SPIED: 2018 KTM 390 Adventure Bike

The small-displacement ADV category is about to get a little bigger

KTM 390 Adventure
SPIED: KTM 390 AdventureS. Baldauf/SB-Medien

Smell that? That’s the smell of the small-displacement adventure bike category heating up, now with a little Austrian flavoring.

That's right, KTM is getting closer to joining the small-bike fray with what's presumed to be the long-awaited 390 Adventure. Spied outside KTM's test facility in southern Europe, the bike's appearance comes just one month after BMW officially unveiled its G310GS, Kawasaki its Versys-X 300, and Suzuki its (currently non-US-bound) V-Strom 250.

The 390 will likely be based off the RC 390 and Duke 390 platform, even if in this photo it appears to have a beefier swingarm than those bikes, plus different engine cases. If the engine is the same as it is in the RC and Duke, expect something around 40 hp and 24 pound-feet of torque at the wheel. Look closely and you'll notice that the frame’s tubing runs in essentially the same manner as the Duke’s.

In terms of styling, the bike appears to take great influence from KTM's Enduro R. Just look at that front fender, seat, and tail.

KTM 390 Adventure
SPIED: KTM 390 AdventureS. Baldauf/SB-Medien

Regardless of which direction KTM takes the bike (Enduro or Adventure), it’s clear that it wants to give the bike at least some off-road capabilities, as evidenced by the larger spoked wheels (presumably a 19-inch up front and 17-inch out back, if not a 21-inch and 18-inch, as are found on the Enduro R), skid plate, hand guards, and high-mount exhaust. Fork and shock will likely have around 7 inches of travel, while the braking package will be comprised of a single front brake disc and Brembo caliper (which on the bike seen in the photos, look identical to the bits on the Enduro R).

It’ll be interesting to see how KTM manages to add much-needed travel while keeping the seat height down—a key point for small-displacement ADVs. For reference, the BMW G310GS has a 32.9-inch seat height, and the Suzuki V-Strom a 31.1-inch seat height (Kawasaki has yet to release specs on its Versys-X 300). Ground clearance will be an interesting compromise as well. Where’s the happy medium between ADV capability and user friendliness for newer riders? Can KTM find it?

KTM 390 Adventure
SPIED: KTM 390 AdventureS. Baldauf/SB-Medien

If anyone was going to be able to compete with BMW in this category (and hopefully Kawi, too), it would be Team Orange. Its RC 390 and Duke 390 are among our favorite small-displacement bikes, and its growing lineup of ADVs are the most hardcore off-road capable bikes in the class.

When will we actually see the bike unveiled?

Past reports and interviews with KTM's CEO Stefan Pierer suggest that the 390 Adventure would be released as a 2019 model, but seeing photos of it on the road have us hoping the bike will be launched as early as the 2017 EICMA show, with availability in early 2018.

Stay tuned as we look to find out more.

In the meantime, let’s collectively give a big “hell yeah” to the fact that manufacturers are showing so much love to a category as cool as the small-displacement ADV class. It’s time everyone is able to get out and do a little exploring without having to balance 500-plus pounds of motorcycle on their tippy toes!

Scroll down for even more photos of the KTM:

KTM 390 Adventure
SPIED: KTM 390 AdventureS. Baldauf/SB-Medien
KTM 390 Adventure
SPIED: KTM 390 AdventureS. Baldauf/SB-Medien
KTM 390 Adventure
SPIED: KTM 390 AdventureS. Baldauf/SB-Medien
KTM 390 Adventure
SPIED: KTM 390 AdventureS. Baldauf/SB-Medien
KTM 390 Adventure
SPIED: KTM 390 AdventureS. Baldauf/SB-Medien
KTM 390 Adventure
SPIED: KTM 390 AdventureS. Baldauf/SB-Medien
KTM 390 Adventure
SPIED: KTM 390 AdventureS. Baldauf/SB-Medien
KTM 390 Adventure
SPIED: KTM 390 AdventureS. Baldauf/SB-Medien