– Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

2015 KTM 1290 Adventure: Getting Crazy, Staying Safe?


It’s hard to hide: MD’s editors have been looking at the world through orange-colored glasses this year. That’s probably because we really liked the three KTMs we tested, the  1190 Adventure, the 690 Duke and the please-stop-me-I’m-breaking-the-law 1290 Super Duke. If only, we sighed as we drifted off to sleep in our orange footsie pajamas, if only KTM could take that wicked motor from the Super Duke and plant it in the comfy, sensible chassis of the Adventure.

Your wish is our command, say the folks in Mattighofen. Meet the 2015 1290 Super Adventure. It’s a serious upgrade to the standard 1190 Adventure (which will be carried over for 2015, it looks like), if not the hooligan bike we hoped for.

The motor isn’t exactly the 180-horsepower monster from the Super D. It does share the cylinders, pistons and connecting rods of the Super Duke’s 1301cc V-Twin, but the Super Adventure mill is its own man, specially developed to be useable in situations besides mile-long multi-gear power wheelies. It’s tuned for just 160 hp, a 10-hp bump from the 1190, and has all the electronic aids we liked—lean-sensing ABS/stability control, as well as optional ‘hill hold’ and engine drag torque control features.


There are other improvements as well. There’s ‘semi-active’ Showa suspension, cruise control and heated grips, and a redesigned windscreen that’s adjustable with one hand (a feature I liked on Suzuki’s V-Strom 1000) . Claimed “ready to race” weight (without fuel, KTM says, which makes sense to me as I actually entered several races with an empty gas tank) is 510 pounds—the 30-liter tank will hold another 50 pounds of gas.

There’s no official word from KTM North America about USA availability, but a call to Cal BMW in Livermore, California revealed the 1290 will be here in March, priced “under $20,000 with bags.” The dealership also expects the 390cc models as well as the Freeride electric enduro and supermoto. Stay tuned—things may get so orange around here you’ll think we’ve been going to John Boehner’s tanning parlor.




  1. Ed says:

    Where’s the 1290 SMT? I have a 990 SMT-what a bike! I actually want a bike that has passenger comfort and no spoked wheels. I guess I’ll have to “suffer” a while longer.

  2. Bryan says:

    Admittedly the bloke peering at the yacht is the quintessential poser. However, I can definitely see one of these in my garage next to my crf450r, xr650l,cvo ultra and my wife’s spyder r/t. I concur about the inherent weakness of a 560lb bike in the slime. It’s obviously has it’s limits in soft terrain but I believe with enough rider skill and a properly planned route this bike would give you a great all-around experience ride after ride. The old saying: jack of all trades yet master of none comes to mind here. If I wanted gnarly off-road adrenaline packed highs I’d pour the purple gas in my crf & go. Fact is, I’d probably be riding this bike more then all my others. Each have their place…and limits. I can’t wait to get one. You’ll never see me at a bleepin yacht club on it tho.

  3. Flux says:

    I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I LOVE MY CARB’D 950! Y’all enjoy all your electronic gee-whiz-bangs.

  4. huu says:

    My jaw dropped when I saw that the bike has Showa suspension. This would be major, major news as KTM wholly owns WP. Unfortunately there’s now other source for this ground-breaking news. In fact KTM clearly states that the bike has WP suspension.

    Showa would have been great news for MX models, as it would have shown that KTM is willing to address the one main (precieved) flaw on its bikes, namely the WP way of making and setting suspension (this in no way applies to street or adventure bikes, WP stuff in superior to any OEM Showa or KYB suspension). No such luck.

  5. Asphanaut says:

    Thank goodness KTM came out with this 1290. As the owner of a svelt 1190 I can finally join the chorus of true adventurers who have to pry their chapped, greasy fingers off the throttles of their true adventure bikes and point them at all the posers with more dollars than dirt-skillz who get suckered by the own narcissism into buying this bloated beast for their adventures to the bottom of the cul-de-sac and back.

  6. Dug says:

    I would love to take a scenic coast to coast journey on this machine. For that matter an 1190 or GS would suit well also. I politely disagree with those who feel adventure bikes are no different than other street bikes. Obviously a 500 + pound bike has off road limitations. Even a strongman would be hard pressed to upright such a beast and get it back onto a technical section. Too bad switching between street tires and aggressive dirt orientated knobbies during a trip is not practical because they play a huge role in capability off the pavement. My desire to use a big adventure bike has nothing to do with the status of how it would make me look and everything to do with how it would feel to throw a leg over such a feat of engineering and enjoy the broad range of performance it offers. Until that time I will reflect on previous trips aboard my former KLR and current missions on my current Vstrom 650.

