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KTM 2017 Adventure – First impressions

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This entry is part 8 of 17 in the series Adventure Rider Issue #23

KTM’s released its new flagship 1290 Super Adventure R and the sting-in-the-tail 1090 Adventure R. If you’re a fan of the Austrian bikes, grab on to your trouser weiner and look out for bones. Everything’s about to get very exciting.

This is it. With a 160 horsepower and a suite of electronics that works well, the 1290 Super Adventure R is a powerful off-road weapon.

This is going to be fast and furious.

The international media release of the new KTM adventure bikes was a massive production held here in Australia, and moto journalists from a stack of different countries worked in shifts to ride the bikes between huge, luxurious dining extravaganzas and some very involved and technical presentations.

At the end of it all we were only able to get the briefest taste of what was on offer…with the bikes.

We scoffed like pigs at the dinners.

This new headlight is touted as the signature look of the current bikes.

All new

The focus of attention for every-one, journalists and KTM staffers alike, was the 1290 Super Enduro R, and that’s no surprise. While the previous line up of KTM adventurers proved incredibly capable – especially the 1190 – the competition had raised the stakes a tad. The 1290 is KTM’s leveller.

With a whopping 160 horespower and 140Nm of torque from the 1301cc, 75-degree V-twin, the big KTM is right up there with the heaviest hitters at the glamour end of today’s adventure-bike market. Dry weight is 217kg, which is pretty damn good, and means cracking open the throttle gets a very swift and hugely satisfying result.

A couple of other interesting features are a Power Assist Slipper Clutch (PASC) which helps with smooth downshifts, but also makes for an incredibly light pull at the lever, and a lightweight crank that helps offer a very responsive motor all around.

Electronics are all the rage at the moment, and the 1290 has its fair share: lean-angle sensitive ABS and traction control, four rider modes, tyre-pressure monitoring and an immobiliser are all impressive, as is the TFT display dash, which is incredibly easy to read and can even be tilted to suit the rider’s viewing-angle preference.

Capping it all off is Quickshifter + allowing silky gear changes without the clutch or throttle adjustment.

It’s a smooth-running, comfortable, sharp-looking bike from top to bottom. Best of all, it’s awesome to ride.

Improved

We’re going to do a little journalistic stretching here and say the 1090 Adventure R is the next incarnation in the evolution of the 1190.

We actually don’t think KTM will mind us saying that, even though the 1090 is technically a new model.

There’s a lot that’s very familiar about the 1090. The dash is the same as the 1190 for starters, so is the menu and electronics. There are new shapes in the windscreen and some of the plastics, but it has a comfortable, welcome feel for anyone used to the 1190.

The 1050cc V-twin motor in the 1090 snorts out 125 horsepower and 109Nm of torque in a package that weighs in at around 207kg.

The bike runs on the same 21-inch/18-inch, spoked front and rear wheels as its 1290 stablemate. The PASC does the bizzo for gear changes and the tank holds 23 litres, same as the 1290.

There are a lot of similarities between the two bikes of course, and just looking at the spec sheet might leave a potential buyer wondering how to decide between the two. Believe it or not, the answer’s simple. Just ride them. They’re very different bikes in the real world.

KTM 1290 Super Adventure R

Rec retail: TBA. Web: ktm.com/au

Engine type: Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, 75-degree V-twin
Displacement: 1301cc
Bore/stroke: 108mm x 71mm
Power: 118kW (160hp) @ 8750rpm
Torque: 140Nm at 6750rpm
Compression ratio: 13.1:1
Starter/battery: Electric starter/12V 11.2Ah
Transmission: Six gears
Fuel system: Keihin EFI (throttle body 52mm)
Control: 4/DOHC
Lubrication: Pressure lubrication with three Eaton pumps
Primary drive: 40:76
Final drive: 17:42
Clutch: PASC slipper clutch, hydraulically operated
Engine management/ignition: Keihin EMS with RBW, double ignition
Traction control: TC (four-mode, disengageable)
Frame: Chromium-molybdenum trellis frame, powder coated
Front suspension: WP-USD Ø48mm
Rear suspension: WP shock absorber
Suspension travel front/rear: 220mm/220mm
Brake front: Two Brembo four-piston, radially mounted caliper brakes. Disc Ø320mm
Brake rear: Brembo two-piston, fixed-caliper brakes. Disc Ø267mm
ABS: Bosch 9M+ Combined-ABS (including Cornering ABS and offroad mode, disengageable)
Wheels (front/rear): Spoked wheels with aluminium tubeless rims 2.50 x 21 inch and 4.50 x 18 inch
Fuel capacity: 23 litres (3.5 litre reserve)
Ground clearance: 250mm
Seat height: 890mm
Wheelbase: 1580mm ± 15mm
Dry weight: 217kg

Chalk

Another thing we need to make clear here is we spent way more time on the 1090 than the 1290.

There were a few reasons for that, and we won’t bore you with them, but keep it mind as we roll out these opinions. The good news is KTM noticed our dilemma and has promised we’ll get more time on the 1290 in the near future (yes!).

