2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure Test
Considering BMW’s long reign over the ADV market and its worldwide appeal from enthusiasts and organized clubs, the touring-focused KTM 1290 Super Adventure must be an ambitious adventure bike. These were my thoughts as my desire to tour the back roads of the globe had me yearning for some testing aboard the KTM 1290 Super Adventure.
I recently had my first chance to evaluate a 1290 Super Adventure during a tour from my home in Tehachapi, Calif., to Monterey Bay and back. Riding alongside aboard his 2006 KTM 525 EXC was my buddy Paul from Frazier Park, Calif. The trip provided a chancee for me to ride both pavement and graded dirt roads – the perfect testing situation for the KTM 1290 Super Adventure.
I left during the week one afternoon in hopes to avoid the crowds and traffic. The day’s first leg was through Tejon Ranch – California’s largest continuous expanse of private land (it originated as a Mexican land grant in 1843), and then south on Interstate 5 to Frazier Park.
The first impression of the KTM is its powerful horsepower and torque on the pavement. In the dirt, however, the Super Duke R-based 1301cc engine is intimidating. Graded dirt roads through the Tejon Ranch had me riding cautiously around blind right turns to avoid any oncoming traffic. I didn’t want to brake this 500-pound bike into heavier metal or roaming cattle. The riding does get easier, however, as the miles continue.
From Frazier Park we rode through the mountains, stopping for an Eggs Benedict breakfast at Bistros On The Greens in Pine Mountain Club before heading on the lonely and windy Hudson Ranch Road to the flat and straight dirt roads of Carrizo Plain National Monument.
During our tour, the KTM 1290 Super Adventure’s many clever technological electronic adjustments – both engine performance and suspension settings – were explored. Engine mode changes are very evident; yet, for me, suspension damping and compression are a little more sensitive and harder to notice.
My favorite riding mode was Sport, which offers optimal horsepower (160) versus the Offroad’s 100 horsepower. Sport offers the power and torque smoothly and quietly. I like that, but it also can mean trouble. Trouble requires control, thought the KTM’s electronic suspension does that well, too.
The KTM MSC (Motorcycle Stability Control) system works in conjunction with the ABS braking system, and the front disc brakes work automatically with the rear brake when necessary. MSC saved me with magical recovery after coming into a few turns a bit hot.
Safety is at work here with the incredible technology, and it goes further with KTM’s optional Motor Slip Regulation. This electronic aid prevents wheel skid or sideways slides that are produced from engine braking and popping the clutch. Still, the 1290 Super Adventure can perform great wheelies off mild risers in just about any gear.
All this control is monitored through the Super Adventure’s MTC (Motorcycle Traction Control) onboard computer, which is marketed by KTM as the most advanced onboard safety system. The continuous modulating of the power and suspension is ideal for a bike this size. Add that to the many challenges of street riding and traversing off-road, and you’ll praise these systems.
The busiest part of the trip to Monterey was US Route 101 through Paso Robles on the way to Lake Nacimiento and the quiet road to Fort Hunter Liggett. Army training maneuvers weren’t taking place at Fort Hunter Liggett, so we rode through without stops.
We turned for the coast on the beautiful Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. We eventually crossed the dirt path of Los Padres National Forest’s South Coast Ridge Road 22S05 that was in our plans. But this will have to be for another time on another bike; I wasn’t quite ready to take the 1290 Super Adventure on an unknown dirt road.
We worked our way down the beautiful coastal range, with the Pacific beaches coming into view along Cabrillo Highway. A couple days earlier and we’d be up against busier traffic on California Highway 1. A stop for a delicious late lunch and view at Lucia Lodge in Big Sur was another highlight of the day, and then we were off to our overnight Monterey stay.
The next day, Paul needed to locate a shop for an oil change for his KTM 525 EXC. The 1290 Super Adventure is good for a recommended 9300-mile interval between changes, and a sigh of relief knowing we may never locate a filter without a possible ride farther up north to Santa Cruz.
We took the day off from riding and checked into The Clement Monterey, centrally located at Cannery Row, and explored some great restaurants. Our favorite place was The Sardine Factory on Wave Street with its many nooks and crannies to explore.
Our original plan was to return to the ridge routes over the coastal mountains, but our research was minimal, as we prefer to wing it. This was not a big loss, as we needed to return home quickly.
We passed Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on the Monterey-Salinas Highway, and travel over to Carmel Valley towards US Route 101 in King City and to California Highway 46 from Paso Robles. Just east is a real gem of a lonely route – Bitterwater Road. This takes us to Highway 58 and a roadside lunch stop at a parked food truck. After our burgers, Paul and I went our separate ways.
I headed back to Tehachapi along the legendary California Highway 58 before coming into Bakersfield traffic. I went south to Panama Lane heading east (it becomes Panama Road in Pumpkin Center) through the farming fields, and took Tejon Highway north back to Highway 58 east to get home.
