JEREMY McWILLIAMS COL­UMN

‘ I was swear­ing as it gripped and flipped me over the top’

Performance Bikes (UK) - - Contents -

Jezza lobs a KTM up the road at 120mph, then gets on with the job in hand. Pro...

TEST­ING ALL MONTH with KTM on new projects has been as ex­cit­ing as al­ways – we’ve been work­ing on the next re­vi­sions for the Su­per Duke 1290R, GT and 790 mostly. Then I had a stark re­minder of what the re­al­ity of be­ing a test rider and a lit­tle com­pla­cency can re­sult in.

I man­aged to fling my­self up the road at about 120mph af­ter run­ning on to a damp kerb early one morn­ing on the test track. It’s ac­tu­ally my first test crash af­ter thou­sands of kilo­me­tres. It wasn’t the per­fect start to the day as the test had to be com­pleted by the af­ter­noon, and we only had one bike fit­ted with the new Bosch test elec­tron­ics and data stor­age, lap­tops, etc, all on­board. I was think­ing to my­self, ‘I’ve got this, I might just get away with it...’ I held it on the lock-stop for what seemed like an eter­nity and I was still yelling and swear­ing at my­self as it gripped on a dry patch and I went over the top into the gravel. It was one of those rag­doll, triple-som­er­sault af­fairs. I de­stroyed my Shark lid, my leathers were very se­cond­hand, and I was bat­tered and bruised with a dead leg. I jumped up and tried to run to the bike be­fore any­one no­ticed what had hap­pened, but I was hop­ping more than run­ning; I felt like a right tool!

Luck­ily the bike slid for about 200 me­tres with­out ma­jor da­m­age. The team had it back to­gether in 45 min­utes – we con­tin­ued like noth­ing had hap­pened and man­aged to get the new map­ping settings pretty much per­fect by 5pm, thank­fully. I got a nice break be­tween R&D tests to at­tend the 790 Duke launch in Gran Ca­naria. I like how KTM con­duct a launch, and I’ve been on var­i­ous bike/tyre launches in my time. This time, we came up with a Moto Gymkhana-type course in the shape of the 790 logo, for a bit of fun. We nick­named the 790 ‘The Scalpel’ as it’s so pre­cise, so we wanted to see how ag­ile the bike was around ob­sta­cles against the stop­watch. And, to be hon­est, we just love to see the jour­nal­ists com­pet­ing against each other as they are al­most as com­pet­i­tive as rac­ers. We drew the logo to scale on the start/fin­ish straight and set cones out to make it as dif­fi­cult as pos­si­ble. I’ve never rid­den one of these cour­ses but it was so much fun that it be­came ad­dic­tive, an ob­ses­sion to be hon­est, and the 790 worked so well that all the KTM staff (me in­cluded) had to keep do­ing it over and over try­ing to set a faster lap. There were a cou­ple of re­ally fast times set by the jour­nal­ists, but the KTM staff were even quicker; they’re mostly ex-rac­ers from var­i­ous dis­ci­plines – even cham­pi­ons – and still very fast, so they’re a com­pet­i­tive bunch! I did man­age to overdo it and fall over back­ing it in, su­per­moto-style, around a cone – but it’s all part of the fun. The team have had so much pos­i­tive feed­back that, if I get my way, this dis­ci­pline will be a fea­ture in the fu­ture.

I wasn’t ex­pect­ing so much from a mid-range mo­tor­cy­cle – how much fun can a 104bhp bike re­ally give? But it’s got a lot of torque for such a small bike, and it re­sponds so ef­fort­lessly to your in­put – it cer­tainly doesn’t need a lot of boss­ing around. The fir­ing or­der is the same as the 1290 I spend most of my time work­ing on, so it has the same sort of sound. It’s sharp, and al­though the sus­pen­sion isn’t ad­justable I didn’t have many complaints. It’s has a lot of fea­tures for a bike that’s only eight and a half grand in the UK – trac­tion con­trol, cor­ner­ing ABS, quick­shifter/au­to­blip­per, TFT screen with Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity...

It’s a lot of bike, and I reckon it’ll sur­prise peo­ple with its abil­ity. Not that you’ll be­lieve me – af­ter all, my pay cheques do come in an orange en­ve­lope with an Aus­trian post­mark... Go and test ride one at your near­est dealer and then let me know what you think – I’ll tell the R&D team if you think I’m bull­shit­ting you! Any­way, the hol­i­day is over for me: I’m back on the test track at 9am to­mor­row, grind­ing out more laps for the data ac­qui­si­tion equip­ment. I’ll be stay­ing away from dew-cov­ered kerbs this time, though...

JEREMY McWILLIAMS? WHO IS Ex-250 and 500 GP racer Jezza is also a KTM de­vel­op­ment rider, road racer and oc­ca­sional film star...

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