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KTM 1290 Super Adventure S – Adventure Touring in the Fast Lane

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

As with all KTMs, the Super Adventure 1290 S is styled according to the now common KTM theme. Some like it, some don’t and I am somewhere in the middle. My test bike was in the familiar KTM Orange, which, whilst distinctive and striking, can be a bit much. I like the black and grey with the subtle orange highlights colour scheme. Somehow, for me, it looks classier. The S has gone through a host of changes which have made it an all-round sharper tool. Thinner engine cases, different pistons etc have made it a tad lighter.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

The engine is the familiar brutish LC-8 mill, 1301 cc, 75-degree, DOHC 4-valve, Twin Cam V-Twin. Liquid-cooled with 13,1 to 1 compression and fed by 52 mm throttle bodies. Its seriously oversquare bore and stroke contribute to its revvy nature. Power is a healthy 160 hp @9000 rpm, complimented by 138 Nm of torque @6000 rpm. It sports a slipper clutch feeding power through a 6-speed box via a chain to the back wheel.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

The chassis is a chrome-moly trellis unit with a detachable subframe. 48 mm WP-APEX Semi-Active USD forks sport 200 mm of travel and are complimented by a WP-SAT Semi-Active shock with electronically adjusted preload and similar travel. Wheels are 120/70×19 up front and a beefy 170/60×17 back wheel laying all of that V-Twin power down. Four power modes, as well as an additional optional Rally mode (at an additional cost), are available to temper the power to the particular application. It is a bone of contention generally with buyers at KTM’s approach to this issue. Essentially the bike comes with all the modes, however, the optional modes can be ‘unlocked’ for a fee. The same applies to Suspension Pro, Rally Pack and Tech Pack. The fact is, the big Katoom has enough electronics to choke a mule, which should satisfy the most pedantic Gen X’er.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

Braking, in typical KTM fashion, is by radially mounted Brembo 4-pot callipers munching on double 320 mm discs up front and a 2-pot chap chomping on a 267 mm rear disc. The braking of this cruise missile is beyond reproach, for which I am truly grateful considering how this beast hurls itself at the horizon when you hang on the proverbial cables! ABS is courtesy of Bosch and can be disengaged for cornering and off-road duty. Frankly, ABS, particularly on the European bikes has become so good that there is no need for anyone other than Chris Birch or Quin Cody to turn it off.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

Ground clearance is a healthy 223 mm but does come at the cost of a seat height that is comfortable for shorter riders. There is some adjustability between 849 mm and 869 mm but even the lower setting is only comfortable for ‘length jobs’. With its 23-litre tank filled to the brim, the S weighs in at a hefty 249 odd k’s which is pretty much par in its class.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

Information is shared and adjustments are made via the now-familiar 7” TFT display. A notable omission is the lack of heated grips which should, in my humble opinion, be standard on this type of bike. Adaptive cruise control is standard on the bike and works brilliantly. I am not really a fan of this sort of electronic intervention, but those who travel long distances regularly will no doubt approve. My concern is features that make you less engaged with the bike which can lead to complacency.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

Travelling long distances is definitely what this bike is about. In fact, it is dynamically excellent wherever you choose to ride it. Rear wheel steering on the dirt, railing through high-speed sweeps or streaking down the straights and the bike copes superbly. You get two types of adventure bike riders. Those that have ridden dirt bikes habitually and now want to travel far and wide, perhaps, under protest, with their significant other occasionally on the pillion. For them, the only option will be the R version of this bike. Long travel suspension and the obligatory 21” front wheel just shouts dirt. The more hardcore the better. On the other hand, are the road riders who now seek the comfort and dirt highway ability of an adventure bike but still need brilliant road manners and performance. For these riders, the mag wheel-equipped S is just the ticket.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

KTM’s tweaks have made this latest version of the S an absolutely superb roadster. Interestingly, given that each cylinder houses a 650 cc slug, the bike revels in revs. It is geared to be relaxed at speed yet still respond eagerly when you crack the whip. KTM’s latest version of the RC8 motor has a more urgent, almost metallic “Ready To Race” feel which is totally in sync with the company mantra.

I must admit that as the ex-owner of a 990 Adventure, I do miss that wonderfully mellow feel of the previous generation motor. Granted, the new motor will absolutely annihilate the old mill in every way apart from that hard-to-explain ‘feel’ that endeared the 990 to so many of us. The world in which we live fights its battles as much on spec sheets as it does in real-world performance. Whilst 160 horsepower looks great on the spec sheets, it demands clever electronics to harness all the power effectively and even remotely safely. With this approach has come tremendous complexity. The beauty of the 990 was its simplicity.

Photo credit: Bjorn Moreira / ZA Bikers

KTM’s Powerparts catalogue has everything that you could possibly want to ‘pimp your ride’ as well as to suit your bike to the task, be that simply styling, smashing the dirt, baiting sportbikes on racer road or crossing continents. And that ‘do it all well’ ability my friends, is what makes this bike special. Its ability to fill all those roles exceptionally well. If you have not yet ridden an S you owe it to yourself. R349,999 will put an S in your garage. Whilst that is certainly not small change, it may just tick every need on your motorcycle needs and wants list.

KTM 1290 Super Adventure S

For more information on the bike featured in this article, click on the link below…

2024

KTM 1290 SUPER ADVENTURE S

Pricing From R359,999 (RRP)


Brand: KTM
Dave Cilliers
Dave Cilliers
My name is Dave Cilliers. I consider cars as four wheeled shopping baskets and only worth using as a last resort! For years bikes have been my primary transport. Racing, touring, commuting or just kicking up dust on African tracks, I have owned over 270 motorcycles and ridden millions of kilometres. I am happiest when sharing my passion for motorcycles with like minded people whilst traversing Africa in search of adventure.
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