Tommyguns Roderick left the building. Well, not like Elvis; he is still alive and well. But he left MO building. Not what we already have. Ten years ago, however, TR was at Auto Club Speedway riding a pair of tasty KTM RC8 R sportbikes, which were then a small but interesting part of the Austrian lineup. At the time, electronic niceties like traction control and quickshifters were a novelty; now they are omnipresent, and we are all the safer for them. Or us? As the great Donald Canet once remarked, “rain tires just let you crash at higher speeds.”

The final left-hander at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California is a fast, wide transition from a flat, featureless infield to a banked straightaway under the grandstands. The throttle is already at full throttle when the bike hits the seam that separates them. Immediately after that, the lights for 2012 came on KTM The RC8 R Race Spec requires different equipment. Without rolling, I push the lever and the KLS quickshifter instantly grabs the next cog. After a few seconds, the light wants a new one, and the quickshifter willingly obeys until a rapid succession of upshifts ends with braking and then a dive down the incline and into the first chicane.I take a moment to consider the benefits of easy operation and seamless power retention that the quickshifter provides compared to its manual-shift counterpart, the RC8 R street bike I rode in the previous session. Based on a 2011 MSRP of $16,500 for the R versus $20,000 for the race spec (2012 pricing to be determined), the quickshifter is part of a $3,500 package that underscores the company’s “Ready to Race” motto.

The RC8 Race Spec is a race-ready weapon.

The KLS quickshifter is just one component of a bike stocked with quick-shift gear that will cost more in parts than KTM’s $3,500 claim. The Akropovic Evo 4 Titanium exhaust system, slipper clutch, Marchesini forged aluminum wheels and WP racing suspension don’t come cheap, but offer big advantages over the standard RC8 stainless exhaust configuration, no slip clutch, cast aluminum wheels and non-racing WP suspension.

The Race Spec RC8 also has a different Keihin engine management system map, higher engine compression, a racing body, a 520 chain, a racing wiring harness, competition brake pads, and a 31-pound weight advantage: a claimed 375 pounds vs. 406 pounds, not including fuel. Both models have a displacement of 4.4 gallons, adding 26 pounds to the weight, bringing the total claimed curb weight to 401 pounds and 432 pounds for the Race Spec and R models, respectively.

As the laps pile up and I get used to the increased performance, the confidence to push harder grows. With the quickshifter, I carry more speed down the front straight, but a combination of race brake pads and especially the WP 4618 race shock and TiAIN-coated WP fork, both with revised settings for 2012, keep the RC8 Race Specs calm under hard braking before the chicane. at the end of the line.

2012 KTM RC8 Race SpecHelping to justify the high price of the Race Spec model, a KLS quickshifter is included.

By comparison, the R model’s smaller brake pad material and different master cylinder don’t work as hard as the Race Spec brakes, and the WP R suspension (unchanged from factory settings) is overwhelmed by high-speed braking forces. .

Maneuvering in an industrial area where refinement reigns supreme, the two RC8s fit more evenly. The Race Spec bike’s lighter weight and lighter wheels can be felt during quick right/left transitions, but the advantage is only partially realized because the factory lever settings are much narrower than the street-friendly settings of the Model R. The wider lever setting of the Model R also contributes to better handling fast sweepers. I understand the aerodynamic benefits of a narrow setup, but the trade-off is reduced leverage during side-to-side transitions, as well as reduced support under hard braking. However, the Race Spec owner can adjust the clips to their preferred position.

Also detrimental to the Race Spec is its harsh throttle response in tighter situations that require a smooth application of power. KTM claims the ECU on both the R and Race Spec was redesigned in 2011 to allow for better throttle application (a complaint with the RC8 since its introduction), but there’s a clear difference in output between the two. Where the R easily maintains a steady, constant throttle through several long turns at Auto Club Speedway, the Race Spec could feel the surge, and even the slightest nudges were met with disconcerting jerks.

2012 KTM RC8 R

With a curb weight of 432 pounds (claimed), the RC8 R is one of the lightest liter bikes around. Only the new Ducati Panigale claims a lower curb weight (421 pounds).

