Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 10th August 2017

Capable, potent and adjustable, the KTM’s new 1290 Super Adventure S puts a cat among the adventure bike pigeons


KTM 1290 Super Adventure S


Austrian off-road and adventure specialists KTM has given its range-topping Super Adventure a complete makeover for 2017 so much so that there is now not just one variant but three – with all among the very best of the class.


The original, 1301cc 1290 Super Adventure, launched in 2015, has now been renamed the 1290 Super Adventure T, with T standing for ‘Touring’ to reflect the globetrotting emphasis of its massive 30-litre fuel tank. But this has now been joined by two new versions: the 1290 Super Adventure S and the 1290 Super Adventure R, which replace the old 1190 Adventure and 1190 Adventure R, respectively.


KTM 1290 Super Adventure S outdoor


Both are based around the same, monstrous, 1301cc, 160bhp V-twin, as originally debuted in the 2013 Super Duke and which has now been subtly modified to adhere to the new Euro4 emissions regulations. Both also use KTM’s familiar tubular steel trellis frame but with the smaller, 23-litre fuel tank from the old 1190 on top.


Yet that, however, is where the similarities and carry-overs from the old 1190 end. Instead, with uprated electronics, all-new and class-leading flat screen instrumentation (not to mention snazzy and distinctive LED lights), very clever gizmos such as a new, Ducati Multistrada-rivalling semi-active suspension, plus greatly heightened refinement and intuitive control all round, the two new Super Adventures (the older T carries on pretty much unchanged for now) raise the class bar to unforeseen levels.


KTM 1290 Super Adventure S Dashboard


The ‘R’ is the more off-road orientated version and as such has dirt-friendly 21/18inch wire spoked wheels, conventional but fully-adjustable (and longer travel) WP suspension, crash bars, lower screen and one-piece seat, all of which add up to make probably the most potent, true off-road adventure bike ever built.


But it’s the more road-targetted ‘S’, which is set apart by not only its smaller, 19/17inch cast alloy wheels but also introduces KTM’s new semi-active WP suspension, that really takes the Austrian firm into new ‘sports adventure’ territory – so much so that Ducati’s Multistrada 1200 should have a real fight on its hands.


KTM 1290 Super Adventure S in the sun


From your first moments on board you can’t help but be impressed. The new, massive, 7.5inch, full colour, TPT, flat screen display looks as if someone has left their iPad on the top yoke and is crisp, clear and easy to read and scroll between. The windscreen, too, is big, clear and adjustable and the slim, manageable V-twin between your knees seems familiar and useful.


KTM 1290 Super Adventure S Font


But then, once on the move, you’re instantly impressed again. The switchable rider modes are more intuitive than ever, the delivery from that punchy V-twin far smoother and more refined than before; the steering is sharp yet precise and the radial Brembo brakes, assisted by KTM’s cornering ABS, are at once hugely powerful yet also controlled and reassuring.


KTM’s top end street adventures were always punchy and potent. Now, with a full 160bhp, the S is not only faster but more importantly, more refined, classy and reassuring – and that makes it all more usable as well. And when you add to all that an adjustable seat and screen, top spec gadgetry such as keyless ignition, cruise control and the aforementioned active suspension, cornering ABS and finally fault-free rider modes, you’re left with a bike that’s right up with the very best – and is faster than most – in the adventure bike class.


KTM 1290 Super Adventure S rear side

If all of that sounds like KTM has come up with an adventure machine that’s capable of giving a Multistrada a good run for its money on Tarmac yet remains a more credible option off-road, you’d be right. The Super Adventure S is that good. The only fly in its ointment is that the S also has a price that, when fully specced up, is high-end Ducati or BMW money as well and that, bearing in mind the dealer experience, brand kudos and proven residuals its Italian and German rivals offer, may cause some buyers to hesitate.


KTM 1290 Super Adventure S rear


Either way, one thing’s certain: the KTM 1290 Super Adventure S is one of the most capable, potent and impressive adventure bikes ever built.





75-degree V-twin, DOHC, four  valves per cylinder, liquid cooled






160 hp (118 kW) @ 8750 rpm


140Nm @ 6750rpm


48mm upside down semi-active WP fork






23 litres



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