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2022 KTM 1290 Super Adventure S: MD Ride Review

When we tested the prior model of the new KTM 1290 Super Adventure S back in 2018, we found it comfortable, good handling, and extraordinarily powerful. KTM is now famous for its 1,301cc v-twin, but it was still shocking how strong this motor was in 2018.

That big v-twin is back in a new model that debuted in the U.S. market for 2022 (it had been available a year earlier in Europe). The redesigned Super Adventure S you see here features extensive changes and refinements.

The engine has some changes related to the latest Euro5 emission standards, but continues with the same stonking power and torque levels found in the earlier model. The gear box has been substantially improved with new internals, and the Quickshifter+ system works with it for what KTM promises to deliver fast, smooth and quick gear changes.

Power delivery from the giant v-twin is smoother and more refined, but still delivers a claimed 160 horsepower and 101 foot/pounds of torque.

All of the modern electronics are present. A six-axis IMU works to assist lean-sensitive ABS, traction control and off-road ABS systems. The rider can select from four standard settings, including Rain, Street, Sport and Offroad. An optional Rally mode is available.

Entirely new is Adaptive Cruise Control that KTM developed with Bosch. The rider can select from five different options for the following distance of the vehicle ahead.

The latest generation WP-APEX Semi-Active suspension is integrated into the new 1290 Super Adventure S. We thought earlier versions of this Semi-Active technology were implemented well by KTM, and this latest version promises to be the best, yet. Several settings allow the rider to dial in soft-and-cushy to stiff-and-sporty response from the suspension. There is even an optional anti-dive setting for the fork. With the available Suspension Pro package, the rider can also select various preload and stiffness settings for the fork and shock independent of the standard settings.

This new generation Super Adventure S has a new frame with new, more aggressive steering geometry, new body work and a low-slung gas tank reminiscent of the 790/890 Adventure models.

In essence, the bike is almost entirely new save for the wheels and some other minor components shared with the prior model. The 7″ TFT display now has new graphics and a user interface that we found quit intuitive. In addition to the optional Rally mode, KTM offers an optional Supension Pro package that includes individual damping control for the fork and shock, an automatic preload setting, as well as the aforementioned anti-dive feature for the fork.

Taking the bike up off its side stand, it feels lighter than its predecessor. Not unexpected, because the fuel tank keeps the weight of the fuel much lower.

This is a tall bike when you swing your leg over it, even with the seat in the lower position. For reference, the test rider is 5’11” tall with a 31″ inseam.

Once moving, the bike disguises its weight quite well. The seating position is comfortable with the tank narrow between the rider’s legs and a reasonable distance between the seat and the foot pegs. The headstock is 15mm closer to the rider than the prior model, and the reach to the bars is easy – keeping the rider very upright.

With the bike set to the Street mode, throttle response seems much smoother than it was on the prior model. Perhaps deceptively, this makes the bike seem a bit slower even though all of the power is available in Street.

Switching to the Sport mode wakes the bike up considerably, and is a reminder of just how much power is available from the big v-twin. Fuel injection tuning is excellent in both modes, and picking up a closed throttle on corner exits does not disturb the chassis.

This bike can carve corners, and run with sportbikes quite well. KTM’s efforts to centralize the mass seems to have been successful. Carrying the fuel weight low is only part of the reason. In any event, the new Super Adventure S changes directions confidently and with less effort than the prior model … without losing any stability.

The new bike also has a longer swingarm, which, together with the closer steering head, places more weight over the front wheel. This is one reason the bike provides good feedback from the front contact patch while cornering and gives the rider more confidence.

The new generation semi-active suspension is impressive. Damping seems to be adjusted properly, giving the bike a good balanced feel. This is true whether you are running a softer setting for street cruising or highway use, or a stiffer setting for sport riding. We thought KTM was ahead of some of its rivals with the prior generation of semi-active suspension technology, and we continue to feel the same way with this new generation.

Being a bit old school, perhaps, we aren’t the biggest fans of Adaptive Cruise Control on a motorcycle … preferring to control the throttle and brake manually when necessary to change following distance on the highway. Nevertheless, in testing, the ACC seemed to work about as well as you could expect. The radar on the bike seemed to do a good job of maintaining the selected distance from the car ahead, and it changed acceleration and deceleration smoothly rather than abruptly.

