Review: KTM 1290 Super Adventure S

In 2018 I tested the KTM 1290 Super Adventure S and during that test week I developed a profound love for the bike. So much so that the Super Adventure made it to the number 1 on my list of favorite test bikes that year.

That experience made me very curious about the new 1290 Super Adventure S, which got a big make-over for model year 2021. Even though an untrained eye perhaps wouldn’t notice much of that update.

The headlight is probably the biggest eye-catcher. It now contains the sensor for the (standard) adaptive cruisecontrol. Quite easy to spot as well: the new 23-litre tank hangs like two large cheeks along both sides of the also renewed frame. Furthermore, the LC8 V-twin has been thoroughly revised: it weighs 1.6 kg less now, received a Euro5 diploma and spits out 160 hp/138 Nm. The steering head was moved 15 mm rearwards for sharper handling, while the swingarm was extended by 15 mm for more stability and grip. And there’s more, but we’ll discuss that later.

When I hop on the bike, I immediately notice that the adjustable seat (849 / 869 mm) is lower and narrower at the front than on the previous model. At the same time, Continue reading

Review: KTM 1290 Super Adventure S

“Ready to race” the digital display of the KTM 1290 Super Adventure S announces when you press the start button. Not a lie, as the bike will soon prove. Did you expect something else, with 160 hp and 140 Nm? But before we talk about power, let’s first take a closer look at this bombshell.

The 1301 cc LC8 engine that created quite some excitement for the KTM 1290 Super Duke, was also used by the Mattighofen team for a sports-touring motorbike and an adventure bike. I tested the 1290 Super Duke GT, the sports-tourer, before. Time to get to know that adventure bike.

The KTM 1290 Super Adventure comes in an S and an R version. The R focuses more on offroad, with its spoked wheels, 21″ front wheel, higher seat and standard crash bars. The S aims at the asphalt, with cast wheels, 19″ front wheel and a lower, two-part, height-adjustable seat. I got to test the S for a week.

Brutal or subtle?

I remember from the 1290 Super Duke GT that it simply was a brute bike. In so many ways. Brute power, rough sounding exhaust, not always refined in handling. So I expected the same character from the 1290 Super Adventure S. And it immediately surprised me: Mr. Adventurer is more subtle than his sports-touring brother.

However, with its looks you’d assume the opposite. Especially the not particularly modest design of the headlight. Not everyone’s a fan of it. Me neither at first, but after a while, its distinctive and even photogenic nose grew on me. Finally a KTM adventure bike that comes close to that still good-looking 990 in terms of design.

A push on the start button generates quite some fuss. Caused by the optional Akrapovic exhaust. Its shortfall of subtlety has a Moses and the Red Sea effect in dense traffic. Or in this case: Orange Moses and the Car Sea.

And then it’s time to clamp the handlebars firmly – because maybe the bike throws you out of the saddle like a wild stallion – you open the throttle and … notice that this Super Adventure is extremely easy-going. There’s no sign of any brutality at all. Not yet.

The Super Adventure has four riding modes (Sport, Street, Rain and Offroad). Even in Sport, the Brussels city center at peak hour wasn’t a problem. Yes, the Sport mode has the harshest gas reaction, but you don’t necessarily need kid gloves to keep the KTM under control. Still, I found the Street mode more comfortable. I didn’t even try Rain (with 100 hp instead of 160) and Offroad.

Hard, harder, hardest

Fortunately, the 1290 Super Adventure doesn’t throw all the brutality overboard. Sporty driving is so easy and so tempting that a sixth sense for speed cameras would be a blessing. You go so fast so quickly, that it’s almost impossible to open the throttle completely. The (optional, perfectly working) quickshifter makes the explosive accelerations even more insane. And although the traction control was on, short wheelies couldn’t be avoided. The traction control, like the ABS, has cornering technology. A good thing.

Curves? Our Austrian friend Continue reading