Dubbed The "King of Adventure," But Is It Really?

KTM’s off-road experience is unequivocal, and the Austrian heavyweight also made a name for itself in the on-road segment in recent years, as well. It should come as no surprise that its flagship adventure model, the 1290 Super Adventure R, has all the bases covered. Long-stroke suspension soaks up the terrain while the stock tires come with street treads to make this model a bona fide dual-surface bike on steroids. Power comes from a 1,301 cc powerplant that’s part of the natural evolution and progression of design from the previous “1190” engine with over 150 horsepower on tap, and of course, the factory offers plenty of goodies in its Power Parts catalog to let you further boost its capabilities while increasing comfort and safety.

  • 2017 - 2019 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R
  • Year:
    2017- 2019
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    V-Twin
  • Displacement:
    1301 cc
  • Top Speed:
    162 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    18499
  • Price:

KTM 1290 Super Adventure R Design

2017 - 2019 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R
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2017 - 2019 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R
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In its stock configuration, the 1290 Super Adventure R isn't quite as off-road-tastic as its little brother, the 790 Adventure R, but it can easily be set up to tackle rally-type terrain.

Okay so, the 1290 Super Adventure R isn’t quite as off-road-tastic as its little brother — the 790 Adventure R — in its stock configuration, but it can easily be set up to tackle rally-type terrain such as mountains, desert, and various combinations thereof. It starts out with a fork-mount front fender that eliminates the need for a bird’s beak fairing, and thank goodness for that. The fender mounts to the fork feet with generous uprights to protect the inner forks from the inevitable grit and grime that’ll attack the fork seals and lead to early failure, plus there’s a strut in back for strength with large cutouts in an effort to keep unsprung weight down.

LED lights split the night from their recesses in the front fairing. They’re stacked vertically in two columns on either side of center, and come with stock DRL strips to increase daytime visibility. To finish off the nighttime goodies, there’s a set of LED cornering lights that put illumination where you need it as you make your turns in low-light situations. Finally, a pair of short standoff blinkers wrap up the forward lighting, and while I’m not a fan of the look, at least they’re positioned where they won’t wipe out immediately in a laydown situation; that’s a definite bonus in an adventure bike.

A short, adjustable, rally-style windscreen comes vented to reduce turbulence up top, but it does more to protect the 6.5-inch color TFT instrument screen than the rider, if I’m honest. That said, the stock handguards protect your hands, and if you spring for the accessory heated grips, the two combine to make a definite comfort difference in colder climes. As for the display, it has an anti-glare finish to maintain visibility in changing ambient light conditions with all the usual engine metrics plus trip info and ride-quality control info. Plus, there’s a phone pocket complete with USB port so you can power/charge your device under way.

The flyline is somewhat subtle by adventure bike standards in spite of the six-gallon fuel tank. This is because the reservoir is sunk into the machine rather than being perched on top, and that makes for a gentle fuel-tank hump along with a lower center-of-gravity to improve handling. The saddle rides at 35 inches off the ground, and it comes with only a slight shoulder to segregate it from the pillion to leave room for fore-and-aft weight shifts for technical off-road work.

If you’re into sharing the fun with a friend, it comes stock with J.C. handles and fold-up footpegs to keep her securely seated behind you, and of course the p-pad area can double as a cargo carrier. Toward that end, it comes with a small luggage rack over the tip of the tail for even more open-air stowage. LED emitters take care of the rearward lighting with a short mudguard/plateholder to finish off the rear end.

KTM 1290 Super Adventure R Chassis

2017 - 2019 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R
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2017 - 2019 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R
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2017 - 2019 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R
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Weight is carried low so slow-speed maneuvering is a breeze, and with a 21-inch front wheel, it has more terrain-tackling capability.

The factory uses chrome-molybdenum steel tubing to build the Trellis-type frame on the 1290 Super Adventure R. It comes with a bolt-on subframe and optional engine guard, the latter of which is a great move considering how these machines may potentially be used. A 26-degree rake and 4.8-inch trail definitely falls toward the agile end of the spectrum over a 59.3-inch wheelbase, and that’ll pay off on the blacktop. The die-cast swingarm completes the structure with reinforcing ribs in an open-lattice construction that boosts strength and keeps weight down without adding significant bulk to the yoke.

A coil-over WP PDS shock tames the motion of the swingarm from a central location that keeps it protected and inconspicuous, and its weight close to the middle. WP provides the inverted 48 mm forks as well, and they rock extra-stiff springs to put up with the potential abuse of actual rally use. Both ends are fully adjustable, and they offer a generous 8.66 inches of travel. The steering damper at the headstock does its bit to prevent kickback at the bar when the front end inevitably gets light.

