'08 KTM RC8
Type: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, 75-degree V-twin
Valve arrangement: DOHC, 4 valves/cyl.; shim-under-bucket adjustment
Bore x stroke: 103 x 69mm
Compression ratio: 12.5:1
Induction: Keihin EFI, 52mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.
Front suspension: WP 43mm inverted cartridge fork, 4.7 in. travel; adjustments for spring preload, rebound and compression damping
Rear suspension: WP single shock, 4.9 in. travel; adjustments for spring preload, rebound damping, high- and low-speed compression damping, ride height
Front brake: 2 radial-mount/4-piston calipers, 320mm discs
Rear brake: two-piston caliper, 220mm disc
Front wheel: 3.50 x 17 in.; forged aluminum alloy
Rear wheel: 6.00 x 17 in.; forged aluminum alloy
Front tire: 120/70ZR-17 Pirelli Dragon Supercorsa Pro
Rear tire: 190/55ZR-17 Pirelli Dragon Supercorsa Pro
Rake/trail: 23.3 deg./3.5 in. (90mm)
Wheelbase: 56.3 in. (1430mm)
Seat height: 31.7 in. (805mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.4 gal. (16.5L)
Weight: 444 lbs. (201kg) wet; 417.6 lbs. (189kg) dry
Instruments: Analog tachometer, LCD panel for digital speedometer, coolant temperature, clock, multi-function displays for odometer, tripmeter/low-fuel tripmeter, average fuel consumption/mph, running time, etc.; racetrack data (lap times, best lap, laps to go, top speed, etc.); warning lights for neutral, high beam, turn signal, oil pressure, fuel reserve, shift point
Quarter-mile: 10.27 sec. @ 138.1 mph (corrected)
Top speed: NA
Roll-ons: 60-80 mph/3.05 sec.; 80-100 mph/3.38 sec.Fuel consumption: 35-45 mpg, 36 mpg avg.
For KTM's first attempt at a full-on sportbike, the company deserves an A+ for effort. A lot of people underestimate just what's required to bring competitive sportbikes to market, and KTM has done a remarkable job to rise from essentially a non-entity to its current position in just a few years. For the RC8 to be as good as it is out of the gate is an impressive achievement. It feels very light, has decent power and is a lot of fun to ride. That said, the bike has some definite quirks as outlined in the test that would give me pause if I was considering a purchase. I could live with-or fix-the inconsistent throttle and stiff suspension as part of owning something as interesting and unique as the RC8. But the engine heat, which roasted my leg medium-well one evening on the commute home, is unacceptable and would be the deal-breaker for me.
The RC8 is a bit of an enigma to me. It's no secret that KTM is going after Ducati 1098 territory, yet it makes less power from a bigger engine. Go figure. Then there's the twitchy throttle syndrome that it shares with the Superduke and Superduke R.. That gets annoying over a bumpy road when you're trying to maintain a steady hand on the gas. Speaking of annoying, there's also a lot of engine heat that spews onto my right leg at cruising speeds. All the negatives aside, I really like the RC8. With the subframe and pegs at the lowest setting it's-dare I say-comfortable for a sportbike. The power is only marginally lower than the Ducati, yet my gut instinct tells me it's lighter and more nimble, making for a bike that changes direction in a snap. KTM also nailed the styling as well. The angular lines look aggressive, the mirrors and license plate bracket come off easily when it's time to hit the track...and it's orange. I like orange. They say it takes two to tango. In that case, bring on the 1098 and let's start dancing.
I was surprised as anyone at how well the RC8 works, considering that it's KTM's first attempt at a full-blown supersport machine. Yes, there are some issues with the orange twin that would need fixing before I would plunk down almost 20 large, but having that much disposable income would also mean that those fixes probably wouldn't be too much trouble to accomplish. Even with the overly stiff spring rates, it's easy to see that the basic package is there for a superb sportbike that can slice and dice with the best of them. And I'm sure that KTM will follow the usual European practice of offering upgraded (and more expensive) versions of the RC8 in the coming years.
But that brings up the one aspect that might be the KTM's real weakness at this point. Ducati has its long-running performance, styling, and pavement racing heritage that easily justify the expensive sticker prices on its supersport machinery in the minds of American customers. It will be interesting to see if U.S. sportbike enthusiasts step up in the same manner for a bike that doesn't quite have the same pedigree.