2015 KTM 1290 Super Adventure

Price - £15,999 OTR


The Concept

The Austrian Heavy Weight Champion has well and truly thrown it’s hat into the ring. With a bigger engine than most small cars and so much torque if you put enough weight on the bike and tried to pull away I’m convinced the Earth’s rotation would start to speed up! This is the highest spec bike in the range from entry level 1090, 1190 and we look at the full whistle and bells of the 1290.

My first opinion of any bike in this class is that it’s going to be used for touring on tarmac, plain and simple. You could take the KTM on gravel of course; anything like the Dalton Highway is going to be fine for the standard rider. Anything that becomes tricky means you need more skill because you can’t dab a foot to get something this big out of trouble. KTM have loaded the 1290 with a wonderful array of electronic options that will get you out of a tough spot when over cooking the brakes or rolling on the more than ample power too quickly; the ABS and the traction control checking what you’re doing at the speed of thought as you ride along.

The balance is sublime and once you get the Austrian cruise missile rolling she is very happy to punt into corners and more than capable of ripping back out of them. I took the KTM up in the Dales to Tan Hill Inn (highest pub in England) in Richmondshire. Here there are plenty of 20% inclines, declining single track and switchbacks that undulate like a roller-coaster for you to play and test any bike. The thrill of powering the KTM down these roads is a perfect analogy. It’s brilliant fun that gives you the odd scare, just enough to make you chuckle a nervous laugh in your helmet. I was running on the stock tyres of Continental – Trail Attack 2 and we will look more at those later on. Sat having lunch at the pub I took a window seat overlooking the KTM in the parking bay. Just about every biker that pulled up stopped on his or her way to the pub to have a look and chat with a mate about the KTM. Lots of pointing and nodding going on; the KTM is most definitely a head turner.

tan hill

There is a feeling; speaking to people while I was out and about that the KTM 1290 is either too big or too powerful. Too big for what is the question? Too big for speedway, yeah I’d agree whole heartedly with that but too big for rolling over the Alps? Not at all, in fact it’s perfect for it and the 1290 is going to take you, your gear and your pillion over the range in comfort and style. Too big for gravel perhaps? The KTM 1290’s slightly smaller sister the 1190 is the bike of choice for South African tours with Kaapstaad having no issue rolling around on the red dirt down there.

Too powerful as a concept; this is the first time I’ve been on a big KTM and they do have a reputation for being aggressive on the throttle. I expected some monster runaway train when I got down to Northampton. What I found is there are buckets of power at your disposal in the 1290 but it is very much down to you how much power you want to let run. Unless you snap at the throttle she is well behaved and ladylike. In fact any gear I was in there was no issue of over cooking unless I wanted it to. Pulling away from the KTM home the 1290 just chugged gently away in first, there is a noticeable clunk and slight jolt as you drop her into gear but the power is very much and very easily controlled by you (and the computer). If the rumours are putting you off this bike then you really need to just book a test ride and when you get back you will be grinning from ear to ear with what you have to play with and that you can control all that power in very simple roll on stages of confidence.


Adjustment is the name of the game in ergonomics and KTM have looked at this with a keen eye. The seating is a gentle two stage seat with a ridge that keeps you up right. It’s a full sit up and beg for a 6’2” rider in full touring position. The large screen that has an under layer with smoked plastic to stop road glare bouncing up is very welcome. Adjusting the big screen is a simple affair of one pull catch and then a wheel to move the clear outer screen up and down. The very large 30litre tank is shaped so that your knees slot in behind the bulk of the tank keeping the wind off your legs and helping the aerodynamics of the bike.


The handlebar can be adjusted both with lifts and with rotation that is aided by markings on the bars for you to keep the adjustment level – nice touch. Pegs have a rubber insert and I didn’t have an issue with vibration from the bike unless it was full open throttle and then the big LC8 growls like something from Greek mythology just woke up in bad mood to do your bidding!

bar adjust

The controls are large and well placed out for a gloved thumb to find with ease and the display is large and clear. There is a lot of information on the main display but not overly cluttered with the speed being the main eye catcher. The rest of the detail is there but discreet for your glance viewing pleasure. The rev counter stands alone as it down on most bike and is dial display up to 12,000 revs. On the left hand side is your settings display and this can be played with before you set off or takes seconds to adjust when you pull over. I’m not a fan of adjusting things on the move as I like my eyes on the road to see if that muppet ahead is going to switch lanes without warning. I really liked the fact that the cruise control button was all alone, so I didn’t have to look for the button, just press and my lower sight peripheral picked up on the dash that it was ready to set. Lower the thumb a cm and you have the settings for the cruise control, the dash light cruise control turns green and a second speed comes up on the dash to show you what you’ve set the speed to – sweet.


