Bike review

Tested: KTM 1290 Super Duke R

Superduke

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…

 

New metal: 2020 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP

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Meet one of the most eagerly-awaited bikes of the modern era; the 2020 Honda CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP.

The bike is all-new, with Honda’s engineers focusing on dragging the flagship Blade out of the doldrums and back to the very top of the litre sportsbike class.

Using technology from Honda’s involvement in MotoGP, the bore and stroke of the oversquare 999cc powerplant are identical to those in the RCV213V-S, with Honda claiming the engine will produce 214hp at 14,500rpm and 83 lb-ft. at 12,500rpm.

The cylinder head features new DLC-coated camshafts that actuate finger-follower rocker arms, replacing the shim-under-bucket design to reduce drivetrain friction by 35 percent and cut inertial weight by 75 percent. There are also new titanium connecting rods that are half the weight of the previous chrome-moly steel units and new forged pistons which are five percent lighter with improved durability and strength.

The Fireblade is equipped with electronic rider aids that increase rider control through a throttle-by-wire system derived from the RCV213V-S. The bikes comes with five power modes and nine levels of Honda Selectable Torque Control to allow riders to set engine response and rear-wheel slip to their liking, while a Bosch six-axis IMU monitors lean and pitch angles to control power delivery.

There’s also and an up-and-down quickshifter, three levels of three engine braking and two ABS modes: Sport and Track. Sport is calibrated for on-road performance, while track is suited to the higher speeds and demands of closed-circuit competition.

The new fairing features winglet structures with three internal ducted wings to generate maximum downforce without affecting yaw and roll, and Honda claims these winglets generate the same downforce as those used on the 2018 RCV213V MotoGP racebike.

The litre bike class just became a whole load more competitive.

WSBK: Rea wins Race One under the lights at Qatar

Sbk- Round 13 - Qatar

Jonathan Rea has notched up his 15th win of the season in the Qatar WSBK opener after battling Alex Lowes early on before keeping clear of a late charge from Ducati’s Chaz Davies, as Kawasaki seals the manufacturers’ title.

Starting from pole, the reigning world champion enjoyed the perfect getaway in front of Lowes to dictate the pace as he and the Pata Yamaha bolted clear of the chasing pack.

With Davies carving through the field from 12th place on the starting grid, having made it up to fifth place on the opening lap, the Aruba.it Racing Ducati rider used the opening two-thirds of the race to catch up with Lowes before taking second place with a smart block pass at the final corner on Lap 12.

But Rea duly responded to the attack from Davies to keep clear of the Welsh rider to charge to victory by 2.732 seconds at the flag.

Rea said: “That was a massive target met. What a year – all the big awards. The Riders’ Championship, Superpole Award, Manufacturers’ Championship… That was the target coming here. I knew I had to finish in front of the Ducatis to win the Manufacturers’ Award today. I felt good from the start with the bike. I had such a good rhythm in Race One, it felt quite automatic, but I know I need to make a step for tomorrow because the pace could be faster with more rubber down. But that might help our situation with more rubber on the track. We just need to work in some areas on the front of the bike to finish the corner a bit better.”

Rea’s win gave Kawasaki a 42-point advantage in the Manufacturers’ Standings, with only a maximum of 37 points left to play for on Saturday, in the Tissot-Superpole Race and Race Two.

MotoGP: Marquez untouchable at Brno

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Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez claimed his 50th victory in the premier class after a chaotic start to the Czech GP.

Saturday’s dreary conditions were initially nowhere to be seen as race day at the Czech GP began. But a brief rain shower half an hour before the start of the MotoGP race left the track with wet patches and led to a delayed start and a reduced race distance of 20 laps.

After securing pole by 2.524 seconds in thrilling style on Saturday, championship leader Marquez shot forward to lead the shortened race as the lights went out. With the likes of Andrea Dovizioso, Alex Rins and Jack Miller behind, Marquez settled into a consistent pace and steadily opened up a half second lead over his rivals by lap ten. Even with a moment at Turn 10, Marquez’s lead continued to grow as the race went on.

