STORY MATT BERNARD PHOTOGRAPHY ADAM SPENCE
Can the KTM1290 Super Adventure R convert a motocross rider to the world of adventure?
I’m not your regular adventure riding enthusiast. Let me get that straight before you read another word of this test. So, why do I have the pleasure of putting the KTM 1290 Adventure R to the test? To change my mind.
I work on UAB’s sister magazine, DIRT ACTION and spend most of my time on motocross tracks and in the single trail. Working closely with Damien, my mind has slowly become inquisitive of the adventure world. I have ridden some smaller capacity adventure bikes and trail/adventure crossover machines such as the DR650, but never had the pleasure of getting the whole experience of living with an adventure bike. So, what adventure bike is the most exciting on the market? Which bike that will change my mind on adventure, steer me away from motocross tracks, and to switch from log hops to camping spots? The KTM1290 Super Adventure R.
With the push of a button, literally, the bike goes from an exciting hair-raising beast, to a torquey hill-chugging monster.
I picked up the KTM 1290 Super Adventure R from KTM HQ and took the long way to my home in the Blue Mountains. I am not going to lie, I wasn’t that pumped about riding an adventure bike, but I went in with an open mind about the Kato and trusted that I would enjoy it, as Damien had assured. Sitting on the bike, I was instantly surprised at the ergonomics of the beast. On the stand, it looks huge. I am almost 6ft and 90kg – not a small guy – but the 1290R looks intimidatingly large when compared to my usual Honda CRF450R. As soon as I swung a leg over, that mindset changed instantly. It just doesn’t feel like a big bike. It’s fairly high in the rear, but that worked perfectly for my height and I could put both feet down fairly easily. I treated my two-hour commute home as part one of the test. KTM have fitted an almost 160hp 1301cc engine into the Super Adventure’s enduro-focused chassis, boasting 140Nm of torque – on paper that screams excitement. I began the ride in street mode, and it was exciting enough for the first half an hour or riding, nice and smooth delivery, easy to short shift and cruise. I could tell the bike had power, but I had been curious of the sport mode. Once out of the hustle and bustle and into some winding roads close to my house, I initiated sport mode, or fun mode as I feel it should be rebranded. The engine came to life, from the mid-range to the top-end of the power, the bike absolutely came to life. It was more aggressive, and a quick squirt of the gas had the front wheel lifting and the speed rising rapidly. It’s fast. Really fast. For an adventure bike, it’s incredibly fast in Sport mode. It’s the type of power that makes owning this bike exciting and insanely universal. It’s got the excitement of a street machine and the practicality of an explorer.
The ride home was around two-hours, and within that time, I was already having my mind changed about these bikes. But was it nimble and exciting on the road and a wallowing cruise ship in the dirt? Would the power be too much on the unsealed roads? How the hell does Adam Riemann and Chris Burch ride in single trail – test day two would answer all my questions.
From that point on, our day together was epic. I had realised what the bike was capable of and began to ride it accordingly
LET’S GET DIRTY
I teamed up with Adam Spence, photographer and videographer specialist for day two of our test. He was riding an enduro machine and we would aim to do around 160kms of off-road terrain kicked off with a snaking sealed road commute and finishing with a beer and a feed at the pub.
After the 15 minute and fuel stop, I was having an absolute blast carving through the nice roads, staying out of the wind, enjoying the quiet in my Bell adventure helmet. Adam was freezing his ass off in a motocross jersey, suffering from industrial deafness in his moto helmet and struggling to feel his hands form the vibration. I kinda laughed, maybe this adventure thing isn’t such a bad idea.
We rolled into the dirt roads and commenced an off-road adventure – the KTM 1290 Super Adventure R’s playground. We had discussed that I wasn’t sure I had the skills to ride the bike everywhere Adam could take his enduro bike, So, he would lead, and stop if required. With the off-road modes selected I rode tentatively on big orange into the environment this bike is made for. The rear brakes were a little tricky to get used to with off-road ABS, but I began to get my head around the bike early and feeling a flow through the wide dirt roads and enjoying the views of the Hawkesbury. It’s good to know, if needed, ABS can be turned off for off-road riding.
Our first photo location was at the top of a rocky, dusty, dry and rutted hill. I pointed the KTM to the cleanest line and started chugging my way to the top, I could feel the off-road traction control detecting some slip but kept the engine chugging towards the top. As soon as I left all my inhabitations and pre-conceived ideas behind and focused on purely riding a motorcycle off-road, something I have done for 21 years, it all became second nature. If you have the ability, the KTM will be right there with you. On the pegs picking through the rutted terrain, the KTM 1290 Super Adventure R ate the hill for breakfast, just itching for shittier conditions. I was instantly impressed. From that point on, our day together was epic. I had realised what the bike was capable of and began to ride it accordingly.
