Spring premiere tour 2019 – Öland on the KTM 790 Adv R

 

This will be the first full size travel report on this page in English, simply because I am convinced that it might be interesting to read about my first experiences with the brand new KTM.

Finally, the waiting is over – for me! While those poor Yamaha-Fans still need to wait several months for the new Tenere 700 to shop up in the showrooms, I am today picking up my brand new KTM 790 Adventure R! And since the dealer, what gave me the best price for my Honda Africa Twin is in Kalmar, I will spend the next two days doing some riding on the island of Öland.

So why the swap of bikes? It’s not that I didn’t like the Honda any more. But from the beginning I was a bit sceptical about the weight of the bike. I have never had it on a balance, but I guess with a few addons it would show something like 240kg. The Honda served me well, despite all child diseases (sticky switches, corroding spokes, leaking fork seals) we had a good time together. I travelled 40.000km on the bike in only two seasons, both to Germany, Wales and Romania. But especially in Romania I needed to realize that the heavy bike on really bad roads and splippy surfaces limits my riding. I am not an offroad or enduro expert, my „offroad“ experience is limited to more or less bad gravel roads. In Romania I needed to turn around a several times simply because it did not feel clever and safe to go further on my own.

Then, in fall 2018, KTM finally presented what many had hoped for: two versions of the KTM 790 Adventure. And you are right if you’d say the S model would probably fit me (1.71m, 30“ inseam) better, also because I don’t really do that kind of extreme riding which the R is build for. I still decided for the more advanced R model, simply because I wanted the fully adjustable suspension, that does not need fiddling around with tools just to adjust the preload on the back to riding with or without luggage. It also comes with the more advanced electronic riding aids. I ordered my 790 in December 2018 and it had been a long long winter…

I am arriving in Kalmar around 9:30. I decided not to ride Honda all the way (450km) down from Stockholm, but borrowed a motorcycle trailer from a friend, loaded the previous evening the AT and spend one night in my favorite camp at Björndalens Naturreservat. Arriving at Alternativ 1 Motorcycles in Kalmar, my eyes fixate right away a 790R in front of the shop. Yes, this will be mine! The friendly sales guy Tom offers me not only coffee , but even a free sandwich – I am really appreciating this, because I had forgotten to buy any milk or yoghurt for my cerial this moring, so my breakfast had been really rudimentar. Great customer service – and with a well filled stomach the customer is in a better mood to spend some money! 🙂

About 2 hours later the contract is signed, my credit card company will wonder what I bought that day and the Mosko Moto Reckless 80 luggage system is mounted on the KTM. I have also installed my GPS cradle temporarily on the handlebar, so that I don’t get lost on that „huge“ island of Öland. Tom even allows me to park my car and trailer inside the compound and hands me the key for the massive gate. That way the trailer will for still sure be there, when I come back in two days. Last act before I aim for the long bridge to Öland: fill her up all the way. I am curious about fuel efficiency!

Fully travel kitted KTM 790 Adv R with Mosko Moto R80 panders and Enduristan tank bag

The weather for those coming days is very promissing, just above freezing in the nights, maybe 10 degrees plus at daytime, lots of sun – but really windy! I am a bit sceptical about that long bridge crossing in these windy conditions, but it is no problem at all. At the other side I am right away aiming for the minor roads, hoping to find some unpaved roads. And yes, there are quite some on the island. The plan is to head north first, visiting some interesting sites like the historic bronze age ring fort Ismanstorps borg and of course logging some geocaches. The ring fort proves well worth a visit. Inside the walls it had a tight agglomeration of houses, something that is not so usual for that kind of fortification.

Ismanstorps fornborg – maybe the most impressive ring fort on Öland

Now I am heading north, finding some nice gravel roads and eating some bread and cheese in Borgholm. Not far north from Borgholm a long gravel road along the west coast of Öland starts, which I am following now. The complete island is  – just like it’s northern neighbour  Gotland – a huge limestone plateau. So no surprise that all long the coast I am passing some limestong quarries. I am also having a geocaching stop on the way, at a spot of a not so successful military project. Someone had in the 1940s the „great“ idea to dig a trench right across the island, that could be flooded with water if there should be (German?) invasion coming. The project was started but soon judeged as useless. Still a few sections of the ditch can be seen today.

 

My final destination is a nice spot right at the beach within Bödakustens Naturreservat. Here I am moving into a single room with sea view and private fireplace for the night. Bad surprise: I have forgotten my fleece beany in the car, the wind is horribly cold, so I need to improvise using the thin balaclava which I am always wearing inside my helmet. Bad mistake!

Beter than any TV program!

The next morning the weather has not changed, for the good and the bad. It’s still sunny, but horribly cold and windy. I keep my breakfast time to a minimum, get quickly packed  and start riding further north. First stop: Ölands norra udde, the northernmost point with it’s lighthouse „Långe Erik“ (the tall Eric). What a live that must have been to work here as a lighthouse keeper. Once in a time that had really been a lighthouse master, a lighthouse keeper and an assistant, all of them with their families! Their jobs were strictly hirachically organized and controlled, all to make sure that the lighthouse lamp will always guide the ships safely.

