2014 KTM 1290 Super Duke R Review

We check out KTM’s new top dog on track
Imthishan Giado

KTM 1290 Super Duke R
Normally we’re fans of four wheels here at MME, but as the masthead says “Motoring” and not “Car”, we’re duty-bound to occasionally wander into the world of two wheels. A wondrous world, filled with evocative names like Ducati and er, Yamaha. And beautiful naked bikes like this KTM 1290 Super Duke R.

That’s an impressive name…and this is one impressive bike. Its V-Twin motor produces 180bhp at 8870rpm; that would be an impressive figure for a hot hatch but in a bike with a dry weight of a mere 189kg – I’ve known people that weighed more – that’s enough for some serious performance. Don’t think that this is some uncontrollable wild animal either; the 1290 is one seriously sophisticated bike in terms of electronic control systems.

The ride-by-wire system has been developed by Bosch and Keihin and provides multiple modes – just like BMWs – depending on how on you feel like riding: Sport, Street and Rain in descending order of power delivery and chassis aggression. The last isn’t something we’d use often out here, but reins power to a more manageable 100bhp in slippery conditions. Speaking of slippery, the traction control system does not allow wheelies by default, although naturally it can be switched off. I’m told this is something bikers enjoy.

KTM admits that the electronics system are more than just a sop to European regulators. Without these aids and all that torque on tap the bike would be nigh-on unrideable, so clever modulation means you’ll only rarely see that full 180bhp. And now since I know less than nothing about riding a bike, I’ll hand you over to our tame (and anonymous) two-wheeled racing driver, Valentino Doohan for his riding report from the launch.

KTM 1290 Super Duke R

Valentino Doohan not pictured.

Valentino’s impressions on track
As far as that immense power claim is concerned, the Super Duke certainly seems to have the horsepower to match those figures. The bike pulls right from a standing start to some seriously illegal speeds without any let up in the power onslaught. In fact, the main thing that stops that never-ending surge is either the you changing up or hitting the rev limiter. The other limiting factor is the lack of a screen. As with all unfaired bikes, at any speed over about 140 km/h the wind buffeting becomes an issue, and once over 200km/h it brings on a speed wobble that will soon slow you down. But that’s not a criticism, as screens are there for a reason and this bike would look terrible with a top fairing fitted.

But despite the lack of aero-assistance, the V-Twin is very flexible with tonnes of torque. It’ll pull in almost any gear and that two-cylinder thump is entirely addictive. KTM claim that the Super Duke is so powerful they had to fit it with a ‘ride by wire’ throttle, as according to the technical guys using a cable throttle would have rendered the bike almost unrideable.

Fitting an electronic throttle has other benefits as well, as KTM can feed in the power as required, avoiding ham-fisted riders highsiding themselves over the nearest fence. By linking the power input to the traction control the KTM is surprisingly safe, as you can aggressively open the throttle mid-corner without the ensuing bad ending. The on-board computer simply stops you being an idiot. Very handy when you consider the number of riders who are either coming back to biking after years away from the scene, or new riders who jump straight on the most powerful bike they can find.

KTM 1290 Super Duke R

Also not Valentino Doohan.

The downside however, is that the throttle is snatchy and will be far too hair trigger for many riders. The lack of mechanical link between the vehicle and rider (just as in similar car systems) robs some of the feel, leaving throttle response a bit remote and lacking feel. But if it stops people throwing themselves down the road then that can only be a good thing.The factory fitted WP suspension is excellent, although the front is a little soft for a race track. However, almost all Super Dukes will spend their time out on the open road, where the bike is excellent. Easy to use, rider friendly and able to take on all but the biggest super bikes. What more could you ask for?2014 KTM SuperDuke 1290R
Price: TBC
Engine: 1.3-litre four-stroke V-Twin, 180bhp @ 8870rpm, 106lb ft @ 6500rpm
Performance: 0-100kph not tested but think Bugatti Veyron, 270kph+ , 5.2L/100 (all est)
Transmission: Six-speed, rear-wheel drive
Weight: 189kg

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