Off-Road Braking Test!

Can a top pro out-stop the anti-lock electronics on KTM's 1190 Adventure?

Off-Road Braking Test with Ryan Dudek action shot

While testing KTM's 1190 Adventure R in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, last September, I spent a lot of time playing with the bike's Off-road ABS on dirt roads and trails. I was blown away by its performance and loved the fact that, in Off-road mode, the system only applies ABS to the front brakes. But anytime I tell someone how good the ABS is they give me that same skeptical look one gets when trying to convince people to trust new technology.

Yeah, ABS has been around for decades, but the very latest systems, including the Bosch 9ME on KTM's 1190 Adventure and its R stablemate, are dramatically better than the best of just a year ago. To prove the point, specifically with regard to KTM's Off-road ABS, we asked our dirt tester, Ryan Dudek, fresh from a podium finish in the Baja 1000, if he could outperform it.

The concept was simple. Road Test Editor Don Canet set up a straight-line braking test, identical to what he uses for our usual road-test numbers; only this time, we did it on dirt. Our surface was about as difficult as it gets: loose marble-size rocks and sand on top of a hard, dry lake.

Dudek made six passes with ABS off, followed by six with the bike in Off-road ABS mode. His best stops, unassisted by ABS and using the rear brake as needed, were both longer and less consistent. Of note, Dudek’s best stop from 60 with ABS off was an anomaly, as it was the only run of his six that actually dipped below 206 feet. The ABS stops from 60 mph, in contrast, were impressively similar, almost all in mid-190s, the best about 7 feet shorter. The difference from 30 mph was mere inches.

Off-Road Braking Test Stopping Distance diagram

“Grabbing a handful of front brake at 70 mph on a lightweight sportbike on asphalt is one thing, but on loose gravel on a bike that weighs more than 500 pounds is scary,” Dudek admitted. “If the front started to lock, the bike would lose stability and I would slightly release the lever and then reapply pressure until I was in control, but it was a handful. With Off-road ABS on, the Adventure comes to a halt faster than I anticipated it would and without the messy locking and unlocking sensation found on older ABS systems. And the consistency was much better with ABS; I tried my hardest, but I just couldn’t beat the computer.”

So what's the takeaway from this test? First and foremost, Dudek is a phenomenal off-road rider, better than 99.9 percent of us, and even he can't beat KTM's Off-road ABS. So that means KTM's Off-road ABS is even more valuable to the Average Joe, who can stop super well with it on but not nearly as predictably or quickly when it's shut off. We used to avoid ABS in the dirt, as it tended to extend stopping distances. Now, thanks to KTM and few others who have forged ahead with advanced ABS, it's to the benefit of us all.