When KTM decided to return to its street bike roots, we knew they wouldn't just tip-toe back, but we had no idea it would come out with something as wild as the RC8. Unconventional in every way, the RC8 made it known that the little company from Mattighofen (that's northern Austria in case you're wondering) was coming out with guns blazing.Personally, I liked the RC8. It was an extremely comfortable, legitimate liter-class sportbike that handled great. But it was hampered by its 1148cc V-twin, especially up top.
Knowing that in order to reach its ultimate goal of World Superbike competition it would have to improve the RC8 even more, KTM then released the RC8R, with a true 1200cc lump (1195cc to be exact). Further improvements were made to reduce weight, improve shifting and to stop quicker. Sounds like the perfect solution, right? Well we wouldn't know since the bike never made it to our shores for 2009.
But as the saying goes, all good things are worth waiting for, and such is the case with the RC8R's North American introduction. I just returned from the challenging Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where I had the chance to sample the bike. With such an impressive base to work with I was curious if the R model would really be much of an improvement.
I'll get more into the technical details in my full report in the magazine, but a few immediate impressions when comparing with the standard model: Riding the base back-to-back with the R it was clear that the extra effort that went into the latter makes a difference. For starters, seating position is higher due to the adjustable subframe and it's a noticeably more aggressive stance when sitting on the bike. Its quick steering nature is further enhanced via forged aluminum Marchesini wheels and the stock Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tires are worlds better than the Supercorsa Pros on the standard model.
Of course, the obvious difference between the two bikes is the bigger engine. With just a slight increase in torque (89 lbs.-ft vs 91 lbs.-ft, claimed) grunt coming off corners is hardly noticable, but the 15 extra peak horsepower (155 vs 170, claimed) is definitely felt when twisting the throttle to the stop.