The RC8 has very snappy throttle response, with a revviness and lack of flywheel effect similar to the Super Duke R we tested back in August-although thankfully not quite as hyper-responsive. Coupled with a shorter first gear than the usual ultra-tall fare found on some other V-twins, this makes zipping through urban environs on the KTM a breeze. Handling is surprisingly lithe and agile, and braking from the monobloc/radial-mount Brembo calipers is nice and crisp at rational street speeds.
The fairing's side vents (including...
The fairing's side vents (including the small one on the right side for the front cylinder header pipe above) work well at extracting heat, keeping coolant temps well in check. Unfortunately that engine heat toasts the rider's shin/calf area, even with full leathers and boots.
We did notice the throttle response to be a tad inconsistent, however. Most of the time response off the bottom or transitioning from braking is nice and crisp, but occasionally it exhibits a little fluffiness at those light throttle settings. Engine braking control from the ECU (back torque is controlled by opening the rear throttle plate slightly rather than a slipper clutch) is also a bit wonky, with none available in first gear (meaning you should rarely downshift to first unless you want a ton of engine braking), and seemingly variable amounts in second gear. While not outright bothersome, these inconsistencies were a bit annoying at times.
What really was bothersome, however, was the tremendous engine heat pouring out of the side fairing vents, especially the right side. At anything other than a serious sport-riding pace or a highway cruise above 70 mph, the heat is enough to notice even when wearing boots and leathers, and it will cook your lower legs in short order on summer days. This is not to say the KTM runs hot; on the contrary, the excessive heat is the result of the fairing working well, as the RC8's engine coolant stays below 200 degrees F for the most part even when ridden in anger. Even if the coolant temps does rise above that in traffic, it quickly begins to drop once you get back up to speed-just make sure to hang your legs out in the breeze to avoid getting them roasted medium-rare.
Even though a heat shield...
Even though a heat shield covers the rear cylinder header, we're sure that a tremendous amount of heat gets transferred to the rear shock because of its close proximity.
On The Gas
The first thing you notice when flicking the RC8 into a turn is that it really does "flick" into a turn; the KTM is certainly the most agile V-twin supersport machine we've ever ridden. During one portion of our street/canyon testing, we brought along a Ducati 1098 just to see how the KTM would stack up, and the differences were eye-opening. While the Ducati is by no means truckish in terms of steering, the RC8 feels almost like a 600 in comparison, with less effort required to initiate the turn and less to change lines mid-turn if necessary. The KTM is able to carve a tighter line with less lean angle than the 1098, and overall just feels shorter than the Ducati, even though their wheelbases are identical. Some of this can be attributed to the KTM's steep 23.3-degree rake angle, yet the RC8 remains surprisingly stable through bump-ridden pavement.
KTM bought out Dutch suspension specialist WP back in 1995, and like all KTMs the RC8 is so equipped, with the fully adjustable suspension featuring a rear shock sporting both high- and low-speed compression damping adjustment. Overall wheel and chassis control is very good, exhibiting decent compliance over the small bumps while handling the bigger stuff reasonably well. We use the word "reasonably" because unfortunately the spring rates on the KTM are suitable only for riders approaching 200 pounds and above; this results in some issues when hitting bumps at higher speeds. While ramping up the pace can allow lighter riders to load the suspension enough to get it working properly for the most part, big hits or dips at speed cause the spring to overpower the rebound damping near the bottom of the shock travel and upset the chassis. Backing off the compression damping helped to some degree, but unless the pavement you're riding on is glass smooth and/or you are a heavier rider, a spring change might be first on your modification list.
Up to that point, however, chassis feel while cornering is excellent, with good front-end feedback adding to the rider confidence factor. We're anxious to see how the KTM will work with spring rates more in line with our tester's weights.
The KTM is made to be easily...
The KTM is made to be easily converted to track duty, with the mirrors detached by a single bolt, and the rear license plate/turn signal holder removed with four bolts. The rear subframe/seat can also be adjusted 20mm in height with four bolts.
The rear ride height is easily...
The rear ride height is easily adjustable via this eccentric pivot on the rear suspension linkage.
Besides looking pretty trick,...
Besides looking pretty trick, the LED turn signals on the RC8 are also more visible than standard turn signal lights.