2021 has been a landmark year for adventure bikes and the motorcycling industry overall. Launched in November, 2020, the 2021 Ducati Multistrada V4 S introduced the first motorcycle with a radar-assisted adaptive cruise control system. Just a few months later, KTM adopted the same technology when it unveiled the 2021 1290 Super Adventure S in January, 2021. While both KTM and Ducati championed the Bosch-derived system, each also addressed weak points with the Multistrada and Super Adventure platforms.

In the Ducati camp, the latest MTS gained muscle in the form of a new V4 Granturismo engine. With 170 horsepower and 92 lb-ft of torque on tap, the updated Multi retained its on-road performance supremacy, but the Bologna brand made a conscious effort to increase its off-road prowess too. A new 19-inch front wheel, optional tubeless spoked wheels, and a two-sided swingarm adapt the MTS to the trail without sacrificing its strengths.

Conversely, the 2021 KTM 1290 Super Adventure S adjusts the House of Mattighofen’s off-road formula for the open road. The redesigned bodywork and dual radiators improve rider accommodations while a new 7-inch TFT display with Bluetooth connectivity provides all the creature comforts one could desire. While both the Super Adventure S and Multistrada V4 S are much more versatile machines, the 2021 updates set the stage for an epic showdown between two of today's top heavyweight ADVs.


KTM 1290 Super Adventure S - Velodrome
Ducati Multistrada V4 - Dirt
  2021 KTM 1290 Adventure S  2021 Ducati Multistrada V4 S
Engine:  Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 1,301cc V-twin Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 1,158cc V4
Bore and Stroke:  108 mm x 71 mm   83 mm x 53.5 mm 
Transmission:  6-speed 6-speed
Performance:  160 hp/ 102 lb-ft 170 hp/ 92 lb-ft
Weight (wet):  540 pounds 536 pounds
Price:  €21,800 (≈ $25,000 USD) $24,095

The Gloves Are Off:

KTM and Ducati are both known for producing high-strung, performance-oriented models. The 2021 Multistrada and 1290 Super Adventure are no exception. Team Orange’s charismatic 1,301cc, LC8 V-twin returns with Euro 5-compliance yet still cranks out 160 horsepower and 102 lb-ft of torque. Not to be outdone, Ducati conformed its Panigale V4 engine to suit the Multistrada’s touring ambitions while still achieving 170 horsepower and 92 lb-ft of torque.

Though the V4 enjoys a horsepower advantage and the V-twin favors torque, both powerplants prioritize reliability and practicality. To the chagrin of many Ducatisti, the fourth generation Multi now features a conventional spring valvetrain that extends service intervals to 9,000 miles and valve checks to 36,000 miles. The Super Adventure takes a different approach, however, retaining its tried-and-true LC8 engine. After shaving 3.5 pounds off the mill with new pistons and thinner cases, KTM claims the 1,301cc V-twin is more reliable than ever.

KTM 1290 Super Adventure S - Wheelie

Of course, getting all that performance to the ground is the most important factor, and the V4 S and 1290 Super Adventure rely on different equipment to do the deed. The Multi touts a lightweight monocoque frame while KTM updates its Chromoly trellis for the 1290. Along with that advanced frame, the V4 S leverages Skyhook suspension to tackle the gnarliest terrain. The Super Adventure matches Ducati’s hand, however, applying WP SAT (semi-active technology) suspension to level the big-bore ADV and the playing field.

The 1290’s electronic suspension also yields 7.8 inches of travel at both ends, a figure that the Multistrada V4 can’t match with 6.7 inches of travel fore and 7.1 inches aft. Suited for on and off-road duty, both large-capacity adventurers boast a 19-inch front wheel and 17-inch rear. However, the Ducati comes shod in dirt-ready Pirelli Scorpion Trail II tires. The two are practically identical in the handling department though, with the MTS featuring a 61.7-inch wheelbase and 24.5-degree rake while the KTM comes in with a 61.3-inch wheelbase and 24.7-degree rake.

The Mental Edge:

Predictably, both the Multistrada V4 S and 1290 Super Adventure S offer advanced electronic suites. Ducati stuffs a 6.5-inch TFT dash, traction control, cornering ABS, wheelie control, vehicle hold control, full-map navigation, cruise control, four ride modes, and a quickshifter into the new Multi. KTM follows suit by packing the 1290 with off-road traction control, off-road ABS, tire pressure management system, ride modes, and cruise control.

Ducati Multistrada V4 S - Duo

As previously mentioned, both the V4 S and Super Adventure S are pioneers of adaptive cruise control systems on motorcycles. Ducati takes the tech one step further with a rear-facing radar unit that enables blind-spot monitoring. While both manufacturers position adaptive cruise control as the headlining feature, more motorcyclists may benefit from blind-spot monitoring than the touring-oriented radar tech.

Win, Lose, Or Draw:

KTM 1290 Super Adventure S - Conclusion
Ducati Multistrada V4 S - Road

2021 may be a watershed moment for the motorcycling industry, but it also marks a new chapter in the heavyweight ADV class. With the Harley-Davidson Pan America entering the fray, both Ducati and KTM upped the ante with performance, practicality, and technology. Many consumers and critics view the Multistrada as a road-biased adventurer and the 1290 Super Adventure as the preeminent off-roader, but both are more nuanced in 2021.

From power figures to ergonomics to tech, the V4 S and Super Adventure S are actually more alike than most believe. Whether you consider yourself a Ducatista or a KTM fanboy, both the Multistrada V4 S and 1290 Super Adventure S improve on what they do best, and we all win as a result.

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