The RC8's 75-degree V-twin sports an impressively flat torque curve, pumping out excellent power from 3000 rpm all the way up to just before the 10,250-rpm rev limiter. The big difference, though, is the engine's lack of flywheel that results in a very quick-revving twin; the KTM practically leaps off the slower corners without having to carry a lot of momentum as you do with the Ducati, and that advantage carries over into the midrange as well. Throw the RC8's impressive agility into the mix, and it adds up to a bike that goes quicker with less effort in the tighter canyons. The KTM simply gets the steam pumping earlier and faster than other twins, and even any four-cylinder bike would be hard-pressed to keep up with the RC8's versatile powerband in that environment.
Although the KTM makes good power almost up to the rev-limiter, it doesn't feel quite as strong as the Ducati up top, and the dyno chart confirmed our subjective impressions. That swift acceleration from lower speeds just starts to wane a bit past 9000 rpm, although we kind of expected it, considering that the RC8 breathes through approximately 8mm smaller throttle bodies, and we're not sure how restrictive the stock under-engine exhaust chamber is to pass EPA standards (there are also the power-robbing considerations of the dry-sump oil pumps and dual crank-driven counterbalancers as well). Unfortunately, hard data to see if the KTM's advantages are enough to counter the Ducati's will have to wait, as the 1098 was unavailable when we were conducting racetrack testing with the RC8.
Braking from the monobloc/radial-mount Brembo calipers biting on 320mm discs was excellent during both our canyon and racetrack testing, with superb power and good progressiveness, although some testers were wishing for a bit more feel during the canyon blasts. Nonetheless, the KTM was very stable during aggressive braking, and the engine back-torque-limiting system worked well at keeping the rear wheel from upsetting things during corner entry (except for the slight inconsistencies in second gear noted earlier). And there were no complaints in the traction department, as the OE-fitment Pirelli Dragon Supercorsa Pro tires offered superb grip and feedback on both street and track.
Another V-Twin Competitor Finally Appears
We have to admit that the KTM RC8 surprised us with its overall sporting competence. Like anyone else, we have a tendency to look at the specs and generate preconceived notions on what we expect from a motorcycle. But the KTM basically blew all of those ideas out of the water from the first day we rode it. Yes, it has a couple of blemishes on what would be a shining first try at a supersport motorcycle, but KTM has come amazingly close to hitting a high-water mark on that initial attempt. We can only imagine how much farther KTM's engineers will take it with a few more R&D years under their belts.
It took a while, but Ducati appears to finally have some solid competition in the V-twin class. And if we were them, we wouldn't take KTM lightly.
+ Quick-revving, strong engine
+ Very agile handling
+ Adjustable ergonomics
- Engine heat cooks your legs
- Hard seat
- Slightly inconsistent throttle response
x KTM came very close to making a winner in its first try at a supersport machine
|SUGGESTED SUSPENSION SETTINGS |
|FRONT ||Spring preload: 5 turns out from full stiff; rebound damping: 7 clicks out from full stiff; compression damping: |
9 clicks out from full stiff; ride height: fork tube flush with triple clamp
|REAR ||Spring preload: 21mm thread showing from top of preload ring; rebound damping: 13 clicks out from full stiff; high-speed compression damping: 2.75 turns out from full stiff; low-speed compression damping: 20 clicks out from full stiff; ride height: maximum high on eccentric adjuster |