Photos: Jacek Bilski,

Endurance final test balance KTM 1190 RC8

How does the KTM super athlete beat it in the endurance test?

Impressive on the racetrack, adventurous on the country road and nerve-wracking in the workshop. The 1190 RC8, KTM’s superbike debut, caused great emotions – and not just when driving.

At the biker meeting, she was the star anyway, and even during a refueling stop, motorcycle aficionados circled the long-term RC8 test. There is no doubt that KTM’s service in the superbike segment in 2008 was spectacular. The design is angular, the technology is promising. And the result is impressive. With 156 hp, the Austrian was immediately stronger than the Ducati 1098, with 201 kilograms it weighed the same. There wasn’t much to complain about with the alpine sportbike debut. Lively V2 engine, nimble handling and successful ergonomics outshone the few downsides such as the rough throttle response, the bony gearbox and the hard-tuned shock absorber. That is why there was only one question that really burned both the sports comrade and MOTORRAD: Will it hold up?

D.he answer came quickly, too quickly. To be more precise: after 21 days and 1,772 kilometers during a race training session on the Nürburgring. A rattling noise from inside the engine forces you to stop. The motorcycle is loaded, the engine dismantled. The diagnosis: a worn bearing on the connecting rod of the front cylinder. The bearing shell had already turned with it. KTM researched, found that the quality of the finely turned connecting rod bearing surface was obviously insufficient for a part (according to information from KTM about one percent) of the first production batch of 2100 engines. From the second production series onwards, the storage areas are additionally honed. To ensure that metal parts that have already entered the oil circuit do not falsify the result, MOTORRAD decided to restart the endurance test.

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Endurance final test balance KTM 1190 RC8
How does the KTM super athlete beat it in the endurance test?


Search for clues: In some of the machines that were first manufactured, the surface quality of the connecting rod bearings did not meet the requirements of a sports engine. The MOTORRAD endurance tester was one of them. A defective connecting rod bearing slowed down the RC8 twice.

Other parts do not. For example the license plate holder. Twice (kilometers 1818 and 15970) the plastic carrier, which was obviously too unstable, began to vibrate when hit hard, hit the rear wheel and was virtually sucked up and torn off by the tire along with the license plate. In the meantime, the manufacturer has responded with changed material. Just like the crack in the pane of the instrument housing. Before water that had penetrated through a crack in the cover of the speedometer element could paralyze the display, the part was exchanged at kilometer 35496 as a goodwill gesture.

Small stuff compared to the second scandal with the RC8. Kilometers 26501, another rattle in the engine compartment, again loaded the motorcycle, again dismantling and diagnosis. And again the same result: connecting rod bearing damage. The second endurance test motorcycle also came from the first production batch, but with the said low error rate, a second identical damage is extremely unlikely. Therefore questions arose. Was it really bad luck, just an unfortunate coincidence? Or is the damage frequency actually higher? The fact is: At that point in time (September 2009), according to statements by KTM, 21 machines were affected by the crankshaft problem. Until today (April 2011) this number should not have increased. Research by MOTORRAD suggests that the KTM statement is correct. Even among all communications from "Reading experiences" only one single crankshaft defect was documented – also we have 2008 model. However: The mileage at the time of the defect in the MOTORRAD endurance test RC8 has so far been achieved by very few customer machines. Those affected can in any case count on just as accommodating replacement as MOTORRAD. With a new crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons and cylinders, the Austrian went into the second half of the endurance test distance. So much in advance: The subject of the crankshaft should no longer appear on the agenda until the end of the test. Even after the final dismantling, the storage areas were in good condition.

Less the rubbing front brake discs, which had to be replaced just like the rough wheel bearings at both the front and rear. The fact that the tank cap drooled and left unsightly discolorations on the matt lacquered tank, which was already very difficult to clean, only marginally bothered us. Finally, the KTM workshop maintained close contact with the RC8 until the end of the test by replacing the clutch plates, the leaky master cylinder for the rear brake and the entire front brake system (for reasons that could not be determined, the pressure point of the front brake moved).

