KTM 1290 Super Adventure S – The Life and Times of a Crazy Austrian

It has been a while since I did a running report on my mighty 1290 Super Adventure. My KTM has been my faithful daily transport to and from work racking up 200 – 300 miles a week. All without much issue apart from the usual servicing and fuel any bike would need. The odometer is now showing 33,000 miles. Not bad for a four  year old bike. I get a sense of  shock and  horror from FWR’s when I mention the mileage.

Man and machine in harmony. Isn’t that a hairspray?

The bike continued to prove to rapid transport on A roads and dual carriageway roads in the main. I wont mention my Banzai approach to high speed filtering,  but having a super bright LED headlamp is very useful to alert drivers: Assuming they’re not playing on their phones. It’s comfy on poorly surfaced B-roads and reasonably manoeuvrable in an urban setting, accepting the fact that it’s a physically big bike with a lumpy V-twin engine.

Unsurprisingly its not all plain sailing….

One morning, the “Ready to Race” button decided to not work which left the bike completely incapacitated. Not even a flashing LED! Thankfully, it happened in the garage at home so the bike was safe. A quick call the KTM assistance resulted in the local recovery mechanic coming out and reviewing the problem. In spite of trying to dissemble the switch surround (he went further than I did) but we agreed that it was unresolvable in-situ and recovery to the dealer was required. Unfortunately, he didn’t come in a suitable van so his colleague was called and he departed.

So, a couple of hours later the colleague arrives in a suitable vehicle and we start to try and remove the bike. However, as the button was not working, the steering lock could not be disengaged! This in turn meant that it would only track in a large radius arc. This wouldn’t have been a problem but the bike was next to classic car and there was a high possibility that we would have run out of space and damage the car. At this point he wasn’t prepared to take the risk, advised me that I’d need to call KTM assist again to get a specialised bike transport company to come out and collect the bike and promptly left !! Useful. A disgruntled call to KTM Assist resulted in a promise to send out a more dedicated operative would be with me tomorrow: Doubly useful, not.

A New Day Dawns

The following day, with the new guy, a bit of planning and the deft manipulation of the bike on the side stand, between the two of us we man-handled the bike into the van. Once strapped in off  it on its merry way. I ring the dealer to forewarn them and returned to my kitchen table so that could continue to WFH.

The next day, I give the dealer a call to find out about progress, to be told the bike hadn’t arrived !! Now slightly perplexed and panicking that the bike had evaporated, I ring KTM Assist again. Turns out the guy who collected the bike was on holiday that day and the bike wouldn’t be delivered until the following day. Good job this isn’t my primary transport for work then isn’t it. FFS

After three days the bike finally arrives at the dealers. However not before the transport guy had snapped the grab rail by lifting the whole weight of the bike on it. In fairness the offending part was replaced at his cost. The dealers diagnosed a faulty switch and ordered a replacement from Austria. A week later I collected it from the dealers and normal service resumed.

Feeling the Pressure

Whilst riding home one summer evening the TPMS warning flashed up to warn of a pressure drop in the rear tyre. Thankfully, I wasn’t too far from home so with a level restraint, something I’m not known for, I nursed the bike home. Removing my helmet so I could investigate further resulted in a “hiss” greeting my ears. No, its not my Tinnitus from driving classics for years. Clearly, the TMPS is working and it must be a big hole if the leak is audible. Sure enough once I’d spun the rear wheel around a suitably big hole duly appeared.

Crisp, well presented information allows you spot flashing warnings with ease

The following day I wheel the bike out onto the drive to give it a clean before removing the rear tyre to get a new one. It’s a much nicer job if all the road grime is removed. Easy up onto the centre stand and washing commenced. All was going well and the cleaning complete, I knocked the bike off the centre stand and onto the side stand prior to wheeling it into the garage to remove the wheel. I settled the bike on the stand, released my grip to move the hose pipe out of the way to make a clear path and promptly watched my bike topple over!

More Damage

B@lls. It landed with a crash on the drive-way. The hand guard shattering into a thousand pieces. With my rage induced super strength I pick the 200Kg bit up and put it back on the centre stand to survey the damage: Hand guard smashed, mark on the wing mirror (thankfully nothing smashed), bent rear brake pedal  and a big scar on the tank side panel. Double B@ll’s!  Back into the garage, ring the dealer to order a new hand guard. The side panel replacement was put on hold whilst I pondered on a local repair at paint shop or wrapping the whole bike.  Finally out came the rear wheel out and off to the tyre shop. A week later the hand guard is in and fitted and the new tyre already had 200 miles on it.

Covid Strikes

Covid brought a drastic change in my riding. Six months with no job meant that the bike sat languishing whilst I hunted for a new position. In the middle of summer I managed to find a temporary job that was not very well paid but better than nothing. The KTM was pressed back into service as my daily transport. Thankfully I have a massive top-box on the bike so I could carry all the gear I need. Whilst I was travelling, I was noticing some hesitation in acceleration Initially I chose to ignore this and nurse the bike along until I got a better paid job so I could afford to get it investigated. The the prime suspect was chain and sprocket which were showing some level of wear at 18k.

Respect the Limit!

Things were going well until early one summer  morning. There I was barrelling along the main road to work: Suddenly I had a lack of forward motion and an easy revving engine. Having coasted to a suitable layby, it was time for an investigation. Well it would appear my suspicions were spot on: The chain had escaped like a python in the night and that would explain the lack of motion.  Another call to KTM assistance (thankfully my policy was still valid!) and the bike was eventually in the back of a van and on its was to the local bike shop. Thankfully it was still open.

