I've had the 1290 GT for a few months now and I guess this review can serve as my introduction. Hopefully it will help out anyone who's interested in getting a GT, I certainly relied on info from owners to inform my decision. Sorry, it's a bit of a long read.
For reference I'm 6'0" and 81kgs, a rider for 15 years. My previous bike was a 1200 Aprilia Caponord and I'd had a GSX-R 1000 and other super bikes before that. I don't commute and my bike is purely a weekend fun machine for me. That said, I do 10-12K kms a year. I stick to country roads and my bikes only find themselves on freeways if I've %$^ed up the navigation. I loved the comfort and practicality of the Caponord but, after owning superbikes before, ended up missing the raw power of those bikes. As soon as I heard about the GT for the first time, my interest was piqued. It sounded like the bike I'd been looking for for years. So what is it like to own?
This engine is just awesome! It's pretty much guaranteed to have you grinning from ear to ear whenever you open up the throttle. It would have to be the best engine for the street of any of the bikes I've ever ridden. It isn't a low reving twin though, to get it moving you want to have that tach spinning a bit.
It might be a monster but it's a monster that does exactly what is asked of it. The kind of small throttle openings that often cause an issue with injected bikes are taken in stride. Mine stays in Sport mode for anything other than the most torrential of downpoars. It is a great mix of performance and character in a package that's also easy to live with.
I was pleasantly surprised by the fuel range on the GT. I would have thought the engine wouldn't be that fuel efficient but getting 400kms out of a tank is easily done, even when having fun with it.
The quickshifter works well in a range of scenarios. First to second can be clunky at moderate revs/throttle but it's a big twin and I don't think that should be unexpected. I'd always just use the clutch in this scenario anyway. Sure, I'd love a downshift blipper function but this bike does have pretty much everything else. Like many I found the bike didn't like going from 1st to neutral when new, now the bike's run in this no longer happens.
The GT's brakes are powerful and have great feel. Definitely capable of simulating the feeling of hitting a wall. Initially my bike wasn't quite as sharp as the one I'd test ridden. I had the dealership bleed the system and we were back in business. The sheer stopping power combined with a very stable chassis under hard braking is quite confidence inspiring.
Traction control and ABS are both top notch. I've spent a bit of time deliberately pushing these systems (as much as I dare anyway) and found they just can't be faulted.
I'll run through the different suspension modes separately but one thing they all have in common is that the bike does soften as things bed in. It takes around 1,000kms for this to happen. When brand new, the GT's suspension is a little stiff.
Comfort setting is the closest to the dynamic dampening the Caponord had. This was one of that bike's strongest points. I'd have to say the Caponord did this a little better, the suspension seemed to be faster to react to changing surface quality and smoothed out bumps better, while still retaining good handling. That's not to say the GT is bad but it's just not class leading.
The street setting is a good compromise between handling dynamics and comfort. You'll feel the road well but you won't get bashed around by bigger hits. This is the sweet spot for me most of the time.
Sport is fantastic - provided the roads you're on are good quality. It is pretty firm and doesn't handle the pock-marked roads we have all over Australia as well as street mode. It definitely feels like having a firmly sprung sports bike and active elements of the suspension don't filter out the hits from sharp bumps. When the roads get really bad, you're much better off in street even if your focus is handling above all else. It can also get a bit fatiguing over the course of a long day if left in this mode.
I tend to use comfort or street mode in the suburbs and a mix of street and sport as soon as I hit the back roads. When I'm going through twisties I know to be smooth, I'll switch to sport.
I wasn't sold on the menu/switching system at first but, having used it for a while and set up my favorites, I'm finding it quite practical. Heated grips are the setting I switch the most and by having them as the first favorite, I can cycle through the levels using only a single button. Why the Heating portion of the favorites screen always shows as 'On', irrespective of settings is a bit of a mystery though. It's all pretty intuitive and, once you're used to it, can be done on the move with minimum of hassle.
The screens show a great level of detail and it is all very easy to read. Australian conditions throw a couple of curve balls here though. The main screen can throw some pretty annoying reflections when the sun is behind you and at a particular angle. As well as making it impossible to read, it can be distracting even when not looking at the dials. I plan to buy an anti-glare film designed for a tablet screen and cut to size to see if this will resolve it. Much less of an issue is the left hand screen. If the bike is left with the screen in direct sunlight on a summer's day, the screen will fade and take about 10 mins to get back to normal. Bear in mind these are both very situational.
I had cruise control on the Caponord but never utilized it due to poor implementation. The GT is miles better, even though it might have been better to have the button on the left handlebar. Seems to hold speed well once set but I haven't used it much, simply due to the type of riding I do.
Even the 60 min test ride was enough to let me know the stock seat wasn't going to be good enough. The shape of the seat, combined with lack of padding meant it made the inside of my thighs sore pretty quickly. I ordered the Powerparts Ergo seat with the bike and the extra padding in this area makes it much more comfortable. I don't have much padding on my legs, so your mileage may vary. The ergo seat is a bit higher than the stock as well which provided me with a little extra room for my legs around the tank cutouts. I notice the extra height when stopped but it is still not as tall as my Caponord and easy to manage.
I haven't played with the adjustment available in the bars. I asked the dealer to set it up at the highest level, with bars toward the rider and I'm quite happy with it there. I find I'm slightly forward canted and very comfortable while sitting upright. When you're in the twisties, you are still well positioned to lean forward more. A nice balance for the kind of riding I do.
I've only spent a little time with a pillion. Although the pillion seating is slightly more cramped than on the Caponord, they reported being comfortable on the back for the 90 minute legs of that trip.
The stock screen does a decent job of minimizing wind blast but isn't the best for weather protection. I find it is good in the low position but the high position generates a fair bit of wind noise for my helmet. I quite like the system for adjustment. Super simple but works flawlessly and can be done with one hand while riding.
My panniers were delivered straight from the factory in April '17. Based on who you listen to that may mean they are a slightly different design from earlier units, I honestly have no idea. Mine do not have the gaps that other people have seen on theirs but you do have to apply pressure across both sides when closing to get them to close properly. Hoping mine don't develop an issue with more use. The panniers look great on the bike and KTM did a really good job on designing the mounting system. I love how the carry handles flip up once you've turned the key to remove them. One of the slicker integrated pannier setups I've seen.
The kick stand is overly long and the bike stands fairly straight when on it. It's ok on a flat surface but if there's a gradient towards the left of the bike it makes me too worried to park it there.
I'm very happy with my purchase so far. Sports tourers seem to have always erred towards the touring side of things and KTM have pushed the needle way back in the other direction. Acceleration, braking and cornering are all extremely close to what you'd be able to achieve on the most focused sports bike on the road. On the GT you'll be able to run longer on a tank, carry luggage and travel in comfort to boot. Pretty bloody awesome if you ask me!