With continued growth in the adventure segment and the ensuing battle for market share it's not surprising that KTM chose to expand its lineup with the introduction of this asphalt-oriented version of the 1290 Super Adventure. Even at a passing glance the 1290 Super Adventure S is pure KTM – whether your preference is for the orange and white paint scheme or the darker, grey-based version, KTM branding and design remain at the forefront. While the S shares the majority of components with the off-road focused Super Adventure R, including the 160 horsepower LC8 75-degree V-twin engine, visually the lack of a crash bar combines with a black frame and cast aluminum wheels (19-inch in the front and 17-inch at the rear) shod with tubeless Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tires to give the S a look of its own.
Another area that differentiates the 1290 Super Adventure S is its suspension. The electronically adjustable suspension allows the rider to select four different damping settings: Comfort, Street, Sport and Off Road. When the bike is in motion, the WP semi-active system continuously adjusts damping rates in real time to adapt to the road and riding conditions. Rear spring preload (solo, solo with luggage, two-up and two-up with luggage) is also set by simply navigating through the information on the 6.5-inch TFT display using the controls on the left hand side of the handlebar. Rounding out the electronics package, the Super Adventure S includes lean-sensitive ABS, ride-by-wire throttle with selectable ride modes (Sport, Street, Rain and Off Road) and traction control that adjusts to reflect the selected riding mode and lean angle. Our test bike was also equipped with the optional Travel Pack that adds in KTM’s Hill Hold Control and an up/down quick shifter.
As we prepared to head out for a two day ride, which thanks to a great deal of effort and planning on the part of KTM’s staff would take us through some of the state’s most scenic areas including Joshua Tree National Park and Big Bear Lake, I was forced to come to terms with certain realities of the Super Adventure S. Specifically, this is a tall motorcycle. With a seat height that can be set at either 860 mm or 875 mm, the 1290 Super Adventure S is lower than its R counterpart (890 mm), but still a big stretch for my 5-foot-8-inch body. Fortunately, despite having a dry weight of 222 kg – which of course increases when the 23 L fuel tank is full – the bike is exceptionally well balanced, making the height less intimidating.
Over the course of our travels I was able to experience the 1290 Super Adventure S in a variety of situations ranging from navigating city streets to the type of wide-open twisties that can only be found on the way to Big Bear Lake as the highway climbs up to the 2,000 metre elevation change. In every case I found myself becoming more and more impressed with this motorcycle. Whether it was navigating switchbacks with the ease of a sport bike or its adrenalin-inducing acceleration, as the grin on my face grew I became a believer in the power of orange.
While this is definitely not a bike for a novice or timid rider, if you are looking for a motorcycle that is suitable for long-distance touring while maintaining the ability to tear up the twisties on a weekend or handle the occasional non-paved surface, the KTM 1290 Super Adventure S is worth a look.
2018 KTM Super Adventure S
Engine: Liquid-cooled, 75 degree V-twin
Displacement: 1,301 cc
Seat Height: 860/875 mm
Weight: 222 kg, dry
Fuel Capacity: 23 L