Cruise missile in adventure clothes



KTM 1290 Super Adventure S – Dave Manning gets to grips with the KTM in Devon and Somerset

With adventure bikes seemingly becoming very alike when it comes to styling, the KTM Super Adventure S stands out with that insectoid ‘face’ looking even more aggressive with the addition of the centrally -mounted Bosch radar for the adaptive cruise control.

KTM 1290S Adventure

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Those racy good looks were enhanced even more when we slid on a pair of Bridgestone AX41 hoops, adding an aggressive off-road edge to a bike that already looked ready to take on the world.

Essentially, the 2021 model has just had a few tweaks to the outgoing Super Adventure S, although those tweaks are actually rather encompassing. In fact, we might as well just say that it’s a brand-new bike that retains the essence of the previous version. The engine is lighter, the frame is shorter with a steering head moved back by 15mm (and the swinging arm is longer, while the wheelbase actually remains the same), but the big addition is the all-encompassing electronics suite, including the Active Cruise Control, of which more on that later.

With the AX41 rear, the traction control was kicking in, even on dry Tarmac if the throttle was rammed wide open, although this was more obvious when the tyres were new.

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Refreshing for a modern bike, it was really easy to fit soft luggage, especially with the rack, as there’s plenty of tie-down points (including the rear indicators), although the pillion grab handles are a little flexible, which wouldn’t be an issue with luggage, but it may be a little disconcerting for a nervous passenger.

KTM 1290S Adventure

The devil is in…

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The Super Adventure has some neat little details, such as the chain holder on the chain guard for when the wheel is removed, and the electric seat lock, which can be pressed if you’re not careful when strapping luggage on and a strap runs over the switch… ask me how I know. There’s also the two-position rider seat to allow a 20mm lower or higher seat height (and there are a number of factory options available, including a heated version). The seat was perfectly comfortable for me, even on the long motorway haul from Lincolnshire to Devon, although we did have CoolCovers fitted to the seats, and I’ve heard of several riders reporting that the standard seat isn’t quite comfy enough to empty a fuel tank in one hit.

On the road it feels like it’d be the perfect off-roader, and it is very good for an off-road novice like myself. On the Tarmac the Katoom excels in every aspect, with only the bonkers Ducati being more of a licence-shredding hooligan.

Is it fast?

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Yes, it’s fast – as anyone who’s ridden any of the big vee twin KTMs will know. Although when hard on the gas at the sort of speeds that really shouldn’t be mentioned in print the bars do start to wag, and not just a mere weave and gentle bar oscillation, but a feeling that is close to a tank slapper. It could be the dirt-focused tyres, and is something of a non-problem given the speeds at which it occurs, but it is worth bearing in mind if you plan to take a 1290 Super Adventure with knobblies on the autobahn…

The big fuel tank actually has three compartments, two of which are slung either side of the bike, and offer up a decent level of wind protection, while the easily adjustable screen seems efficient if, like every adventure bike screen I’ve experienced, a little noisy. There’s now one cooling radiator per cylinder, both having cooling air channelled through them by the bodywork, although on the hot and sunny day we rode back from Devon the venting wasn’t throwing too much heat out.

There was a disconcerting clunking coming from somewhere on the bike when riding over rough terrain (or even just dropping off a kerb edge), and after some discussion and searching we worked out that it wasn’t the tool kit, nor the centre stand, but it seems that the chain was hitting the underside of the swinging arm, which is fitted with a plastic slider for that very reason, but a bit disconcerting nonetheless.

KTM 1290S Adventure

All the tech

The Adaptive Cruise Control is fitted as standard. It slows you down in traffic, then accelerates when the road ahead is clear, and it allows gear changes while using the system.

This was the first bike I’d ridden with the Bosch system. It works really well most of the time, but can slow you down a little too much at times when you’re just about to change lanes, and works at its best when the traffic isn’t too heavy, so you can plan lane changes well in advance rather than having to wait for a faster vehicle to come past. It’s a rider aid that helps to improve rider comfort and reduce fatigue, but my worry is that people will start to use it as a default setting and reduce the effort in concentrating on riding…

There’s also cornering ABS with an off-road mode so it (like the traction control) can be turned off, rider modes and heated grips. The large and easily legible 7-inch TFT screen has Bluetooth connectivity to allow satnav (or music, or telephone calls) to be magically beamed from your smartphone to the screen (you say technology, I say magic). And, pleasingly, the TFT screen can be tilted to avoid glare in some conditions.

The big Austrian has keyless ignition, and although I’m not a fan of those systems, at least the Katoom has a neat little pocket at the front of the tank in which to stash your ‘key’.

KTM 1290S Adventure

Tech Spec.

  • Price: £14,999
  • Engine: 1301cc, water-cooled 75° vee twin, DOHC, 8 valves
  • Power: 160bhp (121kW)
  • Torque: 102lb-ft (138Nm)
  • Transmission: 6 speed, chain final drive
  • Frame: Steel trellis
  • Brakes: Brembo radial 4 piston callipers, 320mm discs (F) Brembo 2 piston calliper, 267mm disc (R), combined ABS
  • Suspension: WP semi-active 48mm forks, WP semi-active rear shock, 200mm travel front and rear
  • Wheels: Cast aluminium (F) 19in (R) 17in
  • Tyres: Bridgestone AX41 fitted for test
  • Seat height: 849/869mm (33.4/34.2in)
  • Fuel capacity: 23 litres (5.1 gallons)
  • MPG: Claimed 49.6mpg (17.6km/l). Tested 55mpg (19.5km/l)
  • Weight: 220kg (dry)
  • Warranty: 24 months (36 months if bought via KTM finance)
  • Service intervals: 9000 miles or annually


Watch the video

While on the road we did a video about riding in Exmoor and Dartmoor. The roads are ace, so if you are considering a trip,  go to to see the video.

#ktm #adventuremotorcycle #morebikes #morereviews



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