The completely redesigned transmission shifts beautifully. Shifts are easy and positive, and the quickshifter works well even in the lower rpm ranges. We hope this level of transmission sophistication works it way down to the lower displacement KTMs, including the 890s.

Leaving behind our discussion of all the electronic sophistication, this bike proves to be a comfortable, fast and fun motorcycle in the real world. The brakes are excellent. The suspension controls the chassis well when the appropriate settings are selected for the circumstances, and it can tour and rip twisty roads better than many tourers and sport bikes.

This is the original, big-engined adventure tourer. Its focus is the street, not the dirt (even though it is capable of light off-roading). It was difficult for us to find fault in the bike, although we must say that the stock tires from Mitas (a brand we do not recall using previously) were competent without being as confidence inspiring as other 19/17 combinations we have tried. we would certainly swap to something else once they are worn.

With a 6.1 gallon fuel tank and a claimed wet weight of 540 pounds, the big Super Adventure S can serve as a tourer and a commuter. The tall, commanding riding position is an advantage on the street, and available luggage options just increase its practicality.

If you are looking for a powerful sport tourer or street-focused adventure bike, we think you have to take a close look at the KTM Super Adventure S. The bike is available at a U.S. MSRP of $19,499. Take a look at KTM’s website for additional details and specifications.

30 Comments

  1. Ed says:

    blah, blah, blah, $20,000 dollars! Not including shipping and the dreaded “dealer prep” and taxes, title, tags, and accessories. Uh.

  2. paquo says:

    that thing looks like fun, a bit more svelte than a duc multi v4

  3. Joseph Bagadonitz says:

    I enjoy reading about new model motorcycles.

  4. Grumpy farmer says:

    I played leap frog with a flock of these when I was headed up into the arctic on my old KLR. About 10:00AM every morning they would blow by me, then I’d see them parked up at a nice hotel. This went on for about 4 days. I think I worked a lot harder for my miles than they did. Beautiful bikes.

  5. Gary says:

    Nice review. How about a comparo between KTM, Ducati, Triumph and BMW? That would be awesome. I still prefer shaft drive bikes, personally.

  6. todd says:

    Not at all interested but people can buy whatever they want. As for high speed, long distance touring, Iā€™ve never found fault with my K75S and KTM stopped making good looking motorcycles after 2018.

  7. Ben says:

    I just quickly skimmed all of the strong opinions from non riders, clueless keyboard warriors, angry senior citizens etc and it is typical of what I expect on the internet. I just ignore these folks on a daily basis.

    My comment is this: I bought the “new” 1290R in 2017 when it first became available. I still have it, with nearly 90,000 miles on it. It is still an absolute animal, the Hayabusa of ADV bikes, and it has spoiled me for a lot of other bikes. I would buy another one in a second, and likely will some day. As for now, my 6 year old, 90,000 mile 2017 Super Adventure 1290R still feels/sounds, runs tight as ever, has no bad habits, and has never had any mechanical issues to speak of.

    • Curt says:

      Outstanding sir! I have a 2019 and plan to keep it indefinitely, as well.

    • JD says:

      Well said, I’ve had a KTM from 2006, 990 n then 990r Adv, can’t wait to buy new 1290 in new year, had blind car driver kill my ole luvly 990r in June 2021 an just gettin back to bike fit now .

    • Walter says:

      Ben wrote… “and it has spoiled me for a lot of other bikes.”

      Boy, ain’t that the truth! LOL

    • Reginald Van Blunt says:

      Please continue to ignore those of us, qualified in your opinion or not, who post observations of hits, runs, and errors, in the motorcycle industry.
      OK fine.

    • MarkB says:

      I agree with your initial comment in that no matter what bike is featured from a knee dragging sport bike to a fat old air cooled vtwin, the majority of the comments are always negative. I pretty much do the same, skip over those posts quickly. If you don’t like the bike for whatever personal reason then just move on. I don’t own a KTM but like all bikes in their form, there is something for everyone.

  8. RyYYZ says:

    I’ll admit it – I think it’s more bike than I need or want. Certainly more power than I can make any real use of on the street.

