KTM1290R 2022 at Night

KTM 1290 Super Adventure R or S? The Tale of Two Twins

Being an engineer is sometimes a curse. I can’t buy anything on a whim, I have to ponder my options, consider the pro’s and con’s, sample the market, take some advice. It’s applicable to the majority of all my purchases but especially true for motorbikes.

How to Replace a Trusted Friend?

Now, I was in the possession of a much loved but slightly high mileage KTM but my daily commute was piling on the miles. Unsurprisingly all the consumables needed replacing. A proper effort to refresh it with a mountain of new OEM parts ended in a previously discussed debacle. Maybe this is a sign: Perhaps I should ignore the financial impact of buying a new bike and re-open the internal discussion? A bit of ‘man-maths’ is a God send. So, a new objective was on the cards.

It’s Been Emotional…

Part of the process is to road-test the selection of suitable bikes. This happened over a number of weekends. The conclusion was the Ducati Multistrada V4S was the nicest bike to ride. However, it was mighty expensive. My daily riding profile racks the miles up it would result in an absolute plunge to the floor of any residuals. It really wasn’t that much better than my current Super Adventure, once you had got past the fact that you were on a £20K Ducati with a rather nice engine.

More of the Same

So with this conclusion the hunt is now one for a new KTM Super Adventure. First task: Find a dealer who would px my leggy KTM. Having ridden the new KTM1290 previously on one of their demo days meant that I knew what the Super Adventure-S rode like. Finding one in either black/orange or orange/black colour combo wasn’t too much of a problem, they were available at all the dealers. However, I wasn’t really interested in the active suspension or the active cruise control on the -S. Perhaps the adjustable suspension and no ACC on the-R was an option? The problem was finding one: Not all dealers had them, they were imported in limited numbers. Then if  they did have a demonstrator, it would be on knobbly tyres. Hmm, maybe I should park the -R idea?

Hunt the Bike Shop

The next task was to find a dealer. The demise of the Coventry dealer left me with the Birmingham crew as the next potential. I had previous with these guys. They weren’t interested in my high-mileage BMW R1200GS when I wanted px it for my current bike. On top of that when they did service my 2018 KTM they forgot to change the brake fluid. This despite me paying extra to get it done! Not very inspiring, I didn’t even bother to contact them.

The next nearest was in Gloucester. A bit far but I’d heard reasonable things about them. Further afield was Oxford. Even further away but they had a healthy stock of bikes. Furthermore they seemed to have some direct route into KTM UK if you looked at their stock of nearly new pre-loved bikes.

Time to Talk Turkey

Contact was made with both and complimentary pictures of the bike sent for px figure. Both dealers offered me reasonable px  price. Actually, they were very disappointing px values but I’m getting used to those with my high mileage bikes and I was offsetting this cost with the need for a proper refresh. Next step is to ride down, let the dealer see the bike in all its glory and then we can discuss the “cost to change”, a must less painful phrase “to how much is it going to cost me from you low ball px offer to you brand new price”. An appointment is made and I’m all set for the next step.

Saturday morning arrives. Five minutes after opening I am outside Gloucestershire’s finest KTM emporium on a freshly cleaned Super Adventure. Through door and into an employee free showroom. Clearly they’re giving me space to have a mooch at the stock. 15mins of mooching and I’m feeling a bit lonely. I go upstairs to the service desk. The chap on the phone breaks off his conversation and says that he’ll send someone down to deal with me. I gave it two minutes downstairs and then went outside into the autumnal sunshine. I was starting to overheat in my bike gear!


Ten minutes more pass. Finally the assistant manager comes out and starts to look over my bike. To ease the mood I engage in a bit of general banter. It takes him all of five minutes to go around the bike. Then he says that he needs to discuss the matter with the boss. Which confused me, as I’d already had an extended conversation with him the day before. Ok, so maybe they had been over generous with their px offer on the basis of the photographs. Surely though we could work out a deal with the purchase of the new bike?  Nope, didn’t want to talk about that either!!

I’ve been used to be being completely blanked when I was chatting up girls in my youth, but this attitude is something I haven’t experienced since my first motorcycle buying experience 10 years ago. Then a dealer wouldn’t offer me a sensible px on my Yamaha 125. Not even when I uttered the phrase ‘I’ve got the money burning a hole in my pocket’. Oh well, seems like this dealer’s a wash out, onto plan B.

