Regardless, the way the KTM engine delivers the goods is impressive, aided by the crisp gearbox and the light-effort wet clutch, which doesn't cramp your left forearm sitting in traffic or negotiating city streets like some other V-twins I could mention. And the twin counterbalancers do a good job of ironing out vibration from the 75-degree motor; there are a few tingles through the footrests once you rev it above 8500 rpm, but just as with the smaller 990cc family of KTM models, in normal use the RC8 is as smooth as a 90-degree V-twin.
Stripped of its angular bodywork,...
Stripped of its angular bodywork, it's easy to see how centralized the RC8's overall mass is. Note the crossover tube between the separate headers for each cylinder leading into the underengine exhaust chamber.
The 1148cc 75-degree V-twin...
The 1148cc 75-degree V-twin engine in the RC8 is actually slightly lighter than the previous 990cc version at 137 pounds. Note the integrated oil reservoir for the dry-sump lubrication system at the front of the engine cases.
Employing a chromoly steel...
Employing a chromoly steel tube space frame, the KTM utilizes the engine as a stressed member, with the swingarm pivoting in both the rear of the engine cases and the pivot section built into the frame.
The location of the exhaust is another key element in the KTM's unique architecture, even more so than on a Buell. The twin catalysts carried inside the large oblong silencer are located immediately beneath the clutch to help centralize mass in the interests of quicker handling. Weight transfer on the RC8 is much less of an issue-power wheelies aren't so frequent, and you don't lift the back wheel and start street-sweeping the tarmac under the demonically late braking offered up by the radial Brembo four-pot monobloc calipers (although the 220mm rear brake with twin-piston caliper is pretty pathetic and works only at the very end of the pedal travel).
These Brembo brakes offer much better feel and response on the KTM than on a Ducati 1098, even on 10mm-smaller 320mm floating discs, which impact the steering less in terms of gyroscopic effect. The KTM shrugs off bumps around fast turns, and high-speed stability is excellent in spite of the lean, light architecture of the RC8 package. The low, slim design of the dry-sump motor has allowed Felber and his engineers to position it where they wanted to in the 56.3-inch wheelbase.
The result of that compact engine build is a 54/46 percent front-end weight bias that's a key component of the RC8's fluid, intuitive handling. A chromoly steel tube spaceframe is employed with the KTM, using the engine as a fully stressed member mounted at four separate points with the swingarm pivoting in both the engine cases and a dedicated portion of the frame. "This creates a stiff structure that still allows the bike to 'talk' to the rider," Felber says. The RC8 steers like a 600, and thanks to the grippy Pirelli Dragon Supercorsa Pro rubber you can carry what seems like an insane amount of corner speed, the WP fork eating up bumps while delivering excellent feedback from the front tire. In a sequence of bends that sees you flipping the bike from one side to the other in swift succession, the RC8 is almost as sweet-steering as the 690 Duke and feels as nimble as a Ducati 848 in changing direction, even though it's fitted with a wide 190/55 rear tire. And when you do trail-brake into a turn, the RC8 stays exactly where you choose with completely neutral steering response despite the sharp steering-head geometry of a 23.3-degree rake angle matched to just 90mm of trail. However, once you've got the rear tire nicely warmed up you'll want to dial in a few extra clicks of the WP steering damper to stop the bars from wobbling in your hands as you accelerate hard exiting turns.
But that's about as unsettled as the RC8 ever gets at either end. It's very consistent in its handling; you know what to expect every time you make a move. Another component in this reliable character is KTM's clever back-torque-limiter system, which does away with the slipper clutch Felber admits his R&D team considered fitting to the RC8 before rejecting it in favor of a system controlled by the Keihin ECU. By operating one butterfly on the rear cylinder's throttle body, the system is able to keep some engine braking available while still eliminating its negative effects on handling during hard braking. You really get the feeling this bike was designed by people who ride hard and know what they want a bike to do.
Unfortunately the only aspect of the RC8 where the development came up short-at least according to Felber-is in weight. "We wanted to make the bike as light as possible, but I'm extremely disappointed that I've failed by [19-20 pounds]," he admits. "My aim was to get it below [418 pounds] with [4.3 gallons] of fuel, but [437 pounds] is as light as we could make it. I'm pretty unhappy about that. I want to get below that [418-pound] wet barrier with a future version!"