KTM 1290 Super Adventure Review – Tested By Trevor Hedge
There are fully loaded adventure tourers and then there is KTM’s new 1290 Super Adventure
KTM’s original twin-cylinder Adventure bikes were the real hard core adventure-tourer. The first KTM 950 Super Enduro is now already somewhat of a legend. It’s carburettor fed v-twin and Dakar inspired form the quintessentially hard core option when it comes to big-bore adventure touring. They are already very keenly sought after on the secondhand market.
Then came the 990 Adventure, which, particularly in the R specification with its extra ground clearance and real off-road ability, was again the weapon of choice for those that liked their off-road treks to be a little more adventurous than most.
More recently the 990 grew into the 1190, with, again, a hard-core R option complete with 21-inch front wheel, for those riders that favour off-road handling prowess above outright tarmac scratching on-road dynamics.
The 1190 also signalled a new technological era for KTM. In one model change they went from having the least electronic aids, and the most aggressive engine in the class, to having the best electronics package in motorcycling and excellent EFI response. The ABS and traction control systems, thanks to their new development partnership with Bosch, were a step ahead of what had been seen before.
Not only that, while the gruff and very angry LC8 engine had gained 196cc, it also went to finishing school for some manners, scoring an extra 33 horsepower over the previous R spec’ 990 in the process.
Despite the now prodigious 150 horsepower output, the 1190 was significantly easier to ride in tricky conditions than the 990. I know, I loved the 990 Adventure R I owned, but it was a very angry Mofo that did not suffer fools gladly.
Put the 1190 in off-road mode and the engine will find traction in places where a 990 would be slithering about all over the shop. For less experienced, or just simply more careful riders, the 1190 also has truly excellent ABS and traction control systems that really are a handy asset off-road that can truly save their bacon, while remaining unobtrusive enough to be left on by experienced riders without that horrible ‘computer says no’ feeling when it comes time to have fun.
For 2015 KTM have added two new machines to their adventure line-up. The 1050 Adventure, a more affordable and slightly lower specifcation version of the 1190, that still packs a significant punch and excellent eletronics suite. And the new big daddy of the range, the KTM 1290 Super Adventure. In this yarn it is this new mega all-roads Super Adventure that we will focus on.
The first thing you notice about the 1290 Super Adventure, in comparison to its 1190 sibling, is clearly its sheer physical size and presence.
The 1290 Super Adventure is daunting, in the same way that BMW’s R 1200 GS Adventure is before the relationship is consummated. The extra width of the bike up front is due to the increased 30-litre fuel capacity. KTM then used the extra girth of the tank to shape a much more protective front cowling, better ducting to carry engine heat away from the rider, and bodywork flowing down to meet the forward edges of the wider tank which further helps shield the rider from the elements. The rear header is also insulated to help keep heat away from the rider’s nether regions at low speed.
There’s just no way of making a larger touring motorcycle with a big screen and weather protection look petite but, in the flesh, the 1290 Super Adventure does at least look quite classy. That impression aided by the beautifully finished, height-adjustable seats, which cosset your buttocks in a way that no other KTM can match.
The muffler is also quite attractive and the integrated pannier mounts nicely finished. Thanks to the move away from the high-mounted twin mufflers of the 990, the 1290 Super Adventure, likewise the 1190/1050 Adventure bikes, benefit from being able to position the luggage much closer to the centreline of the machine, the dynamic benefits of which, particularly off-road, I simply can’t overstate.
Once onboard, the 1290 Super Adventure shrinks around you, the machines confronting physical size and 229kg (without fuel) mass is quickly forgotten and you start throwing it around with the same sort of reckless abandon you exhibit on a large nakedbike. The upright riding position and wide bars giving a similar impression of invincibility from the saddle.