The 10 Best KTM Motorcycles Ever Made

KTM isn't necessarily the first brand that springs to mind when you think of motorcycles, with the big Japanese, German, and American marques being far more ubiquitous in the world's market. However, the Austrian bike manufacturer has acquired a very loyal following since it first started production in its current form in 1992, and the company has a history going back as far as the 1930s.

KTM (an acronym of the less-catchy Kronreif & Trunkenpolz Mattighofen) is well known for its wide selection of motorcycles that are some of the industry's most well-regarded, especially in the off-road and adventure segments in which the brand is notorious. KTM is recognizable for its products' trademark orange livery and is lauded for its machines' impressive build quality and positive rider experience across the company's extensive range.

KTM's diverse product line has given us some of the most advanced, competitive, and downright exciting motorcycles in its relatively short production run, having been the motorcycle of choice for many motocross, supermoto, and Moto3 riders, while also being a regular fixture in the grueling Paris-Dakar Rally. Here we take a deep dive into our pick of the best bikes that the carrot-color-coded company has created to date.

KTM Freeride E-XC

Love them or loathe them, electric motorcycles are here to stay and will most probably be the norm for the biking public in the not-too-distant future. KTM realizes this and has set to work building something that can rank alongside their successful gas-powered off-road products in the EV segment. As one of the first electric dirt bikes introduced to the US market, the KTM Freeride E-XC deserves mention here, not just for its novelty value but because it also performs very well indeed.

Like most other electric motorcycles, the KTM Freeride E-XC's workings are comparatively simple compared to its gas-guzzling cousins. Powered by a brushless electric motor that produces 12 horsepower at 4,500 rpm and features a lightweight composite steel and aluminum frame, the bike is undoubtedly nimble. It uses Formula disc brakes for reliability and increased stopping power and has an integral aluminum skid plate that functions as a stressed member. This means it is a strengthening part of the overall chassis – smart thinking from Team KTM.

While it doesn't look to be ideal for long-distance riding, with a seat that is thin enough to slice onions, this machine is built for a purpose. Indeed, a lot of the time, the rider will be standing on the footpegs while navigating rough terrain. From a distance, the KTM Freeride E-XC might look like a BMX with extra faring, but in practice, this is a bike to be taken seriously.

KTM 390 Duke

Whether you are a novice rider taking your first tentative steps into the world on two wheels, or a seasoned commuter weaving through city traffic, the KTM 390 Duke is an exhilarating ride that demands respect as one of the best-equipped small-engine road bikes in its class, according to Dubbed the ultimate "Corner Rocket" by its manufacturers, the 390 Duke is loaded with gadgets and has impressive build quality for a machine in the sub-$6,000 price range.

Specs-wise, the KTM 390 Duke has many attributes of a much larger (and pricier) machine in a scaled-down package. These include a steel trellis frame, six-speed transmission, front and rear disc brakes with dual ABS, and upside-down forks. Technology-wise it doesn't disappoint, with rider aids and a "supermoto" braking mode, a TFT color display with phone pairing, handlebar menu toggles, and LED lamps. All of these combine to create a well-formed, well-handling, reliable bike that is both fun to ride and affordable.

While the 390 Duke may seem small-fry compared with the much larger capacity, high-performance machines that KTM also produces, it is well-loved by countless motorcyclists and well-respected by reviewers since its introduction in 2013. It has since undergone many overhauls and is most popular in Asia, where it is manufactured. Today, the KTM 390 Duke remains as relevant as ever as an introductory vehicle or for its sheer practicality and, dare we say it, pure enjoyment.

KTM 450 EXC-F Six Days

There's no room for unnecessary frills when it comes to off-road enduro racing, and in the KTM 450 EXC-F Six Days, we have a stripped-down machine that is highly optimized for one purpose only. Named an "offroad attack vehicle" and an "enduro weapon" by the folks at KTM, we are left with no doubt that they meant business when they first came up with the concept for this formidable motorcycle.

Named after the International Six Days Enduro series, this dual sport bike was built to ride in extreme off-road conditions. Not only is it competent, but it also delivers comfort, thanks to its adjustable handlebars, self-cleaning footpegs, and an uncharacteristically soft saddle for a bike of this segment. Performance-wise, the 450 EXC-F Six Days benefits from a race-ready long-travel suspension with upside-down forks, an ultralight four-stroke, single-cylinder 450-cc engine (the whole bike weighs an incredibly light 106 kilograms), and a 6-speed transmission with hydraulic clutch.

Aesthetically speaking, the bike really looks the part, with its factory orange frame and French tricolor-inspired graphics. It handles exceptionally well, too, thanks to its ergonomically-optimized setup and high riding position at a towering 37.5 inches. In short, if you want a highly competitive bike with a crazy power-to-weight ratio that is guaranteed to chew up the trail and leave the rest for dust, look no further than the KTM 450 EXC-F Six Days.

