AROUND THE TRACK
I could’ve done with a step ladder to clamber on the mahoosive KTM, but once on board I felt surprisingly at home on it from the get-go. It was tall, broad and, physically speaking, the most intimidating of all the bikes on test, but its booming, thumping V-twin motor somehow won me over the minute I launched it into action. I’m not quite sure what I’d been expecting but the engine was much more usable than I’d hoped, being higher revving and less intense than imagined low down. The 1290 might have looked like a Rottweiler, but the ride was much more sophisticated – it didn’t bark once.
But it did bite… on quite a few occasions. With the traction control switched off, it didn’t take much to get the rear whipping out beneath me when getting a little greedy with the 141Nm of torque on tap. That motor demanded respect, and its appetite for gears was insatiable. I was running a gear higher than most of the other bikes in pretty much every corner because this was a bike that made up ground by using its inherent punch to fire you up to speed at every given opportunity – what else would you expect from a ginormous twin? The other concern I’d had, pre-ride, was how gangly the thing was, with plenty of weight stowed up top. That concern came to light early on, as the sheer travel on the pogos was enough to make you feel seasick, but the smoother I was with the bike, the less I noticed its see-sawing nature. The general feel from the 1290 was actually pretty planted mid-corner, and it didn’t put up a fight when you asked it to pitch into bends.
Braking was another of its strong points, as the bike’s anchors were pretty damn eager to get the thing stopped on demand. It didn’t take long before the KTM was setting decent lap times and showing itself to be something of a track tool. The smoother I got, the faster it went, chipping off a few tenths at a time. I never expected it to break the one minute barrier, but it wasn’t far off it. One of the bike’s biggest handicaps was its surging throttle that seemed to always be hunting when held wide on broad sweepers. It wasn’t such an issue on shorter, turn-and-shoot apexes, but off the back straight was a long, double apex right hander, round which the KTM’s motor proved as predictable as a British summer – surging and dropping in revs despite the sturdiest of grips on the throttle. That was a little annoying, and it made hard work when trying to alter the bike’s trajectory, because there simply wasn’t the finesse to be marginally chopping or adding rpm with precision. Buy hey, no one’s perfect, right? On the whole the 1290 impressed me, and it certainly didn’t embarrass itself against the clock.