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KTM has updated its flagship 1290 Super Adventure R – and it looks a belter. Hold my beer...
However much we (or at least the usual detractors) say we don’t need super-adventure bikes – y’know the 1200+cc monsters – we can’t deny (a) they’re big bold ultimate-tech powerhouses, and (b) they’re increasingly easy to ride. If you could, you would – admit it!
And you would with this latest weapon from KTM – their much-updated for 2021 1290 Super Adventure R. KTM have been through this bike with a fine-tooth comb and it would seem they’ve improved just about every aspect, not least the looks which have been brought back up to date.
As ever with KTM, the USP is the dynamic. This is no grand tourer that can creep along the odd gravel track, no, it has monster off-road capability, shown off here by the incomparable Chris Birch. Of course we’re not going to ride like Chris, we embrace the slow (but would like to believe we’re still moderately quick when we choose to be), but we know from experience that a bike that can do the tricks Chris pulls off translates into an easier ride for the rest of us.
So less, waffle. Here’s the new…
New styling

The all-new bodywork provides excellent ergonomics, say KTM, and allows the fuel tank to be located as low as possible allowing for better agility, a lower centre of gravity and an even better feeling in all riding conditions.

New steering geometry

Sharper cornering responses have been achieved by moving the steering head back by 15mm, re-locating the front section of the engine. A slightly longer new diecast open-lattice swingarm should provide ‘a greater depth of feeling’ under acceleration.

Three-part fuel tank

The sensation of control and balance is augmented by the new three-part fuel tank that holds 23 litres and is positioned lower to assist riding equilibrium.

New sub-frame

Like the chassis, the subframe has also been reconstructed and is topped with a sporty stepped seat (height: 880mm) with slim dimensions and a handy storage underneath.

New suspension

The fully-adjustable 48mm WP USD forks offer 220mm of travel and feature split damping functions and quick tuning potential with a twist of the respective dials for preload, rebound and compression damping – all mounted on the fork tops. The WP PDS shock also offers 220mm travel.

Radiator ducts create new lines and make the fairing less blocky
Lower seat height is quite obvious here
TFt screen dominates the instrument area
That odd-shaped headlight – still with us!
New electronics

KTM have upgraded the 1290 to the latest electronics packages through their collaboration with Bosch. A new 6-axis lean angle sensor filters information on the exact pitch and position of the bike and its behaviour. In turn, this affects the degree of Motorcycle Traction Control, Motor Slip Regulation, Motorcycle Stability Control and forces of Off-road ABS. All electronic ‘rider assists’ can be ‘tweaked’ or disengaged (loving KTM’s use of the word ‘tweak’ there, not tuned – they’re down with the kids, hey?).

Rally mode

Alongside the standard RAIN, STREET, SPORT and OFFROAD ride modes, the optional RALLY mode permits riders to set throttle response to aggressive and select one of nine different levels of wheel spin.

New TFT dash

An all-new and more user-friendly 7” TFT dash is paired with a new Connectivity Unit. The larger view has quicker and more practical menus and clearly shows turn-by-turn directions indicated by the KTM MY RIDE app. The switch block controller is also updated.

Euro 5 motor

The new Euro 5-ready LC8 is 1.6kg lighter (thanks to lighter engine cases, new pistons, improved shifting, altered coatings and easier filter access and a re-jigged two-header exhaust unit) but still pumps 160hp at 9,000rpm and 138Nm of torque at 6,500 rpm – for the best power-to-weight offering in the segment. Service intervals remain at 15,000km, fuel consumption is reported to be 5.7l/100km (48.5mpg).

Striking a pose
Hard luggage options
KTM – never knowingly ridden slow
Full gas?
New radiators

The 1290 now features two separate radiators instead of the one-piece unit of its predecessor. Redesigned air ducts significantly reduce the amount of hot air streaming towards the rider’s legs. KTM says the difference becomes easily noticeable in slow, tight sections.

Reworked gearbox

Together with PANKL, KTM has also reworked the gearbox shifting mechanism for faster, lighter and more responsive actions. The optional Quickshifter+ now has a faster and more precise operation.

Bridgestone tubeless tyres as standard

New, adventure-specific Bridgestone tires are wrapped around ALPINA aluminium spoked wheels, which can be run tubeless thanks to O-ring sealant in the spoke nipples.

BNG (Bold New Graphics)

This new generation 2021 KTM 1290 SUPER ADVENTURE R comes with a modern and eye-catching paint and graphic set – as Chris Birch says, we too like the blue, but equally the shaping of the bodywork looks cutting edge again.

A few details…

KTM RACE ON tech takes keyless ignition to a new level of autonomy (says KTM), separate Tyre Pressure Monitor sensors provide more detailed customisation (we assume KTM mean you know your pressures) and four-piston radial mounted Brembo calipers bring the whole show to a fearsome stop or satisfying slide (again, KTM’s words there). The windshield, the levers, the pegs and the handlebars all are adjustable to further enhance rider adaptability.

Accessory packs

A Rally Pack offers the RALLY riding mode, the MTC slip adjuster and the adjustable throttle response; while the all-in-one Tech Pack includes the Quickshifter+, the Motor Slip Regulation, the Hill Hold Control, the adaptive brake light and all the features of the Rally Pack.

On sale from March

The 2021 KTM 1290 SUPER ADVENTURE R will be available at UK KTM dealers from March 2021. Price: £15,999.

A RUST Test Report?
We’re keen, but it’s a case of as and when Covid restrictions allow and when KTM can get stock over the Channel – seems the new import/export regulations are causing them issues! 
He's riding a CAP heading...?
Rally Pack brings the benefit of dial-a-slide
And yes, we're more than ready for this kind of action...
Test rider searches for where his panniers fell off...



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