2020 KTM 1290 Super Adventure Ushers In The Radar Age

Radar-assist tech and a 790 Adventure-inspired makeover for KTM’s range-topping travel bike.

Super Adventure
KTM’s next generation Super Adventure has been spotted on the road in a near finished form.BMH Images

KTM could be in the vanguard of a new wave of radar-based rider-assistance technology when it unveils the 2020 1290 Super Adventure later this autumn. The new bike, which has been spotted on test runs in near-finished form, has been specifically built around a Bosch radar system, which has largely dictated the distinctive new look of the 2020 Super Adventure's front end.

The Super Adventure features a radically oversize headlight, breaking with the current trend for ever-smaller, LED-based units. It dominates the bike’s front end, with most of the fairing’s frontal area covered in glass, and features a prominent, arch-shaped cutout right on the tip of the nose. It would be easy to assume the opening to be an air intake, but closer inspection reveals the distinct shape of a Bosch Mid-Range Radar (MRR) sensor tucked into the opening.

The adoption of the technology comes as no surprise. Last year KTM revealed a prototype, based on the existing Super Adventure R, fitted with the Bosch radar system. It featured the same front MRR sensor unit seen on the 2020 preproduction machines, as well as a secondary, rear-facing radar that’s also believed to be included on next year’s production bike.

Super Adventure with Bosch radar
Tucked within the large opening at the front of the Super Adventure’s fairing is a Bosch radar unit that will monitor traffic ahead of the bike.BMH images

The front radar does most of the work. Monitoring traffic ahead, it allows the 2020 Super Adventure to be equipped with adaptive cruise control. The radar is tied in to the ride-by-wire throttle and the ABS braking system, so the bike can automatically accelerate and gently brake to keep pace with traffic ahead, taking a huge mental load off the rider in highway traffic.

Although it can only brake gently under automatic control, the system is also understood to provide a warning if vehicles ahead suddenly slow or stop, giving the rider a better chance to react. The rear-facing radar is designed to provide similar warnings if there’s a fast-approaching vehicle from behind, as well as acting as a blind-spot monitoring system.

KTM won’t be the only firm with such a system in its 2020 range. Ducati has already confirmed that at least one of next year’s new models will have a similar radar array, and early spy shots of a V-4-powered Multistrada appear to confirm it is one recipient of the system. And since Bosch already supplies the vast majority of bike firms with ABS and traction control systems and is renowned for its open policy of providing its tech to any company that’s prepared to buy it, we can be sure that other companies will be jumping on the radar bandwagon soon.

One thing the 2020 Super Adventure reveals is that there are hurdles to overcome when it comes to packaging the front radar sensor. It needs a clear “view” ahead, so can’t be hidden behind sculpted bodywork and must be attached right at the prow of the bike. KTM appears to be celebrating its existence rather than hiding it, but many modern cars feature glossy, radar-invisible panels in their grilles to hide similar sensors, and we might see the same material appearing on the noses of future bikes as radars become more common.

What Else Is New On The 2020 Super Adventure?

While the radar system is sure to be the main headline-grabber, KTM has been busy elsewhere too.

As it does today, the Super Adventure is expected to appear in wire-wheeled R form and as a more road-oriented S model with smaller-diameter cast alloy rims. The engine is a derivative of the existing LC8 V-twin, but with modifications to meet Euro 5 emissions limits. Since KTM will be keen not to lose any of the 158 hp of the existing Super Adventure and instead to add to the total, the engine’s spec may be closer to that of the 174-hp Super Duke R—another bike that’s expected to be completely revamped for 2020, gaining even more performance in the process.

Whether KTM has stuck to the existing 1,301cc capacity or found a way to increase the LC8’s size to provide the additional power without harming emissions performance remains to be seen.

2020 KTM Super Adventure
A new aluminum subframe and low-sung fuel tank are notable changes on the 2020 KTM Super Adventure.BMH Images

The main frame appears to be similar to the existing Super Adventure’s tubular steel design, but the subframe is a new, aluminum unit, presumably helping to offset any weight gains from the additional equipment and new emissions kit. A new swingarm is also fitted, though as usual the fork and rear shock come from WP, using the firm’s electronically controlled, semi-active kit.

Even if the 2020 Super Adventure is heavier than its predecessor, it’s going to feel lighter to handle because the company has adopted the same fuel system design that debuted on the smaller 790 Adventure, shifting at least part of the fuel capacity into side-mounted tanks mounted low in the front fairing. That should provide additional tank capacity and range while lowering the center of gravity so the bike is easier to manhandle. It also means the seat can be slimmer and lower without sacrificing tank size.

Technology is going to be a major selling point, and not just in the form of the radar. As well as cornering ABS, adaptive suspension, cornering traction control, and a myriad of riding modes, it’s likely that KTM has fitted cornering lights into the main headlight unit of the new Super Adventure—helping to explain its oversize appearance. The current bike’s cornering lamps are separate units, one on each side of the fairing. In line with the current norm, the entire dashboard is a simple, tablet-style color TFT display, with smartphone integration, turn-by-turn navigation, and multifunction bar controls to scroll through the ever-growing number of options. The display will, of course, also include features related to the radar system, including controls for the distance the adaptive cruise control will keep from the vehicle ahead.

KTM is likely to reveal details of the bike along with the rest of its new 2020 models—expected to include a new Super Duke R, the long-anticipated 390 Adventure, and significant revamps for the 390 Duke and RC 390 sportbike—in October or November this year.