Our Spuds lives life with KTM's crazy supermoto
"Do you want a long-termer, Niall?" asked editor-bloke Alex, the only man to have got his knee down in the Valencia pit lane (he was falling off at the time). Well, when I found out this meant a free bike for me, and not as I had first assumed a lengthy stretch in Barlinnie jail, I thought Christmas had come early.
But what bike? Given that my licence quivers every time I jump in a car, let alone at the thought of 170mph superbikes on the road, I reckoned I needed something a little more canny than a big-bore blasting machine. Something that would still be fun, but that wouldn't break the national speed limit in first gear.
Well, the KTM Duke II fitted the bill perfectly, and Streetbike motorcycles kindly dropped my new steed off for me while I was teaching at the European Superbike School at Rockingham.
A few unkind souls have said the ant-like headlight binnacle looks ugly, but personally I reckon the whole beast is so sexy I might just get all supermotard-styley and change my name to Stephane McChambon while cutting through the local park on my way to work of a morning.
So what else will I use it for? Well, everything actually including TWO assignments, running to WH Smith to collect my weekly copy of the Outer Hebridean Times, dodging the Leicestershire traffic, and doing daft stoppies and wheelies. When no-one's watching, of course. Sounds perfect so far, let's see how we get on from here.
Another 1500 miles on the Duke this month and still zero reliability problems!
First ride was a commute to a TWO photo shoot at Alconbury airfield, a 170 mile round trip, mainly on motorways, not what the bike was designed for, but a mega upper-body workout if you go over 80mph. High revs cause some vibration through the bars and seat, but it's quite nice if you plonk your groin in the right position on long treks. Next up, a Cadwell Park track day with knee down action after three laps! This bike is a top laugh and is the closest you will get to riding a four-stroke motocrosser on the road.
Alternative uses for the Duke this month: Having 100 kids pawing it and clambering all over it at a primary school open day. I also managed to get six normally responsible teachers to scream as I took them for a pillion wheelie on the playground. Also, half way through my 40th birthday party, I rode round the garden naked then came off due to lack of right wrist control. Finally, three quarters of the way through the party, I lapped the garden with topless pillion (Gaynor Davies). I didn't come off that time...
One of the best things about my Duke II is, it's a very competent enduro bike in road trim. Here's why that's a good thing. Last month I was heading through the quaint Leicestershire lanes to a job for TWO at Mallory Park when an Escort van coming the opposite way turned across the road in front of me. Not all his fault as I was late and in a hurry. Anyway he clocked me and jammed on the anchors, suddenly blocking my path. I scrubbed off some speed, stood up on the pegs and crossed two grass verges before suddenly rejoining the road I had just left. I reckon on any normal road bike I would have been toast although I think riding slower might be the safest option in future...
Anyway, I ran a track day at Donington recently which was sopping wet. Despite the conditions, I found thrashing the KTM around was big fun and the Pirelli MTR02s seemed to allow me to ride round everyone mid corner - but then I'd get thrashed down the straights. It was mega fun backing her in and sliding around, but dead safe too so my advice is to keep a spare Duke in your van in case it rains.
I also met up with fellow Scot Ewan McGregor at Donington another time while he was thrashing round on his R1. He reckons cause I've been enthusing in this column about my Duke so much he had to have one too. He won't be disappointed.
Only four people including myself have ridden my Duke II but all have been impressed - it changes people's opinions of these kind of bikes.
The three others - Darren and Richie from Ohlins, and scoot ed Daryll had a play when there was nothing better to do. They all returned with a Colgate grin a yard wide and the desire to have my bike in their shed.
Upon this evidence, it is plain to me now that if you happen to get your backside on a lofty supermoto saddle you could quite possibly be hooked. I was, and have continued to be all year. So it doesn't really surprise me that even tiny KTM dealers like Redline in Leicestershire have seen sales increase over 700% since the early nineties. These things are taking off. And should the KTM not tickle your fancy,there are good alternatives about like the sexy CCM R30 (although the small tank limits its range).
Are supermotos the future? Why not? They're great fun, you sit high which is definitely safer down country lanes for views of the road ahead over the hedges, they're hellish for high speed cruising - which prolongs licence life - and to be honest, if you can't wheelie one of these, then I'm a lavish spender.
There are downsides. Firstly, I admit I've ridden my steed less in the winter months as you're exposed to the elements on one of these. To take these long term shots, my hands and body were caressing the warm air coming from the radiator ducts given half the chance. But overall, it's been a top laugh and I'm definitely considering getting some enduro wheels, then there would be fun (and sweat and tears) all year round.
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