||KTM RC8R 2011
A few years ago when the RC8 first came out I tested one in
Belgium and it became a bit of a love/hate relationship, purely
as I wanted the bike to be good enough for me to buy. Admittedly,
it had some good points and potential, but these were outweighed
by the bad points.
A few years down the road though and I've had to look at the
KTM RC8 again, but they no longer make the base model, they
only make the R model, which by all accounts has been heavily
revised for 2011 and therefore comes back into focus for myself,
mainly due to the following;
a) It is a sports bike, and I need a sports bike as my friends
ride sports bikes or it's just unfair competition.
b) It's the only sports bike with multi-adjustable rider positions
for those suffering old war wounds/sports injuries.
The revisions KTM advertise all revolve around ride and power
delivery - suspension front and rear improved 30% in damping
efficiency and still from WP thankfully, a twin spark plug head
for each of the 2 cylinders to allow better combustion, improved
fuel injectors, more BHP and a couple of kgs lighter, by all
When first seeing the 2011 model it looks nicer than the 2008,
purely because it has better paint design, still plenty of orange,
but better looking overall.
The instrument layout has not changed and neither has the vibration
above 7K revs, it really does let you know you are alive, everything
buzzes with vibration, but I can't say if it's worse, or better,
I just know it vibrates. Perhaps shudders is a better word,
this is not Beach Boys stuff.
The mirrors still have a mind of their own and alter as you
ride along, but you can't see much more than your elbows even
when they aren't vibrating. Your hands still hit the mirrors
when on full lock ... all in all it still has a bit of sorting
to be done, I just hope KTM can be bothered to do this. The
seat is still wafer thin and hard, not totally uncomfortable
for back roads but motorways would be a big mistake.
It still has a several nice touches like the filler cap skirt
to stop fuel splashing onto the tank, and an all too easily
hit lap time button on the left clip on that offers a few different
options of on screen display, too many to list in fact.
gear box is still good, or was once I adjusted the gear lever.
The dealer had dropped the pegs as I requested, but hadn't adjusted
the gear lever and it was hitting the side stand on downward
changes, so I adjusted it myself. The fairing still offers very
good protection and is easy to get behind to stop any high speed
buffeting, best I've experienced on a sports bike to date. And
overall, it's still a V twin, good or bad? It really depends
on what floats your boat.
But this is a V Twin that is stoking to ride. I always did
like the power of the old one, and the new one is no disappointment,
offering loads of low down grunt, (rare on performance V twins
these days), and a good top end too, hitting an indicated 161
mph very quickly with more to go. Who really needs more on the
Well there is a bit more. Apparently there's an adjuster buried
somewhere in the electronic dash that lets you mod the timing
when you put 98 ron juice in the tank, giving a few more bhp.
It's supposed to raise it from 170 to 175. Oooer ...
areas where I noticed improvements were the steering, incredible
compared to the old version, allowing good corner entry and
direction change if needed with a flick of the bars.
The suspension over bumps, when riding slow, is harsh, but
as you pick up speed the high speed compression works well and
allows the forks and shock to soak things up, offering good
compression and rebound damping whilst offering minimal suspension
travel but doing the job well. I did a few of our usual bumpy
back roads and it didn't get out of shape, it all seemed quite
composed. The tyres are good too, my first experience of Dunlop
Sportsmarts, very nice indeed.
So what is this R version? The original R was very track biased
and although this one keeps that it is now a much better road
bike, and I can see more usability in it than before. There
is just one thing that makes me hesitate - where do you put
your luggage? Tankbags are not my bag and plastic tanks don't
aid this option anyway. I'm sure I was once told KTM would be
making some sort of rack for the RC8, but I've yet to see it.
I'm sure if I wanted an RC8R badly enough I would find a way
of getting the Kriega US20 strapped on the back. Somehow.
Some times laters ...
In fact I did want one badly enough, so now I will have to
experiment with luggage options. The US20 should strap on OK
as KTM supply a pillion podule which looks to hold the Kriega
strappage system securely. Not sure there are many other options
but I am inventive so watch this space.