  7. John F says:

    KTM already has a model has that has enough power for extended highway driving and real off road capabilities plus super light weight: the KTM 500 EXC

    Why doesn’t KTM use this excellent dual sport performer as a basis for a true adventure bike. Admittedly, any sort of off road touring modifications would mean that it would be a little less “race ready” but even truly functional refinements like a higher oil capacity and a cure for excessive vibration at highway speeds would still make it far lighter than any other comparable bike out there.

    But then again The problem is of course whether people would be willing to pay the added costs for the modification on this already expensive single.

    • todd says:

      For some reason, some people think you need more power than a small car in a motorcycle to tool down the highway. I’ve owned three Porsches with less power than this. Where will it all end?

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “Where will it all end?”

        survey says…!!! *ding* (board flip)

        …in a ditch along side the road. was the #1 answer.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          “in a ditch along side the road”

          Hey, at least with the KTM you can ride back out of it!

      • Tim says:

        When I was younger, I’m sure I felt the same way. With my kids grown and their college educations paid for, and with the mortgage paid for, I’ve become spoiled. With all of the traction control and electronic riding aids available, I’m not sure there is such a thing as too much horsepower anymore.

        Low horsepower beats no horsepower, there’s no question about that. You can definitely have fun on smaller, lighter, lower powered bikes. But make no mistake about it, everything’s better with more horsepower. If you don’t believe me, go out and test ride a modern high HP bike.

        Is a Cessna more fun than a fighter jet? I seriously doubt it.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          We clearly follow the same gospel. Good day to you brother.

          • Asphanaut says:

            Jeremy no one should combine as much humor and common sense as you do and still live in Texas.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            Hahaha! I used to be Jeremy in Colorado. Maybe that has something to do with it. Just doing what I can to get back there before either the sense of humor dims or reserves of common sense are fully tapped out.

    • mickey says:

      2.2 gallon tank good for 80 miles? Look at that seat…who would want to ride very far on that? Passenger accommodations? wind protection? KTM dealer network? It’s not always a matter of power, there are other considerations.

      It may be technically street legal, but that is not in any sense of the imagination any kind of bike for riding on highways.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Have you seen the maintenance schedule on one of those? There’s your answer.

  8. Gary says:

    30 liters translates to nearly 8 gallons of fuel. THIS is the bike that will finally outgun the GS. It even has cruise control. Awesome.

    I’d buy one but it has no beak.


    • Dirck Edge says:

      KTM offers an optional beak in its accessories catalog.

      • Lenz says:

        Adding THE BEAK will undoubtedly enable an “apples Vs apples” comparison against the latest BMW Adventure GS. There’ll be plenty of “adventure” if one of these heavyweights has a dirt / mud / sand nap. It will just lay there in it’s corpulent excellence until 3 fat villains raise it back to said operating position.

  9. Buckwheat says:

    Am I the only one that missed a torque figure for this detuned mill? 160 bhp but how many ft lbs, baby?

    • Norm G. says:

      Q: “160 bhp but how many ft lbs, baby?”

      A, initial: HP = (Tq*RPM)/5252

      from the Algebra…

      5252(HP) = [(Tq*RPM)/5252]*(5252/1)

      [5252(HP)]/RPM = (Tq*RPM)/RPM


      Tq = (5252*HP)/RPM

      the only known quantity we’ve be given is 160 for HP…

      Tq = (5252*160)/RPM

      Tq = 840,320/X

      (let X be any RPM value within this bike’s rev range)

      example 8,000 rpm…

      Tq = 840,320/8,000

      A, final: 105 lb-ft, darling.

      • Norm G. says:

        correction, I shouldn’t say “any value”. more like any range of values where the HP peak of 160 is likely to occur on a V-twin of this V-angle, this bore/stroke ratio, and 1300cc’s displacement.

        ie. your range narrows then to the 3,000 RPM window between 7,500 and 10,500. if they quote you the exact RPM at which the 160 occurs (ie. 160HP @ X)…? even better, “ez-peezee austra-easy”, it’s a direct plug-in.

        however (comma) be advised that peak HP and peak torque DO NOT occur at the same point. whatever RPM they tell you that 160 occurs at…? be aware the number you’re actually looking for (peak torque) occurs a couple thousand RPM SOONER (hence my choice of 8k) so the value will likely be even MORE than what they give you to first calculate.

        yes, this is a good thing.