With an advantage of over two seconds, Marquez crossed the line to claim victory in Brno and his sixth win of 2019. He becomes just the fourth rider in Grand Prix history to take 50 wins in the premier class and equals Mike Hailwood’s 76 wins across all classes.

The Spaniard said: “I was really concentrated from the beginning as there were still some wet patches, especially at Turn 1. I knew I needed to keep my rhythm as the Yamaha riders were starting from behind and they were strong in Warm Up. Then I saw that Dovi was behind me so I had to keep pushing and pushing. I had a little warning on lap 10 because that is when I started to push more to try and open the gap. Delaying the race was the best decision that could have been made because the track was in a mixed condition and it could have been quite dangerous. A crazy weekend with the weather but the whole Repsol Honda Team were perfect and helped me a lot to achieve victory!”

Fourth on the all time winner list, Marquez heads to round 11 in Austria with 210 points – 63 points clear of second placed Dovizioso.

New metal: Ducati Streetfighter V4

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Here it is, the Ducati Streetfighter V4, the bike racer Carlin Dunne will race at Pikes Peak.

The course is a challenge: there are 156 turns and thousands of feet in elevation, and is the perfect testing ground for the prototype machine ahead of the 2020 launch of the Ducati Streetfighter V4 production bike.

In keeping with tradition, the Streetfighter V4 derives directly from the sporty Panigale V4 stripped of its fairings, and fitted with high and wide handlebars, while the high performance of the 1100cc Desmosedici Stradale will be kept in by aerodynamic profiles specifically designed for this model.

The prototype will race with a “pixelated” livery, designed by the Centro Stile Ducati; unlike the normal practice with prototypes, the livery does not hide the lines, but accentuates them by deliberately revealing how the bike will finally look.

Tested: V4 1100 Factory APRC

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I’ve had this bike for a week now and put quite simply, this is the best bike I’ve ever ridden by a country mile…and I’m still grinning now. I make no apologies if this review comes across as a gushing love letter to this bike…the V4 1100 Factory APRC has moved me and got under my skin like no other bike has to date. It’s addictive, intoxicating and the way it mixes state-of-the-art technology derived from Aprilia’s participation in WSBK with blistering performance means it never fails to entertain.

So what’s the difference between the standard RR and the Factory? Well, this bike comes with fully-adjustable Öhlins rear shock, forks and steering damper and the simply stunning ‘Superpole’ paint scheme, which really suits the bike and is exquisitely finished in the metal.

Swing a leg over this narrow bundle of fun, turn the key, thumb the starter and the 1077cc V4 engine barks into life with a deep, throaty roar. The soundtrack delivered by the Arrow exhaust is ear bleedingly loud and each blip of the throttle is greeted with an aggressive snarl. It feels comfortable too – the riding position feels low and the reach to the flat, tapered bars is spot on, as are the pegs, and they easily accommodate my long limbs.

A quick glance towards the bike’s clock show a dash dominated by a sleek and easy-to-read rev counter that goes all the way to 15,000rpm. There’s no TFT display here, instead you get Aprilia’s traditional square unit showing speed, gear position, traction control setting and range.

On the move and the V4 1100 Factory APRC makes light work of town work. The engine feels civilised, with the ride-by-wire throttle meting out power predictably and smoothly with just a hint of snatch in first, although you’re always aware of the sheer brute force available on tap with a twist of your right hand. The steering feels light, and while the steering lock isn’t great, it’s not so bad as to be restrictive.

Heading out of town and the first thing that becomes noticeable is just how effective the new nose fairing and cowl is at cosseting the rider from the wind. It’s really efficient and provides much more protection than a naked bike has any right to offer.

