Eurobike 2014: Introducing KTM’s Award-Winning Life Lontano P18 World Touring Bike

This is the first in a series of posts I’ll be making this week (and this week only) that’ll be sure please all the touring gear nerds out there. It’s based on a thorough scouring of the world’s biggest bicycle industry tradeshow, Eurobike, in search of anything and everything related to our favourite cycling niche: touring and adventure.

The major theme of 2014’s Eurobike exhibition was electric-assist bikes, e-bikes, pedalecs, whatever you want to call them. Bikes with electric motors.

E-bikes, of course, have no obvious practical application in the field of cycle touring (though I’m sure someone will prove me wrong). So it was nice to see, despite this emphasis, a proper long-haul touring bike winning one of the coveted Eurobike Awards this year.

Eurobike 2014: KTM Life Lontano P18

Specifically, it was Austrian manufacturer KTM‘s Life Lontano P18 world tourer that caught the jury’s eye:

“The Life Lontano includes absolutely everything required for a major trip round the world by bike without losing itself in any superfluous gimmicks. Furthermore, the KTM is proof that design is possible even in highly function-driven travel bikes.”

A quick glance at the KTM shows that the usual considerations for a world tourer had been taken into account for the Life Lontano P18: a reinforced, long-wheelbase CroMo frame and forks with a stable and relatively upright geometry, top-end Tubus racks front and rear, wide Schwalbe Marathon tyres, quality wheels and mudguards, and a Brooks B17 saddle.

Eurobike 2014: KTM Life Lontano P18
Eurobike 2014: KTM Life Lontano P18
Eurobike 2014: KTM Life Lontano P18

Closer inspection also revealed the highly-regarded Schmidt SON 28 generator hub up front, already hooked up to front and rear LED lighting (as you’ll often see on bikes of Northern or Central European heritage), and a rear kickstand designed into the frameset rather than bolted on as an afterthought.

Eurobike 2014: KTM Life Lontano P18
Eurobike 2014: KTM Life Lontano P18

But it’s in the drivetrain department that the Life Lontano P18 stood out, the frame having been specially designed to incorporate the Pinion 18-speed internal gearing system, with an increasingly popular belt-drive system pulling the power through.

Eurobike 2014: KTM Life Lontano P18
Eurobike 2014: KTM Life Lontano P18

(In case you haven’t heard of Pinion, I’ll return to it specifically later this week. I saw it on numerous bikes and it’s clearly here to stay, perhaps the first real competitor for the ubiquitous Rohlhoff Speedhub.)

Hydraulic disc brakes and 700c wheels might deter some from taking this seriously as a world tourer – not to mention the as-yet-unproven long-term reliability of Pinion. Having said that, it’s only a matter of time before some sponsored round-the-worlder puts it through its paces.

Eurobike 2014: Test-riding the KTM Life Lontano P18

I sought the opportunity to test-ride it briefly, and on first impressions it’s lovely – of course – though I’d change out the bar-ends in a flash.

Eurobike 2014: KTM Life Lontano P18

The RRP for the KTM Life Lontano P18 will be a quite bargainous 3,399 EUR, which (it’s always worth mentioning) is more than enough to cycle a lap of the planet on a much crapper bike.

It’s so new it isn’t even on KTM’s website yet, but look out for it as 2015’s bike lines roll out later in the year.

Eurobike 2014: KTM Life Lontano XT

The bike will also be available as the Life Lontano XT, cutting the list price down to 1,899 EUR by employing a Shimano XT mountain-bike drivetrain in place of the Pinion.

Pop back throughout this week for more lighthearted touring-related Eurobike coverage; specifically of the industry’s obsession with fatbikes, a new adventure travel bike from Surly, a surprise and predictably wallet-busting collaboration between Brooks and Ortlieb in the pannier department, two new folding tourers from Tern, as well as what is possibly the most ludicrously expensive off-the-peg touring bike I’ve ever come across.

37 Responses to “Eurobike 2014: Introducing KTM’s Award-Winning Life Lontano P18 World Touring Bike”

  1. Oliver

    Hi Tom, this KTM bike looks very interesting and promising. The technical details remain to be seen (for example the weight?) as well as the durability of the Pinion drive … However looks like a nice and promising bike. With regards to the belt drive this is tried and tested in the motorcycle world and a belt drive should be more durable than a chain drive. I am likely to jump into the cold water and buy one of these as the price-tag seems hot to me.