A slight issue with the indicator stick; it’s very short and the full beam on the other side can take a slight hit as you change. This puts the full beam on without you knowing (in daylight) until I looked down and noticed the blue light icon on the dash illuminated. It did not take long to take this into account and the reason it’s there is for speed and ease of use, it’s just as you tilt your left hand over to get the indicate switch your finger has a habit of lifting and the knuckle catches the full beam switch.

left bar hand
A little tip on the cruise control – don’t think that a gentle application of the front brake to take the cruise control off at ... we’ll say 70mph shall we ... will brake you gently from “70mph” as you’re in gear. So what you get is an instant snap of engine braking and front brake application. If you’re catching someone on the motorway who is doing “68” then better to just bring in the clutch – this will take the cruise control off and you then apply the brakes as normal.

So a very well balanced set of physical and visual layouts for your riding comfort and your comfort really has been pawed over on this one. As the flagship of the KTM adventure touring fleet you would expect no less. Once on the move you can understand why the KTM 1290 has won a host of awards in the class.

The seat

She’s a tall girl with a seat height of 875mm that can be adjusted to 860mm and the seat is split for rider and pillion that has a noticeable lift to keep the comfort. The slight felt feel to the seat makes for excellent grip. Wide pillion seat that is lifted in the centre got a note of approval from the Mrs.

seat top view

The rider seat is level so you don’t feel an urge to lean back or forward when riding. This does leave you a lot of shifting around options on longer rides. I did 190 miles none stop from Northampton to Lancaster on pretty much all motorway and felt as fresh as a daisy when I pulled up. The rider seat narrows at the front making it easy to cock a leg and get the most from your inside leg. I had no issues getting both feet planted on the ground but shift back and you get the spread of the seat for maximum comfort. For me there was no reason to look into a comfort seat or an Airhawk on this bike.

seat rider

More over you have the added and very welcome bonus of a heated seat; this comes in three settings. Min that will warm your cheeks like a soft caress from a warm pair of hands or you can up that to Mid where at times I was shifting around getting my arse cooked and that was through Lindstrand pants and base layer. Last but not least there is the “My arse is on fire!” setting and I would imagine you’d need to be in the Arctic or have some kind of nerve damage to ever go on to this setting. The only other time my arse felt like this was after a good beating from the Head at my all boys Catholic school (pre namby pamby days when getting beat with something made of wood was considered character building).

mode heat

Thank whatever you hold sacred that the pillion seat heating is independent from the rider seat. There is an easy to adjust dial at the rear seat that clicks ONLY the pillion seat heater on. The rider knows the seat is on as it comes up on the dash but you (the rider) have your own settings. This is more evidence, if you needed it that this machine is set for top end luxury adventure touring.

rear heat


LED galore and I have an issue with them – they are a bastard to change on the hoof. I always look at the basics of a bike. If something goes wrong that is integral to me getting back on the road and somewhere safe and warm how much hassle is it going to be? The running lights at the front look awesome but they are a string of LED lights that I have no idea how to change if they go. The main lights are straightforward halogen bulbs. There are two screws on the main screen and then the light housing just pivots out. Talking to the mech at KTM Rocket centre “It’s a two minute job”. Good news there!

main light

The twin lights, running and full beam are in vertical alignment and give you plenty of light but not as much as a twin headed bike. More than that and this really is a dash of cream on the muffin is the turning lights! When I first picked the 1290 up I assumed it had HID spots but no! They are set low in the fairing and when you lean the bike the light comes on to take up the ‘slack’ of the main beam being directed away in the lean and keeps the light on the road. Lean over more and both lights come on to keep full light flooding where you want it... on the road and not off into some field – brilliant idea and I loved them.