    For touring use I still prefer shaft drive and like having an electrically adjustable windshield, and BMW’s reliability ranks right up there with KTM’s (lol). I mean, once you’ve reached 540 lbs, what’s another 50?

    Anyway, at this point in my life there’s probably about zero chance that I’ll be buying any of these flagship bikes new – too rich for my blood.

    Having said that, if someone wanted to give me one, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at it.

  9. ORT says:

    At this point in time Mick, the only cup you’re pissing in is yours. We get it. You’ll never own a bike that has been made in the last 40 or so years except maybe a 2-stroke.

    Few owners of these “Adventure Bikes” take them far, if at all, off road. Everyone knows they’re just weird looking touring rigs. Except for you.

    “600 pound hero machine”? Really?

    Most people ride motorcycles on roads. They like fuel injection, cruise control, ABS and more. They like the added convenience and relative safety of tubeless wheels. Tubeless were also called “safety wheels” when they came out. People like that. Except for you.

    Just like you will “never take a water cooled 1200cc motorcycle seriously at all” few, if any, here and in the real world outside the “Land O’ Granite” will take your unreasonable dislike for 4-Strokes, water-cooling, tubeless wheels, et al…Seriously.

    Does your cup runneth over yet? If so, perhaps it’s time for you to just piss into the wind…

    ORT

    • Motoman says:

      Thanks ORT. Most spot-on post I’ve ever read.

      Never met a person so generally disgruntled who lives a life of abundance like Mick.

    • Mick says:

      Gotcha.
      I’m not entitled to my own opinion because you don’t like it. So I am supposed to adopt yours.

      Sorry. No. My opinion is mine. You do not have to adopt it in any way. Your options are your opinions. And you are welcome to them.

      I am frustrated by an industry that I have supported my whole life that refuses to support me back. I will continue to make that clear in case they are looking.

      You seem happy with what the industry has to offer here in the US. Aren’t you the lucky one?

      Why do you seem to want to silence me? What is it to you?

      If the industry were to offer a bike that I would like to buy, or at least import some of the bikes on the British market that I would buy. Would that injure you in some way?

      Where’s the rub? I don’t get it.

      I’m at least as passionate about motorcycles as anyone here and have 26 broken bones, one for life, to show for it. What qualifies you to be my gate keeper?

  10. Tom R says:

    What about that giant exhaust can…with a motorcycle attached to it? Have we all “adjusted” to the scale of these things?

    • Reginald Van Blunt says:

      This exhaust muffler is exactly the same size as a 73 Dodge Dart Swinger with the 318. Gad Zooks ! ! ! Can’t divide it up into two smaller ones ?
      When the BMW 800GS came out, and rocked the Dirt plus asphalt world, I thought ” that’s cool ” and it made giant dust bombs in the open desert when one let it all out. Now, especially after watching Itchy Boots go EVERY WHERE on 250 to 400 cc, I gotta ask where is the need for these humongas status rollers ?
      Frankly every one of these over 1000 cc adventure bikes just makes me yawn .
      IMHO.

  11. Chris Thomas says:

    Thanks for the write up!

    I have a 2016 Super Adventure T that I really enjoy and an interested in the 2022. I rented a ’22 in Europe for a day a few months ago and did about 350 miles of backroads in the Czech Republic and Poland and, while I enjoyed it, it really didn’t excite me that much. I was a bit surprised.

    I think I may keep my SA and spend my ‘new bike’ money a Super Duke GT.

  12. Bob says:

    Shame that this requires faith in KTM’s engineering (and their absolutely stupid always-connected dealer tool) to own.

  13. Buckwheat says:

    This almost seems like the perfect bike, and I hope KTM sells a lot of them as a reward for their incredible engineering. I don’t think I’ll be a customer though, for at least two reasons: it’s got a butt-ugly front end, and I prefer a shaft drive. Even though I know chain drive systems have improved and are lighter. Guess I’m just an old fuddy duddy.

  14. Artem says:

    Adventure is adventure. Paris-Dakar. Classic. Not so funny I suppose.

