2008 KTM RC8 Super Streetbike | Motorcycles catalog with specifications, pictures, ratings, reviews and discusssions

2008 KTM RC8 Super Streetbike

2 Jun 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2008 KTM RC8 Super Streetbike
KTM RC8
KTM RC8

0805_sbkp_25_z+2008_ktm_rc8+side_view.jpg

Five years in the making and it’s finally here. The most eagerly awaited V-twin superbike since the Ducati 916 is alive, but does it kick?

A ground-up, all-new blank piece of paper superbike comes around once every decade, if that. We know how radical it looks from seeing the ads and Internet images; we know it’s a high-revving 1190cc 75 V-twin; and we know KTM makes mad, mental motorcycles and paints them bright orange. What we also want to know is how well it goes.

KTM chose the extraordinary Ascari circuit in Ronda, Spain, for the launch of its new superbike. It’s privately owned by a Dutch millionaire and rented out to race teams and the well-heeled for test days like this. Set into a natural amphitheatre of granite valleys and lined by orange groves, it’s impossibly posh and the perfect place for a launch of this importance.

The track is fast, flowing and very technical, and KTM took the unprecedented step (in launch terms) of allocating every journalist his own bike for the day. This stroke of genius meant that we all got at least 3 hours uninterrupted riding on the road and then track.

There’s a stark simplicity to the RC8. The frame is old-fashioned steel, very basic, weighing only 15 pounds. The rear shock linkage is a work of art and there’s easy access to everything-apparently it takes just 2 minutes to change the rear ride height, and a rear wheel can be swapped out in half that time. It looks like something is missing, but nothing is, says the RC8’s creator, Wolfgang Felber.

And the RC8 has been built to go racing. We will go World Superbike racing, there is no question, continued Wolfgang. This is a steep learning curve for us as we are new in the superbike racing business and we don’t know where we will finish.

But we will learn.

Superstock kit parts will be available for the RC8 immediately after its release-a mark of how serious KTM is about its racing and, more importantly, the RC8.

There’s something refreshingly honest about both the staff at KTM and the new bike. The row of 40 parked RC8s looks impressive enough, and I’d forgotten how great the bike looks. In white, it’s a work of art. In orange, less so.

The angular plastics, sky-high seat unit and imposing lines make the RC8 stand out a mile from the sometimes silly, plasticky looks of a Japanese superbike.

Sit on the RC8 and you get a further reminder of its European origins-it’s big. You’re not locked into position as you might be with an oriental sportbike and you don’t look ridiculous if you’re 6 feet tall or more-it’s a proper man-sized motorbike.

Hit the starter and the motor snatches into life before settling into a steady warm-up. It’s a deep, throaty burble, but most of the noise comes from the airbox as the underslung exhaust is a distant rumble away. We can’t wait to hear an RC8 fitted with the open Akrapovic pipe that will be supplied as part of the Power Parts kit.

I elected to ride the RC8 on the road first and the track later. The bikes were tight-mine only had 100 miles on the odo-and therefore the power curve was flatter than even KTM intended. From three grand all the way up to the 10,000-rpm redline the RC8 pulls strongly and without any noticeable dips in the power curve-just a solid torrent of horsepower that only stops when the shift light blazes and you feed in the next gear.

Shit, that was fun. Think I’ll do that again.

And thus off we headed into the mountains just west of Ronda, me all over the front of the RC8, feeding in massive handfuls of throttle, the KTM tearing off enormous sections of Spanish road as we went. Then I braved a glance at the speedo-256 kmh. What’s that in real money?

160 mph? Damn.

V-twins always catch you out-you never feel like you’re going quick when you are, and the 150-horsepower RC8 has taken this stealth speed thing to new levels.

On fast point-and-squirt roads, the RC8 is a demon. Much of this is down to the exemplary chassis and suspension package, and the near-perfect balance. Physically it’s a big bike, but it stops and turns like a GSX-R750. The roomy ride position means the RC8 is simple to throw around, and the quality of the WP forks and rear shock are beyond question.

They’ve got that highly damped squish that you only get with top-end suspension units, with loads of feedback from either end. In road set-up the RC8 isn’t especially quick-steering, but it’s incredibly neutral and just a gentle shove on the bars will have it dropping into, and then holding, any line you choose to take.

