2011 KTM RC8R

Austria’s big motorcycle company, KTM, has been trying to break into the literbike class for a couple of years now with the RC8, a bike that’s a bit of a departure for a company mainly known for its off-road products. Sadly, though, the KTM, with its unusually geometric styling, has been a hard sell.  Not for the styling so much–although it takes a bit of getting used to–but for the rather iffy performance of the bike itself.

2011 KTM RC8R
2011 KTM RC8R

On paper, it looks like an equal contender to the V-Twin Aprilias and Ducatis. On the track, though, it’s been a bit disappointing.  Iffy and snatchy throttling, and overly stiff suspension have amounted to a bike that one wants to love as a top-flight literbike…but can’t. Especially for the rather premium price that comes with the KTM logo.

For 2011, KTM says they’ve made a host of minor changes that completely transform the character of the bike.  Is that true? Well, Motorcycle-USA’s Adam Waheed and Steve Atlas took one of the new RC8s to the track to see.

Their judgement is that a new crankshaft and flywheel, remapped throttling, dual spark plugs, new slipper clutch, and a suspension overhaul have radically improved the RC8.

What remains to be seen–and hopefully we’ll see it soon–is a head-to-head comparo of the RC8 with its superbike brethren.

One thing to note about the RC* is the placement of the exhaust, which is slung directly under the bike at the centerline, the same as the BMW S1000RR. Or as practically every Buell motorcycle, where that configuration appeared first.

I’m just saying.