1290S v 1090 + old 1190!

KTM’S V-twin ad­ven­ture bikes have jumped in ca­pac­ity for 2017 – but is

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Contents - By Phil West MCN GUEST TESTER

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

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