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2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R: MD Ride Review, Part 1

It doesn’t seem that long ago that MD readers were constantly complaining that naked bikes were severely “de-tuned” in comparison with their sportbike siblings. In the last few years, of course, that concern seems to have disappeared. Witness the 2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R that is the subject of our latest test.

Joined by Ducati’s recently-introduced Streetfighter V4, the new Super Duke R (in its third generation) now belongs to a growing club of insanely powerful naked machines. The Streetfighter V4 boasts more than 200 horsepower at the crank, for instance.

What sets the Super Duke R apart – what has always set this bike apart – is the massive torque and horsepower available at street rpm levels … courtesy of twin 650cc cylinders tuned for menace. Take a look at this dyno chart published by motorcycle.com that compares the horsepower and torque curves for the 2016 KTM 1290 Super Duke R with the Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory. Below 10,000 rpm, the KTM simply rules the Aprilia. Although the new Ducati Streetfighter V4 has higher peak horsepower than the Aprilia, it is reached at an even higher rpm. According to Ducati, that bike makes 208 horsepower at 12,750 rpm (at the crank – not accounting for dyno losses at the rear wheel) with peak torque way up at 11,500 rpm.

No one can really utilize the horsepower and torque peaks available from the four-cylinder “super naked” bikes on the street … that sort of power comes on too far up the rev range. Not so for the KTM 1290 Super Duke R.

For the 2020 model year, KTM takes the Super Duke R to a new level with several changes. These changes make the new bike lighter, more powerful and better handling.

We will save more details for Part 2, but suffice to say here that the 1,301 cc v-twin has several modifications resulting in a modest increase in peak horsepower (now roughly 180 at the crank) and, undoubtedly, reduced emissions to meet ever-tightening regulations. KTM is also claiming improved torque and fuel economy this year.

The prior Super Duke was already pretty light, but KTM claims to have shed weight to bring the claimed dry weight of the new version down to 416 pounds. This is a reduction from the prior claimed dry weight of approximately 15 pounds. New engine casings and an entirely new frame contribute to this.

New suspension comes in the form of a 48 mm WP fork and WP rear shock, both of which are fully adjustable. Rear spring preload is a simple manual adjustment with a knob just beneath the seat on the right side of the bike.

It is no surprise that the electronic aids found on the new Super Duke are also upgraded – featuring a new generation of refinement and transparency.

Part 1 of this ride review is intended to focus on our initial impressions riding the bike, not the technical details (you will see more of those in Part 2). Nothing really prepares you for riding a motorcycle like the 2020 KTM Super Duke R.

Fuel injection tuning, and throttle response, are outstanding. Our initial testing was done mainly in two of the four available riding modes. We have tested primarily in “Street” and “Sport” modes (“Rain” is also available, and our test unit had the optional “Track” mode). Open the throttle anywhere above idle and the big Duke surges forward ferociously, but also in a linear, controlled fashion. “Controlled” needs to be qualified here, because above 7,000 rpm acceleration is so ferocious that even experienced riders will be caught off-guard until they re-calibrate their brain appropriately.

At the same time, the new chassis feels very taut and purposeful. Exactly what it needs to be to control the beastly engine. In addition to well tuned suspension, the new Super Duke R has top drawer Brembo brake components, including Stylema calipers gripping the twin 320 mm front discs.

This bike can make a familiar twisty road unfamiliar. Straightaways are inhaled so quickly, corner entry speed surprises the rider. Fortunately, the incredible front brake, operating through the contact patch of the Bridgestone S22 front tire, is equally awesome in its performance.

Our test rider thinks of himself as well experienced, having ridden all types of motorcycles in the past two decades, including superbikes and super nakeds, but it still took him three separate rides on the new Super Duke R to find a good rhythm on his favorite twisty canyon road. Once he found that rhythm, however, the 2020 KTM Super Duke R delivered a riding experience like no other. Stay tuned for Part 2.

80 Comments

  1. potomacduc says:

    Don’t get me wrong, I prefer the feel of low end torque and general power characteristics of big performance twins (I have a Multistrada) over high strung I-4s. It is easier to tap into the power of a performance twin at street speeds. However, this whole concept of “can’t use high rpms on the street” is somewhat overblown. I have one word for it: downshift. There’s no rule that says what rpm you have to ride. A HD big twin makes more torque below 2000 rpm than my Ducati, but who cares? I never roll around at 2000 rpm. Similarly, with the Tuono if you are trying to ride fast, you operate between 8500 and redline while the guy riding on the KTM is between 6500-9500. There is no rule that says you have to operate at the same rpm or in the same gear.

    Now, spending a lot of time at 8500+ rpm can be tiring and less comfortable than the big twin at a couple or few thousand less rpms and when transitioning from a relaxed cruise to a fast pace the higher strung bike will require downshifts, but those are more comfort and feel issues than performance issues. I can completely understand someone prefering power made lower in the rev range, but someone else might prefer the opposite. One might be a little easier to tap into max potential, but one is not inherently “faster on the street” than the other.