In the end, the RC8 rehabilitated itself in some areas after being completely dismantled at the end of the 50,000-kilometer endurance test distance. The frame, wheels and all painted shares (except the tank) were in just as good condition as most of the engine internals. While the low wear of the second generation of the crankshaft, piston and cylinder was not surprising after the remaining service life of only 24,000 kilometers, the rest of the mechanics, which ran the full test distance, is also in good condition. The clutch basket, gearbox and all bearings are almost as good as new. Opinions only differ on the allowable clearance between the valve stem and the valve guides, MOTORRAD determined values ​​between 0.044 and just under 0.1 millimeters. According to KTM documents, the wear limit was 0.046 millimeters. After consulting with technicians, KTM set the wear limit to 0.146 millimeters, which has now been changed in all manuals and service documents. For comparison: With the Ducati 1198 the limit value is 0.08 millimeters.


The pressure point of the front brake shifted towards the end of the test. The cause could not be clearly localized, so the complete unit including the brake calipers was replaced.

Be that as it may, the KTM startup superbike has deserved a lot of attention. Two engine failures and a number of more or less serious defects relegate the RC8 to the end of the MOTORRAD endurance test. Nevertheless: With devoted model maintenance, the Austrians try to steer the RC8 on the path of virtue. With more displacement, more power, but above all more flywheel mass and more comfortable suspension, the technicians turned the right screws for the 2011 model of the Alpenbrenner. Good thing, because the courageous project deserves a second chance.

Chronicle of claims


Tiptop: Even if the shift fork shows slight wear marks – the gearbox is in very good condition.

  • 1772 km:  Connecting rod bearing damage (Replacement of the motorcycle – restart of the endurance test)
  • 1597 km: license plate lost
  • 1818 km: license plate holder demolished
  • 15,600 km: chain broken
  • 15,970 km: License plate holder torn down
  • 26,501 km: Connecting rod bearing damage (Crankshaft, piston and cylinder renewed)
  • 33.665 km: Front wheel bearing renewed
  • 33,496 km: Speedometer renewed
  • 42,822 km: Front brake discs renewed
  • 44,600 km: The sprocket carrier and wheel bearings were replaced
  • 45.411 km: Rear brake cylinder renewed
  • 47,994 km: clutch linings renewed
  • 48094 km: Front brake system (brake armature, brake calipers) renewed



Everything is relative: at the end of the test, performance and test bench values ​​are at the same level as the new vehicle. However: The power components (except for the cylinder head) only ran 24,000 kilometers after the second engine defect.

Initial / final measurement    7.810 km  49,949 km acceleration      
0-100 km / h  dry  3.0  2.9
0-140 km / h  dry  4.6  4.6
0-200 km / h  dry  8.4  8.3
60-100 km / h  dry  3.7  3.6
100-140 km / h  dry  3.4  3.6
140-180 km / h  dry  4.1  3.8
Average fuel consumption
(over 50000km)
Fuel (super)  l / 100 km    6.2
Engine oil  l / 1000 km    0.1


* Wear limit according to the value communicated by KTM at the time of dismantling.


Cylinder head: Inlet and outlet valves show slight traces of fire, two valves are slightly leaking. The valve guides have increased play.

Cylinder / piston: Due to the low mileage (24,000 kilometers), the cylinders hardly show any tracks. The pistons have a uniform contact pattern and only minor deposits. The piston rings are hardly worn.

Crank drive: The crankshaft main bearings show an uneven contact pattern, but the radial bearing play is within the tolerable range. On the connecting rod bearing of the front cylinder there is a groove and embedding caused by foreign bodies. Here, too, the radial clearances are okay. No abnormalities in the area of ​​the piston pin bearing.

Power transmission: The ramps of the clutch booster unit show severe signs of wear. The gearbox has hardly any signs of wear. Only the shift forks started uncritically.

Frame / chassis: There are no signs of corrosion, all add-on parts are in good condition. The paint on the tank is partly discolored.

KTM takes a stand


Full house: final discussion of the RC8 endurance test with the KTM managers.

