The new RC8-R for 2011 has a host of tweaks which claim to have resolved the issues that plagued previous models. Shaun Pope finds
KTM's first foray into the sportsbike market in 2008 was a bit hit and miss to say the least. The original RC8 was dogged with problems from the outset, namely gearbox issues compounded by poor fuelling.
On the latest model more power has been gained by upping the displacement to 1195cc. KTM have also equipped the R with twin spark technology (two spark plugs per cylinder) and a heavier flywheel in the quest for smoother throttle response.
Top spec WP suspension front and back is equal in quality to Ohlins equipment fitted to the rival Ducati 1198S. Braking is courtesy of Brembo monobloc callipers and master cylinder, again found on the 1198S. Lightweight Marchesini magnesium wheels and a claimed 175bhp mean on paper the KTM is set to be a serious contender.
Enough of the tech-spec though, what's it like to ride? First and foremost are the looks. The RC8R (especially in the orange and white colour scheme) is a real head turner. Pretty wouldn't be the right word to describe it. It's angular, purposeful. I spent far too long staring at it from various angles. Gorgeous.
The riding position on this model is multi-adjustable. The bars, pegs and subframe itself are all adaptable. This particular machine was set with the pegs low and bars high, and despite the seat being carved from solid granite, was a very comfortable place to be sat. Once on board you get the feeling the KTM could even be used for long distance touring, such is the level of comfort available.
The way the RC8R delivers its power takes some getting used to. There is no huge step in power anywhere, just constant linear drive. Together with the drone of the V-twin engine it fools you into thinking the bike isn't travelling quickly. However the clocks tell a different story. This machine is fast enough to embarrass your average Scud missile.
Pretty much any gear you choose accompanied with a handful of throttle will send you horizon bound at a fair old pace. It's also immediately obvious the fuelling isn't perfect, but it isn't far off and the modifications to improve things have gone a long way. Slow speed manoeuvres through town are no longer a chore.
When you inevitably find yourself approaching a roundabout far too quickly you'll be pleased to know the Brembo stoppers are incredibly capable. Initial lever travel isn't too harsh and offers plenty of feel, and with a firm tug you'll find the rear wheel getting light very quickly.
I'm sure this upgraded version would be most at home on track, the lighter wheels and added power undoubtedly offering a serious improvement over the base model. The lightness of the bike became apparent in the twisties. Handling is better than anyone will be able to test on the road. Importantly it also flatters the rider with great feel adding confidence at every turn.
There were a few minor gripes with the KTM. The mirrors on the RC8R were next to useless. The engine vibrations were simply too harsh for them to cope with, ruling out any chance of getting a clear picture of what's behind you. Not ideal on a machine this potent.
These are all forgiven when you pull over for a break and fall into a trance staring at the thing. It's a real head turner. With the prices of the Japanese and Italian competition closer than ever, looks and styling have become the deciding factor for many. At £12,995 it is a seriously tempting prospect.
There are standard unregistered 2009 model RC8's for sale at £8,200 if you look hard enough for them. Still brand new with zero miles. This alone should be enough to get you calling your local KTM dealer to arrange a test ride.
WORDS SHAUN POPE PHOTOGRAPHY MARK JOHNSON
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