KTM Adventure



2004 KTM 950 Adventure
Fun, Fun, Fun


Video .wmv> low 945kb, high 3.2meg (play at 50% size for clear image)

Sales of KTM motorcycles in the US have been coming on strong. So strong, in fact, some in the industry now refer to the "Big 5" rather than the "Big 4" (sorry Harley). We don't use this term because the "Big 4" sell street bikes as well as off-road bikes. Until this year, KTM has sold primarily off-road bikes with the exception of some dual-sport machines and the extremely fun Duke.

Watch out, as KTM has a new focus and one that, in the future, could even have using the term "The Big 5". With an extremely strong off-road market share KTM has few choices in direction if they want to continue their rapid growth. Nothing, other than maybe ATV's, is left for KTM to expand into except for streetbikes. The exciting 950 Adventure is the first of KTM's new streetbike releases, and one closer to the companies off-road roots than later releases will be.

Development of the 950 began over three years ago and the new engine has already been raced in the grueling Dakar Rally for two of those years. It's not just the engine that's been race tested, as KTM claims an unbelievable 95% of the new Adventure's components were used in Dakar. This type of rugged development might lead you to believe this new bike is rough around the edges, but we were thrilled to learn nothing could be further from the truth. The new Adventure is actually soft around the edges making for an easy to ride and very enjoyable bike. Clutch pull is easy and smooth, the excellent brakes require only a light touch, steering is easy and shifting is positive and slick.

The chassis feels rock solid as well (just look at our action photos) and the fully adjustable suspension components are high quality items. There's a 48mm inverted White Power fork up front and a White Power PDS shock, with a handy swing-out preload adjuster, out back. These components combine with the bikes smaller size and lighter weight to make the KTM the king of big adventure bikes, at least as far as off-roading goes. Can you think of a competitors bike you'd repeatedly jump, in stock form, like we did on the Adventure?

We spent two fun-filled days on the Adventure and couldn't be more excited or impressed with this all-new KTM. We don't say this based solely on the machines performance, but by how much we thoroughly enjoyed riding the bike. It's far too easy in these days of model specialization to get wrapped up in how good your bike is for it's narrow focus. Most of us started riding because it was fun, and this is what the new Adventure pumps out in spades. Just get on, shut up and ride.

A class act on pavement Exploring made fun Stripped

And ride we did, across the Southern California desert in up to 110 degree heat. If the new engine was going to show any inherent problems, these were glorious conditions for it to do so. Though these were horrendous conditions for humans, the Adventure showed no signs of caring how hot it was or how hard we pushed it. One journalist, in fact, ran out of steam long before the Adventure did.

The mildly-tuned KTM-built LC8 engine is a 942cc, liquid cooled, 75º V-twin 4-stroke. The electric starting engine features a balancer shaft and two valves per cylinder with bucket type tappets. KTM used a dry sump design to enable placing the engine as low as possible in the chassis. A three liter remote oil tank sets just below the radiator. 

Fuel is fed in by two 43mm carburetors which are integrated into the airbox. The engine was a big surprise to us, as it has a free-spinning and easy revving feel. It's a competent and enjoyable mill that leaves you grinning with every big twist of the throttle. Run the Adventure through the gears, as we often did, and it gets to an indicated buck twenty rather quickly and without complaint. The intake and exhaust sounds produced are pleasurable as well. For street use, the engine is well mannered, predictable and thoroughly enjoyable. Dare we say that we could have imagined a few larger big name companies building an engine this nice, but up until now, not KTM.

Small storage in top of tank cover Two caps, lockable each side LCD with some computer functions Can you say "full coverage"?

