Friday, 18 December 2015

KTM 640 Adventure

OK so it's an old bike these days, it has carbs, it vibrates like a ladies hand held unit and it is orange!

But for some reason, despite never having ridden one of these bikes as yet, I have a real soft spot for them. I've seen them out on the UK lanes in the Dales, drove past them on the motorway heading somewhere quickly in a van and always have a lingering look back, quietly wishing I was on that bike instead of behind a steering wheel! I very nearly bought one this spring but got sucked into an EXC instead as they are better for green laning, which is my main fun riding these days...


So I thought I'd have a look at them properly and decide whether I'll get one in the spring or go for that more expensive KTM 690 Enduro as Lucy & I go around the perennial debate about which bike to ride around the world on.

Here some of the info I've found on the net so far... not sure about it's total correctness, so don't treat it as 100% reliable but it's a rough guideline...

These bikes appeared on the scene in 1997 and were around until 2007 when they were replaced by the 690. They came in 3 colours over the years, all of which I didn't like except for the plain orange one for some reason...


1999 KTM 640 Adventure

The original engine size was 620cc, which apparently was upgraded to 625cc in 1998, the early bikes had plenty of issues with snapping clutch cables, soft wheels and spokes and loads of vibration but seemed to have developed a hardy following despite these build quality issues. At this time too, KTM was a smaller company with less resources but with big ideas.

The LC4 engine is iconic and it is one of the reasons that KTM gained notoriety, its reliable, fairly easy to repair and has a great versatility, whilst delivering a punchy amount of power when you need it. This was first produced in 1996 with electric start so the 640 was one of the early bikes to have it as it's power plant.

Dry weight is listed as 154kg for a 1999 model... then they seemed to go up for the 2006 model to158kg dry, not that light nowadays, especially compared to the 690 at 140kg dry weight, (but the 690 doesn't have either the range or the fairing/lights that the 640 has).

With both electric and kick start, the single cylinder had plenty of power for the trails but poor road manners in compared to it's rival the BMW F650 which is what it was compared with at the time of release. To me though it's real rivals were the Honda XR650 & the Suzuki DR650, not the purely road based BMW.

The KTM, Honda & Suzuki all had an off road base with a nod towards road use, but out of the three the KTM was the one that had the edge, with the impeccable off road set up and then the fairing, the 28 litre fuel tank and the lights.

To my thinking this is where KTM made its mark and the 640 became the worlds only true 'Adventure' bike for riding around the world on at this time.(I'll not get into the argument about 'you can ride any bike around the world discussion' here as people have their own opinions and this is mine from what I've read so far)...

Somewhere in the world!

These bikes have a really high seat height which comes from their off road background, (1998 910mm to 945mm in 2006) lowering kits have been added to most of them or the suspension softened to allow normal leg length to touch the floor...  as time progressed it seems KTM raised the seat height marginally, possibly to respond to market request??

As far as I can tell, the early bikes all had WP upside down forks up front and WP monoshocks at the back. (Although I found the picture above of the 1999 version with standard front forks so not sure if this was an addition by an owner or something from KTM). They can deal with the majority of things that rough terrain can throw at you, river crossings, deep mud, ruts etc with no problems at all, you can easily lift the front wheel whenever you want once you're comfortable with the weight. Like all trail bikes, for the road, they were better when stiffened up, but in reality the SuperMoto version was made for that element.

Wheels came in the now standard 21'' & 18'' although again the 1999 seemed to have had a 16'' rear for some reason, possibly to suit the market at the time. With the large array of rubber available these days those sizes are still relevant and give a good choice depending upon actual rider usage.

The cockpit comes in a fairly clear and concise package with space to add your gizmo's where necessary, I've seen these bikes with rally roadbooks and counters as well as the latest GPS units. What ever takes your fancy I guess.



These bikes have been used as commuter bikes, rally bikes and go anywhere bikes... the German military had their own version in a drab olive green and a bright orange! Most have been fitted with some kind of rack or pannier system, all seem to have brought a smile to someones face and everybody I've spoken too so far has fond memories of their bike. More so the off road fraternity though, as the more road biased folk seem to have sold them on quickly!


ADV did a write up on their Top 10 Adventure Bikes available in 2014, here is their write up summary, its a bit suspect as to their choce of bikes for me personally but hey for the purposes of this blog, its a modern comparison I guess.

So I guess I need to ride one and see what I think, one thing is for certain, one of these requires far less 'preparation' than the current version of the 690 which is really a heavy enduro bike that you can spend £2000 or more on to make it into an adventure bike for a round the world trip...

If I find out any more I'll add it to this page...


Further Info:

Here is a link to some manuals stuff:
640 LC4

Specs for all KTM's can be found HERE

Plus just found this blog about KTM history...


Happy trails & Merry Christmas to All...











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