    Reply
  2. Rob Thomson

    Interesting to hear about the new tourers from Tern! I saw their press release about one of them (the one with the eccentric bottom bracket)…looks amazing! I look forward to hearing your impressions.

    Reply
  3. Ben Thorp

    I’ll admit to being somewhat curious about that Pinion gearbox – would I be correct in assuming that the crank is not directly connected to the front chainwheel? Presumably there is a mechanical advantage to the housing being in the bottom-bracket rather than in the hub, too….

    Reply
    • Shaun

      It puts the centre of gravity in a better place though that’s maybe less important on a loaded tourer than on a mountain bike.

      Pity about the non-26″ wheels though.

      Reply
      • Oliver

        Why non 26″ wheels? I have not found any reference to the size of the wheels …

        Reply
        • Tom Allen

          They’re 28″ wheels.

          Reply
        • Shaun

          Accepted wisdom is that 26″ wheels are better for a world tourer as that wheel size is more readily available than 700c at least outside of Europe and the USA. It also builds a stronger wheel.

          Even in just the UK though I’ve found that when I managed to split a 26″ tyre (Conti Town & Country) that finding someone in a rural village on a Sunday with a mountain bike who I could buy a tyre off was pretty easy compared to finding someone with a 700c tyre that wasn’t of the skinny crabon road-bike variety. Even a worn tyre from a Halfords £100 ‘mountain bike’ is better than ending a tour or an expensive taxi ride to a town because you can’t find a tyre.

          I wonder how long that is going to last though as mountain bikes are rapidly moving toward 27.5″ for no discernible benefit and 29″ (same as 700c and confusingly 28″ if it’s a touring/trekking bike not an MTB). 26″ might be an endangered wheel size in a few years.

          Reply
  4. Oliver

    OK I understand. Then a solution would be to get 26″ rims and spokes accordingly and just change the wheels to 26″ (if technically possible). I believe the price-tag would still be hot …

    Reply
    • Shaun

      It’s not a good idea to put 26″ wheels in a 29″ wheel frame or vice-versa even if they should still fit.

      The bike geometry would be wrong. Most notably the bottom bracket and therefore the pedals would be 1.5″ lower so you’re likely to catch a pedal on a corner. Typically, 29″ wheeled bikes already have bottom brackets that are dropped lower below the wheel axle than 26″ wheeled bikes too.

      Bike forks usually have axle offsets or the “rake” set differently for different wheel sizes so you’d affect the steering. Have a read of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_and_motorcycle_geometry which will probably give you some idea of what would happen if you changed the wheel size.

      Reply
  5. Oliver

    Good point Shaun. I also thought about this but I was unsure … Then it would really be a pity as the bike looks quite nice … But then aren’t 28″ tires more and more available on this planet?

    Reply
    • Shaun

      28″ Trekking/touring tyres from Schwalbe such as the Marathon range seem to be the same size as 29″ mountain bike tyres and 700c road tyres so they’re increasingly common at least in the USA and Europe. It’s a pity nobody can agree on the name.

      Perhaps Tom might expand on wheel sizes in a future article and where in the world it is a good idea to use which. The two ‘World’ tourers from KTM & Koga seem to indicate the Dutch think the larger size is ok.

      Reply
      • Oliver

        I think this is a debate similar to that about the right drive (Pinion, Rohloff, Alfine, or the standard chain driven derailleurs).

        Reply
  6. Howard

    Ebikes and touring, a few years ago this family put a derive onto an islabike for their tour so helping the kids is a better idea than making them fatbikes!

    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=Sh&page_id=261572&v=71

    Reply
  7. niko

    hey guys!
    i have the honor to ride the ktm life lontano p1.18 on my worldtrip. i just startet in january in austria (of course 😉 ) and now i am in sofia/bulgaria. it’s just the beginning but until now everything is perfect and it’s a pleasure! if you are curious you can check out http://www.niko-rides.com
    see you on the road

    Reply
  8. Oliver

    The KTM Life Lontano has finally appeared on the market and is available at the dealers since last week. Hence I went to the dealer to testdrive this bike and I was overwhelmed. It is a fantastic bike and the rideability is so smooth, the pinion drive works like a charm and the disc brakes are beyond doubt. It is a fabulous bike. Tried to negotiate the price but dealer did not want to discuss the price of EUR 3399. Hence after some research I found a dealer in Austria who offers the bike at EUR 3059 including free shipping to Germany. I now placed the order and I should have the bike in 2 weeks.

