Fast Bikes - - CORE TEST -

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.

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