KTM’s 1290 Super Duke R is an aggressive supernaked, a bike built for the roads, but one which packs a powerful punch. Yes, it has big suspension, a tall seat height and a wide set of bars, but it’s a bike designed to hussle, one which will put a big smile on your face as you scythe your way through your favourite set of twisties.
Take a look at the bike and you’ll see KTM’s design DNA everywhere, from the angular bodywork to the trellis frame, the slow slung fuel tank and the bright orange design touches. This isn’t a subtle bike, it’s one that screams ‘attitude’. It’s definitely in your face.
Twist the key and fire the bike into life, and you’ll be greeted with the low rasp of the V-twin powerhouse. It sounds mean, powerful and raw.
The bike may be designated a 1290, but the engine is, in fact, a 1301cc v-twin pumping out some 177bhp. It has two modes: a balls-out out, ballistic mode and a more refined, smoother mode which is perfect for grinding out big miles. Yes, the bike can be a fire-breathing beast with a twist of the throttle, if you choose it to be, but there’s so much torque that it’s perfectly happy eating up long distances too, even if the high seat isn’t the comfiest.
The Super Duke R’s chassis is just as good as its engine, and feels composed and engaging; there’s a fully adjustable front and rear, using KTM’s in-house WP suspension components, and while it lacks the ‘Gucci’ bling of other supernakeds, it works on the road. The bike feels really agile and provides plenty of feedback, allowing you to accurately and confidently choose your lines. It’s worth pointing out here that KTM and WP have won the Dakar Rally for the last 18 years in a row, so the suspension is proven.
It’s practical too. That trellis frame means strapping luggage to the bike has never been easier
The rest of the bike is just as well equipped, and the Super Duke R comes with cruise control, anti-wheelie control, cornering ABS, ABS modes, traction control, launch control and a bi-directional quickshifter, while other thoughtful touches include LED lights, a TFT screen, heated grips, outside temperature display and real-time tyre pressure monitoring.
The TFT screen is especially rider-friendly. It’s bright, easy to read (even in strong sunlight) and is finished with a scratch resistant glass, which should keep it looking fresher for longer. However, it’s not angle adjustable.
So, the KTM is well equipped, handles well and looks great. but there’ a fly in the ointment. And it’s one that would really grate on a daily basis: the Super Duke R uses keyless ignition. Unfortunately, it’s a standard feature, and one that manifests itself when you try and activate the steering lock, requiring a slightly vague press-and-hold of the power button to activate. Why can’t manufacturers stick with a key?
KTM’s slogan is ‘ready to race’, but it should be ‘more smiles per mile’. This is a bike that entertains and flatters the rider, a bike that encourages you to ride harder for further, to explore new roads and ride solely for riding’s sake. Try one, you might just be converted…