So i'm pretty new to the KTM world as I purchased my 1290 a few months ago after putting 60K miles on my old GS. I noticed in the forums a lot of people ask about the off road ability of the 1290, especially compared to a GSA, so I thought I'd put together a half ride report and have review of the two bikes and hopefully answer some questions along the way. Total ride was 2100 miles with about 300 of that being in the dirt. Route was San Francisco-SLO-Palm Desert- Joshua Tree- Mojave trail- Lake Meade- 2 days bouncing around Death Valley. The bulk of the off road was the Mojave trail which was mainly sand, and Death Valley & Lippincott pass which was mainly washboard and rock crawling. The GSA on the trip is a 2012 so not a totally fair comparison to the KTM but it has all the ride modes and the usual farkles. Some pics of the bikes: About the 1290: The bike was completely stock except for TKC 80s and an SW-Motech skid plate. I used the stock panniers. Amazingly, despite some extremely close calls in the sand, I never dropped the bike so I can't speak to how fragile anything is but in general I found the off road ability of the bike to be fantastic. I should also note that i'm a very big guy and my experience wrestling the bike in the sand is probably easier than someone who is shorter or has a smaller frame. For example, getting the bike out of this provided a distinct advantage to my 6'4 frame: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10100132569960618 Offroad: In general I found the KTM to be more manageable off road than the GSA. It felt smaller, lighter up top and the off road traction control is great. I did all the dirt with the drive mode in off road and the suspension in off road. I left ABS in road mode and left the MTC on. to give you a sense of the wheel slip it allows, the traction control was on in the above video. This made the KTM excel in the sand. In the rocks and washboard though, the GSA was better. It simply has more travel and resistance to bottoming and it had more ground clearance and more optionality with the suspension modes. I smacked the skid plate allover the place on the 1290 but only tapped it once when riding the same section on the GSA. I had the preload maxed out for clearance. The engine is also a lifesaver. It can power out of trouble in a way you can't with the GSA. Generally speaking, I found the KTM to be a giant dirt bike but the suspension is super soft so it won't take hits at speed. While this might be preference, I think the GS has an advantage with the linked brakes, especially for technical riding. Interestingly, the KTMs ABS was fantastic in the dirt, whereas the GS you had to turn it off or it wouldn't stop, I just wish KTM took it a step further and really linked them. On road: The KTM wins here. That engine is a freight train. Cruise control is awesome. heated seat is nice to have. Heated grips are so so but more on that later. To give some stats: with knobbies and 70-80 pounds of gear on the bike it topped out at 142 (closed course, naturally), and with cruise set at 90 it will return 33mpg. at 75 it will do 38-39. The GS consistently did 1-2 mpg better and had 30 miles more range with that extra gallon in the tank. The buffeting is brutal but that's all height related. Equipment: TIRES- While i'm glad I had a full knobby in the sand i STRONGLY do not recommend you throw a tkc 80 on the back of this bike. The engine is simply too much for it. I left from the shop that put the tire on to start the trip and 2100 miles later it's almost showing the cords (i'll get a photo later). Granted there was a lot of full throttleness going on but that's kinda the point of this bike so the tire should keep up. The KTM wore the 80 at twice the rate of the GS being ridden at the same "pace". I think the move is to put a K60 on the rear and tkc80 on the front. SKIDPLATE- absolutely necessary. no exceptions. I came down on it hard, a lot. running down gravel roads you could hear shit pinging off the plate that would otherwise be the engine case. very necessary addition. PANNIERS- lot of talk about these being weak. Each one weighed about 30 pounds and ran down a gravel road at 60 mph and survived bouncing over big rocks. The mounting was fine but I did find problems with the latches. They suck. I couldn't get them to both click in without 5 minutes of messing with them. Also, both latches need to be engaged to get the key to turn so you can remove the case. Bad design as I know have a case stuck on the bike. Problems/Reliability/Annoyances Lets start by saying the GSA was bulletproof. was crashed 4 times and still not single nick or issue on it. The KTM.. well sorta. Hit rain in San Louis and once the bike was soaked it threw a "General Failure" warning. stayed on until the rain cleared up. The heated grips come and go. Can't figure out why. sometimes they are scorching hot and other times barely luke warm. The windshield developed an annoying squeak. The fork clunk everyone talks about is super annoying in tight technical stuff. I wish it had linked brakes. Loaded up, being ridden aggressively on the canyon roads the fork dive was pretty noticeable, even in street mode. The mother of all complaints though is THE DAMN CHAIN SLAP. oh my good god was that awful. i adjusted and adjusted but nothing helped. Here is sound byte for ya (the clacking is the chain): https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10100132578493518 I'm hoping that there will be some aftermarket solution here at some point. C'mon Touratech.. you know you wanna charge some obscene amount of money to fix this for us. The chain also stretched a lot during this ride. Obviously not a reliability thing but you should plan to make adjustments to it in the course of a trip this long (2100 miles).. and yes, your fellow GS rider will sit and drink beer while he watches you crawl in the dirt trying to line up marks on the swing arm. The 1290 is a blast on the road and it's just as capable as a GSA off road. However i did think the GSA's suspension could handle being ridden faster. I would have liked to try the dirt without all the gear on the back but it's capable to doing technical stuff (never looks as hard on video): https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10100132581457578 More pics: Haven't done a full inspection on the bike yet to see if there is anything i'm missing. I"ll take more photos and post up. Was an awesome trip- everybody needs to go ride in Death Valley. Just an amazing place.