They ordered a new DID chain and sprocket kit and I returned home to go and get the car and off to work.  Three days later the bike was collected along with a comment that the front sprocket had no teeth on it and I was lucky when the chain came off that it didn’t wrapped around my leg or wreck the crankcase !! Mental note: 15K on an chain and sprocket is the limit !

Keeping it Local

A new job in the autumn brought another change to my riding pattern. Now I had a mere seven mile door to door commute! It took me longer to get changed than riding to work! Clearly, such a short run is not sufficient to charge the battery. Especially if I used the heated grips and seat. So the heated seat was turned off and Fridays turned into ‘Flying Friday’s’ as I did a quick 20mile loop around the back roads to charge the battery. This served to blow the weeks cob-webs out. It seemed to charge the battery but the longer I rode the bike the more crunchy the gear shift was getting.

Pump it Up

It clearly wasn’t a chain and sprocket issue. I assumed that the clutch slave cylinder was on the way out as pumping the lever seemed to improve the situation. A new Oberon cylinder was ordered after a bit of forum surfing and the local guys fitted it one afternoon. All seemed to be ok initially but after a week, the issue returned. I immediately thought that the new cylinder was the problem, so I rang Oberon who were then very helpful and sent out a replacement. Whilst awaiting its arrival, I rang the local boys and booked in a slot for replacement. The replacement duly arrived and the bike was in the workshop and the strip down started. However, when they took the old cylinder off they notice an accumulation of engine oil behind the cylinder. This is feeling like it could get expensive!

They took off the crank case cover and there was a weep from the clutch rod seal. What was happening was that the oil was leaking out of the crank case and into the cavity behind the slave cylinder. This then prevented the cylinder from working properly. Only with the use of excessive lever force could the cylinder rod move by pushing the oil out of the cavity. It might explain the slight oil misting around the cylinder I had noticed. To be honest I’d not paid attention to as it was in the area where front sprocket caused an oil mist build up previously. One partial strip down and rebuild and I was back up and running.

Back on the Long Slog

Another new job in the summer again changed my riding pattern. This time is was a 45min trip along some glorious sweeping A roads and bypasses: Suffice to say I regained my biking mojo. I was  starting to re-profile the very square tyres of the last 12months: My chicken strips were becoming a dying breed.

The bike was absolutely awesome on this sort of going. Pulling fast out of corners on demand, barrelling down the dual carriage ways, stopping with vigour when required and generally looking after me when I over exceeded my talents. The consistency of the route mean I was getting quicker and quicker but still well within the capabilities of the bike.

Unfortunately, all this enjoying myself and using the bike how it should be meant that I needed the 28K service all too soon. Thankfully this is not the big one when they adjust all the valve clearance etc. Whilst it was at the dealers, who were nearly as cheap as the local guys, had a quicker lead time and offered a loan bike, they pointed out that the tyres, chain and sprocket, disc and pads were all getting to the end of their life.

Weighing it All Up

They gave me a quote for replacing everything and I went away to have a ponder. Without the tyres it was nearly £1500 inclusion of  the fitting. This raised the question; could I find a better bike for money. Whilst I was there, I enquired about a new bike. However the PX price offered by the dealer was frankly pitiful! I concluded after some consideration and discussion that refreshing all the parts would be the most cost effective solution.

They’re What!?

Biting the bullet, I ordered all the parts in advance of the two week of the fitment date. A week before the fitment date I rang them to make sure that the parts were in. KTM can sometime be a bit flaky with the parts delivery. I didn’t get an answer. I left a message hoping for a call back. After the weekend, I tried again but no reply so I pinged them an email this time. Still nothing. A couple of days passed and emailed again. Then followed up with another call only to hear ‘Kestrel Motorcycles have now ceased trading, please refer to the receivers for any further enquiries’

Oh No! More than slightly panicked I made some enquiries. It seems that even if they had my parts, which they couldn’t confirm, I was 6 weeks away from getting them.  Assuming I could prove they were mine. Thankfully, I had paid for all the items on my credit card. A a quick call to them resulted in them refunding me and going into battle with the administrators to get the money back.

This gave me a chance to ponder my decision again: Do I continue with the repairs with the other local dealership or the local boys, neither of which inspired me with confidence or do I go for a change??? The decision is a story for another day.

Overall, a Great Workhorse and a Huge Smile Generator

In the 33k miles the bike has been continually awesome. Regularly it caused me to chuckle inside my crash helmet like a naughty school boy. It has done everything that I have asked it to do. Apart from the above minor issues has been reliable in all seasons. In snow, with temperatures down to -7ºC and summers up to 38ºC. In torrential rain, wind and every other permutation between. No, I never did anything than commute on it or even change any of the settings on the bike. Simply there was no need. The KTM was that good.

A dependable, but potent friend

Quality wise, it was top draw apart from the small component failures. The powder coating was going matt on the rear wheel. However in fairness I think that was from me continually trying to clean off the chain oil residue. This being a function of running a Scottoiler. The orange paint on the crank casings had faded too, caused I think by my cleaning regime again. There was a little bit of engine paint lift where a small rock had hit it.

In short it the KTM significantly more reliable and robust than the very popular German rival that I rode previously. For anyone in the market for a upmarket full sized adventure, buy a KTM 1290 Super Adventure. You won’t regret it based on my experiences

Words: Stuart Holliday

Pictures: Stuart Holliday and Tony Donnelly