Far be from me to turn down a test ride on a 160 horsepower $20,000 superbike. I was in the Kansas City area just back from riding the western plains, when the Letko Cycles sign caught my eye. A couple of my riding buddies have been raving about the KTM 1290 Super Adventure. It was time see what they’re so fired up about.
Letko has been in business since 1969 and carries the full KTM line. The salesman mentioned they had an 1190 Adventure in back, ready to ride. When I told him I really wanted to check out the one with cruise, a must-have feature on my next machine- he said “no problem, I’ll just pull this new1290 off the floor.” How’s that for customer service?
The Super Adventure has the features I want in a traveling machine: 7.9 gallon tank, heated grips, tubeless laced wheels, hard bags and the all-important cruise control. I’ve always used a throttle lock and they work well on long straight runs, but throw in some rolling pavement like U.S. 36 in Kansas and my right shoulder/neck area gets tight. A set-it, forget-it electronic wrist should take care of the issue.
After I signed a waiver and was given a rundown of the controls, I was cut loose on a truly impressive motorcycle. The only real restriction was I was asked not to put the mode switch in “Sport.” This would unleash the full 135 horsepower to the rear wheel- something that needs to be worked up to. Fair enough, “Street” mode puts out something like 115 horses- not a slouch in any sense of the word.
The first thing that struck me as I gingerly pulled into traffic was the snarl from the exhaust can- positively intoxicating. There was an idiot grin under my helmet as I blipped the throttle. The seat, heated by the way, something definitely not needed in the 97 degree KC heat was plush. One thing I had been concerned about was engine heat- there was a bit on my left thigh, but nothing excessive. The bars were rotated a bit farther forward than I like, but a series of hash marks indicate they are adjustable. The heated grips, again, not tested, are of a normal diameter rather than the typical oversize aftermarket items. The windshield is large and adjustable. In short, the Austrians have designed a bike to accommodate a variety of riders.
My hour-long test included a brief blast up I-35- lots of fun, but could be hazardous to the drivers license. The balance was on surface streets in stop-and-go conditions where the high ambient temperature didn’t affect the machine in the least- the temp gauge never broke the half-way mark.
The Super Adventure carries a full complement of electronics: lean-sensitive traction control which is mode settable, ABS, again adjustable for road conditions, suspension pre-load and dampening controls, and the aforementioned power settings. The bike has all the bells and whistles. And that is my only concern. I am a bit of a Luddite and while I appreciate modern conveniences, I worry about their service life, particularly ten years down the road when the new-bike smell has worn off. The upside is much of this electronic wizardry is automotive sourced and well-proven in millions of miles of four-wheel applications.
KTM has a growing dealer network, another consideration. Alaska and Canadian provinces sport at least one dealer. But critically, the shops understand that KTM owners buy their machines to ride. Accordingly, they carry consumables like tires and brake pads- parts that can make or break an adventure. With a set of D.O.T. knobbies I can just picture myself ripping up the Canol Road in the Yukon, exhaust bellowing though the wilderness with a fuel supply sufficient to make the 288 mile round trip. Am I ready to pull the trigger and buy? I made it clear that my time-frame is 18 to 24 months out, but this machine sparks my imagination like few others. I’ll be thinking about it a lot.