As speed and revs rise, the second thing that grabs your attention is the engine – the V4 is a weapon and explodes into life with every twist of the throttle. It’s savage, and as the revs rise the surge is so ferocious that the front wheel will be pawing the air with every gear change. And get the engine howling above 7000rpm and the bike changes from a beauty into a beast as all that power propels the bike forward with a time warping urgency. The acceleration is savage, the quick-revving engine delivering huge amounts of rapid grunt, giving the bike superbike levels of performance with every touch of the quickshifter. And that quickshifter is good, really good, seamlessly building speed and adding a satisfying pop to the V4’s booming feral soundtrack with every upshift.

This is a bike that’s mind numbingly fast, but it’s agile too and is just as happy on its ear. The RF wheels allow it to turn in quickly and accurately with the lightest of touches, and the Swedish suspension offers loads of feedback, taking the Tuono’s cornering brilliance to another level, inspiring huge levels of confidence and urging you to brake later and get on the throttle earlier in every corner.

But all this performance is easy to control, thanks to that throttle and the sophisticated WSBK-derived APRC electronics package which includes on-the-move traction control, launch control, wheelie control and Race ABS. There are also three riding modes – Track, Sport and Road – and although the power output always remains the same, the throttle response and delivery is adjusted depending on the mode.

And should things ever threaten to get out of control – which they won’t – the Brembo M432 monoblocs rapidly and effortlessly scrub speed with retina bleeding efficiency.

I’ve racked up 1750 miles in the seven days we’ve been together, and the only weakness in the Factory’s impressive armoury is the price – there’s no getting away from the fact that it comes with huge price tag. But for me personally, it’s worth every penny. I’ve tested some 300 bikes over the years and no bike has moved me like this. It’s by far the best road-going performance bike I’ve ever tested and the blend of WSBK-derived rider aids, the V4’s performance and the distinctive soundtrack delivered by that phenomenal engine mean I’m still grinning now. Everyone should ride one at least once in their lives…

WSBK: Rea dominates Superpole race at Imola

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The first and only race at at Imola on Sunday was the Tissot Superpole Race, which provided fireworks once more. On a damp but drying circuit, there was drama before the race even started, as BMW’s Tom Sykes  missed the warm up lap and was forced to start from pit lane.

At the front, Ducati’s Chaz Davies got the jump from pole, while Race One winner Jonathan Rea went side-by-side with the Welshman, but the Ducati held firm and maintained the lead.

With the race settling down, a mistake from Davies at the final chicane allowed Rea and Alvaro Bautista on the other factory Ducati to get ahead of him. Davies now had to put in the hard work all over again, as reigning champion Rea began to pull out an advantage.

Davies soon despatched his team-mate and the two dominant forces of WSBK in the past four seasons – Rea and Davies – went head-to-head in terms of lap times, both on lap record pace. The gap momentarily came down to below a second, but Davies was unable to get on terms with Jonathan Rea, while Bautista rode answerless in third position.

Rea’s victory never looked in doubt and he powered to his first Tissot Superpole Race win. Davies and Bautista came home behind him, while Michael van der Mark took his best Imola result with a strong fourth. Team-mate Alex Lowes finished fifth, with Kawasaki’s Leon Haslam placed in sixth.

MotoGP: Rins takes maiden premier class win in incident-packed race at COTA

Race 3 MotoGp Austin

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Suzuki’s Alex Rins secured his maiden win in an incident-packed race in Texas, thus giving Suzuki’s its first premier class victory since the 2016 British GP.

As the lights went out it was LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow who got the better launch out of the front three on the grid, with Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi also getting off the line well as the duo pulled alongside polesitter Marc Marquez up the hill, but it was Marquez who was bravest on the brakes to grab the holeshot.

Rossi and Crutchlow slotted into second and third as the duo tried to keep tabs on the leader, with Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso making a stellar start from P13 to move up to P6 on the opening lap.

Marquez didn’t get away from the clutches of Rossi straight away in the opening couple of laps, but the reigning World Champion then started to pull the pin and by lap five, the gap was 1.4 seconds.

Behind the Spaniard it was quickly becoming a battle for second, with Rossi and Crutchlow fighting with Pramac’s Jack Miller and Rins.

