300 Miles off road with a 1290 and a GSA..some impressions

Discussion in 'Hard. Core. (1090/1190/1290)' started by sflash868, Jan 31, 2016.

  1. sflash868

    sflash868 Been here awhile

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    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:
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    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:

    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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):

    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):


    More pics:
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    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.
    #1
  2. OJ-J

    OJ-J Chillin

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    Awesome post, pics, and vid clips, thanks! :beer
    #2
  3. sflash868

    sflash868 Been here awhile

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    So did some inspecting under the bike. The skid plate took some hard hits. The impact was strong enough to move the plate just enough to nick the engine case. No hole or anything just an observation that this sw motech plate does deflect a little under a hard hit. I also observed a lot bending and scratches of the trailing edge of the plate. Haven't seen many other plates but I would not buy one that's any shorter than this. If I was just an inch or two less, the exhausts would have taken damage. [​IMG]
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    Finally, here is the rear tire after 2100 miles.
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    #3
  4. FREDO RIDER

    FREDO RIDER Enjoying the path !

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    Nice detailed review. Thanks !
    #4
  5. woodsguy

    woodsguy KTM Aficionado

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    What about over heating in the technical sections? Nice report.
    #5
  6. Finn1969

    Finn1969 Adventurer

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    Awesome write up and detailed review. This is just what a guy like me needs before making a purchasing decision.
    #6
  7. sflash868

    sflash868 Been here awhile

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    Generally, the ambient temperature never really broke the low 70s so it wasn't very hot but the bike's temp gauge never moved once from normal. There was one day in Joshua tree where it was almost 80 and i was stuck in the rocks and sand (it's the video above) and I was revving it and slipping the clutch but the bike's temp was fine. Not only engine temp, I didn't notice heat coming up at me either. I was in a full riding suit which probably shields me from a lot of heat that could be coming from the engine but I never noticed a thing. I did hear the fans going though once or twice. Not sure it would make a difference but i do not have a radiator guard on the bike. Probably flows a little better without one. Wondering if you need one at all, I did a close inspection on the bike and there isn't a scratch on the radiator anywhere.
    #7
  8. Spanner Bonobo

    Spanner Bonobo Been here awhile

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    Ah, this was the review I'd been waiting for. Recently sold my GS for the SA. Haven't done any serious off road yet. Thank-you for taking the time to show this.
    #8
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  9. Barekat

    Barekat Looking to get dirty

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    sflash, thanks for the great videos, pictures and ride reports.

    I get the impression you thought the SA was just Meh... off road primarily because of the soft suspension.

    I've got a ride planned in the spring to Bald Eagle State Forest in PA. I'm about 245# with gear and don't find the suspension bottoms too much. Care to share total load on your trip?
    #9
  10. MX Engineer

    MX Engineer Alta Redshift MXR is the best dirt bike ever!

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    I struggled with the latches on the stock paniers too, until I figured out what they like. They like to be pressed on at 45 deg when you are closing them. Not 0 deg, not 90 deg, but 45. Click... Closed.
    #10
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  11. sflash868

    sflash868 Been here awhile

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    So regarding the bike off-road, I was actually pretty impressed and would narrowly prefer it over the GSA. It was much narrower and it has way less weight up high and was more responsive and a little bit more fun to ride. Regarding the suspension, i didn't think it was too soft necessarily, it was just softer than the available options on the GSA. The "off road" suspension setting was great on 90% of the terrain but you can tell the engineers set it up to make the bike comfortable and forgiving, which is a good thing i think on bike like this. When I got into the technical rocky terrain (which let's be honest- is not really a place these bikes should be very often) i could quickly tell the 1290 really didn't want to be there and GSA felt slightly stronger here (but the KTMs dimensions make it easier to wrestle). I attribute that to the GSA having adjustable preload on the front spring as well as the rear. It's by no means a gripe on the 1290, it's just an observation that KTM engineers set it up to be stronger in other areas. The bike is really good in sand/gravel/dirt roads. The off road traction control and off road drive mode make it handle like a 450. I tried to see how far it would let me go and other than the light on the dash, i couldn't tell the system was intervening. If you hammer it in a corner, it will allow the back end to step out by about 15 degrees before it starts reducing throttle..so it's a lot of fun to play with. For shits and giggles I turned everything off and i ended up going slower.