… to the problems with the connecting rod bearings
During the series transition, the supplier initially had problems maintaining the agreed tolerances. However, this was limited to the first production batch, from which both MOTORRAD test motorcycles unfortunately came. The few cases of damage in the field were quickly resolved. Furthermore, preventive conversions were carried out in the store.

… the poor shiftability of the transmission
Tea "bad" Shiftability is, to a limited extent, a design disadvantage of a high-performance two-cylinder. Due to the higher torque of this engine concept and the higher forces to be transmitted as a result, the transmission must be dimensioned larger than that of a four-cylinder. This means that the gear wheels to be shifted at the moment of a shifting process are heavier and have a higher torque applied to them and can therefore only be shifted with greater effort. In the course of the first model year 2008, a modification of the switching mechanism was incorporated into series production.

… to the coupling which separates poorly in the cold state
A wet clutch requires a sufficient amount of oil in order to effectively dissipate the frictional heat. Cold oil worsens the separation behavior of the clutch pack. Apart from a clearly audible engagement of the first gear, there are no disadvantages or problems. With the new model 1190 RC8 R from 2011, the idling speed could be reduced as a result of an increase in the flywheel mass, which also resulted in an improvement.

… to the leaky instrument housing
Here improvements were already incorporated into the series in 2008. The affected speedometers have been almost completely replaced on the market.

… on the problems with the housing ventilation
The phenomenon can be observed when driving with the maximum (or even too high) oil level in the high engine speed range and with a high load (e.g. race track, high freeway speed). The oil level should be lowered slightly if the vehicle is used heavily.

… about the paint discoloration on the tank
The matte finish was trendy, but it was indeed susceptible to dirt and scratches. With the gloss finish of the current model, these things are a thing of the past.

… to the unstable license plate holder
In the case of unfavorable chassis settings and high outside temperatures, tire contact has also been observed on the market in individual cases. The number plate carrier was converted to glass fiber reinforced plastic in series production, which eliminated this phenomenon.

Costs and maintenance


Operating costs for 50,000 kilometers in euros  
21.6 liters of oil at 14.45 euros  312.12
6 oil filters at 10.88 euros  65.28
2 air filters at 12.97 euros  25.94
4 spark plugs at 20.17 euros each  80.68
2 sets of rear brake pads at 39.15 euros  78.30
2 sets of front brake pads at 55.93 euros  111.86
Wheel bearings front / rear  108.31
3 sets of chains  609.75
brake fluid  29.28
Small parts, lubricants  415.66
Seals  436.18
Inspections and repairs  1535.28
Tires (including assembly, balancing and disposal)  3911.78
fuel  4299.28
total cost  12019.70
acquisition cost  15795.00
Depreciation  6945.00
Estimated Price (Dealer Selling Price)  8850.00
Cost per kilometer (without depreciation)  0.24
Cost per kilometer (with depreciation)  0.38

Maintenance + repair costs

Connecting rod bearing damage (replacement of the motorcycle – restart of the test)  1772
License plate lost  1597
License plate holder torn off  1818
Front and rear tires renewed (Dunlop Qualifier)  6394
Front and rear tires renewed (Pirelli Diablo Rosso)  9200
Inspection, star switch renewed  11900
Front / rear tires renewed (Michelin Power Race)  12300
Chain renewed after chain break  15600
License plate holder torn off  15970
Front tires renewed (Pirelli Diablo Rosso)  16920
Front and rear tires renewed (Dunlop Qualifier)  20729
Front and rear tires renewed (Avon Extreme)  24774
Connecting rod bearing damage  26501
Chain set and brake pads front and rear renewed  29283
Front and rear tires renewed (Michelin Pilot Power)  29383
H4 bulb dipped beam renewed  32968
Front wheel bearing renewed  33665
Speedometer replaced
Front and rear tires renewed (Pirelli Diablo Rosso)
Front and rear tires renewed (Dunlop To qualify 2)  40254
Rear brake pads renewed (due to squeaking noises)  41159
Front brake discs and pads renewed  42822
Rear tires renewed (Dunlop Qualifier 2)  44538
Sprocket carrier bearings and wheel bearings replaced  44600
Chain set renewed  45085
Rear brake cylinder renewed  45411
Clutch linings renewed  47994
Front brake system (brake armature, brake calipers) renewed  48094
Rear tires renewed (Dunlop Qualifier 2)  49177