    Reply
    • Wolfgang

      Hi,
      Did you receive the bike? What’s your experience with the austrian shop?

      Reply
      • Oliver

        Hi, yes I received the bike. Came in a huge box. I just had to mount the pedals and set the steering bar. The bike is simply wonderful. Took a first ride immediately and my first impressions have been confirmed … I bought the bike here http://www.bikestore.cc/life-lontano-2015-groessen-titangrau-p-239721.html …. But it seems I have been really lucky. The original price-tag was EUR 3399 and I got it for EUR 3.059. Now the price-tag has gone up to 3.699 and the price advertised is EUR 3.399. Too bad.

        Reply
        • Wolfgang

          Thanks for the quick response.
          Indeed! I checked yesterday this page – there was still the low price. Today – only the small frame sizes and a higher price. It’s a pity. 🙁
          My local dealer has only one with 46 cm frame size, and there is no chance to order another one anymore.

          Reply
  9. Steve

    I picked up my Life Lontano about 3 weeks ago. I do like it. Gear changing: stationary one can select any gear and it’s there when you take off. Changing up under load is simple, however changing down one must back off on the load slightly. Rear hub makes a lot of noise. Not sure what to do if the belt breaks: one would have to cut the frame to replace the belt. My plan is to either swap out the belt for a chain or pre-cut the frame and retrofit some sort of set-up to close it up again. All in all I’m very happy with it.

    Reply
    • Oliver

      Hi steve, what do you mean by rear hub makes a lot of noise? Mine makes no noise at all … and if you ever need to change the belt please note the frame is split in the back at the rear hub. There is a plate screwed to the inside of the frame (next to the rear hub) covering the split. After some months of experience i can say it is a very fine bike …

      Brgds
      Oliver

      Reply
      • Steve

        HI Oliver.

        There’s a ticking noise when the rear wheel hub freewheels. I’ve only put about 400k on the bike so far so maybe the sound will diminish with time. It’s not too loud. I will look much more closely at the place near the rear hub. I think I know where you mean but it looks like it is painted over. (Doesn’t seem possible to post pix here. )

        One other observation: when my right hand gets wet – rain or sweat – I can’t get a good grip on the shifter and sometimes miss the gear change.

        The pedals it came with need an upgrade. And I will probably swap out the handlebars for shorter ones.

        I am very happy with the bike – it is solid!

        Steve

        Reply
        • Steve

          Hi Oliver (again)
          I read through this entire thread and realise you must live in Germany, as do I (Mannheim area) – but my German language skills are poor!
          You got your bike at a far better price than me, but my bike purchase was partially subsidised by the company I work for. As a result of the subsidy program I’m seeing all sorts of interesting bikes showing up at work. Of particular interest are the Canyons that are showing up. (But no Canyon trekking bike so far.)

          Steve (PS – if you wanna take this conversation off-line I can be reached at steve.gillman AT gmail.com )

          Reply
        • Oliver

          Hi steve,

          Indeed we shouldn’t start a discussion here. That ticking noise is normal for a freewheel i think. The handlebar is would not change for a smaller one as you lose control. Regarding the pedals i agree. I already chznged mine in favor of shimano click pedals. And i changed the hzydraulic brakes to the XT version.

          Brgds
          Oliver

          Reply
  10. Peter

    I’m planning a tour from Hungary to Vietnam with my wife, and we are checking the KTM Life Lontano Deore/XT 2016, which is not much more expensive on bikestore.cc than Kona Sutra, and is very well equipped (Tubus, Brooks, dynamo hub, Deore/XT of course). Are there any long term experiences with these tour bikes now? I find it very weird to have 29″ wheels here…

    Reply
    • Oliver

      Hi peter,

      I can confirm that the KTM bike is sturdy and works very well. I have not had any defects until now but I should admit that I have covered only about 2500 km until now. The only thing I found is that the front fork is a bit wobbly if you use front bags. That is the only negative I have found so far. I cannot comment on the chaindrive however as I have the pinion/beltdrive version for me it is a very comfortable and good bike.

