Third-gen KTM 1290 Super Adventure S is a radar-cruise super-hooligan
The enormous 1290 Super Adventure has only been with us since 2015, but it's already into its third generation with today's rather late announcement of a 2021 S model. The S here denotes this bike as the more street-focused version; there's an R with 21/19-inch spoked wheels, longer suspension travel and more ground clearance for the truly demented cowboy that wants to point a giant metal Clydesdale like this at the really gnarly stuff.
The S is your cross-continental touring bike, ready for just about anything shy of single-trail in the wet with 19/17-inch cast rims and tires with more groove than knob. This third-gen 2021 model is more than a facelift, less than an overhaul, and starts with a tweaked 1301cc V-Twin engine.
It still makes roughly the same ludicrous 160 horsepower and 138 Nm (102 lb-ft) of torque that it did in its previous incarnation, but it's now 1.6 kg (3.5 lb) lighter, Euro 5 compliant, and more reliable, says KTM, thanks to new engine cases, pistons, exhausts, gears, oil circuits and cooling, with a split radiator system that channels heat away from your legs.
The chassis has been revised too, with the weight balance shifted lower and further back and the steering sharpened. A longer swingarm aids suspension activity and stability on the gas, and a new subframe with a 2-position adjustable seat that brings this huge beast's seat down a touch to 849 mm (33.5 inches) at its lower position, almost dead on the low-position seat height of the BMW R 1250 GS.
The 1290 Super Adventure S gets a spunky new 7-inch dash, but the real headline here is its radar-based Bosch adaptive cruise control system, which will hold a constant, adjustable distance from the vehicle in front of you and save plenty of frustration on the freeways. On the negative side, the left switchblock is starting to sprout a disconcerting number of buttons, so you'll need to start working on that thumb dexterity.
There's an optional quickshifter, and all the electronic rider aids you could ask for thanks to a six-axis IMU: cornering ABS, off-road ABS, stability control, motor slip control, multi-mode traction control, hill hold control and a new semi-active WP Apex suspension system that can be upgraded to a Pro system with automatic preload adjustment and a switchable anti-dive mode to stop the nose dropping too low under hard braking.
Toys, toys, toys ... with keyless ignition, cornering headlights, self-cancelling indicators, Bluetooth thingumajigs and tire pressure sensors, this bike has an awful lot of technology built in, but don't let all these bleeping farkles distract you too much. At its heart, the 1290 is a raging hooligan weapon designed to rip back-road twisties as hard and crazy as any super-streetbike, then get sideways as it smooths out a rutty dirt road for you, and then look all grown-up and innocent as you munch freeway miles in radar-cruise comfort.
These are huge machines that take genuine skill and no small amount of muscle to tame, but for those with the gift, the experience looks absolutely transcendent and almost no road is off-limits.
KTM makes some of the best promo videos in the business, and the one below is no exception. Enjoy!