ADB Editor, Mitch Lees, rode the new KTM 1290 Adventure R at the international press launch in the New South Wales Blue Mountains. Here are his five favourite things about the new bike.
#5 KTM 1290 Adventure R Headlight
There are plenty of awesome features on the 1290R so you may think it strange that the headlight makes our top five, but don’t forget this is still number five and the headlight is awesome. The vertical LED lights look alien and bring the Super Adventure R into the 21st century (I know they’re similar to last year’s model but somehow they look even cooler).
We arrived back late after the first day’s ride and made full use of this feature. It emitted great light and would be all you’d need for late-night adventure riding.
Easily the most aesthetically pleasing dash in the game and probably the easiest to operate. Instead of the conventional speedo or rev counter, the display is all digital. It clearly displays the speed and revs on the right while a menu on the left allows you to scroll through your modes, TC and ABS settings. This is done by simply toggling on the left switchblock which lights up in the dark.
It is very easy to navigate and change modes, but adjusting other things like the heated handgrips requires the bike to be stopped. It would be great to have access to the whole menu when moving, so when you’re bored on the next strip of highway and the cruise control is taking care of the throttle, you can browse your engine spec and other settings.
#3 WP suspension
The 1290R uses the same 48mm fork with 220mm of travel and PDS shock as the 1090R and a similar chrome-molybdenum trellis frame. The swingarm is similar to the one on the 1090R as well, with engineers opting for the two-sided, die-cast, open-lattice design for reduced weight.
For a bike that weighs a claimed 10kg more than the 1090R (217kg) and has considerably more inertia, the suspension was impressive. I was expecting a lumbering, softly sprung beast that was okay on an open fire road but under-sprung in the tight stuff. It was great off-road and, while too soft for my liking, a bike that’s weighs over 200kg isn’t really meant to be bounced down singletrack.
Most adventure riders will find the suspension great. It contributes to incredibly accurate steering and a confidence in the front-end to smash into more than the wheel can probably handle.
I know I’ve already talked about the display, but the 1290R’s electronics offer more than just a fancy looking display, they’ve even got a sneaky USB storage device bolted to the frame under the steering head. For starters the 1290R incorporates a keyless starter. The steering lock and fuel tank cap also are operated by the keyless ignition.
Traction control and ABS are just as adjustable as on the 1090R with all the same engine modes, as is the tyre-pressure monitoring system and immobiliser. The ABS is partially linked front to rear so when you apply the front brake a little back brake also is applied.
The 1290R also gets MSC, or motorcycle stability control, which takes into account lean angle when applying the ABS. This works so well you forget it’s there, but that can be a bad thing because you begin to rely on it too much.
If you’ve got a little extra coin, KTM also offers a Travel Pack with hill-hold control, motor-slip regulation or MSR (a blip of throttle when downshifting), quick shifter and Bluetooth.
The 1290 Super Adventure R is powered by a 1301cc 75-degree V-twin engine, with a fresh pair of cylinder heads and crankshaft to harness the 160hp it puts out.
The crankshaft and forged 108mm pistons are lighter than previous years and contribute to an engine that puts out much more useable torque than the 1090R. The 1290R can be ridden a gear higher to torque through corners when drifting. The extra hit of power was a major benefit when trying to show off to the other journos on the exit of a corner.
It also helped on some of the rock climbs to be able to leave it in a taller gear and chug up hills. There’s power everywhere and anyone who wants more is dreaming. As on the 1090, a clever twin-plug ignition system with two different sparkplugs that work independently of each other means a smoother, more controlled power curve.
As on the 1090R, the slipper clutch helped when decelerating by reducing rear-wheel chatter. This makes the engine feel like it’s rolling on a little when closing the throttle, almost like a big two-stroke, which helps you flow through corners.