From the rocky hill, the terrain turned to flowing sandy trails with erosion mounds. Sand on an adventure bike is tricky, but I felt confident and comfortable on the 1290R. Lofting the front across the erosion mounds, switching lines to keep out of the erosion ruts and getting a little sideways through the turns, the bike absolutely begged for more. Up front the KTM1290 Super Adventure R is fitted with 48mm WP USD forks with extra stiff fork springs and a 21-inch spoked front wheel. It was predictable and planted, I never had a twitch of scare from the front of the bike and the rear DPS mirrored the forks nature. I was riding with a smile cracked from ear-to-ear. When on the pegs, the bike completely shrinks in size, steering through the pegs and man-handling when possible, I was riding the bike in a location and with momentum that I honestly didn’t think was possible. While thinking ahead, and not rushing through the bush, I was able to prepare for anything that was tricky and the KTM would comply in full. Treat it with respect and you will be rewarded. The crack of the Akropovic exhaust echoing politely through the trees is the icing on the cake.
As the trails opened and linked onto a wide-open road, the KTM urged me to ride with the same confidence and comfort as in the single trail. That’s when the fun really began, high speed slides controlled by a mixture of the right wrist and traction control, had us weaving and carving through the gum trees, slowing down to appreciate the environment we were experiencing. A combination of high-speed slides, adrenalin spikes and breaks to take in spectacular vistas had me questioning my original disinterest of Adventure riding.
Which bike that will change my mind on adventure, steer me away from motocross tracks, and to switch from log hops to camping spots? The KTM1290 Super Adventure R.
After a final stretch of winding sealed roads, we ended at the Archibald Hotel in Kurrajong Heights to enjoy a beer, have some lunch and to give me a chance to really think and decipher if my opinion and thoughts had changed on owning an adventure bike. I had ridden bikes with less CC’s plenty, they are practical, will go for ages, but I just found it boring. I ride for the rush, the excitement, the experience. Sure, the views, locations and mateship are important, but I started riding for the rush and the fun, it’s why I still do it. To me, the KTM1290 Super Adventure R is the perfect mixture, with the push of a button, literally, the bike goes from an exciting hair-raising beast, to a torquey hill-chugging monster. To me, that versatility is what impressed me so much. It’s a commuter, it’s an exciting street bike, it’s a long-range tourer and it’s a hard-core off-road adventure bike. The KTM 1290 Super Adventure R is an impressive motorcycle, and something I could see myself happily parking in the garage. Has my mind changed? In short. Yes. Absolutely Yes. Will I park my motocross bike and start becoming a full-time adventure rider – not yet. But bikes like the KTM1290 Super Adventure R make it hard to not consider the all-new world of touring and adventure riding. With a bike like that that you do a little bit of everything, it’s easy to see why it’s such a fast-growing sector of motorcycling.
MATT’S 5 FAVES
Hard-core off-road capabilities
Exciting sport mode on the road
Nimble feeling when standing
Versatile engine modes
Impressive WP Suspension
DISPLACEMENT 1301 cm³
POWER IN HP 158 hp
POWER IN KW 118 kW
TORQUE 140 Nm
DESIGN 2-cylinder, 4-stroke, V 75°
BORE 108 mm
STROKE 71 mm
STARTER Electric starter
LUBRICATION Forced oil lubrication with 3 oil pumps
COOLING Liquid cooled
CLUTCH PASC (TM) slipper clutch, hydraulically actuated
EMS Keihin EMS with RBW, twin ignition
CO2 EMISSIONS 129 g/km
FUEL CONSUMPTION 5.52 l/100 km
FRAME DESIGN Chrome-molybdenum steel tubular space frame, powder-coated
FRONT SUSPENSION WP USD Ø 48 mm
REAR SUSPENSION WP-PDS Monoshock
SUSPENSION TRAVEL (FRONT) 220 mm
SUSPENSION TRAVEL (REAR) 220 mm
FRONT BRAKE 2 x Brembo four-piston radial fixed calliper, brake discs, floating
REAR BRAKE Brembo twin-piston fixed calliper, brake disc
FRONT BRAKE DISC DIAMETER 320 mm
REAR BRAKE DISC DIAMETER 267 mm
ABS Bosch 9ME combined ABS (incl. cornering ABS and offroad mode, disengageable)
CHAIN X-Ring 5/8 x 5/16″
STEERING HEAD ANGLE 64 °
GROUND CLEARANCE 250 mm
SEAT HEIGHT 890 mm
TANK CAPACITY (APPROX.)23 l
DRY WEIGHT 217 kg