Long-Term Update: Is the KTM 1290 Super Adventure the Ultimate Commuter?

Our big white machine carves a groove in Milwaukee pavement.

ktm 1290 super adventure, adv
The ultimate Super commuter?©Motorcyclist

WRIST: Aaron Frank
MSRP (2015): $20,499
MILES: 9,434
MPG: 38
MODS: Continental TKC 70 tires

A recent career change you may have read about (see "Goodbye Aaron," Cook's Corner, from the November issue here) has turned me into something I've never been before—a motorcycle commuter. After almost 15 years of working from home, now I wake up every morning to dodge brain-dead cagers during my 20-mile commute into the beige hell of suburban Milwaukee. And I love it.

Yes, it's a little ironic that I ride more now—or at least more regularly—than I did when I was actually paid to ride motorcycles. I made a hard commitment to ride every day, rain or shine—remember, I'm in Wisconsin, and it's fall—and I'm proud to say that, with only one exception, I've ridden the Super Adventure every single day for the past two months. And using a motorcycle for such a purely utilitarian purpose has really changed my perception of what makes a good bike.

adventure touring bikes, adv bikes
Conti's new TKC 70.©Motorcyclist

Call me a poseur, but save for a friend's gravel driveway, this ADV hasn't seen an inch of off-roading (yet). Bash guards be damned, I haven't gone anywhere I couldn't have gone on a Gold Wing and still, after almost 2000 all-paved miles, I can't imagine a better bike for this task (cheaper, maybe, but not better). The upright riding position won't wrinkle your shirt, and the laptop, lunchbox, and office loafers each get their own (lockable) hard bag. (I'm running the Jesse Odyssey side cases and the Trax top box that EIC Cook left on the bike, and I'll have more on those in the next installment.) Also , the monster V-twin makes more than enough power to evade idiot Interstate Instagrammers, and with more convenience features than a Lexus sedan, I'm always coddled too. The whole thing looks built to traverse Baja, but the Super Adventure's true home might be my local Beltline. Now I understand exactly why adventure bikes are so popular, even if most never venture off road.

My all-conditions commuting commitment has also given me a newfound appreciation for wet grip. For years I've attended Continental tire briefings and listened to engineers endlessly ramble about superior wet grip—something we're told is a top priority in European markets, but barely registers with fair-weather riders back here. An uncommonly wet October, and the particular confidence bred from strafing the same 360-degree on-ramp every day for two months, soon saw me railing the nearest cloverleaf at toe-dragging lean angles even in pouring rain. Conti's new TKC 70s ( continental-tires.com; $115-262) look a little like racing-rain tires, and grip nearly as well. Those German engineers weren't kidding, it turns out.

Advertised as a 60/40 (on-road/off-road) skin, the TKC 70s deliver excellent ride quality with none of the extra noise or vibration the last big dualie tire I had significant experience with, Heidenau’s Scout 60, suffered at certain speeds. It remains TBD whether the TKC 70s wear as well as the (exceptionally) long-running Scout 60s, or offer the same off-road prowess—looking at that solid center ridge on the rear, the answer to the latter point is probably no. Except for the slightest tendency for the front tire to hunt a little above 85 mph, however, there’s no significant sacrifice here compared to a pure-street tire. I’m preliminarily calling the TKC 70 an excellent option for riders who want a bit more all-terrain ability with minimal practical compromises. First I’ll have to break my perfect commuter streak and head off-road in order to deliver a fully formed tire report, though. Huh, I guess I’ll have to do that on a weekend.