No rain or inclement weather was encountered on this trip, so the KTM 1290 Super Adventure’s Rain mode and full ABS advantages were never utilized. Neither were the heated handgrips or individually heated seats.
The adjustable windshield was very much enjoyed during changes in highway to dirt routes. The LED cornering lights were tested during night rides at home; this is a very cool feature, and the light intensifies at three levels as your angle leaning increases. The cruise control was very helpful along the long stretches of Route 101, or to get the numbness out of my throttle hand that I experience these days.
The nearly eight-gallon fuel tank is also a great feature on long journeys. Knowing where our next fuel was located prevented the need to completely fill up when dirt was expected.
The nearly 50 pounds of fuel when full is evident, and center of gravity feels high. Needless to say, this required my cautiousness on both street and dirt. After a few thousand more continuous miles, I’m sure my confidence would improve on this size of bike.
I hated giving up the KTM 1290 Super Adventure and returning to my plated Yamaha WR250F, which now feels terribly underpowered. I know I could pass myself on the KTM in the tighter routes, but I certainly hate the WR’s constant oil changes.
Upon my return home, my neighbor Curtis joined me for a comparison with his 2015 BMW R 1200 GS Adventure and he gave his impressions. His first comment was excessive heat coming from the engine, while mine on the GS was hitting both shins on the engine guards.
I had no complaints with KTM 1290 Super Adventure’s heat, and we never encountered any real hot days. I did like the smooth cornering in our local tight canyon ride on the BMW, but I preferred the power of the KTM.
One thing I wished to have experienced was changing the tires to a more aggressive block tread and do more off-road and maybe some trail riding, though I do realize that the KTM 1190 Adventure R is lighter and better suited for off-road exploration.
Another enjoyable amenity of the KTM 1290 Super Adventure is the adjustable and comfortable seat. Surprisingly, I found the lower position more comfortable for my six-foot height, providing a feel of lower center of gravity.
My overall impression of this high-end Travel Enduro motorcycle is one of high praise. Although this segment in motorcycling hasn’t reached me quite yet – I am a hardcore dirt rider – the Super Adventure would be my choice. The 2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure is an exciting bike for commuting, short weekend getaways, and the globe-hopping journeys of my future. Well done, KTM.
2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure Specs
- ENGINE TYPE: 2-cylinder, V 75°, 4-valve, DOHC, 4-stroke
- COOLING: Liquid cooling
- DISPLACEMENT: 1301cc
- BORE x STROKE 108 x 71 mm
- POWER: 160 hp @ 8750 rpm
- TORQUE 103 ft/lbs @ 6750 rpm
- COMPRESSION RATIO: 13.1:1
- STARTER/BATTERY: Electric starter/12V, 11.2Ah
- TRANSMISSION: Six-speed
- CLUTCH: PASCTM slipper clutch, hydraulically operated
- FUEL SYSTEM CONTROL: Keihin EFI (52mm throttle body)
- ENGINE MANAGEMENT/IGNITION TRACTION CONTROL: Keihin EMS with RBW and cruise control, double ignition
- MTC (4-Mode, disengageable)
- LUBRICATION: Pressure lubrication with 3 Eaton pumps
- ENGINE OIL: Motorex, SAE 10W-50
- PRIMARY DRIVE: 40:76
- FINAL DRIVE: 17:42
- FRAME: Chromium-Molybdenum-Steel trellis frame
- SUBFRAME: Powdercoated Aluminum,
- HANDLEBARS: Powdercoated aluminum, tapered, Ø 28/22 mm
- FRONT SUSPENSION: WP Semi-active suspension USD Ø 48 mm
- REAR SUSPENSION: WP Semi-active Suspension PDS Monoshock
- SUSPENSION TRAVEL FRONT/REAR: 7.9”/7.9”
- FRONT BRAKE: 2 x Brembo four piston, radially bolted caliper, brake disc Ø 320 mm
- REAR BRAKE: Brembo two piston, fixed caliper, brake disc Ø 267 mm
- ABS: Bosch 9ME Combined-ABS (Cornering-ABS and off-road mode, disenengageable)
- WHEELS FRONT/REAR: Spoked wheels with aluminum tubeless rims 3.50 x 19″; 5.00 x 17”
- TIRES FRONT/REAR: 120/70 R 19; 170/60 R 17
- CHAIN: X-Ring, 5/8 x 5/16″
- SILENCER: Stainless steel with regulated catalytic converter
- STEERING HEAD ANGLE: 26°
- TRAIL: 4.7 inches
- WHEELBASE: 61.4 inches
- GROUND CLEARANCE: 8.7 inches
- SEAT HEIGHT: 33.9 inches/34.4 inches
- TANK CAPACITY 7.9 gallons/1.1-gallon reservedly WEIGHTS: 505 pounds (without fuel)
- 2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure MSRP: $20,499