KTM motorcycles and engine heat, a problem?

Last Updated on: October 8, 2023

KTM motorcycles and KTM engines are often associated with engine heat issues, in addition to mechanical problems and quality questions. 

But is the heat and heat dissipation really an issue? Something that you should worry about? A potential dealbreaker?

KTM Motorcycles: escaping heat riding up a mountain above Locarno, Switzerland

Escaping heat: riding up a mountain above Locarno, Switzerland,

Earlier KTM motorcycles and heat

There are a lot of opinions. Youtubers, bloggers, social media posters, all competing for attention. The loudest cries are the first you hear. But they are not necessarily those that brings the most relevance or truth. Once one gets past that, other impressions might begin to emerge.

That said, there’s no doubt that the earlier KTM motorcycles had more engine heat management issues than those of later years. From what I can gather, especially with some models that pre-dates/includes KTM 1090. But owners found creative solutions, heat deflectors, removal of the catalytic converter, there are plenty of examples in forums.

None of these (potential) challenges have stopped some folks from going above and beyond with these motorcycles. Globetrotters Marisa & Tim Notier (2Up and Overloaded) are worth mentioning.

The stuff they’ve done with their trusted old steeds should have boiled and cooked them in plenty. And had them replace their 1090S with something else. Instead they got a 1090R. So clearly engine heat was not an issue for any of them. The full story in on their website.

KTM Motorcycles: my 1290 SAS along Assietta

1290SAS along Strada dell’ Assietta, Italy. It was a hot day.

KTM motorcycles & my experience

Was somewhat concerned, especially before I bought my first KTM. But it wasn’t until after the contract was signed I began to get worried. That engine heat would be a problem, for me that is. Well it wasn’t.

I rode a 1290 Super Adventure S for two years or two seasons. Ca 55 000 kilometers in all sorts of weather. Up and down mountain passes. At times also pretty actively. Only once did I think about engine heat. That was in a traffic congestion in Italy. The engine got hot. Most would under those circumstances.

With regards to the new bike, a 2023 KTM 890 Adventure, I’ve never had an issue with heat. But arguably I’ve not been riding it in temperatures above 35C or 95-100F. At which point riding a motorcycle isn’t much fun anyway.

2023 KTM 890 Adventure climbing high on a hot day

What I like to do on a hot day, climb high.

How you ride matters

What people might not tell you, is how they ride. And  with what. If you ride a bike very hard, in city traffic and in hot weather, constantly in high RPM then of course the engine will get hot. Most of us don’t have the urge to push boundaries like that. Or takes less pleasure in burning rubber and spending an excessive amount of fuel for little or no reason.

If you ride with minimal protection, and shoes rather than boots, well that of course will matter too. Almost all Euro 5 compliant motorcycle engines can get hot. Especially if you ride them hard. The majority of us will never have any issues with engine heat.

I wrote this post primarily just to add some counterweight to what I’m certain will continue to be an ongoing debate. I have no immediate plans for changing my motorcycle. And if I do, it’s as likely it’ll be my KTM number 3 as something else.

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