A vague message
If the mission of an adventure-class ride is to simultaneously offer excellent on-road manners and serious off-road capability, what would be the point of such a bike boasting a road bent? Wouldn’t it be just a road car with the air of an adventurer? The answer is: it depends. There are a thousand and one SUVs with a wide variety of capacities that perfectly suit a thousand and one different buyers. At the same time, on the side of the motorcycle, the adventurers form a not very homogeneous class where it is wise to evaluate each case individually. That of the KTM 1290 Super Adventure S turns out to be interesting, if a little vague, at least at the very beginning.
To understand what kind of motorcycle the Super Adventure S is, a look at its construction is helpful. Unfortunately not very visible, the chassis is a superb trellis of steel tubes in which houses a big V-Twin of 1301 cc, a charming mechanical monster of 160 hp whose fury is perfectly controlled by a suite of electronic driving aids. Its strong character colors every second in the saddle, since it shakes, pulses and rumbles with so little discomfort that it is definitely not intended for lovers of reserved mechanics. Semi-active suspensions, unobstructed ergonomics and large color display instrumentation are other key elements of the model.
Thanks to their balanced and relaxed riding position and their soft suspensions, most adventure class models are the basis of pleasant road rides, and this is definitely the case of the Super Adventure S. Its high saddle allows the pilot to look over cars, its semi-active suspensions can be softened enough to swallow the flaws of our roads — and even lower the saddle slightly — the combination of its large gas tank and good windshield protects well against the elements, the saddle remains comfortable over good distances and, for about a thousand extra dollars, cases can be easily fitted.
By opting for asphalt-preferred tires and a 19-inch front wheel that’s smaller than the 21-inch used by adventurers with big off-road ambitions, KTM has given the 1290 Super Adventure S remarkably nimble handling. It is not a featherweight, but the model manages to hide its mass so well that attacking a series of turns is as easy as it is fun. A brief navigation in the menus makes it possible to firm up the suspensions if desired, or even to soften the response of the engine, whose performance is high without being frightening, at least when the electronic aids are activated.
Although the primary mission of the Super Adventure S is not to excel on the trails – a role reserved for the true desert machine that is the R version of the model – getting off the asphalt roads remains entirely possible at its controls. . Care should be taken not to overdo the pace so as not to risk damaging the alloy wheels and we should also stick to hard and dry surfaces in order to respect the limits of the tires. As long as you conform to that kind of riding and conditions, off-road riding is definitely a capability of the model.
Techno through and through
KTM seems to have made a point of equipping the Super Adventure S with all the technologies at its disposal. Everything from multiple driving modes to suspension settings and various connectivity functions is selected via a joystick on the left grip and displayed clearly on a large color screen. We also note the presence of an excellent assisted gear selector and adaptive cruise control. However, while the latter works well when following a car, ironically it only “sees” motorcycles directly ahead and gets confused when following a slightly off-track motorcycle. But that’s how we ride in a group…
Some road-leaning adventurers are really just roadsters perched on high suspensions. The nature of the 1290 Super Adventure S is much wider and much more interesting. It’s a great, nearly-travel-ready cruiser, a surprisingly capable sports car, and a bike with decent off-road potential all rolled into one. As its equipment is generous and the whole forms an admirably coherent whole, one can almost speak of an all-terrain GT. Calling it a GT for the undecided therefore seems appropriate, since it readily changes personality depending on the driver’s mood.
- Brand: KTM
- Model: 1290 Super Adventure S
- Price: $21,499
- Warranty: 2 years/unlimited mileage
- Engine: 1301cc liquid-cooled V-twin
- Transmission: 6-speed, chain final drive
- Dry weight: 220 kg
- Front brake: 2 discs with 4-piston calipers and ABS
- Rear brake: 1 disc with 2-piston caliper and ABS
- Front tyre: 120/70 ZR19
- Rear tire: 170/60 ZR17