    As for the weight on my bike, i'm 280 and then we had panniers, clothes (for 2 riders), tools, water etc. probably another 100 pounds. I rode with the preload in 2 plus baggage. In an effort to put some science to the suspension settings, I ran a test on a washboard road by titus canyon. I cranked the tires up to 38 and 42 f/r and would run the washboard at increasing speed until the suspension couldn't keep up and the rear end would drift around. I tried this in street, comfort and then off road. Street- the bike was out of control with MTC coming in around 15 mph. in comfort MTC didn't come in and the front was fine but the rear started to float around 20-23 mph. Off road mode- there was no intervention from the MTC at all and the suspension finally couldn't keep up around 43 mph. From what I could tell, they are mainly changing the rebound rates on the rear shock when you switch modes. Off road setting is quite good but you will notice it gets overwhelmed on damping slow speed larger hits (especially the forks). After I was done playing around with it all, i dropped pressures to 21 and 28 f/r, everything in off road mode, and it ran 60 mph on washboard gravel with no issue.

    The panniers.. I think i figured it out... they need to be slammed. I close the lid half way and then put my hand on the KTM logo on that aluminum piece and give it a quick whack and it closes and locks every time.

    I took a bunch of notes about other stuff but for the life of me I can't figure out where I put it..
    #11
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  12. sflash868

    sflash868 Been here awhile

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    Some photos from day 1. Very first time the ktm touched dirt. Old coast road..[​IMG]
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    #12
  13. Spanner Bonobo

    Spanner Bonobo Been here awhile

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    My panniers were tough to lock. I sprayed the mechanism with a silicon lubricant and now they all, top box included, close and lock easily.

    Sent from my HTC One_M8 using Tapatalk
    #13
  14. sflash868

    sflash868 Been here awhile

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    So just to put somewhat of a visual to what i mean about the suspension btw the two bikes- in my first post there is a video of me getting the ktm unstuck and scrambling up some rocks. Watch that and notice the movement of the suspension.. This video is of me riding the GSA up the same line in its "off road mode". While not the most scientific comparison you see GSA is much less bouncy and is better planted crawling over the rocks.
    #14
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  15. MX Engineer

    MX Engineer Alta Redshift MXR is the best dirt bike ever!

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    The GSA has a Telelever front suspension geometry and linked brakes. No violent nose dives if you use the front brake only.
    #15
  16. Marki_GSA

    Marki_GSA Long timer

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    Any chance you can put the videos that are on Facebook somewhere else? I don't have an account so can't see them.
    #16
  17. gsuks

    gsuks Long timer

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    Can you enlighten me on this
    Because I do not understand what you mean?

    gepost met Tapatalk
    #17
  18. guyfawkes

    guyfawkes Move along, nothing to see here

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    both 1190 and 1290 have linked brakes.
    1290 also has anti dive which also stiffens up the suspension to compensate during hard braking.
    also, afaik, its not possible to use only use the front brake on the GS. Even on the old GS you could ONLY use the rear seperately but the front always also applied the rear.
    downside to the whole shaft drive thing comes into play when riding across lots of ruts as the thing just stiffens up which makes for a very bumpy ride.

    personally i wouldnt take any of the 2 offroad. fat pigs both of 'em no matter which way you paint it.
    #18
  19. sflash868

    sflash868 Been here awhile

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    The 1190 and 1290 do not have linked brakes. They have linked ABS through the Bosch system but that's different and KTM is very misleading in how they market it. When I was saying I wish it had linked brakes, i'm referring to the system on the BMW where the hand brake is the only thing you need to use. It's totally preference and wouldn't matter on a dirt bike, i just preferred the rear being managed and activated for me so that I didn't have to move my foot around or change my balance when standing on a bike that heavy. The ABS and MSC on the bike is so damn good it would be amazing as a truly linked system and for the life of my can't figure out why KTM didn't do it considering everything is already plumbed, they just didn't put the software in. oh well.

    Regarding the anti-dive on the forks, from the research i've done it is only applied in Street mode. Even then, it doesn't mitigate diving the way the paralever does on the Bimmer. I think sometimes (and this is over my skill level) you want dive in the front to facilitate weight transfer to the front tire in aggressive road riding. That's why i read the sport mode does not use anti dive.

    I"ll work on reposting the videos through tapatalk
    #19
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  20. stuza

    stuza Been here awhile

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    Very thorough review, thank you! Wish some pro journalists did as much as you did!

    I must admit though, i'm a bit new to this dual sports stuff but I found the 1190 very top heavy compared to a GSA feeling bottom heavy (and easier for me to balance) so I'm surprised that the 1290 is bottom heavy. Remember though, this was just my noob feeling :)
    #20
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