side light

The rear light is another matter as that’s an LED unit like most modern bikes and you’d have to have an entire unit with you to change that. I’m not sure why this has become so popular in modern bikes as you really do need that rear light to fixable in my opinion. The same is true of the indicators, granted a lot of people in London don’t bother with these pesky lights as they think they drain the battery or something but I like to indicate! I’d really prefer to be able to switch the bulb rather than have to carry a load of spares around with me. A case of ascetics over function for me on this one.

rear lights


WP is on the go with this one and the suspension is adjusted from the control panel on the dash. You have several settings that are single rider, single rider and gear, rider and pillion, rider, pillion and gear for the load settings. The WP semi active suspension looks at what type of surface you’re on and will adjust as you go too. There are several settings in the damping mode that are Sport, Street, Comfort and Off Road.

mode load

The front forks are 48mm WP Semi-active suspension and a WP Semi-active suspension monoshock at the rear.


It was great to see a high grade protection sheath behind the monoshock to stop all the crap from back tyre being flicked all over your spring!

monoshock guard

The front forks are protected by an integrated front mud guard that molds around the forks. There is an absolute host of electronic stuff going on as you ride around with a grin on your face. The ride is smooth and solid and all this technology just simply feels part of the ride. I suppose when something like that is doing its job then you don't know that it's beiong done! Nice job KTM.

Rider Selection

We’ve touched on some of the settings that you can go through but with the KTM Flagship you get a host of settings to play with as well as being able to set up your favourites! This is a great idea as you don’t have to set your bike up every time you get on it. You just set all the settings to how you like it and save it, job done. You can play with the Drive mode where Rain mode will knock your bhp down to about 100 and adjust all the traction control and ABS to macth. Damping and Load we spoke about and that will adjust your suspension set up as well as having the semi active WP system to monitor what’s going on beneath the tyres. MTC/ABS (Motorcycle Traction Control) this also controls the MSR (Motorcycle Slip Regulation) and the HHC (Hill Hold Start) functions – yes, if you’re not confident on the old hill starts with a big bike then KTM have come up with the HHC that will hold the bike for you while you get the rev, bite and brake set up.

mode abs

We’re not done... not by a long shot! You then have the heat settings and from the dash you can set up the grip (min, med, max), the rider seat (min, med, my arse is on fire!) and it tells you if the pillion seat is on and what it’s set to. Settings – to all this there is a master screen and you can set the language you want. It will show you the distance if you want this in miles or km for when riding overseas. This will also change the speedo to km so you don’t have to divide by 1.6 as you ride along. You have the ambient air temperature of course as standard, the pressure to be measured in psi and you can adjust the fuel settings from miles per litre to what you want it to read at! Set Favourites, we spoke about but you have this as the main set display too, so you pick what you want displayed on the far left monitor as suits your needs or concerns. The TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System) this saves you bending all the way down with your Halfords digital gauge every time you pull out of the garage (as we all do!) and will show you the pressure settings in the front and rear tyre (I did say you get a lot for your money!).

mode tyres

General Info you will give you a read out of: Air Temp, Date, Odo reading, Battery and Oil Temp if you have those settings at a glance. You also have 2 trip settings to record your trips and in the general display I had the tank range on there too. The trip will give you a lot of information that will include your ave speed, fuel conservation and how long you have been riding to name a few.

Easy to use control buttons for all your rider options.

left bar

The Engine and performance


Here we come to the heart of the matter – the big 1301cc, 2 cylinder, 4 stroke, V75 degree monster that has been based on the 1190 and the 1290 Super Duke R. Giving out 160 hp that is controlled by the host of electronics. What is more impressive is the fact that you get 140Nm of torque from the machine and even as low as 2,500 revs you’re getting a delivery of 108Nm pulling you away. An absolutely key element in the outstanding performance and smooth response of the 1301 cc 75° V-twin are the unit’s state-of-the-art four-valve cylinder heads. These combine twin plug ignition, flow-optimized ports and a slick, low-friction valve train with cams from each cylinder’s twin overhead camshafts driving DLC-coated cam followers. DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) is an extremely hard, durable and tribologically (i.e. in terms of sliding behavior) particularly well-suited coating, that KTM uses in many engine parts (cam followers, piston pins, etc.). This is all combined in the slipper clutch; Not only does the slipper clutch open when the engine back-torque becomes too high, it also assists when you open up the throttle. The former prevents destabilising rear wheel chatter when braking sharply or decelerating; the latter reduces the hand force required for changing gear, allowing the clutch to be controlled with the little finger - saving you energy when riding.