        • TomB says:

          Good Golly, Miss Molly. To think that you can take power that applies to some specific rpm, and use it to calculate torque at other rpm. That’s amazing. And that’s even before considering that you don’t know the rpm where that much power occurs.

          Uh, the better challenge here would be directed at Buckwheat, to explain why peak torque is more meaningful than peak power, then sit back and shake head until neck hurts. Yeah, performance at low rpm can matter more than performance at high rpm. That is subjective and not debatable. But even accepting one particular subjective point of view (which I identify with strongly), the problem is getting from there to the belief that peak power … ah, I can’t do this anymore. I’m too old.

          • todd says:

            Torque is really dependent on RPM. Imagine if you motor makes peak torque at 2000 rpm. What sort of crazy high gear ratio would you need to be able to run at highway speeds? Any time you raise the gear ratio (or have to shift up) you lose any benefit the torque would have gotten you. Better to leave it in a lower gear, rev the thing higher and enjoy the torque multiplying effect of the lower gears. Doing that is using “power.”

    • James says:

      140 Nm max and 103 Nm starting at 2500rpm so says KTM, (that’s 103 and 80 ft/lb in American).

  10. Norm G. says:

    re: “MD’s editors have been looking at the world through orange-colored glasses”

    you and Mitch Hansen…

  11. Vrooom says:

    510 seems awfully heavy without fuel. Don’t have time to compare it to the GS, V-Strom, Tiger 1200, etc., but sub 500 without fuel would be nice.

  12. Karlsbad says:

    I think he is looking for his riding partner on the FJR “mmm let’s see I’m sure he was headed this way”

    • Norm G. says:

      he’ll want to nudge himself closer to the edge of the pier and look DOWN.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Haha. I love that video. Classic. Poor SOB will never live that down.

    • iliketoeat says:

      Ha ha ha I was thinking the same thing…

    • Hot Dog says:

      You guys are just plain mean, bad to the bone and I’m liking it! LOL! The guy’s a urban legend crashing a bike and a boat at the same time.

    • James Buchanan says:

      So funny… was thinking the same thing when I saw the boats in the background.
      So… the question… who was it that took the FJR nose dive? Not an MCD associate, was it?

  13. Karlsbad says:

    About now if I was one of those guys who in the last year had plunked down some hard earned cash on an 1190 I’d be a little upset.

  14. John says:

    Iet’s face it. This is a V-strom for someone with too much money.

    • mickey says:

      Can you really have too much money?

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      It is a fine bike whether you can afford it or not. What it offers over a V-Strom is worth its asking price premium in my opinion.

    • Neil says:

      Yeah way too much money. But people have it. Brand new neighborhoods of 500k plus homes going up around the burbs of Boston. Old wooded areas bulldozed. New Biotech firms in HUGE buildings. Great looking machine. Comfort. Power. Storage. But I don’t want to tip it over. I bet it’s plenty top heavy. But that’s not the point. People DO have the money and for the rest of us mere mortals there are the quite good VStroms. I’ll take the new Duc Scrambler which I think is a perfect machine. But that’s just me. After all the choppers and sport bikes and weird in betweens, Ducati has re made, The Motorcycle. Light. Comfy. Powerful. Take poached if you want. I’ll have my eggs scrambled!

      • mickey says:

        Actually lots of mfg are making motorcycles..even by your guidelines.. Honda CB 1100, Triumph Bonneville, Scrambler, Thruxton, MotoGuzzi V7 series, Royal Enfield 500, BMW R9T, and now we will be able to add Ducati to that list

  15. Krisd says:

    Crikey! Somebody forgot that this beast is supposed to be an adventurer in the bottom photo, not a rich dudes ride down to his yacht…..shouldn’t he be on top of Mt Kilaminjaro instead?

    • Blackcayman says:


      Today’s Winner

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I always like to chill on my yacht after a challenging ride down Kilaminjaro. Good way to unwind.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “not a rich dudes ride down to his yacht…..shouldn’t he be on top of Mt Kilaminjaro instead?”

      yachts schmats. upon leaving the base of Kilaminjaro I make a beeline for the airport. hop in the Bell Ranger to fly over the summit, backtracking to see if I can spot where I dropped the keys to the McLaren.

      • James Buchanan says:

        The GPS transmitter should help with that Norm.
        I’m sure he’s thinking… “right then… Kilimanjaro off the bucket list. Now if that guy on that 50″ Marquis just has some grey poupon, I’m stylin’.”

    • Neil says:

      Ever see a poor Austrian?

