BMW 1250 GS vs KTM 1290 Super Adventure. I chose the... - Scenic Skip to main content

BMW 1250 GS vs KTM 1290 Super Adventure. I chose the…

By 07.12.202023 Comments

As some of you might know, I’ve been investigating what my next motorcycle would be for many months now. Last month, in an effort to help me choose, I compared 9 of the best adventure motorcycles against each other. The result of this comparison was that the Yamaha Tenere 700 would be the best bike for me, followed by the KTM 790 (or 890) and the BMW R 1250 GS as a close second.

Well… I’m happy to report that finally, after many months of contemplating, visiting dealerships, test rides, spreadsheet comparisons, etc… I made my choice. Here’s me riding out of the dealership on my brand new KTM 1290 Super Adventure R 🙂.

Why on earth?

OK, so, this requires some explanation I guess. 🙂 Why on earth would I chose this bike, while I claimed to be looking for a lighter, middle weight adventure bike? Why did I chose this bike, when I said that I could just as wel get a BMW 1250 GS in that case? Well… let me try to explain (and rationalise it for myself as well) with these reality bending arguments that I’m about to lay out. 😉

Image and Looks

First of all, and this is, I believe, the most important reason: Its image and looks! Even while I was looking at the KTM 790 in the dealership, I found myself glancing at KTM’s flagship bike. It just demands respect because of its size, height, alien like headlight and beautiful and rugged looks. Yes, I will admit it, part of me bought this bike because of its hard core adventure image! While the 1250 GS shares that image, the BMW also has a bit of a ‘middle-aged guys with grey hair’ image. And even though I am middle aged with grey hair, I’m not willing to admit to that just yet 😃.

My riding

A very important second reason is that I had to be truthful to myself about what kind of riding I have done in the past and how much that would really change. I had to conclude that a lot of it would be pavement (even though there are plans in the works for off-road camping trips). For that kind of riding, with lots of highway stretches and fast winding roads, a big bike is just more comfortable. The 1290 gives just that, while still having the capabilities for some serious off-roading, albeit less nimble.


Thirdly, and this is the reason that sealed the deal for me… KTM had a very generous discount on the KTM 1290 Super Adventure models. Basically I got the 1290 SAR for around the same price as the KTM 1090 Adv R, the BMW 850 GS, the Honda Africa Twin and probably even the new KTM 890 Adventure R. No doubt this is because the 1290 will receive a huge upgrade next year. None the less, a great deal!

Why not the BMW 1250 GS?

So finally, why did I not go for the BMW 1250 GS in that case? Well, two reasons! First, Price! A BMW 1250 GS (not the GS Adventure mind you) with similar trim level as the KTM, would be 125,000 Mexican pesos (that’s over 6,000 USD) more!!! Sure, the BMW’s fit and finish is better than KTM’s, but definitely not 6,000 USD better! Secondly, I didn’t like the way I was treated by the local BMW dealer here in Queretaro. I could have gone with the BMW dealer in Mexico City, Satelite, where I was treated very well, but that’s about three hours away, which would be a hassle with service and maintenance.


I had one big reservation when I decided for this bike. Its weight!!! There’s no getting around it… with 240kg / 528 lb it’s a heavy bike. A bit lighter than the 1250 GS, but still a lot heavier than the T7 and the 790 I first had in mind. I was afraid of its off-road handeling and that I would not be able to pick it up by myself.

Well… I found out… FAST!!! On the first ride around the neighbourhood, on the same day I picked up the bike, I decided to confront my fears and take a small off-road stretch I knew. Maybe I should have given it some more time to get used to the bike, because, after 5 minutes off-road… this happened:

I must admit I had to laugh a bit when I dropped the bike. How did I manage to drop this bike on the first day of ownership? That would be some story to tell… some day. Luckily it was at low speed and I didn’t get hurt, but how was I going to pick it up? There was no-one around to help me, so I decided to just give it a try. I had watched some videos on how to do this so I kinda knew the theory: First, put out the side stand and put it in gear, preventing it to fall down on the other side or start rolling. Then, after two tries, I was able to pick it up using this technique that Bret Tkacs explains in his video.

I expected to be upset with myself for dropping the bike on my first ride, but honestly, I wasn’t. I was actually glad it happened. I knew I was going to drop the bike sooner or later, so why wait? 🙂.

So now I have learned that I can pick up the bike by myself, and, except for some ‘battle scars’, the bike is fine.

Still happy after 4 weeks of ownership?

I can answer this with a very clear YES. And I hear you thinking…”of course he’s going to say yes… who would say NO after just purchasing an expensive bike like that“. Well…. I would! To put it in perspective: I have owned many bikes in the past and with all of them I had some degree of regret or at least disillusion after the first weeks. Not the case with this bike!!! That being said, if you are considering this bike there are some things you need to be aware of:

Smiles for miles

Every time I ride it, it brings a smile on my face. The beastly power of its engine, the superb suspension that soaks up every bump in Mexico’s terrible asphalt, its containership-like stability at higher speeds, its demanding presence on the road, the way that cars move out of the way because of the alien headlight in their mirror, the way that pedestrians look at the bike when I ride by, the comfort that the electronics bring (yes, I even love the keyless ignition which I thought I would hate), the smooth acceleration through the quick shifter, etc. etc. In short, I finally get what every KTM owner means when they say ‘Smiles for miles’.


