KTM 640 Adventure

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Words: Jon Lewis   Photos: Richard Seck

640 ADVENTURE

The first and last time that the 640 was clean.

We’ve had a lot of use from KTM’s 640 Adventure bike this year. First ‘arris took it through the grueling Paris-Dacre ride, then I took it to the Rally-Connex Northumberland ride, followed by a one-day foray into some nasty trails in Quebec’s Laurentians.

Over these rides – and shod with more dirt aggressive 90/10 knobbies – it’s proven to be a blast. But we gave it no quarter, with CMG-abuse including a dumping in a swamp, a 16 hour dirt-day and numerous “oh no, she’s going over on me … bugger” moments. With all that riding, we got a pretty good idea of just what makes the 640 tick – especially in the world of dual-sport. Now seems like a good time to finally write about it.

CRAMPONS REQUIRED

Hiding in the undergrowth (and still camouflaged with swamp weed), the 640 Adventure sports the skin of its latest kill.

My first impressions of the bike were a 50/50 mix of trepidation and admiration. If you harbour any pretensions towards being an off-road ace, visually the 640 Adventure hits the spot. The bike has the look of strength and purpose, from the substantial inverted forks (with 48 mm diameter sliders) to the SuperTrapp stainless steel exhaust system, all topped-off with a massive tank-and-fairing combo.

The Adventure only comes in the trademark KTM orange paint, which as you look deeper into it is actually flecked with reflective green particles. This is particularly cool in a understated way – even with a light coating of swamp weed (which actually enhanced the rugged look of the machine), courtesy of Editor ‘arris.

However, if you are of only average height (or well below CMG average, as I am), the sight of this mammoth bike parked on its centre-stand is enough to turn your insides to goo. In fact, so likely was I to end up dropping the bike, Editor ‘arris offered some extra coaching in the art of the “getaway” (as follows):

1. With bike on centre-stand, ascend the heights of the Adventure (via the foothills) and straddle the summit. Hoist flag, salute and quietly hum “Oh Canada”.

2. Insert ignition key, ensure neutral is selected and proceed to fire up internal combustion engine.

3. Activate clutch mechanism and engage 1st gear.

4. With a procreating hip-swinging motion, rock the bike forwards and off the centre-stand.

5. Upon both wheels contacting the ground, immediately release clutch and ride away to nearest lamp-post/tree.

6. Lean against said structure and fully retract centre-stand with left foot.

Editor ‘arris (right) tries to get the starting procedure correct at the Paris-Dacre rally.

You are now in riding mode … until you have to stop, at which point you fall over, restore bike to upright position/wait in trapped-under-bike position until reinforcements arrive. Repeat procedure.

With the engine at operating temperature, this is all groovy, and I managed to use this technique half a dozen times without mishap. However when cold, inopportune stalling can occur, with resultant damage to pride and/or motorcycle.

This is not so bad in front of friends, but at my inaugural Rally-Connex ride it resulted in an “Oh Shiiiiiit” moment as I gracefully dismounted onto the ground. In true Lewis (and CMG) tradition, I did manage to perform this embarrassing maneuver in front of around 25 hard-riding dual-sporters, amply demonstrating my inexperience … as well as CMG’s rigorous testing regime.

Ahem.

Assistant Editor Lewis post “Oh Shiiiiit” moment.Photo: Rob Harris

Handily, (always look for the positive) this demonstrated two useful features of the bike:–

1. The handlebar levers (span adjustable) are manufactured with failure points, allowing them to bend or break-off the end in an impact rather than losing the whole lever at the pivot point.

2. Despite a brimmed 25.5 litre tank and 945 mm seat height, I managed to pick up the fallen machine unaided, and without doing myself a mischief (a job I would repeat many times during my tenure).

I’m won’t dwell on this height issue, because as soon as you get rolling, the elevation melts away. But for the record, at a height of 5’10” and inside leg of 31″ I can only manage to get the toes of one foot on the ground at a time. For me, this was only a problem when riding away from standstill, and can be minimized by careful parking and forward planning of the exit route.

I’M A SINGLE MAN

Big bangs = big vibes.

The 640 uses the firm’s LC4 motor – a liquid-cooled, single cylinder 4 stroke, using 2 camshafts to open 4 valves. It is supplied with both kick-start (assisted by a handlebar-mounted manual de-compressor) and electric starter.