If the above weren’t enough to indicate great off-road potential, laced wheels drive the point home as they’ve ever been the favorite of dirt riders the world over. The wheels mount tubeless tires in a bid to eliminate weight, and roll with a 21-inch diameter up front and 18-inch diameter out back, which are rather large and are meant to help tackle rough terrain as well. As for the stock hoops, they have a street-biased tread for the pavement/tarmac, but if you really plan on staying on the uncivilized paths you can score a gnarly set of knobbies from the optional gear that’ll hold you in good stead once the blacktop turns to brown.

Dual 320 mm discs and four-pot Brembo calipers haul the front wheel down with a 267 mm disc and twin-piston anchor to slow the rear, all under the watch of a Bosch 9ME system that delivers corner-sensitive ABS protection. It comes stock with an off-road mode and can be switched off in its entirety if you prefer.

Frame: Chrome-molybdenum steel tubular space frame, powder-coated
Front suspension/Travel: WP USD Ø 48 mm/8.6 inches (220 mm)
Rear suspension/Travel: WP-PDS Monoshock/ 8.6 inches (220 mm)
Front brake: Dual 320 mm floating discs, Brembo four-piston radial fixed caliper
Rear brake: 267 mm disc, Brembo twin-piston fixed caliper
ABS: Bosch 9ME combined ABS (incl. cornering ABS and offroad mode, disengageable)
Chain: X-Ring 5/8 x 5/16"

KTM 1290 Super Adventure R Drivetrain

2017 - 2019 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R
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2017 - 2019 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R
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2017 - 2019 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R
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Gobs of power and torque, like an insane amount for the class, and the electronics include a number of top-shelf items as part of the stock package.

Super Duke’s liquid-cooled V-twin powerplant crossed over into the adventure segment, and brought with it a truckload of oomph. Horsepower maxes out with 158 ponies, and since it’s a V configuration, the torque is up there as well at a stump-pulling 103 pound feet. Dual over-head cams time four poppets per bore, plus the valvetrain comes with the Diamond-Like Carbon coating that retards wear to deliver a long service life. A 108 mm bore and 71 mm stroke adds up to a 1,301 cc total displacement in a 75-degree V.

It has to run with a slight lateral offset to the cylinders to line up with the conrods since the rods are side-by-side on a common crankpin, as opposed to, say, the two-into-1 system used by the MoCo for instance. With all that in mind, it’s no surprise that the mill has a bit of a lope to its idle and necessarily has an off-balance firing order that definitely helps increase traction on soft surfaces. A slipper-type clutch couples engine power to a six-speed transmission, and it provides another safety net by preventing rear-wheel hop on hard braking moments and downshifts.

The electronic engine control suite is fairly robust with a number of top-shelf items as part of the stock package, and even more available ex-sale from the accessory catalog, and it all starts with a ride-by-wire throttle control. Like the ABS, the traction control comes with a number of profiles that include an off-road specific intervention curve and an “Off” setting for raw power delivery. There’s also an off-road Ride Mode feature that tailors power delivery for low-traction environments to limit the amount of work the TC has to do in the first place. A TPMS keeps an eye on your tire status, and the KTM My Ride feature networks with your smartphone for navigation, communication and entertainment (music).

In the options catalog you’ll find a Motor Slip Regulator that blips the throttle when excessive backtorque is detected to prevent loss of traction at the rear wheel, sort of a dynamic failsafe that ultimately backs up the efforts of the slipper clutch. It also offers a quickshifter that lets you move both up and down the range sans clutch action, and a Hill Hold Control that’ll hold the rear brake for you so you can deploy both of your training wheels for stability on an incline. Together, the electronics make the 1290 Super Adventure R a relatively safe machine to operate hither and yon, far from support or rescue.

Engine: Liquid cooled, 2-cylinder, 4-stroke, V 75°
Displacement: 1,301 cc
Bore x Stroke: 108 mm x 71 mm
Power: 158 hp (118 kW)
Torque: 103.3 lb-ft (140 Nm)
Starter: Electric starter
Lubrication: Forced oil lubrication with 3 oil pumps
Transmission: 6-speed
Clutch: PASC (TM) slipper clutch, hydraulically actuated
EMS: Keihin EMS with RBW, twin ignition

KTM 1290 Super Adventure R Pricing

2017 - 2019 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R
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2017 - 2019 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R
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2017 - 2019 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R
- image 861913
For what you get, the $18.5k MSRP is pretty attractive, even if the optional gear has the potential to send the sticker significantly over $20k with the quickness.

For what you get, the $18,499 MSRP is pretty attractive, even if the optional gear has the potential to send the sticker significantly north of $20k with the quickness. Also, it comes in any color you like, just as long as you like white and orange over black.

