Years sold: 2003-2006
MSRP new: $11,998 (2003) to $13,898 (2006)
Blue Book retail value: $6335 (2003) to $7655 (2006)
Basic specs: A 942cc, 435-pound V-Twin dual-purpose bike producing 92 rear-wheel horsepower and capable of a 126-mph top speed.
Why It Won: BMW is rightfully credited for inventing adventure bikes back in 1981, but the KTM 950 Adventure gave the category new meaning in 2003. The 950 not only matched BMW’s G-series Boxer as both a road bike and a far-off-the-beaten-path explorer, it also was able to handle tough, technical off-road conditions almost as well as many much-smaller real enduro bikes. KTM used its unparalleled expertise in all phases of off-road competition to give the 950 a chassis and suspension package that allowed the bike to be both an amazingly good dirtbike and a seriously fun street machine.
Technically, this first 950 Adventure was a 2004 model introduced early in 2003. You therefore won’t find it in Kelley Blue Book’s 2003 entries, but it does appear in the 2004 listings. KTM added an upscale 950 Adventure S with longer-travel suspension in 2004, and in 2007, the displacement was bumped up to 999cc. In 2010, the 999cc 990 Adventure R (the “R” having replaced the “S” in KTM-speak) won our Best Dual-Sport Bike award.
From the 2003 Ten Best story: “Part rally racer, part dual-sport, part adventure-tourer, it’s the best multi-tasker ever to wear semi-knobbies and a what’s-over-that-next-rise attitude.”
Useful resources: Apparently, KTM Adventure owners would much rather ride than chat about their bikes, because there are fewer forums and owners-group websites for these bikes than there are for most other popular machines. Still, if you type “KTM Adventure” in your browser, you’ll come up with several interesting sites that provide good, useful information about maintaining, repairing and modifying the 950, 990 and even the single-cylinder 640 Adventure models. A good starting place would be ktmforums.com/forums/adventure, which covers the obvious. Another interesting site is ktm950.info/how/wotf/wotf.html, which contains a long list of detailed fixes posted by owners of both 950 and 990 Adventure models. And, as usual, there are plenty of sites selling used Adventures as well as all manner of accessories and equipment for these much-loved KTMs.