Fuel and air are mixed by a single carburettor and exhaust fumes removed by the aforementioned stainless SuperTrapp system. The gearbox contains 5 forward gears – which seem equally happy to be changed with or without the clutch, and a handy trait in certain sticky off-road situations.

In spite of being fitted with a balance shaft, the motor is a very “mechanical” unit, where the liquid cooling does little to dampen the noise. Not unpleasant to my ear, but definitely more industrial than you would normally expect on a bike of this price.

In absolute terms, it is not massively powerful (producing 53.6 hp at 7000 rpm), but take into account its torque (40.6 ft-lbs) and the evenness of its delivery, and you end up with enough power on tap for any off-road situation and the ability to modulate the throttle opening to prevent, or encourage (as the whim takes you) wheel-spin.

Back on asphalt, and you still have enough power to keep ahead of the traffic in all but the most gung-ho of highway encounters, with a 120 Km/h cruise (at a little over 5,000 rpm) being an optimum balance of comfort, wind-blast, economy and vibes.

Vibration is present both through the footrests (fitted with rubber inserts) and the grips, but never became uncomfortable. I spent the best part of a day in the saddle (and on the pegs) and did not feel any after effects (unlike the Z750S we had on test earlier this year).

The mirrors, sadly, are not immune and give a blurred (although still useable) view at highway speeds. A local KTM dealer reliably informs me that the vibes can be tamed, although personally, I wouldn’t bother – it’s not that bad (I beg to differ, but will save that for my second view at the end – Editor ‘arris).

MAGIC CARPET RIDE

WP suspension is superb.

A critical part of this machine, and the recipient of much development time and money is the suspension. Manufactured by WP (incidentally KTM-owned), the shiny bits consist of super-long travel (270 mm) inverted forks up front and an aluminium swinging arm, connected via “pro-lever” linkage to an external-reservoir WP shock.

Plush is the first word I would use to describe the suspension system. Absorbent is an equally applicable word, though tends to conjure a picture of toilet tissue rather than motorcycle suspension.

In the time that I (and I suspect the slightly less featherweight Editor ‘arris) rode the bike, the suspension never came near to being stretched, so enormous is its capacity for deflection. The quality of the suspension was brought into harsh relief so many times, (albeit mainly by incompetence), both on tarmac and gravel that you really felt that nothing would unsettle it no matter how hard you tried.

However, when pushed beyond 130 Km/h on the highway, a gentle weave would develop, though bearing in mind the 90/10 tires we were using and the reduced pressures they were running at, it was not entirely surprising. Gently reducing the throttle opening or strangely stiffening the grip on the bars (like a human steering damper) would subdue the weave.

Big forks + big brakes + big knobs = big smiles.

The braking system, as expected, is high-spec and highly useful. The front is fitted with twin 300 mm drilled discs, squeezed (squozen?) by Brembo twin-piston floating calipers, connected by quality braided hoses.

There’s plenty of power available but for this type of bike, feel is all-important – all the power in the world isn’t going to slow you down once you’re on the dirt and sliding on your arse. Feel is the key here – they let you know, in partnership with the forks compression, exactly how much power they are exerting and give you enough feedback to keep you on that plateau between maximum retardation and maximum embarrassment.

The rear uses a 220 mm disc with a single piston floating Brembo caliper. Again, plenty of power but initially it seemed a little tricky to modulate – although as the test wore on, I learnt to be a little more delicate with it, only locking it when intended.

A compromise saddle is fitted – suitably thin to allow peg-standing and easier flat-footing – which it achieves with success. The same cannot be said for the comfort afforded to the rider’s behind. After 50km, bum-shuffling had started, with arse lifting becoming a regular 25 km event thereafter.

DEVIL IN THE DETAILS

Petcock remained intact!

There were a number of design details that impressed on the Adventure, although not necessarily at first glance. Disappointingly, there is only a centre-stand fitted (no side), which means stopping and parking-up can be a time consuming affair. The upside is that it is super-stable, folds up well out of the way and allows easy chain lubing and tire changing.