Meanwhile, we mounted up on the 1090 and found a compact, sharp-handling bike that was a pleasure to ride in every respect. After handling big dualsporters for so long we find it natural to back off for rocks, edges and potholes because these bikes normally can’t handle rough treatment of that nature.

The 1090 did.

It did way better than just coping.

It revelled in tough going. The harder we pushed it the better it performed. The motor is incredibly smooth for a V-twin, the clutch is light as a feather and gear-box and braking were excellent. We said ‘compact’, but we mean more than just ‘small’. The 1090 has a very solid, stable feel that inspired a lot of confidence and which gave the impression it was ready to be slammed into and over just about anything.

It wasn’t just us who thought that, it seems. From what we saw, Chris Birch did slam into and over everything.

He also roosted around, pulled insane stoppies, and jumped on to and off of all sorts of things. Of course, he did that on the 1290 as well, but we were so impressed we had to say something.

For the hard chargers in the KTM customer database, for those who truly thrive on that competition-inspired performance KTM loves so much, the 1090 is a perfect choice.

The 1090 isn’t really ‘the little brother’. It feels light and easy-to-ride, and it gives the impression of being a very tough customer. We felt there’d be plenty of riders who’d probably still prefer the 1090.

Cheese

Jumping from the 1090 to the 1290 was a very interesting experience.

Straight away that big TFT dash offers a wealth of information, the polish and refinement of the whole bike is luxurious, and the muted growl of the bigger motor fills a rider’s heart with promise. Twisting the throttle fulfils the promise as the bike moves quietly and effortlessly away, feeling substantially heavier and larger and than it’s smaller-capacity sibling.

That’s not a criticism of the 1290, it’s just pointing out the different feel of the bikes, and trying to underline there’s a clear choice for potential owners to make.

Controls on the 1290 are a lot more involved as well. Cruise control is on the left-hand switchblock – there’s no cruise control on the 1090 – there’s a snazzy phone pocket with USB charging behind the Battlestar Galactica headlight, lighting is all LED and includes cornering lights, switching and menus are different, and of course the modes are a far cry from the seemingly more basic offerings on the 1090.

The bikes share so much, it’s hard to accept how different they feel. The 1290 gives the impression of being far more comfortable and seems way more than 10kg heavier, and the up-specced electronics mean a rider can tune the bike with a much narrower focus. In our short time we thought the modes in the standard configuration – without us altering anything – worked well, but we’d need more time and experimentation to be sure.

We don’t need any more time to know how good it felt to select ‘Sport’ and start driving the bike deep into corners.

Yee-hah. That mode works awesome.

We were unhappy with the front end of the 1290. So many people had ridden the bike before we climbed on board, and they’d all been clicking and tweaking away like madmen, so we don’t feel we can make a judgement except to say that in our very short ride the forks were soft and bottomed out way too easily. They’re the same forks as the 1090, so we’ll see how the next ride goes when we’ll have time to fool around with settings and tuning.

Brothers in arms. KTM’s new Adventure line is spearheaded by the 1090 Adventure R and 1290 Super Adventure R. There’s a more road-focussed version of the 1290 available as well,designated with an ‘S’.

More to come

After an all-to-brief run on the two new KTM adventure bikes we’re left with the impression of two different bikes, both awesome in their own way, and both very likely to be at the leading edge of performance in their category. We really liked the 1090 for the way it seemed to thrive on tough going, and we really liked the 1290 for it’s polished, modern feel and well-sorted electronics.

Conversely, we found the 1090 very comfortable on the road and wouldn’t hesitate to cover serious long-distance on one, and short of an enduro, there’s nothing we wouldn’t expect the 1290 to handle as far as challenging terrain goes.

Maybe we just need one of each.

That’d be fine with us.

We’ll have a more detailed look at the 1290 as soon as we can.

KTM 1090 Adventure R

Rec retail: TBA. Web: ktm.com/au

Engine type: Four-stroke, liquid-cooled, 75-degree V-twin
Displacement: 1050cc
Bore/stroke: 103mm x 63mm
Power: 92kW (125hp) @ 8500rpm
Torque: 109Nm at 6500rpm
Compression ratio: 13.0:1
Starter/battery: Electric starter/12V 11.2Ah
Transmission: Six gears
Fuel system: Keihin EFI (throttle body 52mm)
Control: 4/DOHC
Lubrication: Pressure lubrication with three Eaton pumps
Primary drive: 40:76
Final drive: 17:42
Clutch: PASC slipper clutch, hydraulically operated
Engine management/ignition: Keihin EMS with RBW, double ignition
Traction control: TC (four-mode, disengageable, including Offroad mode)
Frame: Chromium-molybdenum trellis frame, powder coated
Front suspension: WP-USD Ø48mm
Rear suspension: WP shock absorber
Suspension travel front/rear: 220mm/220mm
Brake front: Two Brembo four-piston, radially mounted caliper brakes. Disc Ø320mm
Brake rear: Brembo two-piston, fixed-caliper brakes. Disc Ø267mm
ABS: Bosch 9M+ two-channel (disengageable, including Offroad mode)
Fuel capacity: 23 litres (3.5 litre reserve)
Ground clearance: 250mm
Seat height: 890mm
Wheelbase: 1580mm ± 15mm
Dry weight: 207kg

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