Crutchlow’s race then came to a premature end as he crashed out of contention at Turn 11 on Lap 6, which started a chain reaction of misery for Honda. With a three second lead on Lap 9, Marquez was clear of the rest and the magnificent seven was well in sight. But then the unthinkable happened. The King of COTA crashed, tucking the front at Turn 12, and through he remounted, he was unable to restart his RC213V.

Then, sensationally, he was quickly followed by teammate Jorge Lorenzo, with another chain issue forcing the Spaniard to retire.

Back at the front, Rins had got past Miller for third and it was soon Rossi vs Rins for the Americas GP win. With ten laps to go, Rossi was cracking the whip at the front with Rins less than half a second back, and Miller a furher two seconds adrift in a lonely third.

With four laps to go Rins made his move, with a clean and crisp pass up the inside. Rossi attempted to bite straight back at Turn 12, but ran in too hot and ran wide. This left Rins with a 0.7 advantage with three to go and then with two to go, with the gap still hovering at half a second, Rossi ran in deep at Turn 11.

Rins never looked back, crossing the line to take his maiden win in the class, thus becoming the first rider to win at the Circuit of the Americas in all the classes.

Rossi rode to his second consecutive second of the season to claim his 198th premier class podium, with Miller holding off some late pressure from Dovizioso to take his first Ducati podium.

Dovizioso finished fourth, ahead of Petronas Yamaha’s Franco Morbidelli in fifth, with  Ducati’s Danilo Petrucci in sixth. Petronas Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo finished in seventh, with KTM’s Pol Espargaro in eighth, Pramac’s Francesco Bagnaia in ninth and LCR Honda’s Takaaki Nakagami rounding out the top ten.

It was a miserable race for Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales. Both he and compatriot Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) were handed ride through penalties after clear jump starts, although Viñales bizarrely penalised himself even further by also taking the long lap penalty before coming through pitlane for his penalty.

MotoGP: 2019 Factory and satellite KTM liveries break cover

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KTM has unveiled the 2019 liveries for its Factory and satellite teams at a special event at its Austrian HQ in Mattighofen, and while the 2019 Factory KTM MotoGP livery follows the colours of the previous two seasons, the new satellite Tech 3 team’s striking blue, silver and orange paint caught the eye.

The team had used a black-and-white test livery for the Valencia, Jerez and Sepang winter tests, but this has been ditched in favour of blue and silver, combined with KTM orange, similar to sponsor Red Bull’s paint for its Toro Rosso ‘Junior’ team in F1.

News: Alpinestars issues airbag statement

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In response to the news last week that a German court (the Higher Regional Court of Munich issued judgment) upheld the claim that Alpinestars had infringed upon patent EP 2 412 257 B1 held by Dainese S.p.A, relating to its D-air® system, Alpinestars has released the following statement: “As soon as the Court serves the written judgment, Alpinestars will study the details prior to taking any decision on its next steps.

“[We] want to clarify that this action never involved the core of Alpinestars Tech-Air® technology;  at no point, either past or present, has any action or patent infringement involved the electronic management, algorithm, or deployment mechanism, or any other part employed within Alpinestars entirely unique and advanced Tech-Air® technology.

“As consistently stated throughout this legal process, Alpinestars fully respects and honors third parties’ intellectual property rights and expects the same with respect to its own IP rights. Alpinestars’ highly innovative Tech-Air® products are based upon years of its in house research and development conducted by its own team of leading research and development staff.

“Since the very beginning of the Tech-Air® project, which commenced in 2001, the freedom to ride with the most advanced innovations of performance protection has been the objective relentlessly pursued by Alpinestars and the result is uniquely advanced and capable technology. Tech-Air® is the world’s first airbag providing full upper torso protection in a transferable vest which incorporates a completely independent electronic management system, with no reliance on any external devices (sensors or GPS), to give accident detection and full airbag inflation before the first impact, dual charge for the track and off-road capability as demonstrated in the 2019 Dakar Rally.”