You’ve seen it, in just about any review for a big adventure bike: “It’s fine for limited off-road use, it’s really a street bike, blah blah blah.”
Well, as Chris Birch is happy to show us below, the 2021 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R is quite capable in the dirt, too, if it’s in the right hands. Birch, one of the world’s best-known adventure bike coaches, certainly qualifies in that category. He doesn’t go full hard enduro with the 1290, but shows it’s capable of much harder terrain than an unpaved cottage road.
Birch is also a KTM ambassador, not just a riding coach, so naturally we get a short run-down of the 2021 bike’s changes.
It seems the chassis got the most attention for the overhauled 2021 model. KTM shortened the main frame section, and lengthened the swingarm. This provides several advantages offroad and on the street, with better stability in tricky handling situations, while improving the bike’s cornering capability in the twisties.
KTM also revised the suspension. You still get separate-function forks, with preload adjustment on one side and damping adjustment on the other. Birchy says it’s the suspension still has that soft initial compliance you want for street riding comfort, but says there’s more “reserve capacity” for bigger offroad bumps.
The 1290 Super Adventure R engine was updated to meet Euro5 emissions standards, but we haven’t heard anything about power changes for 2021. If there is any difference, it’s most certainly minor. KTM also spent some time reworking the radiator and bodywork to keep engine heat away from rider.
The styling gets a mild makeover, with a bit of 990 flair. That has subjective appeal, but the 990’s blue-and-orange paint scheme certainly had a lot of fans.
The 1290 R model also gets Rally Mode, similar to the 790 Adventure R. This means the rider can adjust the traction control, throttle sensitivity and ABS while riding. Of course, it’ll come with rain, road and other riding modes as well.
Not for North America just yet?
Why aren’t we giving you all these details in our own video? Because, North America won’t be getting the 1290 Super Adventure R anytime soon, so we haven’t had our hands on a tester. Most of KTM’s 2021 1290 series won’t be here this selling season, although we’d expect some to start showing up in fall. Why the delay? KTM often has a lag delivering its big-bore bikes to North America, and the coronavirus pandemic probably bears some blame as well.