The Adventure's sturdy chassis is impressive as well, placing 50% of the weight on the 90/90x21 inch front tire and the same over the wide 150/70x18 inch rear. While traversing tight back roads with rolling bumps, well it was more like an undulating  paved single lane dirt road, we wheelied over some rollers and jumped others while following KTM's Scott Harden. The bike's composure carried over to fast sweeping mountain roads as well, where we had a blast playing "sport bike rider" on the blacktop. We fell in love with the power and excellent feedback provided by the front Brembo calipers grabbing dual 300mm discs - a big asset for street riding. The big Adventure worked so well on the street we asked if we could get a test bike to ride to the AMA Superbike races at Laguna Seca. We could just imagine the double takes of other riders as we passed them on the big orange machine.

Off-road, the LC8 engine is surprisingly tractable with no tendency of delivering abrupt power to upset your ride - just excellent roll-on power. On long straights it's a blast to screw on the throttle. With the stock rear tire spinning endlessly, we saw 80 mph speeds easily. With its stout chassis and excellent suspension package the Adventure works well over small bumps and will handle moderate bumps at slow speeds. Few bikes of this size could ever be jumped, but this can be done on the Adventure. The chassis and suspension will handle this easily, but limitations arise from the bikes weight and available traction. 

Yes, it will! Good power and it's fun More fun with knobbies A somewhat willing slider Capable flyer
(photo by Tom Van Beveren)

This is also the limiting factor when riding the Adventure off-road - traction. Imagine adding 150 or more pounds to your dirt bike. With the same tire contact patch, a bike with more weight just isn't going to stop the same. And this is the only concern we have with the Adventure for sane off-road use, it just doesn't stop quickly. Once the rear starts sliding sideways in the dirt it's hard to get it stopped. We watched others sample the local dirt because of this. We rode a bike outfitted with knobbies and found it to make a substantial improvement - but it doesn't turn the bike into an off-roader. We simply rode the bike quickly when on straight dirt roads and very cautiously when twisty roads came our way. The Adventure will certainly travel off-road, you just have to be careful - and we wouldn't want to cover too much dirt without knobbies.  

We rode both the standard model and the "S" model (the "S" model simply has longer suspension travel) and found the standard model will easily handle any off-road situation you're likely to throw at the bike. The "S" is even taller, and the additional height can be felt when tossing the bike around on the blacktop. We'd choose the standard model every time unless we were going to modify the bike for more serious off-road riding.

Overall the new Adventure is a huge surprise as to how rideable, comfortable and enjoyable it is as a package. On the street it feels like a refined model with lots of development on it's side. In the dirt, it feels like a featherweight compared to other bikes in its class, but still nothing like a Dual Sport machine. It just may be the ultimate long distance go almost-anywhere on-road or off-road motorcycle on the planet. We'd add softer seat foam (it's shaped perfectly but too stiff) and a set of street-going knobby tires before venturing out on a long trip. We'd also add a pair of KTM's secure mounting side bags.

If the Adventure fits your type of motorcycling, you owe it to yourself to give the bike a close look before choosing one of the larger and heavier competitors. The first time you hit a dirt road or a trail on one of the other bikes you'll be sorry you didn't choose the bike with the stoutest chassis and suspension, not to mention the lightest weight in its class. With the Adventures good comfort level, excellent manners and overall fun-to-ride qualities it opens up new possibilities for endless exploring. MN

2004 KTM 950 Adventure
Starter  Electric starter, 0.9 kW
Coolant 2.1 liters, mix 40% antifreeze, 60% water, at least –25° C
Cooling Liquid cooling, water pump
Spark plugs 


