KTM 1290 Super Adventure R – Launch Report

People say you will know true love when you find it. I guess this was the case for me and this bike. KTM did not only meet every expectation, they built the perfect big adventure bike. Some say you don’t need such a big, powerful bike. But once you get on it and ride, you can’t help but think: why the hell not?

The bike:

The new KTM 1290 SUPER ADVENTURE R is a beast. A hungry Bengal tiger in a foul mood, if you’re asking. If someone told you size doesn’t matter, they lied. Once you have experienced this bike, you’ll wonder what you were doing on a small adventure bike. It’s powerful, it’s fast and it’s beautiful.

The specs:

These are the impressive specs of the 2017 KTM 1290 SUPER ADVENTURE R:

1301 cc, 2-cylinder, 4-stroke
118 kW (160 bhp) @ 8 750 rpm
140 Nm @ 6 750 rpm
Ground clearance: 250 mm
Dry weight: 217 kg
Fuel tank: approx. 23 litres

**Click here for the full spec sheet.

The ride:

The KTM 1290 SUPER ADVENTURE R is nothing short of amazing. It’s top of its class in every respect. The 160 horses speak for themselves – you can’t help but grin from ear to ear when you ride them at full gallop. The bike is fast and devours tar comfortably, but also feels right at home on gravel roads and jeep tracks.

We had the opportunity to test this bike on road, off road and on technical single tracks.


It’s simply the perfect big adventure bike. I’ll be surprised if KTM doesn’t rule the adventure market in the next twelve months. Once you ride this bike you will know why I said this… You simply get the most bang for your buck and a permanent smile.

The bike is solid on road and the on-road ABS performs perfectly. It feels solid and planted, even in near gale winds. The standard tyres are Continental TKCs. They are brilliant off road, but at high speed on tar (180 km/h and above) they cause the bike to start bobbing, even with a damper fitted.

Fuel consumption of 7.2 litres/100km is nothing out of the ordinary for hard riding on a big-bore bike like this one. You tend to go fast, with it being such a monster, so expect it to be thirsty. Unless you baby it.

The new TFT screen works really well. The user interface is simple and visible at all times – so much so that the guy next to you can see how fast you’re going. It’s not a touch screen as one might expect. For safety reasons it is controlled from the handle bar. It’s easy to use and I like the option of four favourite riding mode presets, with shortcuts to them.


This is where it really impressed. It’s a big machine and one would think it would feel unwieldy, but it doesn’t. All that power and the excellent suspension set-up make this bike as nimble as they come, and get you through any situation or obstacle. The power curve is perfect: you always have more power at the twist of the throttle, and at low revs.

It handles thick sand quite well for a big bike, but not quite as well as the 1090 R Adventure. They’ve fitted the 1290R with the same enduro rear shock as they have on the 1090R , which makes it superb off road. It never bottomed out, not even over the jumps we tried.

The independent ABS works, even on those sneaky loose pebbles that we’ve all come across in an “oh sh*t!” moment in our lives. The traction control works insanely well, although I didn’t bother riding with it for long. I know for sure it will be an advantage in certain riding conditions.

Overall the one-piece seat gives it an enduro character and I like the shorter screen. It does the job at high speeds and didn’t feel in my way on the technical route. Adjusting the screen is easy, but can’t be done while riding. I’m not the tallest guy, but didn’t feel that the bike was too high for me at all, although it has proper clearance.

The pros:

Superb WP suspension
Awesome Brembo brakes
Insane power curve
160 bhp + 1301 cc + LC8
Ride modes (Sport/Street/Off-road)
Independent ABS + traction control + hill hold
TFT screen/dash
It’s a beast
Good value for money

The cons:

The exhaust/engine tends to heat the seat like the 1190 did
That I don’t own one?


Simply put, it’s every big adventure rider’s fantasy bike. It’s perfect in every way, ride mode and on every surface. KTM will sell boat loads of this model. It’s priced well, just about loaded with everything you can dream of in a bike, and more. (We joked at the media launch that the only thing it can’t do is braai.)

Go on, go see this bike at a KTM dealer. Before you leave for the dealership, be sure to tell your wife about the new bike you’re buying.