So far Arsey8 ownership has been pleasurable. I have modded
the footrests to their lowest position, the seat to its highest
and brought the bars up and back to their most comfy setting.
The bike now offers a pleasantly spacious ergo and seems to
give my knee a rest. On a 300 mile runabout on a mix of A roads
and back roads at the weekend the bike proved a handy tool and
the only part of me which suffered badly was my bottom - the
ArseyAche is well named. That saddle 'padding' could do with
a bit of added bounce so I shall be looking into options on
My sore arse notwithstanding, I have got to meet some interesting
people - the RC does attract admirers who want to know what
I think of it. I'm not used to this celebrity status, having
owned a long sequence of Fireblades, but I shall do my best
to uphold the principles of KTM ownership, whatever they are.
|| .. after a couple of trips
Since my last instalment the RC8R has done a couple of Euro
trips. So, the luggage wasn't a problem, I got on quite happily
with my Kriega US 20, (Kriega stuff really is top notch) and
just to make sure I didn't have to rely solely on the KTM rear
seat as the only means of luggage security, I fabricated a couple
of small brackets (lugs), that I located on the underside of
the tail unit using existing bolts for the rear number plate
hanger. These 'lugs' are for a longer bungee to attach to, one
that goes right over your luggage to just add that extra luggage
security and peace of mind. Brackets have been fabricated from
old Fireblade radiator brackets, good old Honda!!
The KTM is exceeding expectations in virtually every dept (except
rear view mirrors = useless), and the more I ride it, the more
I appreciate it. It still has the best sports bike fairing by
far, extremely protective, even for my 5' 11" tall frame
and I am even getting on nicely with the ultra thin riders seat
now. Once you get used to the seat, it isn't a problem at all,
even long journeys on motorways; these do need to be avoided as
much as possible though to really appreciate the true benefits
of the bike.
Some may say it vibrates too much once above 5K revs, but I
look at it from the point of view that KTM are letting you know
you're alive and having fun and this bike delivers fun by the
truck load. In France I saw an indicated 188 MPH on the clock,
which on my GPS mounted slightly to the lower left of my line
of sight was giving a true speed of 179 MPH!! So the RC8R is
plenty fast enough to get you into all sorts of trouble with
the local Gendarmerie and this is plenty fast enough for me!!
But it's not the top end that is the best bit, the bottom
end and midrange allow for a lot of fun when things get twisty,
combine this with superb steering, great feeling Brembo brakes
and sublime WP suspension and you have a great package for any
The bike came with Dunlop Sportsmart tyres, these being very
good indeed, but I changed them for the second Euro trip to
Metzeler M5 Interacts, only to find the Dunlops suited the bike
I also found that the bike came with front and rear preload
settings that were too hard - even the KTM manual didn't advise
the preload settings the bike came with!! But I do wonder if
this was the dealer as opposed to KTM themselves, because when
the bike went in for it's first service, I was asked "Would
you like us to set up your suspension Sir, while the bikes in,
only £80??". Naturally I declined, as I like doing
my own suspension settings, but the question did make me wonder?
However, now I have softened the preload off to a standard setting,
the Metzeler rear seems much happier than it did before. But
I do like the Dunlops more: same can't be said for the Dunlops
on the 2011 R1 though. So it's a bike thing perhaps?
What I also find very pleasing about the bike is the attention
to detail that KTM take and the way the bike is engineered and
put together. I have not experienced this level with any Japanese
bike I've owned and the likes of Triumph really wouldn't know
where to start. When removing the wheels for fitting new tyres,
I found the spindles and bearings were well greased, the wheel
spacers weigh nothing, the rear paddock stand bolts and locators
weigh nothing, the rear brake calliper housing has a lovely
rear wheel spacer locator to make refitting of the rear wheel
an absolute doddle, one of the chain adjusters is fixed to the
rear wheel spindle, (less parts for relocating), and generally
the whole kit is exceptionally well made, even the rear sprocket.
