Tourer, off-roader, sports­bike – KTM’S new 1290 S is far more than just an ad­ven­ture bike

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week - ADAM CHILD SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER adam.child@mo­tor­cy­cle­

With the demise of KTM’S 1190 Ad­ven­ture, the 1290cc Su­per Ad­ven­ture has been split three ways for 2017 (see side bar) and I tested the Su­per Ad­ven­ture S, which has a smaller 23-litre fuel tank, new front end and head­light and is the most di­rect re­place­ment to the 1190.

All of the new 1290s are Euro4­com­pli­ant with, say KTM, power and torque out­puts un­af­fected. The frame, chas­sis and brakes are es­sen­tially the same as the Su­per Ad­ven­ture from 2015 with re­vi­sions made to the head­stock to make the steer­ing smoother.

KTM have re­sisted mak­ing a gi­ant leap for­ward with the 1290’s al­ready ex­cel­lent rider aids and semi-ac­tive sus­pen­sion: in­stead the WP semi-ac­tive sus­pen­sion and cor­ner­ing ABS are sim­ply an evo­lu­tion of the ex­ist­ing sys­tem, as is the trac­tion con­trol, which has new set­tings and al­go­rithms. Preload ad­just­ment is still set elec­tron­i­cally by the rider at a stand­still and isn’t au­to­matic like on some bikes in this sec­tor.

Up front changes

The most sig­nif­i­cant changes are to the new-look dash, new LED head­lights and front end. The Aus­trian fac­tory has also added sev­eral neat touches such as key­less ig­ni­tion, a wa­ter­proof USB and phone stor­age com­part­ment, cruise con­trol (on the left bar), il­lu­mi­nated switchgear, a self-lock­ing man­u­allyad­justable screen, a new seat and cast wheels rather than spoked.

That new TFT dash makes a huge dif­fer­ence to the big 1290 S. In­stead of the hard-to-nav­i­gate clocks of the old model, the 6.5-inch screen is crys­tal clear and in­tu­itive to use. You can now play around with the myr­iad dif­fer­ent set­tings, four rid­ing modes and make full use of all the rider aids and modes, even switch off the MTC trac­tion con­trol on the go.

Per­fectly set

The semi-ac­tive sus­pen­sion has four ad­di­tional set­tings – Com­fort, Street, Sport and Off-road – which re­act ac­cord­ing to your cho­sen rid­ing mode set­ting, and can be swapped on the fly.

At the start of a 10-hour test ride I opted for Street rid­ing mode and Com­fort sus­pen­sion set­ting. As the speed in­creased I wanted a lit­tle more

re­sponse from the mo­tor and less in­tru­sive ABS and TC, so I flicked it into Sport mode. The pace in­creased again and I flicked into the Sport sus­pen­sion mode, which holds the chas­sis more firmly, re­duc­ing brake dive and squat on the rear.

All this flick­ing and click­ing is to­tally in­tu­itive. I didn’t need to read the man­ual and I didn’t need to stop to do it. As the roads opened out I even switched off the rider aids com­pletely. In towns and vil­lages I switched the TC back on and soft­ened the power and ride by se­lect­ing Street mode and Com­fort sus­pen­sion set­tings.

Af­ter lunch it rained heav­ily and the 1290 S was trans­formed again. The new self-lock­ing man­u­ally-ad­justable screen went up and the op­tional heated grips were switched on. I opted for Rain rid­ing mode with cor­ner­ing ABS and trac­tion con­trol – and sud­denly the rav­en­ous 160bhp mon­ster of ear­lier in the day had trans­formed into a gen­tle lap dog. The old Su­per Ad­ven­ture had sim­i­lar ca­pa­bil­i­ties, but the con­fus­ing clocks de­terred mak­ing such changes.

The 2017 S is far sportier than the old Su­per Ad­ven­ture. Its smaller (by seven litres) tank makes the bike slim­mer while its claimed dry weight is 14kg less.

The steer­ing is light for such a big bike, which en­cour­ages you to re­ally throw it around. Even when the semi- ac­tive sus­pen­sion is work­ing over­time the 1290 re­mains com­posed and sta­ble, boost­ing your con­fi­dence. A bike this big and ca­pa­ble of tour­ing two-up in com­fort shouldn’t han­dle this well. At slower, ev­ery­day speeds the 1290 S is equally un­in­tim­i­dat­ing. Fu­elling is pre­cise, the clutch is one-fin­ger light and the bars, pegs, even the dash are ad­justable to suit. The seat height can be set at ei­ther 860mm or 875mm, while the op­tional Hill Hold Con­trol (HHC), which pre­vents the bike rolling back­wards on gra­di­ents, is a com­fort.

Cruise con­trol is now stan­dard while the 23-litre fuel tank should de­liver 200 miles be­fore the fuel light comes on. In Com­fort mode es­pe­cially the ride is smooth and ef­fort­less, but the rel­a­tively nar­row seat is on the hard side.

Nonethe­less, the S is an im­pres­sive bike - or re­ally three bikes in one!

‘A bike as ca­pa­ble of tour­ing in such com­fort shouldn’t han­dle this well’

Split per­son­al­ity: The 1290 has a face only its mother could love...

The new dash is clear, in­tu­itive and a mas­sive step up from the out­go­ing model’s Pil­lions are well catered for on the KTM Semi-ac­tive sus­pen­sion has four modes

It may be an ad­ven­ture bike, but the S han­dles like a sporty naked

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