      Reply
      • Remao

        Don’t buy it…period. The bike itself might be nice, but it has a one fatal flaw and that is the service behind it. 3 times a critical failure (failure in pinion system, failure in crank and broken rear axle) and it has taken them twice 4 weeks to fix. Last one they didn’t even bother to fix, leaving me with a broken bike just before a world tour. All this within first 1000 km. No communication, no speedy plan to help if you are abroad (even when being in their backyard austria, i had to ship the bike back to NL and then it went to Austria to be fixed).

        Reply
        • Oliver

          Hi remao, did you buy your bike through a local dealer? Who would have to provide service then. The pinion system and cranks are provided by pinion and servicing is not easy and widespread yet. What was the failure? Regarding a broken rear axle requires the bike to be sent to Austria? I cannot believe that. To change the rear axle is a matter of minutes and everybody can do that ….

          Reply
          • Remao

            Exactly, the LBS aided me remotely to get the pinion issue sorted, but while i was in Austria with my bike, and LBS was told he should ship the bike back, it wasn’t possible for them to do a GLS pick up 150 km away from them. Instead my bike trip was over, had to take trains/hitch a ride to get back to Netherlands, drive it to LBS, so he would get a GLS pick up from KTM that location…1200 km away from their factory. In total it took 5 weeks to be sorted (the control unit of pinion system was broken…happened within 200 km (which could happen, no problem there) Now the second time, it is worse. Exactly the LBS (and i) just need a replacement product…but it requires the entire freehub which is a 2 hour job for the LBS, but he doesnt get any support / response for another part. So he is stuck because KTM is “on holiday in July/August” and his representative isn’t responding, leaving him unable to fix it. This is the type of service level they have and that makes it an unreliable partner for such bikes. The bike itself could be fine but when you sell such bikes you need to have your service level in order.

      • Trevor Fortes

        Is the gearbox case an integral part of the bike frame or does it “drop out” complete if needing any maintenance work in the future. Thank you.

        Reply
        • Steve

          Hi Trevor,

          The gear box drops out. FYI I am in the process of building a bamboo framed bike with a pinion gearbox. Pinion provide a “bridge” that is designed to be welded to traditional metal tubes. We figured out a way to bind it to bamboo. (Not sure how one would fix the bridge to carbon)

          Google smart grass bicycles; you can see my build and Andrea’s. His is complete, I’m still working on mine.

          Steve

          Reply
          • Oliver

            No, that is not correct! The gearbox is welded to the frame and does not drop out on the KTM bike. It has hower screwed plates allowing access to the gear mechanism for service purposes.

          • Trevor Fortes

            So if there are later gearbox wear issues the whole bike has to go in for repair. If past economic repair the bike becomes scrap?

          • Remao

            It is dependent on your bike manufacturer how they handle their service, but Pinion has their own customer service and they will help you directly as well. The gearbox is seperate and is for us cyclists a 20 min to disassemble. Unscrew 6 bolts and the gearbox releases itself from the “bridge” which is integrated in frame. Next you take off the gear shifter (and untangle some wires if need be). This in total is an entire separate package.

            Pinion works well but if you consider buying one requested cnc-ed cranks instantly. The forged give an annoying ticking noise and they confirmed to me it is a quality issue.

            For the rest the box is smooth, reliable on its own.

            The one thing that isnt great is gates belt or in specific the belt related to the sprockets. If you go to dry / sandy areas by ready for a screaming eagle underneath you unless you clean it every day. Also the alignment between the two sprockets has to be spot on else you get another loud noise through your frame. 0.5 mm off and there is trouble.

        • Steve

          This shows how the gear box is mounted: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2djdzKksmjc
          Simply reverse the process to remove it.

          Steve

          Reply
  11. Steve

    Belt tension is important too. Gates provide an app that listens when you pluck the belt like a guitar strung and lets you know if it’s too tight/loose.

    @ remao, thanks for confirming that the gear box drops out, maybe Oliver had an early model. I have a 1.18 pinion on my life lontano and am building a 1.12 into a bamboo frame. ( I went with chain drive on the bamboo bike as I didn’t want to compromise the bamboo.) I agree, chain/belt line is v important.

    Reply

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