ride in the roost of a big-engine dune rocket. And, no more excuses from riders about a lack of power.

Enter KTM's new 950 cc dirt monster. In this brave new world of sportbikes with 150 hp and less than 170 kg of weight, it was about time that dirt slingers got their own long-travel suspension superbike. The new 950 LC8 promises to be just that. With a scant weight (for a fully road-equipped twin) of 189 kg and up to 100 hp, this honey should be able to fly above the African flats at 140 mph.

Beneath the bulbous gas tank lurks a meaty V-twin. Mmmm. Makes our mouths water.
The model that KTM unveiled at the last Munich show, the 950 LC8 Adventure, is the over-the-counter, tamed, dual sport version. As if the shock of KTM's first twin-cylinder engine was not enough, the bike itself is a true design masterpiece, featuring groundbreaking lines that give it an ultra-sophisticated appearance. The 950 cc twin is enclosed in full-coverage bodywork with sensuous lines and beautiful detailing. Just one look at the weird-but-wonderful fairing will convince you that KTM designers created a truly special bike.

But this new bike is really all about that big engine. It's a very up-to-date and compact 75 degree V-twin with 942 cc of capacity. This comes courtesy of a 100 mm bore and 60 mm stroke. Contrary to the previous KTM practice of using a single camshaft with rockers to activate the valves, this engine has double overhead camshafts that should really let the motor rev. KTM weren't revealing too much technical information. But, judging from the actual engine in the stand, it was easy to see that the cams are driven by a two-stage drive. A chain brings motion to a chain-wheel in the cylinder-head, and then, a separate toothed gear drives the cams. This elaborate system brings a considerable reduction in size to the upper portion of the engine. No mention was made of counter-balancers in the engine, so it's a good bet there aren't any. A 75 degree V-twin is never going to be as smooth as a 90 degree iteration. But, hey! This is a KTM! So, expect some mild loosening of tooth fillings. Air-fuel mixing chores are, at the moment, in the hands of rather special-looking 43 mm CV carbs, but a KTM technician proudly claimed that fuel injection is in the works. EFI, incidentally, would prove another first for KTM. Other nice touches include electric start, six speeds and a hydraulic clutch.

Thin profile means easy navigation through difficult terrain.
But the most impressive aspect of the KTM engine is its amazing lack of bulk. At 56 kg, it is a full 20 kg lighter than the BMW R1150GS' power unit and about 17 kg lighter than the Honda Varadero's VTR based-engine. Since the two other engines were born for road duty, it might not be the fairest comparison, but it definitely shows what sort of potential there is for a true lightweight, dirt-going twin.

Engine weight aside, one lovable aspect of the Adventure is its narrow stance. Forget about the intimidating bulk of the likes of the Varadero or GS. This twin is as svelte as a single and could easily be mistaken for an elongated dual-purpose single.

The frame is a multi-tube, open-cradle affair with the engine serving as a stressed member, helped in its task by a structural, cast aluminum sump guard. As per normal practice in anything meaning business (and crashes too), the rear subframe is removable and fabricated in aluminum.

The front fairing sports a love-it or hate-it appearance.
White Power units at both ends handle suspension chores. Up front, there is a 48 mm upside-down multi-adjuster fork while at the back you'll find a linkless, adjustable shock with remote hydraulic preload control. Brembo brakes all around with dual front disks promise to slow things down in a hurry.

At the press launch, it was hard not to notice the amount of enthusiasm KTM officials harbor towards their new baby. It's also worth note that KTM is enjoying a serious upswing in sales. US sales alone rose from 5,185 units to 7,000 last year... a hefty 35% increase. With this new twin, additional markets should open up for KTM, a company that in some ways suffered from an image that was deemed too focused on purpose-built, professional machinery.

The new 950 LC8 could cater to discerning clients who want to buy a product that carries KTM's European mystique, but also delivers a broader spectrum of abilities. After all, the 950 Adventure's concept of a high-performance touring/enduro machine is quite unique. Plenty of buyers who liked the idea behind the Beemer R1150GS but hated its sheer bulk could form sizable queues outside KTM dealerships. Who knows, with KTM selling bikes such as the road only Duke, an exciting sport bike could be in the works too.

Does dual-exhaust equal twice the fun? You be the judge.
One thing is sure: the muscular mill is going to power KTM's next generation of desert stormers. 2001 should yield some desert rally appearances of the racing 950. In 2002, the twin will tackle the hardest off-road test of them all: the Paris-Dakar. With this heavy ammunition in their arsenal, there are not going to be too many excuses left if KTM doesn't win.


Engine: 2 cylinder, 4 stroke, V 75°, liquid cooled,
4 valves per cylinder, DOHC
Displacement: 942 cc
Bore/stroke: 100 X 60 mm
Power: 102 hp at 8000 rpm
Torque: 97 NM at 6000 rpm (71.5 ft/lbs)
Compression: 11.5:1
Starter: electric
Speeds: 6
Carburetion: 43mm CV / EFI
Frame: Open cradle, chrome-moly tubes
Subframe: aluminum
Fork: WP, USD, 48 mm
Shock: WP, PDS
Suspension travel: 265/260 mm (10.4/10.2 in)
Front brake: Brembo Double 320mm disks
Rear brake: Brembo 240 mm disk
Tires: Metzeler 90/90-21" front, 150/70-18" rear
Steering angle: 26.6
Castor: 119mm (4.7 in)
Wheelbase: 1570mm (61.9 in)
Ground clearance: 316 mm (12.5 in)
Seat height: 920mm (36.2 in)
Tank: 26 Liters (6.9 gal)
Dry weight: 189kg (416.7 lbs)

Related Readings:

Back to Top
Back to Manufacturers Row
Back to Motorcycle Online