Well is it? At around 190kg (depending on which model), and of course 180hp and 140Nm sounds as scary as a night alone in an isolated haunted hotel, or graveyard, when your flashlight’s battery has just died as well, my answer has to be yes and no…
The figures are ridiculous to say the least from KTM’s pinnacle of naked bike development, or Hyper-Naked as ‘they’d’ like to label it. A daunting prospect to unleash for sure, but the 1290 Super Duke R can also be ridden in such a sedate manner that no ghostly entities would be disturbed during their nocturnal activities.
It’s all down to this monstrous 1,301cc, 75-degree, V-twin, LC8 power plant. Sure you can unleash Hell and tear off towards its claimed 290km/h top speed, and neck wrenching acceleration that’ll propel you to 230km/h in under 10-seconds, but you can also easily waft along at 50km/h in chilled cruise mode instead. A commendable attribute to this iconic engine’s design, fuelling and the vast range of performance it has on offer.
This pair is the third generation of Super Dukes, last updated a few years ago with a stiffer and lighter frame, revised bodywork and new electronics package, and strangely they’re so easy to ride. Sure there’s about as much wind protection as Kate Winslet had standing on the front of the Titanic while Leonardo De Cappuccino was caressing her arse, but it’s a far more pleasant experience for sure, well for me at least.
For most owners though, that’s the attraction; a raw, adrenalin- inducing, in-your-face motorcycling experience that generates dry teeth, but the power delivery is only the tip of the iceberg, as Kate would say, he, he… The 1290 Super Duke R is stuffed full of a bewildering array of electronic components, or rider aids, which are easy to access using the updated left side switchgear, all relayed upon the large TFT screen. ‘Ride-By-Wire’ not only opens the monster sized 56mm throttle bodies but means you can access sport, street and rain power modes, nine levels of traction control, anti-wheelie mode, MTC (also slide slip control in simple terms, like MotoGP when used conjunction with Track Mode), MSR (engine braking strength modes), ABS options including Super-Moto mode, where it disengages ABS on the rear wheel and there’s also cruise control. There’s also the option for the KTM MyRide App that connects to your phone and, among other things, let’s the rider use GPS navigation, handy for when you get lost at night in the graveyard.
However both bikes here had the additional Tech Pack, which predictably costs more. This will unlock Track Mode where you can turn everything off and into scary mode with even more additional features. The Tech Pack for the Evo though also unlocks the Suspenion Pro package letting the rider fine-tune the WP electronic suspension more than the integral stock settings. Both packages are expensive though and in my mind should be in there from the start – but that’s just me.
Even though the KTM 1290 Super Duke R has lights and indicators it’s also one of the best bikes you could ever hope to blast around a racetrack. The handling is superb and makes every other Hyper-Naked feel a little cumbersome, dare I say. Even on the road it feels far more agile than the monster-sized engine suggests. The controls are light to use and the quick-shifter is the best I’ve felt to date on any KTM, which goes both ways, both up and down the Pankl produced six-speed gearbox. You can also adjust handlebar and footrest positions to suit the size, or stance, of the rider. I did find the 835mm high suede covered and wide seat to be more comfortable that it looks, adding to the relatively pleasant road experience. And if you want massive third gear wheelies with the ‘bars pointing towards Mars, there’s no better bike on the market to achieve this – once you’ve unlocked the locked software that is.
Now back to the racetrack. Once there the rider will inevitably want to stiffen the WP suspensions settings, or not, depending on his ability and bravery. Easy to achieve on the stock 1290 R with a few clicks on the front and on the rear, using some tools (and I don’t mean ‘shed experts’) to adjust the preload settings, all well and good using the top class WP Apex components. However the more expensive Evo version takes this adjustability to a whole new level with its WP Apex SAT (Semi-active Suspension Technology) using electronically controlled magnetic valves, which can all be adjusted by just using the left side switchgear and no tools at all – tremendous!
The 1290 Super Adventure S has similar suspension, but I always left that in ‘Auto’ mode as it adapts to rider, speed, etc, and I couldn’t be bothered to fiddle, which the Super Duke R Evo can also do if you’re a bit lazy. But I found myself delving deeper into the Evo and ended up with it on the softest damping and softest Preload on the road, making it a soft as Kate Winslet’s buttocks for our rough street roads. Then, if I chose, I could immediately turn it into ‘rock-hard’, ‘filling removing’ and ‘tongue biting’ track mode for a brisk lap when required, and everything in-between, all within a matter of seconds. You can also (once Suspension Pro is unlocked), infinitely adjust compression and rebound damping, and preload, by 10% increments between 0-100%, both front and rear independently, which I haven’t seen before on such a motorcycle of this kind. You can even turn anti-dive, on or off, on the front forks too. Some of these suspension features can also be adjusted on the ‘fly’, but I’m not sure with this type of performance I’d want to take my eyes off the road for too long whilst fiddling with my buttons.
So the big question here, is the extra cost of the suspension package the Evo has worth it? I’d have to say yes as it’s so easy to turn the Super Duke from a comfortable street bike into a track day menace, without any tools, besides an eager thumb. However the stock 1290 Super Duke R is now R339,999 (plus R17k for Tech Pack), and the Evo version is R371,999 (plus R21k for Tech Pack that includes Suspension Pro), so I’ll let you decide. Oh, and a massive thanks goes out to RAD-KTM for letting us use their Evo, which is the only such demo in South Africa. That SC Project silencer they fitted sounds bloodcurdling and could wake the dead, whom it might well have during these pictures we took. For some reason RAD’s bike also felt faster than the stock SDR, making it indeed a scary monster when unleashed.
Without doubt my favorite Hyper-Naked is still the KTM 1290 Super Duke R/Evo. You can ride it mild, medium or hot and now everywhere in-between. Expensive bike for sure but the best things in this modern world don’t come cheap, right?
Visit: www.ktm.com for more technical details.
Also call the guys at www.radktm.co.za and they’ll be more than happy to let you experience their ‘scary’ Evo on a test ride – tell them we sent you.