Upwards and Onwards

Plan B was to ring the dealer in Oxfordshire. Then confirm that the sales manager was there and he had the opportunity to have a discussion about my px on  a new bike. With a positive to this conversation, it was a quick call to the Financial Controller to confirm the change of plan.  This done I plotted a course across the Cotswolds to Witney. The pace of this journey was somewhat coloured by the first dealer experience: Suffice it to say there wasn’t much that wasn’t overtaken! Using the rudimentary KTM sat-nav meant I arrived without nothing more than a minor detour.

Premier Bikes is situated on the corner of a junction with a big purpose built showroom that they share with Triumph. Approaching it and you see a nice selection of bikes outside the showroom window. What’s that I spot in a sea of orange and black?  Would that be white and blue 1290R?! Oh; that’s thrown a proverbial spanner in the works! I must be strong: I’ve come for a 1290S!

Love at First Sight?

I stash my helmet in my top box and wander across to the showroom entrance, casting a lingering glance at the 1290R. The sales manager is busy with a customer when I go in but says that he’ll be with me as soon as he can. I suppose that give me a chance to go outside and look at the stock. In truth this means I go outside and look at the 1290R.

The KTM 1290 Super Adventure R. Pretty Bike…

What I hadn’t notice initially was that this example was on road tyres rather than knobblies. These are the tyres I would be on IF I bought one. I must have missed this critical feature whilst I was admiring the dark electric blue paintwork. It looked fantastic; contrasting with the white tank mouldings and orange flashes. The rest of bike was looking very promising from an aesthetic point of view. I wonder what it rides like??

Try Before You Buy

The sales manager comes out and we go an look at my bike. He takes a very pragmatic approach to its condition but agrees that he’d stand by his px offer. Success ! So, we make our way back to his desk passing the 1290R. At this point I impulsively asked if I could take it out for a test quick ride. Unfortunately, it was customers bike and he didn’t want a load of miles stacking on it. Too much affect on the residual. My response was that if he let me ride it down to the end of the lane and back (about 3miles), I’d know if it was the bike for me or whether I should stick to my 1290S plan. He agreed, I grabbed crash helmet whilst he sorted out the paperwork. A quick signature I’m ready to ride the 1290R, even though it has a £1000 excess.

The first thing you notice is that its noticeably taller than my current S. The suspension is softer and the rally screen is not as effective as the road screen. However the R still rides beautifully: Pulls like a steam train and looks fabulous. Ooh God. I think I’m slightly smitten.

Time to Sign!

Back to the sales manager. His first question is:

‘What do you think?’

I respond with

‘let’s go and have a chat’

We talk about my bike first and what extras it has and what I’d like on my next new bike. Now he pulls up the configurator. My sensible head starts us looking at the 1290S. We soon end up a price with all the add-ons and discount. The figure quoted was what I was expecting. However, seeing as the configurator was open, lets run the process again and see what the number is on the 1290R! It seems a bit childish not to and it would niggle me forever if I didn’t know!

Watch for the Small Print

As you might expect I would need to pay for a set road tyres rather than the knobblies the bike comes with as standard. In addition I need two KTM power part seats rather than one as the 1290R comes with a single  seat configuration. Not a big problem, KTM standard seats are rock hard: I’d need one anyway and it was always going to be heated in any case.

So, what was the total cost differential between the S and R? Including the list price difference comes out to about £1k extra.

Consider Your Real Needs

Whilst I pondered this information, the Sales Manager asked me a couple of questions;

Do I ever go off-road ? No

Do I spend all my time riding on tarmac roads? Yes

Do you do lots of miles? Yes

Do you use your cruise control? Not really

Go with Your Gut Now and Then

His advice was that the 1290S was ideal for my rider profile, even if I didn’t really need the ACC. However, I couldn’t get over how much of a smile I had when I rode the 1290R. This in spite of the compromises I knew about. I also didn’t want to ride another ubiquitous bike: Even though the 1290S is rare in comparison to a BMW GS, it’s still the common and garden variety. I needed the bird of paradise with its blue and white plumage. The engineer in me got kicked to touch! Heart over ruled head! I placed the order for the 1290R with all the trinkets and to hell with the cost!

I Love a Happy Ending

Collection was the following week and I booked the first 600mile service for the following week. The bike is now one year old and just about to go for its annual service with just 4k miles on it. I’m still smiling riding it and the engineer in me has conceded that it was a good decision.

Words: Stuart Holliday

Pictures: Stuart Holliday and Tony Donnelly