Long-Term KTM 1290 Super Adventure: Electronic Issues and a Bad Battery

A Fault in the Super Adventure’s Stars?

KTM 1290 Super Adventure project bike
The surest sign that winter has come: a flat motorcycle battery.©Motorcyclist

WRIST: Aaron Frank
MSRP (2015): $20,499
MILES: 9,979
MPG: 37
MODS: None

Wisconsin’s winter has been exceptionally mild so far—do I ever remember 60-degree days in December? Finally, just days before the holidays, I was greeted with the surest sign that winter has come at last: a flat motorcycle battery. I suspected the instrument panel was looking a little dimmer lately upon start-up, but I had been blaming it on the extra-dark winter sky, until I turned the key and nothing happened. The Super Adventure’s been living on the Battery Tender since, but with resting voltage hovering around 11.6 according to the digital dashboard readout, it’s clearly time to replace the OEM battery.

The flat battery also may or may not explain some strange electrical behavior I experienced just days before. Immediately upon starting the bike, I was greeted first with a suspension-fault warning on the instrument panel, followed immediately by a more ominous “General Failure” screen. Like any good computer repair technician, I simply powered the bike down and restarted and all the faults cleared and everything was good to go again. KTM runs Windows, maybe?

KTM 1290 Super Adventure project bike, digital dash
The Super Adventure’s been living on the Battery Tender, but with resting voltage hovering around 11.6 according to the digital dashboard readout, it’s time to replace the OEM battery.©Motorcyclist

This wasn’t the first time I had seen such rogue warning when starting—or restarting—the bike, especially the failure warning relating to the WP electronic suspension system. Often, if the Super Adventure is anything less than stock-still when you press the starter button—if you’re rolling it around the garage, for instance, or bouncing the suspension—the electronic system won’t calibrate correctly and you’ll see the suspension fault warning, suggesting that e-suspension is off-line and you’re rolling on baseline safety settings. Same thing if you stall the bike in slow-moving traffic and restart quickly while it’s still rolling. This nearly always results in a suspension fault, and sometimes a traction/stability control fault warning, too.

Then there’s that vaguely alarming general failure warning, and other stranger compromises—like the one time I got a headlight failure, when the LED running light wouldn’t illuminate after starting the bike. Not a single one of these faults or failures was ever an actual problem that couldn’t be cleared by simply cycling the ignition, but this is an annoyance—especially the stall/restart situation in heavy traffic, where you might not have the luxury of coming to a complete stop to restart the bike and so find yourself rolling through heavy traffic on a dark, rainy night without the safety net of your electronic rider aids.

KTM 1290 Super Adventure project bike
The next step is to get the Super A into the dealer to see if KTM has updated software running all these systems.©Motorcyclist

It suggests to me that KTM’s various electronic systems might be less refined, if not less robust, than some of the competition. I’ve ridden my BMW R1200GS, for example, nearly twice as far and stalled/snubbed/restarted that bike in every possible condition and I’ve never seen a similar fault or failure warning on that machine. I’m not ready to call this a problem, but I will call it an inconvenience, and a conversation I don’t necessarily want to be having about a $20K-plus super-adventure-bike. Luckily, as the mercury continues to drop, I haven’t had any failure or fault with the Super Adventure’s heated grips or seat—not yet.

The next step is to get the Super A into the dealer to see if KTM has updated software running all these systems. Like a lot of modern bikes, fixes are almost entirely of the digital kind. I hope it’s that easy.

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