Color: Black/White/Orange
Price: $18,499

KTM 1290 Super Adventure R Competitors

2018 - 2019 Triumph Tiger 800XCx
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2017 - 2019 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R
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Triumph chucks on a switchable cornering ABS, but it pales a bit in comparison to the off-road-specific ABS feature on the KTM.

There’s no shortage of capable globetrotters out there, but one of my all-time favorites has to be the Tiger family from Triumph, so I grabbed the Tiger 1200 XCx to go up against the 1290 Super Adventure R.

Trumpet rolls with a somewhat more standard dual-surface look that carries both the good old bird’s beak fairing and a fork-mount fender to keep the fling under control. Honestly, I’ve never been a particular fan of the Tiger’s front fairing, but it takes care of business with a vented windscreen that’s more of a proper shield than the little rally-style thing clapped on the front of the KTM.

The Tiger carries its fuel in the traditional position, so the fuel-tank hump is much more dramatic, which in turn makes for a more adventure-tastic flyline with dramatic variations that are more typical of the genre. Like KTM, Triumph relies of the strength of steel tubing for the framework but rocks a single-side swingarm that doubles as a housing for the drive shaft rather than a full yoke.

The stems on the Tiger are a cut above with automatic electronic adjustments, but fall short of the KTM’s travel numbers with only 7.48 inches up front opposite 7.6 inches out back. Triumph chucks on a switchable cornering ABS, but it pales a bit in comparison to the off-road specific ABS feature on the KTM.

The Tiger runs a 1,215 cc triple with 141 horsepower and 90 pounds o’ grunt on tap for yet another deficiency to give the Super Adventure R a lead in this little contest. To compound the pain for the Brit bike, it rolls with a $19,700 sticker that’ll have you paying more money for less bike.

He Said

“Off the floor, the 1290 Super Adventure R’s off-road capabilities are somewhat dubious, but throw on the big aluminum panniers, crash bar, and knobbies, and suddenly you have something that’ll come alive off the beaten path. On the streets, however, you’ll never drive this machine to its full potential, and if that’s where you spend all your time, perhaps a Super Duke may be more appropriate.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “This isn’t just an 1190 with a bigger engine. A lot of thought and engineering went into the 1290 Super Adventure R to make it what KTM calls “King of Adventure.” New frame, new suspension, the engine from the Super Duke, TFT display, bigger wheels, and more. It’s just a better overall bike. Mapping on the 2019 has been tweeked a bit from 2018, so you can expect better performance over last year’s model. Me, I’d have to put some serious knobbies on this and ride it hard. It’ll take it,”

KTM 1290 Super Adventure R Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Liquid cooled, 2-cylinder, 4-stroke, V 75°
Displacement: 1,301 cc
Bore x Stroke: 108 mm x 71 mm
Power: 158 hp (118 kW)
Torque: 103.3 lb-ft (140 Nm)
Starter: Electric starter
Lubrication: Forced oil lubrication with 3 oil pumps
Transmission: 6-speed
Clutch: PASC (TM) slipper clutch, hydraulically actuated
EMS: Keihin EMS with RBW, twin ignition
Chassis:
Frame: Chrome-molybdenum steel tubular space frame, powder-coated
Front suspension/Travel: WP USD Ø 48 mm/8.6 inches (220 mm)
Rear suspension/Travel: WP-PDS Monoshock/ 8.6 inches (220 mm)
Front brake: Dual 320 mm floating discs, Brembo four-piston radial fixed caliper
Rear brake: 267 mm disc, Brembo twin-piston fixed caliper
ABS: Bosch 9ME combined ABS (incl. cornering ABS and offroad mode, disengageable)
Chain: X-Ring 5/8 x 5/16"
Dimensions & Capacities:
Steering head angle: 64°
Ground clearance: 9.8 inches (250 mm)
Seat height: 35.0 inches (890 mm)
Tank capacity (approx.): 6.0 gallons (23 l)
Fuel consumption: 42.6 mpg (5.52 l/100 km)
Dry weight: 478 lbs (217 kg)
Details:
Color: Black/White/Orange
Price: $18,499

Further Reading

Triumph Tiger 1200 XCx

2018 - 2019 Triumph Tiger 1200 XCx
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See our review of the Triumph Tiger 1200 XCx.

KTM 790 Adventure / 790 Adventure R

2019 KTM 790 Adventure / 790 Adventure R
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See our review of the KTM 790 Adventure / 790 Adventure R.

KTM 1290 Super Duke R

2019 KTM 1290 Super Duke R
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See our review of the KTM 1290 Super Duke R.

KTM

ALLYN IMAGES: DO NOT DELETE
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All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: triumphmotorcycles.com, ktm.com, photographers: M. Chytka, R. Schedl

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