The 1290 can get a little grumpy if you drop the revs too low and the feel of the bike will be sure to let you know to shift down. There is a massive rev range to play in and she seemed to be very happy sitting at anything from 3k to 9k revs. Given the fact that in the tall 6 th gear override 5k revs will give your around 80mph there is nothing really to complain about. Just keep in mind that you’re on a cruise missile at the end of the day – it’s easy to forget as she is so well behaved when just cruising around. Should you forget, drop a gear and open up to do an overtake the traction control will quickly remind you in safety that you’re riding a mythical monster chained in by KTM technology.


When the bike is this big and this strong you just can’t mess around with the grip, it’s foolish to even think about it. KTM have looked around and specifically for big, powerful bikes is Continental’s Trail Attack 2. Conti have specifically designed the tire with this kind of torque and weight in mind and have tailored the tire with TractionSkin ensuring extremely safe and short run-in time. A 0° steel belted construction on the rear wheel for enhanced stability and comfort even at high speeds and with large payloads.

tyre rear

Tank Range

A massive 30 litre tank that (as we spoke about) also shields your lower body from the weather is a very welcome sight. It is down on the KTM site as having a 500km range, that works out to around 310 miles between fill ups. This of course depends very much on how you play with the KTM and getting flat out frisky will reduce that MPG by a large amount. If your cruising across Germany to head for the Balkans and have the cruise control on then obviously you will enjoy better fuel use. The figures from KTM read as 45mpg – I’d agree with those figures having been up and down motorways and back roads it would average out at 45. Rocketing down the M6 is another matter but once you get the school kid inside you under control you can expect very respectable return from your fuel stops.

side view tan hill

I went hell for leather up the M6 from Northampton to Lancaster as I had to get back to pick the kids up from school. That’s 190 miles and when I pulled up at the school I had just two bars of fuel left in the tank. So a range of around 230 given that I was early for the school run was pleasant surprise.

Up, down and over the Dales was a far more gentle affair, with the odd gust of power (because I could) gave a much greater return to the fuel use and a lot of that is down to the ride-by-wire throttle on the 1290.


I’m left in no doubt that this bike is the best that I have been on in the touring class. Just about everything (other than LED lights and there is no getting away from them with modern bikes) has been thought through to provide you with comfort, power, safety and performance graded with a host of options on how those characters are delivered to suit the individual rider.

12v dash

The KTM 1290 is not a cheap bike at £15,999 MSRP but if you keep in mind that a BMW 1200GSA with the same additions as the KTM 1290 would actually cost you more but without the performance – you’re getting a LOT of bike for your money.



Snap Facts

HORSEPOWER - 118 kW (160 hp) @ 8,750 rpm
TORQUE - 140 Nm @ 6,750 rpm
ENGINE TYPE - 2-cylinder, 4-stroke, V 75°
ENGINE SIZE - 1301cc
SEAT HEIGHT - 860/875 mm
FRONT SUSPENSION - WP Semi-active Suspension USD Ø 48 mm
REAR SUSPENSION - WP Semi-active Suspension Monoshock
FRONT BRAKES - 2 x Brembo four piston, radially mounted caliper, brake disc Ø 320 mm
REAR BRAKES - Brembo two piston, fixed caliper, brake disc Ø 267 mm
WET WEIGHT - 221kg

» WP Semi-active Suspension
» C-ABS (Lean angle sensitive with MSC)
» MTC (Motorcycle Traction Control)
» TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System)
» Multi-function cockpit
» Full set of modes (Ride-by-Wire, MTC, ABS, Damping)
» Cruise control
» 30 litre long range fuel tank
» LED cornering lights
» Adjustable ergonomics
» Easy adjustable windshield height
» Heated grips
» Heated comfort seats
» Ultra-rugged offroad spoked wheels
» Immobiliser
» Luggage rack and case carriers
» Servo fan
» Handguards
» Steel crash bars
» Side and centre stand

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