    • VLJ says:

      Along those same lines, not all V-Twins are torquier down low than I4s. Many recent Ducatis are very top-end revvy, with the bulk of the thrust arriving very late in the powerband, while some I4s that are tuned for a relaxing ride are all about low-down grunt.

      • fred says:

        True enough, but he did say “general power characteristics” and “high strung I4’s”. There are exceptions, of course, but his assessment of typical power characteristics are correct. I’ve owned both V-Twins and I-4’s that were “typical”, and others that were the “exceptions”. Loved them all.

        • Anonymous says:

          Another thing to note is that the old trope about displacement gets repeated for good reason. The KTM’s displacement advantage over the Aprilia is over 20%! It sure as heck better have a torque advantage down low. Give the Tuono the extra 224cc that the KTM has and see what happens.

          VLJ mentioned the high strung Ducs. The Panigale 1199 is the main culprit. How did Ducati solve this problem? They punched it out to make the 1299.

          I have owned 4 Ducati twins and loved everyone of them, but I eagerly await the new V4 Multistrada. One test ride on the Tuono had me sold on the potential of a V4. That being said, the Superduke GT is also on my shortlist.

  2. North of Missoula says:

    Well written Dirk. I love the way you described the usable low end torque/tractability of this motor by comparing it to its peers. I have read a lot of articles on this bike and your’s is right up there with the best of them. Look forward to part two.

    Correct me if I am wrong however I have noticed that the 2020 GT version appears to still be the Gen 2 Beast, looking forward for it to be upgraded to the new platform, it will benefit greatly from the longer wheel base.

  3. Hauling Harry says:

    Just for laughs put HD’s 131 Stage IV badging in it.

  4. Skybullet says:

    About long distance touring and every day use. The 1290 Super Duke GT comes standard with Cruise Control, Hard Bags and a Comfortable Seat plus all day ergonomics. The engine is smooth at low speed, it has clutch less up and down shifting and torque from normal cruise rpm is so strong you don’t need to down shift to pass unless you just want to hang on for dear life. Cruise rpm range is smooth to a slight pulse that is never tiring. The wind screen has 3 different settings. You can chose from 3 different suspension settings, 3 different power settings and the bike will make you feel like a much better rider when you wick it up. Yeah, I don’t like the styling either but the function way over rides that. I have a SDGT and a 990 SMT, they have both been dead reliable and a joy to ride. My BMW buddies kid me about chain maintenance but that is a small price to pay for amazing, smile inducing performance. If you do track days, Maybe you should consider the Super Duke R.

  5. Marcus says:

    This KTM beast is made for one thing…backroad bombing hooliganism. All well and good until it gets old. Then what else? Mellow rides through town? LD touring? Nope, none of those. You should buy the proper bike in the first place and either rent or demo the KTM just to get it out of your system.
    I owned a KTM 620 dual sport, briefly. A great bike if you wanted to ride the Baja 1000 but outside of that I had no love for it, in fact I had the same affection for it as I did my lawn mower. I sold it within a year and don’t miss it.

    • todder says:

      That’s my fear…while I really lust after this bike. Wondering if I would be better served with a sport tourer like the BMW R1250RS. Right now I want something more sporter yet still functional compared to my Sprint 1050 ST with an interesting engine. Turned off by the SuperDuke GT Ergos and suspension problems. Lol…where do I go to rent a KTM? I’d like to see if a week with this machine would get it out of my system.

      • David Hill says:

        Get an Aprillia Tuono, or at least try one. I bought one recently after a test ride and I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable it was. Probably not Beemer level comfy but definitely perfectly good for a long day. I can’t say I have yet done any more than 160 km (100 miles) due to lock down restrictions but it was easy. I suppose it depends on what you want from the touring side of the equation. If you need two up + all the camping gear and plan on back to back 500 mile days then a Beemer would be the right choice. If you just want to pack a change of clothes for a long weekend with your mates then the Tuono would be fine. And sexier.

        • todder says:

          Wanted a tuono ever since 2005…keeping an eye out for 1100 factory. Weirdly the ergos on the factory fit me better legroom wise than the standard 1100. Must be the suspension setup or seat configuration for my 6’3″ frame. Completely not practical like this new Duke which makes it even better….well they both have cruise control…

      • John B says:

        Hey Todder, what suspension issues are there with the SuperDuke GT? Asking as I like that bike too.

        Cheers John

      • Marcus says:

        Well there’s also the new Kawasaki Z H2.
        It’s heavier than the KTM but at nearly 200hp from the showroom….🤔

    • Freddy says:

      I think I’m far more likely to get bored of mellow rides through town and LD touring than backroad bombing and the occasional track day.

    • Trevor says:

      I purchased a 2019 SD 1290 R last fall, and I can assure you it’s plenty comfortable. I’m 37, and a 650km day on it was no issue, even in the cold morning. Mind you, I much prefer bikes with no fairing because I hate buffeting and would rather have a constant push of wind. Regardless, I got off the SD after that ride and felt fine, minus my legs feeling a bit weird from the full day of V-twin vibes.
      the GT ergos are indeed an issue – the footpeg height/position does NOT go well with the bar height – I found the R more comfortable, and it doesn’t cut circulation to my legs.

