KTM 1290 SUPER ADVENTURE S – Launch Report

The latest KTM 1290 Adventure is available in two versions: the “R” and the “S”. The former is meant for technical trials and remote touring, while the S is meant for tar roads. Or is it?

 The bike:

The new KTM 1290 Super Adventure S is one big, beautiful machine. It’s bold, brutal, bad-ass and has everything a biker could ask for, including 160 horses. It’s as fast as a superbike but you can carry on riding where the tarmac ends. How is this not the best of both worlds?

The specs

Some of the impressive specs of the new KTM 1290 Super Adventure S

1301 cc, 2-cylinder, 4-stroke
118 kW (160 bhp) @8 750 rpm
140 Nm @ 6 750 rpm
Ground clearance: 220 mm
Dry weight: 215 kg
Fuel tank: approx. 23 liters

**Click here for the full spec sheet.

The ride

If the KTM 1290 Super Adventure S was a film, it would be Wonder Woman. Why? Well, they’re both drop dead gorgeous and both possess the power and speed of a demigod. The Adventure S can cover ground so quickly and easily, that 400 kilometres feel like 200.

We had the opportunity to test it on road, off road and in very windy conditions.


The Adventure S is a lot like a thoroughbred superbike. It’s really fast and corners like no other adventure bike I’ve ever been on. This bike is aimed at the rider who who loves long distances, speed and rides 80/20: 80 being tar and 20 gravel. It’s also a brilliant (albeit pricey) commuter. The riding position is ideal, the bike is super comfortable and the seat is adjustable for carrying a pillion. It packs more bang for your buck than the BMW 1200 LC and boasts trusted suspension.

The Adventure S handles really well for a big adventure bike. It’s kinda heavy, but when you ride it it feels like a small bike because of all that power: you can pop a wheelie in fourth gear!

On the first day of our ride, the infamous Cape Doctor was in full swing, howling at speeds of up to 80 km/h along the coastline. I was apprehensive, as I don’t like riding in wind, but the 1290 S felt rock solid and handled the conditions really well. The high screen the bike comes with provides excellent protection for riding in the wind or bad weather. It’s also easily adjustable, but not while riding. Which is a good thing, I guess?

Intruments, brakes and consumption

The new TFT instrument dashboard is an excellent start to what’s to come. Rumour has it the next version will feature a GPS or GPS functionality. The interface is easy to use and provides all the necessary info, from tyre pressure to fuel range and riding modes. You can also set up shortcuts for your favorite riding mode, which eliminates the hassle of reprogramming the bike every time the ignition is switched off.

The Brembo brakes and semi-active suspension on this bike is amazing, to say the least. On route I approached a turn at excessive speed, and not knowing it was a hair pin, hit the brakes hard. I was already scouting the bushes in front of me, choosing one to land in, but the bike handled the corner perfectly. (I had to stop and check to see if my pants were clean though.)

Fuel consumption is good when riding at the legal speeds we all abide by. Obviously, with so much power, it’s easy to go faster than one should.


Besides the Street and Sport riding modes this bike also has an off-road setting. In this mode the bike loses some of the power (60 hp) and sets up the suspension and ABS for off-road riding. Even with a 19-inch wheel at the front it handled the dirt roads brilliantly.

The power band in off-road mode works really well. The bike churns out power at low revs and never do you feel you have to drop a gear, even on technical terrain. There’s always enough shove so the bike just never feels underpowered. Should one fit more dirt-biased tyres, it will be even better in the rough. Overall I’m really impressed with the handling and superb suspension off road. It’s not as capable here as the 1290 R, but it gets close.

The pros

Semi-active WP suspension
Amazing Brembo brakes
Great power curve
160 bhp + 1301 cc + LC8
Ride modes (Sport/Street/Off-road)
Independent ABS + traction control + hill hold
6.5” Colour TFT Screen
Floating luggage system compatible
Remote key

The cons

19-inch front wheel


The KTM 1290 Super Adventure S is every GS 1200 LC rider’s dream bike, whether he knows it or not. Even if the S can be labelled as the more tar road biased of the two Adventure versions it still outclasses the 1200 GS on tar, sand and gravel.