Today it was Orange Days special here in Athens and I got to ride both the new 1190’s. Standard and R. On a sunny day the ride consisted of 30 minutes with each, 5% city and 95% open roads (mainly highway). So my impressions are subject to these conditions. And let me begin by the static assessment. The bike looks wayyyy better in flesh than in pics. As far as which stroke me as best it was definitely the 1190 R. It’s got the better color/graphics combination and it clearly stands out from the other two. Second comes the orange version and very close almost a tie the grey one. Quality and finish appear to be much better than the outgoing 990 – they had a brand new one there, so one could observe – in a few words the 1190 deliver!
On to a grey 1190 then for the first ride. Riding position: A bit different from the 950, more trailie-like and towards the likes of GS and Multistrada 1200. Ergonomics suited my 6 f. 32 inseam perfectly. The sidestand was hard to fold, as if the spring needed a bit of grease/oil to work more freely. The clocks looked great but we didn’t have the option to mess with the settings that were on the ‘Street’ mode, abs and tc on, suspension set on one person. Signals switch a bit hard and you couldn’t understand at first if you did switch it on or not. Overall feel on the seat a bit harder than I expected and a lot comfier than the 950’s plank! I was flatfooting it, no problem. Off we go and after the first couple of meters I get that familiar feeling that I was riding this for a long time. Balance is almost perfect compared to the Explorer top heavy, previous GS 1200 and Multistrada 1200. So, no problems at very low speeds. I didnīt notice heavy steering due to the damper.
We leave the city behind and the party begins. It’s a ‘controlled’ party though. The traction control lets you slide a bit and makes the ride enjoyable as you launch forward off the green lights. But it leaves you with the thought of having less intervention and more play, which I guess can be easily had if you deactivate it. The way the bike picks up speed is indeed mind warping and superbike territory. But I couldn’t help but noticing that the sixth gear is fairly long and it doesn’t pick up while on the road having 100 kms on the odo. The bike seemed to be a bit hesitant when pinning the throttle, whereas from 120kms and on it’s a rocket experience. And after the 150kms mark, I and a couple of other riders I talk to after the ride did notice a weave on the bars and to think that the 1190 has a steering damper. Maybe on the ‘Sport’ setting this changes. But it was present. You didn’t get the feeling that something could happen but I was thinking that it would be best to back off the throttle a bit. As far as turning, there were only fast sweepers on our route and while leaned over the 1190 felt very good planted just like a very good street bike. Brakes: Excellent and compared w/ the 950/990 … well, no comparison really! While on the brakes there’s a considerable amount of dive. But in no way disconcerting. I would prefer if it were 10% less. Again, maybe this changes on the ‘Sport’ setting. The truth is that we were stressing the bikes. It wasn’t your average touring ride, but then on a KTM and with a motor like that you just canīt help it. And the engine is fantastic. Alive and kicking on a par with the Multistrada and equally engaging. Maybe a bit more civilized when on the lower revs. I rode the Multi 2 years ago so I am not that fresh on that experience. Windscreen on the lowest setting and everything was great til the 150 mark. Then it was ducking time. Wind noise on acceptable levels, I would use earplugs for long journeys as on every bike.
After returning the 1190 and following a powerpoint presentation of the bike’s features I took the 1190 R. I was really curious to see how the taller suspended sibling with its wider handlebar performed on road having in mind the handlebar weave of the standard model. I flatfooted the R as well, it doesn’t feel that taller. You can feel it sink more when you sit on it. The riding position is a bit different here. You’re higher and a bit more forward. I didn’t find the seat harder than the normal because the bike’s taller suspension felt comfier. And another thing. The R was steadier at high speeds!!! I assume that me being a bit higher and slightly hunched over the front did its wonders. I cannot explain it otherwise. I was really impressed by the R, more so from the standard model, because I expected a more … ahem, lively character. It’s amazing how electronics tame the 18”-21” wheels set up and the bike really goes and steers that well. Handling wise the 950 with the same set up simply does not compare. Of course there is a great a amount of dive while braking which form very high speeds upsets the rider more than the bike. The R’ screen works better til the 140 mark on it’s lowest setting. From then on I would raise it and my gut says that it will perform better than the stock.
So, after two 30min sessions I can say that I would like to repeat the test ride on the standard model with the seat placed on the higher setting. I seriously believe that this would cure for me the weave problem. I would like to read of course your opinion on this, especially form people that own the bike and have ridden it on similar conditions and speeds. The 1190 is a leap forward from the previous model and I would seriously consider it as my next bike. The perfect for me? I am torn really. The skinny R or a 1190 with the R screen and colours? Photoshop anyone?