First Ride: 2005 KTM Super Duke Review

An Austrian brute pumped full of steroids is the only way to describe the first ever-pure streetbike from KTM. If Arnold Schwarzenegger was a bike he'd be the Super Duke...

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Niall Mackenzie's picture
Submitted by Niall Mackenzie on Sun, 30/03/2008 - 22:46

Visordown Motorcycle News


The future is definitely bright for KTM if the recently launched Super Duke is a taster of what it has planned in the street and sportsbike market. With refreshing honesty the usually straight-faced Austrians admit that motorcycling has an element of danger, but this can add to the excitement and no one should live in a glass case. And to emphasise this point the company which describes itself as "having a passion for speed" insists the new Super Duke is a bike that will beg to be ridden hard - and you should do just that whenever possible. Here, here!

The sun needs to shine to see the metal flake in the orange version, so it was a good job KTM chose to launch the bike in Fuerteventura not Scotland, but whatever the colour there is no question that this street fighter stands out from the crowd with its angular looks and twin silencers exiting at seat level. Although there are design cues from the single cylinder 640 Duke this is a much more stocky package with the biceps to match. As well as the deep-gravelly voice of a female bodybuilder.

Sitting behind the Renthal handlebars you are constantly reminded that you're riding a KTM. The bright orange digital speedo and analogue rev counter glows in your face while providing the usual information, including water temperature and a low fuel warning light. But fire it up and instead of the thud-thud of a single the 999cc 75-degree twin barks like a police dog at a peace march en route to making 120bhp. But, unlike the 950 Adventure motor, it has strong torque from 4000rpm and linear power all the way to the rev limiter at 9750 rpm.

As you would expect wheelies are a doddle in the first three gears, but short-shifting while using the bottom end grunt keeps the front down if maximum acceleration is what you require. But that's not really in the KTM philosophy now, is it? If you do prefer to keep the front down you'll be glad to hear the gearbox is better than any Italian bike I've ever ridden, but still not quite as slick as the Japanese.

The fuel-injection system is similar to Suzuki's with two butterflies per cylinder, with the twist grip controlling one and the Keihin engine management regulating the second. It's a good system but I found that the throttle response fluctuated a bit in first and second gear under 4000rpm. Out of this range it felt near perfect elsewhere.

Running out of revs before the limiter is never a problem as the wide power band gives enough flexibility through all of the six gears. I managed 150mph on the speedo and was later informed that another three miles per hour and I would have hit the rev limiter in top gear. Which is as fast as you want to go considering the riding position.

Although the upright riding position is comfortable at low speeds, riding at much over 100mph will always create a fair bit of wind force to the upper body and although the bike is perfectly stable it isn't much fun. What's much more fun is attacking corners.

The suspension is provided by the KTM owned WP Company, with 48mm upside down forks at the front and a rear shock connected directly to the rigid extruded aluminium swinging arm. It's all fully adjustable plus the rear shock has the added option of high and low speed compression damping adjustment to really confuse knob twiddlers.

Low speed agility and balance is good, although I felt that with standard settings there was a bit too much weight transfer going on from front to rear and vice versa while accelerating and braking. But that's not really a problem after a quick consultation with the owner's manual.

KTM has provided something with this bike I'm sure other manufacturers will soon copy. Apart from standard suspension settings they also supply you with a comfort setting, a sports setting (which cured my weight transfer problem), a racetrack setting for track days and even a pillion setting. Reliable and effective information from the experts that developed the bike. Top work!

With the suspension on sports settings the Super Duke feels much sharper. Compared to the excellent handling Aprilia Tuono the Super Duke feels even stiffer, more composed and more assured in the corners. It destroyed Fuerteventura's bends at a blinding rate with a grinning rider by now really buying into the KTM philosophy of riding it hard whenever possible, which was helped by the new tyres.

Pirelli has developed a special Diablo 'T' tyre for the Duke with a softer construction which, after extensive testing, KTM found was the best choice for this type of bike. Something I can't argue with.

And the same goes for the brakes. When it comes to stopping the Brembo brakes, without the current trendy radial calipers but with semi-cool radial master cylinder, are a class act. On any bike the Brembo brakes are a quality item so whether you want to feather

the brakes mid-corner or scrape your visor doing a stoppie, the feel and performance will always be powerful and consistent.

I once had two-year relationship with a 640 KTM Duke. I found that providing I didn't ride it too far on the motorway and didn't get wound up with the mirrors coming loose it was generally an enjoyable experience. This new 'Arnie' model is different, for one the mirrors don't move, but more importantly I would happily ride this one all day long. I couldn't describe it as pretty but it does have serious presence and will always turn heads. It's comfy and will cruise at, well, as fast as you want to go really. It also has nice touches such as the little damper that holds the tank up for easy inspection of the throttle bodies (if that's what excites you), as well as a 120 mile tank range. Well, unless you're in hooligan mode...

The fantastic roads on the Island of Fuerteventura provided my first experience of the grin inducing KTM Super Duke but, like that Terminator turned-politician-bloke once said, "I'll be back!"

SPECS

TYPE - STREETBIKE

PRODUCTION DATE - 2005

PRICE NEW - £8345

ENGINE CAPACITY - 999cc

POWER - 118bhp@9000rpm

TORQUE - 73lb.ft@7000rpm

WEIGHT - 184kg

SEAT HEIGHT - 855mm

FUEL CAPACITY - 15L

TOP SPEED - 145mph

0-60 - n/a

TANK RANGE - N/A

The future is definitely bright for KTM if the recently launched Super Duke is a taster of what it has planned in the street and sportsbike market. With refreshing honesty the usually straight-faced Austrians admit that motorcycling has an element of danger, but this can add to the excitement and no one should live in a glass case. And to emphasise this point the company which describes itself as "having a passion for speed" insists the new Super Duke is a bike that will beg to be ridden hard - and you should do just that whenever possible. Here, here!

The sun needs to shine to see the metal flake in the orange version, so it was a good job KTM chose to launch the bike in Fuerteventura not Scotland, but whatever the colour there is no question that this street fighter stands out from the crowd with its angular looks and twin silencers exiting at seat level. Although there are design cues from the single cylinder 640 Duke this is a much more stocky package with the biceps to match. As well as the deep-gravelly voice of a female bodybuilder.

Sitting behind the Renthal handlebars you are constantly reminded that you're riding a KTM. The bright orange digital speedo and analogue rev counter glows in your face while providing the usual information, including water temperature and a low fuel warning light. But fire it up and instead of the thud-thud of a single the 999cc 75-degree twin barks like a police dog at a peace march en route to making 120bhp. But, unlike the 950 Adventure motor, it has strong torque from 4000rpm and linear power all the way to the rev limiter at 9750 rpm.

As you would expect wheelies are a doddle in the first three gears, but short-shifting while using the bottom end grunt keeps the front down if maximum acceleration is what you require. But that's not really in the KTM philosophy now, is it? If you do prefer to keep the front down you'll be glad to hear the gearbox is better than any Italian bike I've ever ridden, but still not quite as slick as the Japanese.

The fuel-injection system is similar to Suzuki's with two butterflies per cylinder, with the twist grip controlling one and the Keihin engine management regulating the second. It's a good system but I found that the throttle response fluctuated a bit in first and second gear under 4000rpm. Out of this range it felt near perfect elsewhere.

Running out of revs before the limiter is never a problem as the wide power band gives enough flexibility through all of the six gears. I managed 150mph on the speedo and was later informed that another three miles per hour and I would have hit the rev limiter in top gear. Which is as fast as you want to go considering the riding position.

Continue the KTM Super Duke Review

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