The 2011 R model was fitted with a heavier crankshaft and flywheel, while an idler cam was added to the throttle bodies to smooth the airflow in the starting range. KTM’s re-mapping of the Race Spec ECU takes into account the increased performance of its exhaust system, air filter, etc. The Race Spec also has a slightly higher compression ratio due to thinner head gaskets. These differences may explain why the Race Spec isn’t as smooth as its R sibling, but like its clip-on settings, it can also be attributed to the riders preference for more instant power.

On the infield or on the high-speed track, the Race Spec model’s slipper clutch was desirable technology. Both bikes have a gearbox sensor that helps the ECU monitor engine braking, but the R’s lack of slipper clutch when downshifting and braking in a tight corner becomes maddeningly noticeable when riding the two machines back-to-back. Sure, the slipper clutch is much more useful in track competition, but the Model R’s $17,000 asking price should include what is now considered commonplace technology. The residual effect of the slipper clutch is a stiffer pull on the clutch lever, but the quickshifter reduces increased forearm fatigue by only requiring the clutch to be used when downshifting.

2012 KTM RC8 Race Spec Race Spec’s WP 4618 shock is fully adjustable and features a remote hydraulic preload adjuster.

Speaking of technological advancements, both the R and Race Spec lack the latest trend, traction control. We recently completed testing the 2012 Yamaha R1 and Aprilia RSV4 APRC, highlighting each motorcycle’s traction control system. With the 2012 R1 armed with traction control that leaves only the RC8, Honda CBR1000RR and Suzuki The GSX-R1000 lacks this useful feature in the 1000cc sportbike category. Adding to KTM’s dilemma are high MSRPs: $17k and $20k for a street sport bike, especially a race bike, are big asking prices for bikes without traction control. At $14,000, the 2012 R1 with traction control retails for $2,500 less than the RC8 R.

There’s certainly something to be said for KTM’s exotic rarity and unique styling, but I can think of an Italian manufacturer of similar stature in the same price range that pioneered bringing traction control to the masses years ago and now offers the technology on the entry-level new 848 Streetfighter only $13,000.

Real-world utility, something I’ve praised about the KTM since my first introduction to the bike a couple of years ago, is its ease of adaptation. With minor effort, the RC8 owner can reposition the footpegs, clips, and tailpiece from a low to a high position. Both models continue this feature for 2012, with the Race Spec going a bit further with a host of footpeg personalization options.

2012 KTM RC8 Race Spec

In addition to the racing body, the Race Spec comes with a racing windshield and a thin padded racing seat.

Notably, the Race Spec is decked out with niceties like short, non-folding machined footpegs and carbon fiber heel guards. The body is race-ready, with no cutouts or markings for street-legal fodder such as turn signals or headlights. The brake and clutch levers bend, the wheels are shod with Dunlop racing slicks, and a rear rack is included to keep the bike upright in the pits. Also standard on the Race Spec is a GP-style gearshift scheme – the epitome of a race-ready bike.

Both RC8s, with their narrow fuel tank/seat junction and light weight, are easy and fun to throw around tight stretches of road or up a gnarly canyon. And with close power figures (a claimed 170cbhp for the R and a claimed 180cbhp for the Race Spec) any RC8 has the wherewithal to lunge from corner to corner.

When asked, KTM was enthusiastic about fielding a factory or factory team in the AMA Superbike racing class, but that is unlikely to happen in 2012 due to the recession. However, the company won the German Superbike Championship in 2011. lending the RC8 some substantial racing credentials.

2012 KTM RC8 R

The white-and-orange color scheme or RC8 R could easily be mistaken for a track-only counterpart, but the proof is the go-fast hardware adorning the Race Spec machine.

So whether you’re looking for a new street mount or a race-ready package to start your racing career, KTM invites you to take a closer look at the RC8. We took advantage of the recent Fastrack Riders track day sponsored by KTM, where the RC8 R and RC8 Race Spec were available for everyone to demonstrate in the ultimate environment—the race track. To find out if KTM is hosting such an event near you, visit the KTM website.

Related reading
A preview of the 2012 KTM Street lineup
2010 Literbike Shootout: Aprilia RSV4 Factory vs Ducati 1198S vs KTM RC8R
2010 KTM 1190 RC8R Review
History of the KTM motorcycle

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