KTM 1290 Super Duke R Evo

KTM has long been renowned for its development team's focus on technological evolution, which is the keyword behind the KTM 1290 Super Duke R Evo. This new, updated version of the celebrated 1290 Super Duke R is an awe-inspiring machine that marries a lightweight chassis with an extremely high power 1,301-cc, liquid-cooled engine.  

KTM road bikes are instantly recognizable for their futuristic styling, and the Super Duke R Evo is no different, with its "naked" design exposing its factory orange frame and engine, its angular faring and fuel tank, and its insect-like headlamp assembly. There are few curves beyond the wheel arches; even its seats and rearview mirrors are geometrically profiled. The result of this is a wholly unique and somewhat mean-looking motorcycle that leaves no doubt as to its performance abilities.

At 180 kilograms, the KTM 1290 Super Duke R Evo is relatively lightweight for such a large engine capacity bike, thanks in no small part to its carbon-fiber subframe and weight-optimized V-twin engine. This produces 180 horsepower and 140 Nm of torque, giving the bike a power-to-weight ratio that is at once impressive and a little scary, but it is the technology behind the Super Duke R Evo that is most remarkable.

This includes smartphone connectivity for navigation and entertainment, rider aids, including different ride modes (rain, street, sport), a track mode for racing, a performance mode for the street, and advanced traction control to keep wheel spins and lean angles in check. Even compared to the technologically advanced previous versions of the 1290 Super Duke R, the new Evo is one highly evolved machine.


Bridging the gap between KTM's agile off-roaders and their powerful street bikes is the KTM 690 SMC R. Big on aesthetics and big on personality, this has become a well-respected bike in the supermoto segment. Even at a glance, you can tell this bike is incredibly fun to ride, with an impressive power-to-weight ratio courtesy of its 693-cc single-cylinder engine and a dry weight of under 150 kilograms.

This bike is built to drift, with its wide handlebars poised for optimum control through the twisties and a range of handling assists to ensure you exit the apex unscathed. These include a street mode and supermoto mode, KTM's MTC traction control, and a quick shifter. The 690 SMC R also boasts a fully adjustable suspension, a six-speed gearbox with a slipper clutch, and Brembo brakes with two-channel ABS to the front and rear. 

As you can see, there is much more to the KTM 690 SMC R than meets the eye, and, true to KTM form, this bike has enough onboard technology and adjustability to keep even the most ardent motorcycle tech nerds amused around the clock. But, as with any motorcycle, the proof is in the riding, and the SMC R seems to put all of its attributes to good use in a fun, powerful, yet eminently maneuverable package that should put a smile on your face from the minute you kick it into gear.

KTM 640 Adventure

Some motorcycles are consigned to history despite being well-loved and respected by the roadgoing public, and the KTM 640 Adventure is one such story. As KTM's entrant into the mid-size adventure segment, the 640 Adventure was nothing if not versatile. As comfortable on long highway rides as it was while burning up the trails, this light single-cylinder ride has many fans in dual-sport circles wishing it would make a comeback.

The simple fact is that not everyone wants to straddle a 250-kilogram, 1000-cc monster when taking a motorcycle into the wilderness. There is a lot to be said for a lighter, nimbler machine when negotiating sticky mud, deep ruts, and rocky surfaces that still retains enough power to get you out of a fix when necessary. The KTM 640 Adventure fitted this scenario perfectly and made a great companion on the outbound escapades that were its namesake.

By today's standards, the 640 Adventure was technologically backward compared to its descendants, such as the 890 Adventure and the 1290 Super Adventure R, with no rider assists and predating such standard fixtures as traction control and TFT displays. What you got was a great-looking 50-horsepower, go-anywhere vehicle with excellent handling, over one foot of ground clearance, and a commanding seat height of just over 37 inches. The bike was succeeded by the larger Dakar Rally-winning 950 Adventure, starting a trend for progressively bigger and more powerful KTM Adventure models, leaving the mid-size segment behind, which some might say, is a shame.

KTM 990 Supermoto R

Following on from the Supermoto 950, the next generation of KTM's Supermoto series, the 999-cc KTM 990 Supermoto R, boasted more power and better all-around performance than its predecessor. It was also a great looker, with its aggressive rider position and bulky faring, which made it look like a KTM 690 SMC R on steroids, which is exactly what this bike was.

