KTM's new flagship, the 1290 Super Duke R, is ready to race. We head to Spain for a mauling by “the beast.”
Yes, KTM has aptly nicknamed their impressive new 1290 Super Duke R “the beast”. After all, at the heart of it is the motor from their RC8 Superbike. Only, it’s now bored and stroked to 1301cc with power up to a claimed 180bhp, making for a heady benchmark in the street naked category. That’s not it though. Not by far, because it’s the 14.6kgm of torque from the character rich V-twin motor that makes the 1290 Super Duke R really super.
Around the Andalusian mountains, the Super Duke R proves to be as exhilarating as expected, when riding a bike with such an impressive spec sheet. The engine erupts when you cross the 4000rpm mark, the strong waves of torque sending pulses of power to the specially developed rear Dunlop. If you aren’t really careful, the 180kph mark can be breached in a blur. The rev limiter cuts in at a relatively low 9800rpm, a bit surprising, but you get used to this soon enough and the shift warning beacon lights up giving just enough of an advance heads up. Yes, the Super Duke R is a beast, but it’s still no brute. The engine is actually pretty controllable and civil at low speeds and KTM’s new R makes a happy, really potent companion on the highway too.
The handling of the Super Duke R sweetens the experience further. Light steering, comfortable seating and well sorted suspension make this brawny motorcycle fun and usable in a wide range of circumstances. We rode on motorways, over mountain roads and even around a race track, and the new 1290 felt as friendly as possible, and enjoyable everywhere.
The second weapon in this brawny street naked’s arsenal is its sophisticated electronics. Traction control and engine modes have been wrapped into three riding modes; Rain is the softest mode you can pick, Street is best for more punch and finally, Sport mode offers immediate acceleration and more slip. The traction control steps in with a smoothness that lets you focus on the pleasure of riding the Super Duke, while skipping the painful bits. The new KTM also comes equipped with a Bosch ABS system, although this has been given a distinctly KTM flavour thanks to ‘Supermoto’ mode. This setting unhooks the rear brake from the system so that you can lock the rear to get the big R to slide into corners!
The KTM 1290 Super Duke R is an incredible machine, one with the ability to make an impression in an instant. It’s raw and macho to look at, with the power to match. The Super Duke R is, however, quite far from uncivilized. With its formidable array of electronics, “the beast” knows when to put its best foot forward and behave. Despite that, it is all so rewarding and enjoyable for experienced riders.
If your hunger for excitement is insatiable, then just take a deep breath and switch the electronics off. Then it’s just you and “the beast”. One thing is for sure, the KTM 1290 Super Duke R will relish the opportunity.
Type 1301cc, twin-cylinder, liquid-cooled, four-stroke
Power 180bhp at 8870rpm
Type 6-speed, 1-down, 5-up
Wheel base 1482mm +/- 12mm
Ground clearance 140mm
Chassis & Body
Wheels multi-spoke alloy
Tyres 120/70 x 17 inches (f), 190/55 x 17 inches (r)
Front 48mm USD forks
Rear Monoshock, alloy swingarm
Front Twin 320mm discs (ABS)
Rear Single Disc (ABS)
Tank size 18 litres