  15. Walter says:

    As a 2014 1190 owner (with ~60,000 miles) who uses it a lot off pavement, and getting into weight/size “oh shit” situations 2-3 times a year, and being 75 years old, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about downsizing. An 890 Adventure or Aprilia Tuareg are at the top of the list.

    But then I read another 2022 1290 Adventure review and realize it’s everything I love about LC8s (I have well over 200,000 miles of LC8 ownership: 950S, 950SE, 950SM, 990 Dakar, 990SD, and 990 SMT) PLUS all the new features: and I waver.

    At this point, I honestly don’t know if my head (really, time to downsize) or heart (screw it, stay big) is going too win.

  16. L Ron Jeremy says:

    Too bad they left the ugly untouched considering it is “almost entirely new”.

  17. Scott pdx says:

    “This is the original, big-engined adventure tourer.”

    Over forty years of GS’s says “Huh?”

  18. Mick says:

    I find it odd that the big block engines in the automotive industry went away a long time ago. The motorcycle industry still has a vibrant market for them. Though big block motorcycles don’t often come with the ridiculous fuel economy of their automotive brethren.

    But I guess the motorcycle industry sells retro everything in a really big way every day. I suppose some of you guys think it rather humorous that dinosaurs like me can still buy new two strokes as well. They are actually the only thing that I still buy new from a dealer. I have been considering buying a “small block” simply because it is the last carbureted dirt bike that the parent company makes.

    • Tim says:

      Mick, some of us enjoy having a lot of horsepower, you should try it sometime. It may end up being the death of me, but it’s sure a lot of fun in the meantime. I’ve told my wife if something happens to me on one of my bikes, just know I went out doing what I love doing. I think a high speed crash would be preferable to dying of dementia, and having someone changing my diapers the last few years of my life. Of course, getting injured on a motorcycle could result in the same butt wiping issue, but that can happen hitting a tree at 40 mph on a two stroke, just like it can at 85 on a highway. May as well live life big.

      • Mick says:

        I’m a bike in the venue guy. Public roads are a slow venue. The 916 Ducati that I had convinced me that only so much power was fun on the street. More just made public roads a place where one needs to exercise way too much constraint all the time, I much rather have something light that I lean on more often without an immediate risk of jail time.

        I ride street bikes for fun. I actually kind of enjoy riding two up with my nerves of steel bride while we trounce the normals on an air cooled two valver. I’m a dirt biker when I get up in the morning. I like my rides to be challenging. Being a little down on power from the next guy is part of the fun. You just can’t sell me on a 90 in first street bike. I’ve got nothing against them. But they are not my thing.

  19. ORT says:

    In before Mick bitches about it being too heavy for a dirt bike. It runs tubeless and probably can run circles around a great many other Adventure motorbikes, especially those with punctured tubes. šŸ˜‰

    It does exactly what you would expect a large, powerful motorbike to do. It’s a mile muncher with decent range and a suite of (mostly) usable (and useful) electronics. The truth is, it makes a lot of other bikes in or close to its class look like sAdventure bikes. If it’s not your cup o’ tea that doesn’t mean you have to piss in that cup and try to spoil it for someone else.

    Thanks for the review, Dirck!

    ORT

    • Mick says:

      Meh, touring bike in Jeep drag. You’ll never get me to take a water cooled 1200cc motorcycle seriously at all. I only see them as sources of cool engines to put in an old two seater car. This one is nice in that it has a dry sump, making it easier to fit in the confines of a car’s engine bay. That and KTM has a knack for making engines that are happy to play as kittens until fangs are required. Perfect car engines.

      And if it does go off road, something that it would not advise, and cracks or bends a rim it’ll be days behind some guy who swapped out a tube on a wheel that certainly didn’t crack and probably didn’t bend. There is a reason that dirt bikers confidently launch their bikes off big rocks to clear the next several rocks before landing on more rocks. That’s because they can do stuff like that for decades on spoked wheels and get away with it without a thought. You take your 600 pound cast wheel hero machine into a rock garden like that and you better be walking like Grasshopper on rice paper or you are going to be staying in that rock garden for the foreseeable future.

      I quit running carbon fiber wheels on my mountain bikes after cracking a few. Light is nice, but flat is flat. I live in a place called the granite state. Mountain bike here and you will indeed encounter your share of granite.

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