For rufty-tufty off-road use, it has an all-encompassing aluminium bash-plate (not some faux plastic rubbish), finned radiator guards (to prevent mud, stones and small rodents from being ingested) and a sturdy rack-cum-pillion grab rail. Instruments consist of a funky digital speedo / analogue tacho combo, plainly visible in all environments … except maybe a swamp.

TOUGH AS OLD BOOTS

My “trip” into the Laurentians (story to come) summed up what the 640 Adventure is all about. Without going into all the details, again it managed to entertain and amuse both myself and Editor ‘arris on the muddy trails as well as the tarmac-blessed road sections.

In that one particular day it suffered numerous drops, amateurish, insensitive and frankly careless trail riding, towing a stricken bike out of a trail, god-knows how many miles of back-road blasting and finally 2 1/2 hours on the highway at 130 Km/h before depositing us safe and sound in the bright lights of Montreal – with only worn-out tires and a broken clutch lever (well, the bobbly bit on the end) to show for it.

KTM make a lot of PR capital from their competition successes – often on events like the Dakar Rally from where the 640 Adventure originates. It is plainly evident that whatever development energy goes into the competition bikes is also incorporated into the customer machines – if they can handle the Dakar, the short stint of abuse we subjected this machine to must have made about as much impression on it as a buzzing fly makes on an elephant – an annoyance rather than a threat.

The 640 enjoys a happy moment away from the trenches.Photo: Jon Lewis

As you may have worked out already, I enjoyed my time with the 640. It has the blend of practicality and fun, sensible economy and lairy bad behaviour that allow you to do most things with it, from supermarket trips (I did), to swamp plugging (Rob did) and general fun back-road blasting (all participated).

If, like me, you need a bike that can reliably perform a variety of roles – with dirt-bashing being of primary importance – then look no further than the 640 Adventure. Of all the “crossover” bikes offered on the Canadian market at present, none offers the versatility, ability (or the build quality) shown by the 640.

It’s very big, very orange and most importantly VERY FUN.


SECOND VIEW – by Editor ‘arris

I have to agree with Mr. Lewis’ overall impression of the 640 Adventure. Simply put, it’s a superb bike … off-road. This is where KTM established themselves and there was nothing that I couldn’t make it do, personal incompetence aside. However, I do have to disagree with my esteemed colleague’s road evaluation of the intrusiveness of the motor’s vibes.

‘arris endures the vibes at highway speed.

Simply put, the more you revved it, the more it buzzed. Although it seems to be less intrusive than on earlier LC4 motors, and not an issue on the lower revving off-road stuff, at highway speed it’s still a major annoyance (eventually numbing hands and feet) and will severely limit the amount of time you can endure it. Add to that a hard saddle and some vagueness at higher speeds and it becomes a bike that should only really see asphalt as way to get from home to trail, and back.

And yes, the height is simply monstrous. I’m 6′ 4″ and even I can only just flat-foot it. Of course, I quite like that, but try putting a foot down to stabilize it in the ruts and there’s a good chance you’ll drop too low and the KTM will take a inevitable course downwards.

As mentioned, this happened more that a few times, and I was very impressed by the Adventure’s ability to survive such abuse without significant mechanical or even cosmetic damage. The only damage I managed to inflict on it was some denting in the front wheel rim, which oddly seems to be a bit par for the course for KTMs as the 950 (see ahead) also suffered from this.

All in all, a truly remarkable bike in the off-road arena but it could be improved on-road to make it a true all-rounder.


SPECIFICATIONS

Bike

KTM 640 Adventure 2005

MSL

$11,999

Displacement

625 cc

Engine type

dohc single, liquid cooled

Carburetion

Single Mikuni BST 40

Avg. Fuel Cons

18.9 Km/L (5.3 L/100 Km)

Avg. Range

482 Km (Cap = 25.5 L). Cripes.

Final drive

5 speed, chain drive

Tires, front

90/90 x 21′

Tires, rear

140/80 x 18′

Brakes, front

Dual 300 mm discs with two-piston calipers

Brakes, rear

Single 220 mm disc with single-piston caliper

Seat height

An astronomic 945 mm (37.2″)

Wheelbase

1510 ± 10 mm (59.45 ± 0.39″)

Dry weight

158Kg (348.3 lbs) (claimed)

Colours

ORANGE !!!!

Warranty

12 months or 20,000 Km

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