 

Coming back to my bike I am talking to a young guy who had been sitting in his car with laptop on his knees, when I arrived. He is actually visiting the island as a photographer and dreams of a few good landscape shots, which he has already visualized in his imagination. I am carrying only my lightest travel camera, the Panasonic LX 100, while he of course has the full kit with him. And by surprise I meet him just a few kilometer further, after passing some nice water pools that created a great spray. So I am „hiring“ him as a my private eye and we get a few really good shots!

Let’s have fun! Photo: Albin Östervall

For the next hours I am riding south again, sadly large sections on the main road as there is not real alternative. I am stopping for a few geocaches and historical sites, like standing stones and not so old windmills – of those there are plenty on this exposed and completely flat island. The KTM is great fun, off pavement the suspension seems to be a class better than the Honda. However it is also stiffer, so onroad not as comfortable as the Africa Twin. For that reason I would recommend the S model to anybody who is riding mostly pavement.

At the end of the road: a picknick table! 🙂

A huge area of southern Öland is a very barren landscape, almost like a savanne in Africa. The limestone ground is covered only with a very thin layer of earth, so vegetation has big problems growing large here. This area is called „Stora Alvaret“ and riding from Stenåsa to Mörbylånga the views speep for many kilometers over this flat landscape.

Shortly before Stenåsa the yellow light for the fuel had come on, quite a bit to my surprise at only 350km. I can only imagine that maybe the tank was not entirely full when I started the previous day. The gas station I am aiming at… is gone, only the foundations of the pumps are left, so I need to call it a day, drive to Mörbylånga and since it’s already 5pm I can anyway head for my camp site. Just south of the town some years ago – actually the same day I test rode first time the Africa Twin of a friend! – he showed my this nice little wind shelter. Ok, admitted, I am cheating a bit, riding the last 500m on a bicyle trail and ignoring some intollerant signs, but this is pre-season, so no cyclists around. The wind has not yet diminished, but at least the bushes around the shelter give some releave. The little hut itself – as usual just three walls, a wooden floor and a roof – does not give good protection, because it is build of thin round timber with gabs between. Well, at least you stay dry if it rains… Nice that there is some firewood, so I can warm myself, but as usual 21:00 is sleeping bag time…

First signs of spring

Day three. The cold wind has finally slowed down. Today I am riding all the way to the southern tip of the island. Once there has been a railway on Öland and the old railbed is today in parts still preserved, signed as a bicycle path. I need to admit: I ignored the signs and used that gravel road to cross the island from west to east. I would not do this in summer, when the tourist season has started, but today i don’t meet a single human being. Halfways there are two resting places, very nicely done with a wind shelter. The more eastern one is build at the former site of a railway guards house. I have a short stop and of course log a geocache there. Further south the railbed is more difficult, if not impossible to ride, someone has even build a house directly on the former railbed. So back to the main road.

A perfect straight line: the former railbed across Stora Alvaret

Shortly after  that I am arriving at the southern tip, were again I walk around the lighthouse Lange Jan. The area is actually a center for birdwatchers and now in spring must be a great place for them when the migrating birds are coming back to Sweden and have a stop here. I have a coffee, nice after three days with instant coffee, record a video about the KTM and then head north again.

Just a few kilometers north there are some stading stones (and a GC), so I go for a short walk. Should I really touch those stones, after knowing what happend Claire in the popular TV series outlander?Fortunately I am staying in my time and can continue riding my 95 horses.

Are you brave enough to touch Kungsstenen (The Kings stone)?

One last highlight is the crossing of Stora Alvaret again from east to west, this time on a hardly recognizeable tractor trail. I am really lucky that it didn’t rain in the last days, then the ground would be extremely slippy. I take it easy on this almost-offroad stage.

So finally around 3pm I am back in Kalmar. The gate is open, some guy is working in the workshop, so I have no problems getting my car and the trailer out. He even helps me pushing up and balancing the bike on the trailer, a task that will be quite hard if you are alone.

So what is the first impression of the KTM 790 Adventure R?

– The seat height is slightly higher than that of the Honda Africa Twin, but still manageable

– The bike feels very light and nimble and is really easy to handle offroad, thanks to the comperatively low weight of 209kg (fully fueled, not measured yet) and low point of balance (due to the low tank)

– The suspension is stiffer than that of the Honda. If you primarily ride on pavement, the S model might be the better choice.

– Fuel consumption is around 4.1…4.3l/100km (55…57MPG) if you ride it in „touring mode“

I have not yet played with all the settings for the rider aids, but one thing I figured out that the bike gets surprisingly agressive if you chose Rally Mode and traction control setting 1 – I got almost overtaken by my own back wheel!

The bike is not in the workshop for the first service at 1000km (I have actually ridden it 1120km) and then next weekend I will take it to Finland. No long riding there, but the season is just starting…