Road Test

KTM 1290 Super Duke R (2019) Review

Visordown spent a day with KTM’s Super Duke R to see what the bad-boy of the super-naked motorcycle class is really like

Details
Manufacturer:
KTM
Category:
Naked
Overall
4

THE FIRST Super Duke burst onto the scene in the mid-2000s as a 990cc naked, that mixed Supermoto styling, a throbbing LC8 V-twin and capable WP suspension. And it’s fair to say it was well received, running in 990cc guise right through until 2013, with only minor updates and changes in that time.

KTM 1290 Super Duke R (2019) video review

The latest iteration of the Super Duke is about as far removed from the original bike as you could get, thanks to leaps forward in suspension tech and lashings of electronic wizardry, passed down through KTM’s various racing programs.

Price

Coming in at £14,799, the Super Duke R is in the upper level of mainstream super-naked offerings but is not quite the priciest option. The brutal Yamaha MT10 comes in at £11,799, the Ducati Monster 1200R £15,250 and the Triumph Speed Triple RS is £13,250.

A 36-month PCP example for a Super Duke R from Redline Motorcycles in Loughborough would be:

36 month PCP at 4.9% APR

New 1290 Super Duke R £13509

Deposit £2999

Amount to finance £10510

36 monthly payments of £124.77

One final payment of £7,340.63

Based on 5000 miles per year

Total charge for credit £1322.35

Engine

The LC8 engine in the Super Duke R is a 1301cc lump putting out a claimed 174hp and 141Nm of torque. The short-stroke (108mm bore/71mm stroke) makes the makes for an exceptionally eager engine, with a huge swathe of torque running from a little over 3000rpm right up to nearly 7000rpm. The delivery of the power and torque is unmistakably V-twin, making it effortless to haul the bike out of slow-speed corners with eye-watering efficiency.

If there is one negative I take away after riding the Super Duke R for the day, it’s that it lacks a little of the character of some of the other twins and triples in the big-bang super-naked class. To start with the exhaust note seems overly muted to me, and it’s back by a mechanical clatter at low speed that’s a little tiresome after a while. This problem though I’m sure would be helped massively with the addition of the Akrapovic slip-on from the Power Parts catalogue.

The 6-speed gearbox on the 1290 is fairly slick but not remarkable, the fact that an up/down quickshifter is only an option for this bike though I do find remarkable – especially when most of the other top-flight nakeds noted above have one as standard. As a trade-off, the Super Duke R is fitted with a rather trick slipper clutch that not only helps prevent rear-wheel skipping under harsh downshifts but also helps smooth upshifts if the quickshifter+ (up/down jobbie) is fitted.

Suspension

The reason we got to spin some laps on the Super Duke R was because WP suspension invited us along to check out their latest line of cartridge kits for this and other makes and models of bike. We were riding stock bikes back to back with WP after-market bikes and, as I mention in the video review above, the KTM 1290 Super Duke R was the most difficult to tell apart from the uprated bike.

The bike uses very good WP fully adjustable 43mm USD forks up front, and a remote reservoir rear shock – all a fully adjustable. The only really difference with the WP Pro-Components fitted bike was a slightly plusher ride and slightly less dive into slow corners.

Handling

Regardless of how well setup the suspension is, the Super Duke R is still a brawny bike to ride fast. Hustling along a B-road is a blast, with the next corner coming to great you with phenomenal speed. The latest Super Duke is also surprisingly forgiving, only becoming belligerent if a ham-fisted rider was to crank on the power too early in a corner. The bike quickly overpowers the underslung OEM steering damper, causing the Super Duke R to shake its head like some pissed off weightlifter thats found out somebody’s been stealing their protein powder. But apart from that, the overall handling was more forgiving than I expected.

For a big twin you’d also expect it to be a chore to trundle around town at low speeds but the overall nature of the Super Duke R changes at low speed, allowing t you to navigate tight spots with ease thanks to the light clutch, wide bars and well-tuned ride-by-wire throttle.

Brakes

Upfront, we have two radially mounted Brembo Monobloc calipers and 320mm discs that are linked to two-channel, Bosch cornering ABS system. When I bike is this quick from apex to apex, you need decent stoppers and the KTM delivers in that department. The brakes have great bite and feel, and after a day of hooning around like idiots that lever still felt sharp and direct.

The ABS on the Super Duke R is also switchable, even featuring a ‘supermoto’ mode, that allows the ABS to be switched off to the rear wheel, allowing the rider to back the bike into corners Moto2 style.

Equipment

The electronics suite on the Super Duke R is about as high end as you can get this side of a top-flight superbike. We have cornering ABS, traction control and three riding modes – Rain, Street and Sport. Sport and Street deliver the full fat 170hp and appropriate throttle maps, while Rain delivers a more neutered, 130hp and a softer throttle map and more intrusive traction control setting. All the rider modes can be changed on the fly and with relative ease. Front to back, all the lights and indicators on the Super Duke R are slick looking, and long-lasting LEDs.

We like:

  • Rocketship performance
  • Easy to ride around town
  • Probably the most badass of all the super-nakeds

We don’t like:

  • Quickshifter+ is an option
  • Engine on standard end-can lacks character
  • Only two colour options

Verdict

To look at (and when reading the headline specs) the Super Duke R seems like the kind of bike you’d only ever ride when wanting to get that brain-out dopamine fix, that only comes from riding a big, brawny bike a fast as you can down a B-road. And yes, should the mood take you it’s, there are few back-road weapons that can deliver an adrenaline shot as big as the Super Duke R. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be out of sorts on the commute to work or even a decent length continental tour even.

I just wish they’d stick a damn fairing on the thing and make a sportsbike now – they’ve made us wait long enough!

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