KTM rarely imitates the fiberglass, full-faring Japanese superbikes with its roadgoing vehicles, preferring to show off their machines' inner workings with minimal faring and plenty of frame on display, and the 990 Supermoto R was no different as the largest bike in their supermoto range. A supermoto bike is essentially a dual sport bike that has been optimized for tarmac, with slicker tires and upgraded brakes and suspension, and in the KTM 990 Supermoto R, the Austrian brand went all-out to create a road rocket with many of the attributes you'd find on a race bike (the "R" suffix stands for "racing").

With its lightweight frame, fuel-injected V-twin engine, Continental Hypersport tires, fully-adjustable upside-down forks, and Radial Brembo braking system with advanced ABS, the 990 Supermoto R was poised to dominate the track straight out of the factory. It certainly was fast, with a top speed of 143 mph and a standing quarter-mile time of 11.5 seconds. The bike was discontinued in 2013 but is still a firm favorite with KTM fans to this day.

KTM 890 Adventure

KTM saw a gap in the market, having experienced great success with their excellent 1190 Adventure model but realizing a requirement for a more agile yet highly competent machine to flesh out their adventure bike series. As the middle child of KTM's large ADVs, the KTM 890 Adventure is the perfect compromise. Lighter and more maneuverable than the brand's largest, but with power to spare, many long-distance adventure riders prefer the 890 for its versatility.

Getting down to brass tacks, the KTM 890 Adventure is a serious adventure vehicle capable of tackling the most arduous terrain with relative ease. From its fully adjustable suspension, comfortable upright riding position, and high windshield, it is designed to combat rider fatigue from the ground up, making long-distance touring far more enjoyable. It features much of the technology now commonly found on top-tier KTMs, including rider aids for hard surfaces, traction control, and cornering ABS, which allows riders to apply full braking pressure while cornering; something that would otherwise be ill-advised, to say the least.

The bodywork of the KTM 890 Adventure is more enclosed, with a low front fender to keep dirt and water away from its internals. It has a tubular steel frame that takes advantage of a stressed member engine to provide added strength to its structure while reducing weight. Everything about this bike is geared towards better handling, comfort, performance, and rider experience, and just looking at it makes you want to hit the trail and not come back for days.

KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition

KTM is renowned for its dual sport range, and in the KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition, they tried to create the ultimate dirt bike. It is not street-legal and far from practical for most biking applications, but it delivers incredible performance as their greatest bespoke, purpose-built dirt devil. Everything about this bike is high quality, from its materials to its parts to its construction to its setup, and it will only be released in limited numbers, making it one of the most exclusive motorcycles KTM has built to date.

As far as features are concerned, there are almost too many to mention. Handling is courtesy of a fully manually adjustable rear suspension and front forks that are tuned using an included air pump. Its powerful four-stroke engine delivers 55 horsepower at 9,500 rpm and 46.5 Nm of torque, which makes it the most high-powered motorcycle in its class. The KTM 450 SX-F weighs in at a little over 100 kilograms as well, so its power-to-weight ratio is very high indeed. Tech-wise, the bike is advanced yet practical, with toggled traction control and a choice of two engine maps to suit controlled and aggressive riding styles.

While the KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition may be well out-of-reach for most of the road-going public, it is the ultimate showcase for KTM's capabilities as designers and constructors and sets a benchmark by which other bespoke dual sport motorcycles are judged.

KTM 1290 Super Adventure R

Faced with competition from the industry-leading BMW R1250 GS and Honda's legendary Africa Twin, KTM had to pull out the big guns with its flagship large-capacity ADV vehicle, and the result is the KTM 1290 Super Adventure R. This formidable machine gives the German and Japanese makers a run for their money and is capable of conquering any challenge you throw at it, from the most extreme and remotest corners of the planet.

Stacked with features and highly capable on and off-road, the 1290 Super Adventure R takes some skill to tame but delivers performance in spades. It boasts a 1,301-cc power plant that delivers 158 horsepower and 140 Nm of torque and a six-speed transmission with a quick shifter and anti-hopping clutch. Everything about this bike is of the highest quality, including Brembo brakes with a top-spec Bosch ABS system with cornering and off-road modes.

As to be expected, the 1290 Super Adventure R has some of the industry's most advanced onboard tech, programmable via its large seven-inch TFT display. This includes adaptive cruise control, tire pressure monitoring, and motorcycle traction control, which is lean angle sensitive, has four modes, and can be disengaged as required. It even has a keyless system, leaving one less thing to worry about when refueling and setting off.

Most importantly, the 1290 Super Adventure R offers an exhilarating rider experience that one might expect of a vehicle that costs more than $20,000 for its base-level option. However, any financial woes will ebb away as you accelerate through the gears while sitting in a comfortable upright position with a commanding view from the 35-inch high seat, oblivious to the many technological functions at play that stabilize and optimize your perfect ride.