Bike Stuff

2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure First Impressions

2015 is going to be a big year for big bikes. None more so than in the new KTM range

KTM are renowned for their off-road pedigree. They know how to put a bike together. Since the 990 Adventure they are also firmly planted on the map of making big round-the-world (RTW) machines that combine all day comfort with serious off-road capability.

Since migrating to an adventure bike from my ZZR 1400 about 18 months ago (sore wrists after long days were the main reason, no jokes at the back please!) I’ve been enjoying two-wheeled fun both on and off the tarmac. I recently sold my 2013 Tiger Explorer 1200 XC and thought about making the migration fully off road. There are a number of reasons for this but the sheer idiocy of some car drivers is firmly at the centre of it!

However, I’ve been keeping an eye on developments within the adventure bike sector and the 1290 Super Adventure leaped out at me as a bike I think I’d really like to own.

KTM famously turned down the chance to supply bikes to two wanna-be RTW bike adventurers; Ewan McGregor and Charley “Please don’t bring your wife” Boorman. The meteoric rise of the BMW GS is now well known to all and sundry. KTM were slower to make its mark on this particular market segment. That’s not to say they didn’t have awesome bikes available already but the public woke up to big comfortable touring and a new era was born, and KTM have certainly made up for lost time since!

Two new bikes hit the streets and trails in 2015. The 1050 Adventure and the 1290 Super Adventure. The 1050 will slot into a teeny-tiny gap in the market, andtime will tell if it actually has a gap to fill. Certainly, 990 Adventure owners I know didn’t want to move up to the 1190 and perhaps the 1050 is an appeal to them to change up. Time will tell.

The bike I’m really interested in is obviously the 1290. A brand new flagship model for 2015, it is a new bike rather than an update or upgrade to an existing model. It draws its power from the 1301cc Super Duke R engine which has been de-tuned from 180bhp to a, frankly still quite mad, 160bhp. It also boasts 140nm of torque and a long final gear to munch miles up on the motorway and make overtaking a breeze. Multiple riding modes, semi-active suspension, cornering ABS (!) and a host of other features make fine reading. For a full low-down on the spec check this link.

I have waited months to get some information on this bike and this weekend at the 2014 Motorcycle Live in the Birmingham NEC, I actually managed to get hands on with the bike. It’s fair to say there were positives and negatives that leaped out at me straight away.

On the plus side, the cockpit is a lovely place to be. A comfortable seating position, wide bars and great screen are the first things you notice. The screen is adjustable with either hand sending both it and the satnav mount through a broad range of vertical movement. The switch gear has a positive click, a really welcome feature for intuitive control manipulation when on the move. The tank is nicely tapered back where it meets the broad comfortable seat, allowing for some additional comfort when standing off-road.

It’s around about here that you start to notice some little niggles. The grips are narrow. I don’t have particularly huge hands (usually an L or 10 in gloves), but even so my un-gloved hands had no room to move horizontally as they fit snugly between grip stops. I know from experience that 500 mile days in the saddle, day after day, means you need to shift around a little to remain comfortable. I will generally have quite a wide grip on the bars but having nowhere to go, either inwards or outwards on the bars, does fill me with a little trepidation.

Standing then to check the rider position, I was immediately hit in the back of the calf with the pillion foot pegs. Despite the fact the initial launch video for the 1290 Super Adventure does show the bike two-up on a dirt road, it’s clear that you won’t be doing much standing with someone on the back or even with the pegs left on there. The marketing information does state there are two handlebar, saddle and rider peg positions but certainly on the vanilla set-up at the show, it seems to me you may need to remove the pillion pegs if you fancy taking in some fire roads. This seems odd for a top of the range motorcycle.

There is an extensive list of optional extras, or Powerparts as KTM likes to call them:

  • Carbon Ignition Cover
  • Carbon Clutch Cover
  • Akrapovic Slip On Silencer
  • Ergo Heated Seat
  • Articulated Brake and Clutch Lever Set
  • Rally Footpegs
  • Mounting for GPS Bracket
  • Radiator Protection Grille
  • Tank Protection Sticker
  • Luggage Cases (42L + 31L + 42L Top)
  • Backrest for Top Case
  • Universal Rear Bag 5L
  • Factory Oil Filter Cover
  • Factory Ignition Cover Plug
  • Hydraulic Clutch Cover
  • Swingarm Bolt Cover Set
  • Radial Roadlock
  • Brake Fluid Reservoir Cover

The bike I saw seemed to have the covers in place from the above list and the carbon bits and anodised orange metal covers looked really trick. The cut-out pannier on the exhaust side is a bit of a disappointment and the panniers are side opening rather than my favoured top-opening cases (I had Trax cases on the XC and loved the black aluminium set which did open at the top). Personally, I may well wait for after-market racks and cases to avail of full size top-opening panniers.

The articulated brake and clutch levers were quite cool too, allowing for lengthening and shortening with one small adjustment screw. The black and orange design were really lovely to look at as well as being uber-functional. The upgraded Akrapovic exhaust is a must too. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to hear it but the titanium look with carbon detailing and heat shield look great. I’ve got an Akra exhaust on my car and love it, the exhaust is also the first thing I change on every bike I’ve had so I’m a fanboy and a convert all in one. Needless to say I need it!

At £15,999 GBP it’s not a cheap bike. Add on the parts above, aftermarket satnav and comms, and you’re unlikely to get much change out of £20k. It’s a premium motorcycle with a premium price. That said, if that engine and chassis are as good as they look on paper we’re in for a real treat. The only competition it has is the BMW GS and GS Adventure, both of which are way down on the power and torque ratings (125bhp and 125nm @6,500RPM) and come with the usual stigma of unfriendly “elite” riders who can’t seem to acknowledge other riders on the road!

At the end of January 2015, KTM will have their press launch (I’m available if you want me KTM! :)) for the new 1050 Adventure and 1290 Super Adventure bikes. The new bikes will hit showrooms towards the end of February and are then expected on the market in the UK from the start of March.

If the niggles above prove to have little impact then my excitement will be difficult to contain. I think it might be time to start counting the pennies in the piggy bank…


All media copyright KTM and used for review purposes