  16. Lenz says:

    This 1290 Adventure model sure has moved into the “you want it – you got it” genre. However the mass of this beast is even greater than the 1190 Adventure. Stay on the bitumen and the occasional dirt road and avoid the issue of picking it up off the sandy / muddy / unsealed road with gravel like ball-bearings and you’ll be one happy camper.

    At the risk of repeating myself again, less complexity, less weight, less purchase cost is where a truly versatile adventure bike design brief should be focussed. This 1290 beast will be comfortable, fast and eminently impressive in the right environment but for a real adventure bike, “less” is more.

    • red says:

      @ 560# gassed up, a gravel parking lot could be an “adventure”

      • xlayn says:

        with you, disable traction control and lock somehow the gas wide open on 1st gear! not even bull riding will be that crazy

  17. Fastship says:

    You might like to check out what a GENUINE adventure bike looks like which is the antithesis of this bloated monster. I have a big KTM (950R) and it’s a blast but these bikes are styled to look the part and it is clear that its’ designers do not and have not used a bike for the so called “adventure” riding the marketing BS’s proffer. It may look the part and fulfill the customers fantasy view of themselves and certainly succeed in making their money KTM’s money but the real adventure riders know better.

    • Yes, the lightweight CCM is a much more adventure bike than all these huge heavyweight electric monsters. Where the hell is the adventure market eading ?
      to the dragstrip maybe??

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “Where the hell is the adventure market (h)eading? to the dragstrip maybe??”

        Kawasaki says YES…!!!

    • GKS says:

      I agree totally. I have a V-Strom, but I also have an XR650L for those times when I feel like riding somewhere more “adventurous” than a smooth hard packed dirt road.

    • mickey says:

      What they are , are big comfortable street bikes that will carry a passenger and a lot of gear from coast to coast in this country. It depends a lot on how you define “adventure”. Not everyone wants to scale the Andes on a motorcycle. My last “adventure” was a ride from Ohio out route 66 to San Luis Obispo California, up the coast and then back thru Bonneville, and up Pikes Peak and then back to Ohio, averaging 493 miles a day. These bikes are perfect for “adventures ” like that. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to do that trip on a lightweight single with zero wind protection, a seat like a motocrosser and a 3 gallon gas tank. IMO mud is not the defining concept for adventure.

      • shmitty says:

        That’s exactly right.

      • GKS says:

        So, by that definition, a Gold wing is an adventure bike also? Obviously, any motorcycle ride can be an adventure, but in the context of motorcycle categories, the broad definition of an adventure bike is one with an upright riding position with multi-surface capabilities.
        Basically it is a case of “different horses for different courses”.

        • mickey says:

          Yes any bike can be an adventure bike depending on your definition of adventure. If one is talking about a bike that is capable of transversing mountain trails, swamps and desert sand, there will be very few bikes which can measure up to those standards, and the bike that would meet those standards would be ill suited to traveling long distance at high speed carrying passengers and luggage. Certainly very few of these bikes that have that supposedly adventure bike look would have the capability of doing both.

          If you are talking hard packed roads, fire roads, gravel roads, through a field, up a little grass covered hill..well yes even Goldwings have been known to do that.

          • todd says:

            KLR650 comes to mind. Will run highways all day and requires maybe only TWO people to pull out of a stream…

          • mickey says:

            My wife and I were on our ST 1300 and ran into a guy on Cadillac Mtn in Maine that had ridden a KLR from Colorado to Maine. I asked him how it was. He said he was dreading the ride back lol.

          • mickey says:

            Probably had more to do with the seat, than with the rest of the bike.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I’ve actually done quite a bit of adventure riding in the US and Africa on bikes ranging from 125cc to 1200cc, and I can tell you from my experience that a better dirt bike does not make a better adventure bike. If I am going to be spending my time doing some pretty gnarly off-road stuff, then sure, something like a WR250R is probably the ideal mount. If I am going to be crossing vast expanses of real estate over several days, paved and / or unpaved, 650cc and up only need apply – and preferably multi-cylinder.

      The CCM is the proper tool for one adventure. This KTM may be the right tool for another.

  18. Brinskee says:

    Needs and orange frame and it would be just about perfect.

  19. mickey says:

    Those wanting a large ADV bike sure have a lot of choices available to them this year.

  20. John says:

    Hope they fixed the dust ingress into the air box that occurred on some 1190’s. I’d love one of these, big range, huge attitude.

  21. xlayn says:

    I love the penultimate photo, I would park it in the middle of the living room so I can stare at it all the time

  22. falcodoug says:

    So many bikes, so little money ;(

  23. Frank says:


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