1290S v 1090 + old 1190!
KTM’S V-twin adventure bikes have jumped in capacity for 2017 – but is
You’d be forgiven for being confused by KTM’S big V-twin adventure bike family. I know I was. After all, what started out as a two-bike range in 2003 – the 950 Adventure and taller, more off-road 950 Adventure S (for Sport) – has grown into a fivestrong dynasty all still based around the Austrian firm’s trademark V-twin and tubular steel trellis frame.
In 2006 those two originals grew into the 990 Adventure and 990 Adventure S (which were then renamed Adventure and Adventure R in 2009). These were replaced by the all-new and electronics-laden 1190 and 1190 R in 2013, and supplemented by the 1301cc/30-litre tanked 1290 Super Adventure in 2015, along with a new, entry-level, 95bhp 1050 Adventure.
Now, prompted by Euro4 which effectively killed off the 1050 and 1190, that line-up has changed again. What we’re left with is the new 1090 Adventure and a more off-road focused 1090R with 21/18in wire wheels in place of the stocker’s 19/17in cast combo, plus longer travel suspension including fully adjustable forks.
While, at the even more serious end there’s a new three-bike 1290 line-up. There’s are the existing, big-tanked 1290 Super Adventure although it’s now called the 1290 Super Adventure T, for touring; a new, more slimline 1290 Super Adventure S and, in a similar vein to the 1090, an equally new 1290 Super Adventure R. Got that? Good.
The big question, though, is how these newcomers move things on. We headed to Sicily, and the dry and demanding roads in the shadow of Mount Etna, in search of answers with the new 1290 S and base 1090, and took the outgoing 1190 Adventure along as a benchmark.
Old 1190 meets new 1290
Although the three bikes here share virtually identical profiles, in reality they’re strikingly different. And nowhere is that contrast greater than with the new 1290 Adventure S.
After a brief re-familiarisation with the outgoing 1190 along the sinuous roads traversing Etna’s foothills, a switch to the 1290 was a shock to the system. While the bikes’ tall and slim ergonomics are virtually identical, the rider’s eye view and the ride itself couldn’t have been any more different if I’d just jumped off the old 990.
Even at a standstill it seems the two are separated by 10 years rather than four. The new bike’s big 6.5in TPFT colour display is the main reason, of course. Yet there are plenty of others: the new LED nose that reminds of something from a sci-fi flick; uprated switchgear that’s far more intuitive than before plus a general level of spec which now includes keyless ignition, cruise control and an easily adjustable screen. Previously, clever electronics or not, KTM’S Adventures were always a little crude, basic, rustic even. This new 1290, however, is sublimely refined.
But it’s the 1290’s performance that contrasts most with the old 1190. Being 13bhp more powerful, you might expect the reworked twin to be more brutal and less forgiving. It’s quite the opposite. Yes, it’s still a beast, especially when flicked into full-on Sport mode, but the 1301cc unit impresses most for its smoothness and distinctly classy delivery.
Just as impressive, and working hand-in-hand with the 1290’s peerless drive, is the quality of its ride. The sophistication of the semi-active WP top-spec suspension, combined with instantly switchable characteristics, gives a ride I can praise no more highly than likening it to the Ducati Multistrada 1200’s brilliant Skyhook. Both are sharp and plush, adaptable and versatile. Both ooze class and sophistication.
In fact, all of that’s true of the whole Super Adventure S. It’s at once so potent, yet so reassuring and calmly capable and also so adaptable and adjustable, that there’s no other word for it than ‘brilliant’. 1290 T and R siblings aside, it’s KTM’S best Adventure yet by a country mile.
New 1090: the reality
All of which, you’d think, should have ensured my switch to the entry-level, more basic, more affordable 1090 would be something of an anti-climax. And to some extent it was – but not for the reasons you might expect.
Only testosterone-fuelled, racing-obsessed KTM could conceive of an entry-level machine as something requiring a 25% power boost up to 125 brake. But that’s what the 1090 is.
As a direct replacement for the old
‘Where previous bikes were rustic this new 1290 is sublime’
95bhp 1050, the 1090 is essentially a tweaked version of that bike. So, although the engine has been significantly re-engineered to deliver both Euro4 compliant emissions and hoik power to more entertaining levels it’s still actually (and confusingly) 1050cc.
And, as that is the main mechanical difference between the 1050 and 1090 then it’s surely also no surprise that, a couple of details aside (more easily switchable modes and new adjustable screen are both pluses) the 1090 is also completely familiar to ride.
That’s no bad thing. Its 125bhp is more than ample, everything works fine and, despite the 1090’s inevitably more budget spec compared to the 1290S, it doesn’t feel as if corners have conspicuously been cut. It’s certainly no anti- climax to ride.
Instead, what the 1090 is, is a classic, typical example of the KTM Adventure breed that, thanks to its extra poke and added comfort, will satisfy more riders than ever and yet comes at a price that’ll make more than a few Ducati Multistrada, Triumph Tiger and, dare I say it, BMW GS owners take notice.
‘It comes at a price that will make GS owners take notice’
Meet KTM’S neneww entry-level adventure bike, the 1090
Get here at the right moment and a giant cuckoo pops out The old 1190’s still a strong performer Refined and yet still a beast, the new 1290 S
1090 (left) feels almost old-school next to the 1290