If you want a sure cure for the 9-to-5 doldrums or a quick escape from the bizarre unrealities of modern Philippine life, there’s no better way than to take off for parts unknown on a motorcycle. The rush of cool air upon your face, the vibrations that course from the bike through your body, the synchronicity of the man-machine interface as you negotiate city corners and cruise down rural roads, are the sensations that one enjoys while riding a motorbike, the same sensations you addictively crave for when you’re off the saddle.
But what bike? Japanese brands used to dominate the roads, but China imports have asserted their expansionist claim on the local market. Choices abound, but for those who’ve had their fill of pocket rice rockets, there is the option to go with a European brand that has a solid reputation and offers great value. That brand is KTM.
With origins in 1934 as a metalworks shop in Mattighofen, Austria, KTM (which originally stood for Kraftfahrzeug Trunkenpolz Mattighofen) was established in 1953. Ernst Kronreif invested in the company, renamed it Kronreif & Trunkenpolz Mattighofen, and produced the R100, the company’s first motorcycle. Even in its early days, KTM made its presence felt on European racetracks, winning its first title at the 1954 Austrian 125 National Championship. The racetrack became its laboratory, a practical proving ground for innovations in performance and safety, which would eventually find their way to KTM’s commercial offerings.
The awesome thing is that KTM is now officially in the Philippines, a USD 2 million joint venture between the Ayala group and the Austrian motorcycle company with the Ayalas holding a two-thirds stake. And it’s not just a distributorship; it’s also a manufacturing deal. Since the first quarter of 2017, KTM bikes were being manufactured by the Ayala-owned Integrated Micro- Electronics Inc. plant in Laguna, which is already a major player in automotive electronics. Half of the Laguna plant’s output will service the local market; the other half will be exported to China.
KTM's history of adventure travel is apparent in their current models. The 390 Duke and the 1290 Super Adventure bikes beckon you to take them on an adventure-filled spin. Hell, the 1290 has "Super Adventure" screaming on its body panels. You can't get more obvious than that. They scratch the itch to get lost deliberately, and you know you want to get lost.
KTM 390 DIIKF
The Duke has been a mainstay of the brand since it first rolled off the production line in 1994. Available in displacements from 200 cc all the way to the 1290 Super Duke R, the "naked" bike offers thrills for the road warrior who prefers an easier riding position from that of a sport bike.
The lack of fairing (hence, the term, "naked bike") exposes the lightweight steel trellis frame, which is designed to maximize maneuverability and precision when cornering through bendies. Its engine is no slouch for its class, a single-cylinder power plant with twin overhead camshafts that delivers torquey goodness and punchy acceleration without quick-draining your tank. The 390 is among the smaller Duke models, but that keeps it within the realm of accessibility for first-time riders or for those who just want a cool second or third ride without breaking the bank. It's the next step for those who might find the 200 Duke a bit too restrained.
KTM 1290 SUPER ADVENTURE
For those who live for longer, more committed excursions into the unknown, the 1290 Super Adventure is the perfect steed, with a beast of an engine that can haul you and your luggage up a mountain road without breaking a sweat. Built for stability and control, the Super Adventure has a safety feature laundry list that could put a Volvo to shame: motorcycle traction control, Brembo lean-sensitive cornering ABS, tire pressure monitoring, LED lamps with integrated cornering lights and daytime running lights, hill hold control, WP semi-active suspension, ride computer, and more.
For lonely straights, the bike has cruise control. For places with no roads, there is off road ride mode. You might say that the 1290 Super Adventure is overkill, but, in truth, it isn't. Remember, it pays to be ready for anything the outdoors throws at you, whether you're cruising on the SCTEX headed up to Banawe or tearing through the back roads of Batangas.
Photographs by R. Schedl and KTM
This story first appeared in Vault Magazine Issue No. 23 2016.