At 5’10” (1,79m) with a 32″ inseam, I’m not the tallest guy. I’m on my tiptoes on both sides. By shifting my bum a bit I can flatfoot it on one side. This takes a little bit of getting used to, but there are some tricks for it, which all come down to anticipating. For example:

  • I use the foot pegs (left or right) to get on the bike
  • It’s hard to move the bike when I’m sitting on it, so what I do now is role the bike in ‘ride away’ position before I get on it. Then simply put it on the side stand, climb on the bike, shift my bum to the right and put foot on ground, kick up the stand and ride of.
  • When nearing a stop sign or traffic light, or any other situation that requires me to stop, especially when it’s on an incline, I lean my bum left or right (I’ve practiced both sides) and flat foot it on that side. I make sure the bike is in first gear before I set my foot on the ground.
  • If I need to switch my supporting foot (the one that’s on the ground) I can ‘hop’ from one side to the next.
  • There are some more advanced techniques for shorties, as shows here in this MotoTrek video, which I’m planning on practicing


I guess we already covered the dropping the bike part. Yes, it’s a heavy bike, but it’s not impossible to pick up by yourself. At least not for someone of my size. I can imagine though, that for some folks, the weight might become a deal braker.

As for walking the bike around… like the height thing, this takes some practice and getting used to. With such a tall and heavy bike it’s most important to keep the bike as balanced as possible. In other words, do not let it become top heavy by allowing it to lean too much left or right. Keep it upright by making small and early adjustments. That way you can use most of your strength to move it forward or backward, which becomes quite easy that way.

Wind noise

Before I bought the 1290 SAR, I already knew it was notorious for wind noise. I too experience this. I’ve had worse bikes from this perspective, and it’s not unbearable with earplugs in, but to say its comfortable would be a lie. As I wrote in the past, wind noise in motorcycle helmets is influenced by many many things and in the end comes down to doing some trial and error to find the setup that works best for you. Currently I have a taller windscreen in the mail which I will give a try.

Engine heat

Engine heat is also one of the known issues of the KTM 1290 Super Adventures. I read about it before I bought the bike, and actually experienced it during my test ride of the 1290 SAS. It’s definitely not a deal breaker though and there are even some accessories that can help deflect the heat. I don’t feel I need such a deflector just now. However we are in fall/winter, so perhaps in the future I might install one.

The S or the R?

If there’s one doubt I have had, it’s that I might have chosen the wrong model of the KTM 1290 Super Adventure. The S being the more on-road oriented bike, it has electronic suspension, alloy rims and a 19″ front wheel in stead of the R with its spoked rims and 21″ front. The S steers a bit faster due to the smaller wheel. On the other hand the R is easier off-road due to that bigger wheel. So, it depends on the kind of riding you will do.

Al final

In the end I’m happy with the R. The suspension is more adjustable and if I ever feel the need (I don’t think I will), I can put a 19″ front on it. Plus, the R just looks more bad ass compared to the S 😉.

Let the farkling begin

To me, farkling my bike, is almost as much fun as riding it. I just love scouring the internets, looking for accessories that might improve comfort and usability of the bike. I don’t do performance related upgrades that much (who needs more performance with this bike anyway?), but I love to look at luggage options, lights, mounts, windshields, etc. So…stay tuned for my farkle and accessory updates in the future!



Independent Developer of ScenicApp


  • Terry Ash says:

    I just picked up an S for $5K off in the US and love it. I have a 690 for dual sporting so this beast will be tarmac only. Looking forward to hearing about your farkles … I’ve got a wings exhaust, wings head shields by my legs, and touratech panniers – all excellent. Congrats and enjoy the big R!

    • Guido says:

      Congrats on the SAS! I’m already working on some farkle articles 🙂. How’s the heat shield? Do you notice any difference?

      • Troy T says:

        I live in a warm climate and you can really feel the heat from the bike when the temp gets to about 85 degrees and up, which is about 9 months out of the year here in Southern California.

        I wondered if I could live with it.

        I put on the OEM insulated rear header, from the T I think, got the Wings heat shields and also one of those Coolseats (a net like seat cover). Heat isn’t an issue anymore. Totally something I can live with and I don’t really think about it anymore.

        For the wind noise, the Givi sport screen worked for me, I’m about your height. Now it’s the quietest bike I’ve owned. The Givi Touring screen works better but I have to look through it so I went back to the sport.

        Like you I learned to live with the height and weight and now it’s not as much of an issue. What a bike! For me, such a great tourer and I got it new for $14k.