You’re right over the front of the RC8 and it feels direct and plugged in to the rider. Through a series of fast corners the KTM allows you to scythe through without any fear of tankslappers or skittishness. Just keep your eyes pinned on where you want to go, wind the throttle in hard and early and the RC8 blasts into the next bend.

But here’s the kicker: on the road it really doesn’t feel that fast to ride. There’s no doubt that the tight motors weren’t helping, and the smooth power delivery does a fantastic job of disguising the speed, but for riders looking for that brutal, yee-har V-twin power surge, it’s surprisingly clinical. I was expecting the RC8 to be the superbike version of KTM’s lunatic 990SM, a rough, rampant beast of a thing. But while it will wheelie all day it’s not the berzerker you might expect.

This RC8 is far more sophisticated than that.

It’s on the track that the KTM really comes alive. Maybe it was because the track bikes were looser and more run in, but around Ascari’s curves the RC8 was fantastic. With the motor singing between 6000 and 10,000 rpm, the bike is properly fast.

There’s a flat bark from the pipe as the RC8 hustles around the track, the stepless power curve allowing you to feed in the throttle as early as you dare exiting corners. For the circuit the KTM techs raised the rear ride height and the RC8 dived into corners with indecent haste. I had to seriously up my game to stay with the bike.

Body position is far more crucial on the track than it is on the road, and the roominess of the RC8 (and everything is fully adjustable) means you can just clamber from one side to the other with complete freedom, pulling the bike down on top of you in corners.

The Brembo brakes are massive and mash the front tire into the tarmac on the way into corners and allow you to leave your braking point as late as your ride ability allows. However late you brake, trust me, the RC8 can brake later.

The view from the cockpit is excellent. The ingeniously designed dash gives you all the information you’ll ever need just a glance away. There are two modes-road and race-that give you everything from fuel range and tire pressure to data acquisition and lap times.

KTM RC8
KTM RC8

It’s comprehensive and very clever. But this is a mere aside when you’re riding the RC8 on a track-all you’ll be concentrating on is riding faster and harder, lap after lap.

There is, however, a blot on the landscape. The gearbox, specifically between first and second, is a bit-how shall I put this-temperamental. To the point where it dropped out of gear three times on the road and on the track I had to keep my toe under the gear lever coming out of Ascari’s first-gear hairpin just to keep it in.

Like all new sportbikes the RC8 is geared to the moon, pulling an easy 75 mph in first, and when that puppy jumps out under full throttle it doesn’t half make you jump. Nearly every journalist on the launch had this problem and KTM admit it’s an issue. It was tackled head-on by the staff at the launch with an unerring honesty, but using the 990 gearbox in this new engine was always going to be a tall order. (We’ve just heard that KTM has pushed final production back a few weeks so here’s hoping it’s got a quick fix up its sleeve.)

It’s fair to say the RC8 represents a massive step forward for KTM. It’s a huge gamble for the Austrian firm, unknown as it is for sportbikes of this nature, but it’s a gamble that’s paid off. It would have been so easy to produce some mental, lunatic wheelie machine that would have appealed to a mental, lunatic rider and nobody else.

A bike like this would have had a limited shelf life and become a curiosity, another crazy orange bike from those off-road dudes.

But the RC8 is a hugely sophisticated superbike with many different model variants to come and a long future ahead of it. When the Ducati 916 first came out in 1994 it made just over 100 horsepower. When it was finally replaced in 2002, it made 125 hp, and there had been 12 different models and countless Limited Editions.

So it is with the RC8. KTM has huge plans for this bike, from racing in World Superbike to an S-model next year and a super-expensive homologation R-model slated for 2010. To come out with the most explosive and exclusive version of its RC8 for this first model wouldn’t leave KTM anywhere to take it over the next decade.

The wait has been worth it. The new generation of road rider who demands high performance with user-friendliness gets everything he wants, while the committed headbanger will be leading the fast group of his trackday on the best-looking bike out there.

Buyer’s Box – 2008 KTM RC8

MSRP: N/A

Motor:

Two-cylinder, 1148cc, four valve DOHC

Bore x stroke: 103x69mm

Compression ratio: 12.5:1

Suspension

KTM RC8
KTM RC8
KTM RC8
KTM RC8
KTM RC8
KTM RC8


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