You may think I'm going over the top, but when you pay over
£12K for a motorcycle, this is what you'd expect to get
as a minimum, but I really can't praise KTM enough for the thought
they put into the bike and the mods they have carried out since
the first RC8 was unleashed, which was a bit poor to be fair.
So, I'm now thinking of getting another KTM to sit alongside
the RC8R in my garage, I really am that impressed! The only
thing that would put me off owning the RC8R for the next few
years is if it starts to become unreliable. To date I have only
found 2 flaws, other than the mirrors:
1/ The side stand bolt needs retightening after a few rides,
but it won't fall out, because it has a rubber stopper on the
end, so KTM know it's an issue.
2/ When short shifting from 1st to 3rd, sometimes 3rd wouldn't
select, but a minor adjustment to the gear lever solved this.
If I want to get really picky, the Marchesini wheels are cast,
not forged, but cast ones are cheaper and, and, and
oh yeah, no space under the seat!! But what sports bike, or
even sports tourer, does have any storage these days??
|| BST carbon wheels
I've had the RC8R now for over a year, it's been great, it's
been to Europe a few times, happily takes a Kriega US20, has
done a few laps of the Ring too and I can't fault the thing.
Even as the miles build up it doesn't seem to get more rattly
and vibratey, it just seems to get better and smoother. Except
the mirrors, they still have a mind of their own and after
a good scamp with revs high, the mirrors just wander around,
so don't rely on them
. for anything.
So, what do you do to improve on what otherwise seems like
a perfect sports bike??
Fit some carbon fibre wheels, that's what!!
Why? Well, a good question, but not after riding an RC8R
that my mate had bought and promptly fitted a pair of BSTs!!
I have to admit, the moment you set off, you notice the difference,
they have to be the single most noticeable modification you
could ever fit to a motorcycle, it is quite extraordinary.
So, I bought a pair, but as they were for a KTM, they had
to come from the Factory
. in South Africa and took
about 6 weeks to get here!!
The wait seemed a long one, but it was worth it. I did have
a bit of a shock when I read that you're not supposed to EVER
use tyre levers on the rims for removing or fitting tyres,
but if you are ever so careful, use good fitting rim protectors,
loads of proper tyre soap and take your time, it can be done.
In fact, the tyres go on easier than they do to OEM wheels.
So, the all important question is, if spending the best
part of £2600, what is the saving? You'll see the adverts
in bike magazines that say a pair of BST CF wheels is worth
10kgs at each end or more and it's true, they are, but not
when you weigh them back to back, as it were. To give you
an example, the rear KTM oem Marchesini wheel with spacers,
valve and sprocket carrier, weighs 5.6kgs, the BST with the
same fitments, weighs 3.9kgs, that is an actual dead weight
saving of 1.7 kgs! That is a lot and when it comes to the
saving you get from the gyroscopic weight saving, it does
become more like 10 KGs at each end. I don't know the actual
maths and for the sake of this article I can't be bothered
to find out, but it's the riding experience I'm more interested
in and that is one of pure joy. The way you can change direction
with such ease is mind blowing. The RC8R is a damn good bike
with excellent steering to start with, but fitting CF wheels
makes it incredible. Not only do you improve your steering
speed, you also improve tyre wear, acceleration, chain and
sprocket wear too. There is so much less stress on the overall
chassis and drive chain, you improve the bike in several areas
all at once.
Suspension? I've heard it said that improving upon your
un-sprung weight requires less from your suspension. To be
honest, I left my suspension exactly as it was for the first
few trips and then set it on softer settings to see the difference.
Well, there is a difference, probably the best way to describe
it is to say the softer settings now suit the bike better
for fast road use and allow better feel that I would have
had before, especially on the rear where I have taken more
preload off that even KTM advise for a soft setting. However,
the spring is for a bike that can carry 2 people, so you can
allow for this.
The wheels I bought have a gloss finish and are easy to
clean, but don't use flammable chemicals to clean, that's
what the instructions say and it is one instruction I will
follow to the letter.
If anything ever goes wrong with them, I will update this
article with an honest no holds barred description, but I
can't see anything going wrong with them unless it's something
I do to them myself.