Generator 12V  450W at 6000 rpm
Ignition timing 5° BTDC at 1200 rpm
Ignition Contact-less electronic transistor ignition system with digital timing adjustment
Transmission ratios 1st gear 35:12, 2nd gear 32:15, 3rd gear 30:18, 4th gear 27:20, 5th gear 27:2, 6th gear 26:27
Transmission 6-speed
Primary drive  Straight-toothed cylinder gear 67:35
Clutch  Multi-disc clutch in oil bath
Oil fill volume Approximately 3.0 liters at oil/filter change
Engine oil  SAE 10W-50 
Engine lubrication Dry sump with 2 trochoid pumps (pressure pump and suction pump) 
Valve clearance cold Intake: 0.15 mm    exhaust: 0.25 mm
Valve diameter Intake: 38 mm    exhaust: 33 mm
Valve control 4 valves controlled by bucket tappets and 2 camshafts, camshaft drive with gears/chain
Fuel Super unleaded
Compression 11.5 : 1 
Bore/stroke 100/60 mm 
Displacement 942 cc
Engine 2-cylinder 4-cycle internal combustion engine, 75º V with balancer shaft, liquid cooled - 950 LC8 
Max. total weight 400 kg (882 pounds)
Weight without fuel 206 kg//436.5lbs  
Ground clearance unloaded Adventure: 281 mm/ 11.06", Adventure S: 316 mm/ 12.4” 
Seat height unloaded Adventure: 880 mm/ 34.6” (approx.), Adventure S: 915 mm/36” 
Wheelbase 1590 mm / 61.8” 
Steering head angle 63.4°
Battery 12V 14 Ah, maintenance free 
Fuel Capacity 22 liters,   4 liter reserve (5.8 US Gallons)
Tire Rear Pirelli MT90 150/70-18 M/C 70
Tire Front Pirelli MT90  90/90-21 M/C 54V 
Brake Rear Disc brake, perforated brake disc 240 mm/9.45”, floating brake calipers 
Brake Front Disc brake, 2 perforated brake discs 300 mm/11.8”, floating brake calipers 
Suspension Front White Power – Up Side Down 4860 MXMA (multi-adjuster) / Adventure = 230 mm/ 9.0”,   Adventure S = 265 mm/10.43” 
Suspension Rear WP Progressive Damping System shock absorber with hydraulic preload adjuster, needle-bearing-mounted rear wheel swing arm / Adventure = 230 mm/,   Adventure S = 265 mm/10.43” 
Colors Adventure - Silver/Black or Orange/Black / Adventure S - Orange/Black
MSRP US Adventure - $11,998 / Adventure S - $12,498
KTM: 2004 950 Adventure
Quick Specs: Ratings:  Poor Fair Good V/Good Excellent
Displacement: 942cc, liquid-cooled 4-stroke, 75º V-twin with 4 valves Acceleration               8    
Drive: Chain / 6 speed Brakes                 9  
Fuel Capacity:    5.8 Gal. ( reserve) Carburetion                 9  
Fuel Mileage:  mid 30s (estimated) Comfort (overall)                 9  
Fuel Range: 200 miles (estimated) Comfort (touring)               8.5    
Susp. Front: White Power 43mm – Inverted fork Finish (quality)                 9  
Susp. Back: WP (PDS Progressive Damping System) shock with 
flip-out hydraulic
preload adjuster
Handling (overall)                 9  
Tire Front: Pirelli MT90  90/90-21 M/C 54V  Stability (handling)                 9  
Tire Rear: Pirelli MT90 150/70-18 M/C 70 Suspension (overall)                 9+  
Weight:   Dry -  437 lbs.

Fun Factor®

Retail (US): $11,998 / $12,498 "S"

Overall Rating


*** Ratings are for this type or class of motorcycle. Ratings are not intended to compare against all motorcycles ***

Ups Downs
Smooth, competent and fun engine. Seat is well shaped, but too stiff for long rides.
Strong brakes with good feel, especially the front brake - great on the street. Tank is part of body work, will get scratched in crash. Will not be cheap to replace.
Soft, supple suspension that can take to the dirt like no other bike in this class. Fully adjustable as well. Bike is tall. Tall riders will love it, short riders will be comfortable once rolling.
Perfect seat shape and positioning. Knobbies to fit the wide rims are hard to find at this time..
Dakar tested / developed engine. .
Very light-pull controls, not typical for KTM. .
Extremely stable accessory bags available. We don't permanently have one planted in our shop.

Photos by: Mark Kariya (Thanks Mark)

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