After taking advice from you guys, on Saturday I went to test ride a KTM RC8 with Bracen KTM in Bermondsey. I had only ever seen pictures of the bike and I wasn’t massively taken with the looks. First impressions were very simple “It’s no Ducati” I went into chat with Andrew and Will the sales guys who proceeded to relieve me of my driving licence, credit card and all the rest of my junk before handing me the keys to the RC8.
The first “bum on seat” impression was really quite promising; it felt extremely “Mille like” in stature and with me being relatively short in the leg I was on the balls of my feet but could easily and comfortably get one foot flat and one up on the peg no problems. With a quick turn of the key the dash flashed alive. You are literally bombarded with information. Some say it’s a complicated setup but frankly once you have figured out where everything is its easy enough to navigate.
The dash gives you everything from your regular rev counter across the top of the digital display, to speed, tank range and tyre pressures. The two switch gears are setup in a similar fashion to most other bikes on the market today. My only gripe is that there is a “Lap” button which control’s your dash functions, right smack bang where you would expect the horn to be, with the horn offset slightly to the right.
Your “Track Hero’s” wouldn’t find this a problem but for your every day road rider it took a bit of getting used too.
While instinctively pulling in the clutch I thumbed the starter and the bike thumped to life. Even with the standard exhaust system, the 75 deg 1190cc V-Twin engine sounded immense and revved cleanly with a few quick blips of the throttle (which is lucky considering KTM have sole distribution of the Akropovich system which they have priced at an utterly credit crunching price of -2000). I reached for the side stand with my heel, but it was just out of range so made a go of it with my toe.
This managed to get the side stand up, but clonk the bike into gear at the same time, stalling it. Fail.
Out on the open road the RC8 is astonishingly roomy for what appears to be such a compact bike. I was out riding for just over two hours and I got off with no aches or pain what so ever – coming from GSXR1000K3 which caused me to spend a small fortune on chiropractors every time I rode her, it’s a massive breath of fresh air. I have read a lot of articles recently by people complaining about the low speed “choppiness” of the bike when pootling around town or through traffic. Ignore them.
It’s no where near as bad as they make out. The RC8 is a little bit stuttery on occasion but nothing worth mentioning when you consider that it is a circa 1200cc V-Twin sports bike.
When the bike gets up to speed, the first thing that becomes immediately obvious is that the RC8 is mind-blowingly fantastic to steer. It drops into corners very predictably and with a very linier nature. Give it a firm push on the bar and the bike responds in kind, putting you on the deck faster than anything I have ever ridden.
Very quickly I found myself feeling connected to the bike and the smallest movements of my arse around the seat yielded a rewarding and expected response.
I headed out down the A2 towards the M25 and managed to find some open roads where I could drop a few cogs and really open her up. The power and delivery is both exceptional and consistent. Alright it’s not R1 bashingly ridiculous but it doesn’t need to be, its 150hp’s worth of V-Twin grunt and that mixed with a truly exceptional suspension package gives feel and feedback that’s massively re-assuring.
I found myself rolling on the throttle earlier and more purposefully because my arse was on a big red telephone with the back wheel and they were having a full blown Saturday afternoon rant. All this topped off with a set of brembo’s that both have fantastic feel and will literally pull your face of through your helmet it’s an awesome package.
Alas, no bike can be that good right? Well… you’re right. Now I come to my only gripe about the whole package. The Gearbox.
In my opinion, they have really dropped the ball when it comes to this machine swapping cogs. The dealer described it as “chunky” but unfortunately im not so forgiving. “S**t” is a pretty good summary of my thoughts to be honest. Knocking the bike into 1st is akin to letting off a small atomic weapon rather than a satisfying “clunk” you get from something more refined.
You can’t clutch-less shift through this box, infact on the bike that I rode (which had 2500 miles on it) would temporarily lock it’s self in third for a second or so if you tried to short between second and third. While the downshift was semi acceptable I felt the up shift had a complete absence of feel or reward. In its defence im told that you can adjust the lever to your measurements, but I doubt you can make it much better.
So after my two hour ride, through Saturday’s wind, rain, hail, more rain, more hail and then thunder and lightning, I have to say it’s still an awesome machine. In fact, it’s so good that I can defiantly excuse the gearbox’s failings because the rest of the package is truly exceptional and does KTM credit.
The KTM RC8 is currently at the top of my list of bikes to buy and at -8500 for a 2500 mile ex demo; I don’t think I could go far wrong.
Edited by Bizzle on Tuesday 31st March 11:27
- First Ride: 2011 KTM 350 SX-F MotoOnline.com.au
- Dream Ride: BRP/KTM 450 EXC – Dirt Rider Magazine
- KTM 125 200 250 300 SX Mxc Exc – 2003 manual, review
- 1997 KTM 300 EXC First Ride (and vs XR650R) – KTM 2-Stroke – ThumperTalk
- 2012 KTM 500EXC Review Enduro360.com