Dirk Mengel

The decision to buy was made because I was enthusiastic about the design of the RC8. The chassis and ergonomics are perfect for me (age 42, height 1.91 m, weight 99 kg). After the first teething problems (leaking oil filler neck, leaking water pump, screeching rear brake and defective engine ventilation) the machine ran without any further problems. Engine running (vibrations) and throttle response are already severe compared to my earlier Honda VTR SP 1. The modifications: front pinion with 16 teeth, progressive throttle grip, MAB muffler, TecBike mirror, TecBike license plate holder with Kellermann indicators. So far so good. But after the 20,000 inspection, the shock came: 140 kilometers after the check, I was stuck with fatal engine damage (engine stuck). At home I checked the oil level and unfortunately there was no trace of oil on the dipstick. Now I am curious how this damage will be solved. Dirk Mengel, 25594 Vaale.


Oliver Rüffer

I bought an RC8, model 2008, in April 2010 and have covered almost 10,000 kilometers since then. The decisive purchase criterion was the adjustability of the chassis. With my size (1.96 meters), adjustable footrests, handlebar stubs and the height-adjustable rear are extremely helpful. I could only partially understand the defects reported in tests. The gearbox is neither jittery nor imprecise to shift. Problems to date: Loss of oil on the crankcase ventilation. The conversion (guarantee) has been done to my complete satisfaction. The hard throttle response was significantly reduced by a progressive throttle grip (which was also installed free of charge). All in all, I am very satisfied with this vehicle. Oliver Rüffer, 59494 Soest.


Rochus Lang

I bought my RC8 R as a demonstrator in March 2010 with 5200 kilometers. Since then I have driven it without any problems, although it was moved a lot on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife and was never spared there. But the RC8 also easily handled long country road tours. Since I measure 1.90 meters, I had the saddler upholstered the bench by two centimeters. Otherwise everything is series. Emotionally, KTM is a character actress, but without being a diva. After 20,000 kilometers without a single defect, I can say: after many Japanese riders and two Triumph Speed ​​Triples, it is my best motorcycle so far. Rochus Lang, 55296 Lörzweiler.


Joachim knoll

After a test drive, it was clear to me: It has to be. I bought a 2008 model in November 2009. On the second day, the first problem with the dashboard (no more display). It was exchanged on guarantee. Just like the leaky oil filler neck and the crankcase ventilation a little later. These defects are very annoying in a new vehicle. Nevertheless, the RC8 didn’t just impress me on a weekly tour in South Tyrol. The comfortable ergonomics and posture (I’m 1.85 meters tall), the V2 engine and the handiness even in the tight bends of the Manghen Pass are convincing. I carried out the general chassis tuning on the racetrack in Zandvoort and Assen together with a chassis technician from WP, as the factory setup is hardly useful when trying to test your limit on the racetrack. The load changes in the first two gears took some getting used to at first. Hopefully these will soon be milder after the mapping upgrade for the 10,000 inspection. In any case, I’m looking forward to the 2011 season with lots of sports driver training courses and another week in South Tyrol. Joachim Knoll, 40764 Langenfeld.


Franz Haratsch

I own a 2008 RC8, purchased in September 2009 (new vehicle). Modifications: number plate holder (better optics), rearview mirror from TecBike (left original mirror vibrated), conversion to 16-tooth pinion (better passage). Deficiencies: At zero kilometers, the RC8 cannot be started with a gear engaged because the clutch switch was incorrectly installed. Water pump leaking at 7,500 kilometers (replaced under warranty). Tank has poor paint quality. It’s now 15,000 kilometers down. Conclusion: great driving machine with some quality defects, but suitable for the race track without any modifications and the whole thing for an acceptable price. Franz Haratsch, 80939 Munich.

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