    • Guido says:

      Cool! (pun intended 🙂). I’ve now ordered a Chinese version of those heat shields. Will see how they work. If not sufficient I’ll move to the insulated header.
      I have the Givi Short screen in the mail. It’s coming from Italy (I live in Mexico) so takes a while. I saw a YouTube video from a guy with good results on it. Very good to hear you share that opinion and being similar height.
      Thanks very much for reporting back!!

  • Benoit Philips says:

    That’s exactly the same thinking process I used to opt for this marvelous machine in 2017. After more than three years, there is no small regret ever.

    And with my scenic app on top, I’ve done 40.000 km with my 1290SAR.

  • Marc Grossman says:

    I just don’t understand why no one ever takes Ducati’s Multistrada Enduro seriously?! It is truly the most underrated big ADV bike out there! I guess I should be happy though as I love the look of astonishment on my friends faces as clean a rock garden or pass them on the inside doing a track day!

    • Guido says:

      I looked at them briefly (on paper). On-road reviews are mostly raving. Off-road however it seems to be a bit less capable (still plenty capabele don’t get me wrong) compared to GS and definitely the KTM. Often times it’s denoted as a sports tourer rather than an adventure tourer because of that. Wether that’s justified, I honestly don’t know, but most journalist seem to agree. That, and the Ducati reliability reputation combined with high service and maintenance costs, made me not look any further. In hindsight I should have at least given it a try. I like the look. The new v4 model is definitely very promising too!

  • Brodie says:

    As for the farkles, add a Pelican case under the license plate, it’s a great place for the first aid kit!

    • Guido says:

      Will have a look at that. I removed the canister… (required for Euro 4 compliancy) with this video: (be sure to watch to the end for a crucial step!!!)… now has space under the seat for first aid kit and tire repair kit. Will write a small blog article on that.

  • Keep Moving says:

    So much for the careful planning, test rides and spreadsheet. The heart, and maybe $, always wins 🙂

  • Alan Pratt says:

    Congrats Guido. Sometimes, you just need to go with the bike that moves your soul, as irrational as it may seem. I hope you have many happy years on your KTM.

  • Raymond Gagne says:

    Does that mean you are going to bring Adv Riding features to Scenic? That would be fantastic.

  • Gustavo Goubaud says:

    I just bought an S in Canada and the winter is not over yet, but couldn’t wait anymore. Is still at the dealership but can’t wait to ride it.

  • David R says:

    I had a very similar purchasing experience for my 1290 S. I had my eyes set on a mid adv but when I went to the dealer to just “look” I kept eye balling that 1290. I too, “dropped” my bike but it was the next day, in the rain and going about 40 mph. Things broke but I got them replaced and I left some scars as a reminder the bike isn’t brand new so stop babying it.

    After riding it for a season I still don’t regret it one bit. The one thing people may not realize is a comfortable bike will expand your riding area simply because it’s more comfortable to ride on the highway. I don’t mind slabbing it for an entire day to get somewhere I rarely go. On my previous bike, I hated to ride more than 3 hours on the highway.

    I also ride off road but realized that 500+ lb bikes have their limitations even if you have dirt bike experience. The R model can clearly be ridden harder on dirt (just look up ariemann1 or Chris birch on youtube) but if you want any bike to be that capable in dirt, you need a knobby which you won’t want to slab on all day long. But hey, the 1290 is big enough to carry a set of tires lol.

    I’m glad your happy with your purchase though. The bike really does excite my soul and that’s really what’s it’s about.

    • Guido says:

      So good to hear that long term owners are not regretting their purchase either. I’m still very happy too. Smiles for miles 🙂. Very true about the highway miles. Currently a bit of a bummer though. It’s at the dealer as I’m experiencing a low speed (80 km/h) wobble. Seems to be a common problem for the R model and also some older KTM models: . They can hopefully fix it or reduce to acceptable level, otherwise this would rain on my parade quite a bit.

  • Gonzalo says:

    I feel i am in the same situation you were in. I thought I wanted a Tenere but the Africa twin looks better and has more stuff. It may be an image thing but i also ride more often on highways, not much off road.

    What do you think about the Africa twin?

    • Guido says:

      The AT was one of the bikes I considered in my “9 adventure bike” comparison I link to at the start of this article. Have a look at that if you didn’t already see it. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of these bikes really. They are all good. In the end it depends on where you ride and what you give priority too. There is no perfect does it all bike. Comfort vs weight, off-road vs on-road capability, electronic rider aids vs ease of DIY fixes / service, etc.

  • Alan Jones says:

    I own the adventure s as I only ride on road and I ride often with sportive riders . Great touring machines .
    Very different beast to the R model in sport mode .
    Although these mammoth sized heavy adventure bikes are still pretty scary off road especially if you drop it unless your a very experienced off roader.
    Stay safe have fun with your new bike.

  • Ben says:

    HI Guido, great review, very interesting to hearr about your change of heart for the 1290 R. I was thinking of getting an 890 R and now super tempted by a 1290R instead. You available on email to share more about your thoughts on this bike?Ben

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