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