  6. mickey says:

    Lol Dogdog been lapping up a bowl of orange Kool-aid

    Dogdog meet ducremus … I don’t think he would agree with you

  7. Rocketman says:

    l ride a 2004 FJR1300, my favourite and most frequent riding partner rides a 1998 GSXR 750, during the past 16 riding seasons we have yet to meet a single or group of Harleys that has displayed breathtaking acceleration, and or could keep up with us on a two lane rural stretch of road, and believe me, many have tried.

    • Irvbo Bertuccio says:

      Rocketman, you may well be a nice guy but to be honest as regards this statement of yours about HD people not keeping up with you and your MFRP/Bestie, let alone any Harley displaying breathtaking acceleration?

      Not a single intercourse was given. Talk about childish behavior and even coming here to tell us all about how cool you two are.

      • todd says:

        I’ve ridden three H-Ds besides the ones I sat on the back of as a kid; one stock 883, one extremely modified 1200 Sportster, and one dealer modified purple and chrome bagger of some sort. I have no clue what went into these bikes but I understand no expense was spared on the bagger and no tuning trick left undone on the Sporster. These bikes were probably WAY up there in terms of H-D performance. None of them would come close to the acceleration of a bike like say, the Triumph Daytona 675 I rode. The 883 accelerated slower than many 250s I’ve ridden. You all need some perspective!

    • TimC says:

      And this has to do with the price of wet market tea bags in China, how????

      PS my last landlord was a Harley guy. He had a fairly lean “Screaming Eagle” modified thing of some kind (sorry, I’m not versed enough in H-D to know exactly what it was). His tires did not have chicken strips. He used to race dirt track.

      I don’t know your racing background, but I’d not bet against this guy vs you, personally.

    • Clueless says:

      Well said, well spoken Rocketman. You have clearly given careful consideration to your argument and your prose expresses a literary talent few possess. However, I have no idea what you are talking about. Please read the article above once more.

  8. joe b says:

    can we have a bike to bike contest between a HD big twin, and see a comparison? Just once a real test.

    • mickey says:

      Well, the KTM would absolutely kill the HD in the road performance, but the HD will absolutely kill the KTM in sales performance

      • Bubba Blue says:

        Well, my 2018 Fat Boy 114 has breathtaking acceleration. I couldn’t use more on the street. It isn’t like the R1 or Haybusa I had a few years back. But I couldn’t use the power those delivered in the street. And the FLFBS is SO comfortable. Not smooth or modern feeling though. I’d prefer smooth, water cooled and modern feeling in a Harley. I’d prefer Harley’s switchgear and headlight in everything.

        • VLJ says:

          “Well, my 2018 Fat Boy 114 has breathtaking acceleration.”

          Only if you’ve never ridden something with breathtaking acceleration. Or you’re really old and asthmatic.

          To todd’s point, exactly how would one conduct a comparison test between a 2020 SDR and any Harley Big Twin?

          “In the Blue corner, hailing from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by way of all sorts of places in central Europe and Japan, we have the Harley Big Twin. It’s…comfortable. At least it can be. Oh, and it’s expensive. It used to have good resale value, but not anymore. On the other hand, it’s dog slow, and handles worse than your elderly grandmother with arthritic hips. The brakes are only as strong as they need to be for hauling this big marshmallow down from forty-five mph, which The Faithful refer to as ‘Bar-Hopping Warp Speed.’ Again, though, it can be semi-comfy, plus it’s available with a stereo system, so when you trailer the thing to Sturgis you can crank up Bob Seger as you roll down Main St with your tatted-up, two-hundred-lb, geriatric hausfrau drunkenly butchering the lyrics to ‘Turn the Page’ from the back seat.

          “In the Red corner, hailing from Austria, by way of a buncha other Axis-power countries, is the KTM Super Duke R. It, too, surprisingly enough, is pretty comfortable, although the Harley dude’s ginormous hausfrau’s even more ginormous keister will swallow the KTM’s vestigial back seat like a vinyl tampon. Don’t even go there. Leave her at home for this one.

          “Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, the KTM. It’s from this century. Late this century, in fact. Its creators are big on racing, not posing. Even says so right on the instrument screen, when you fire her up: ‘Ready to race.’ Fire this thing up and twist the throttle even a little, and you’ll quickly discover that these people mean what they say. It goes, stops, and turns light years better than the Harley…any Harley, ever. Suspension and brakes, compared to the Harley? Jetsons vs Flintstones. Power? ‘Star Wars’ vs ‘One Million Years BC,’ and that’s without Raquel Welch dolling the thing up to make it more doable.

          “Speaking of dinosaurs, the Harley will go further on a tank of them. The Big Twin is also available with cup holders, which brings up another point. While the KTM is so fast it’s likely to scare the piss outta you, the Harley allows you and your corpulent missus to bring along your favorite Big Gulp beverages, to your overworked prostate’s ever-lasting delight.

          “They’re about to ring the bell here, so, in conclusion… Harley: Slow, soft, fat, ill handling, lotsa chrome, can be comfy, can also be miserably uncomfortable, is always overpriced, available as a touring model with some creature comforts. Loves to travel in self-deluded ‘Lone Wolf’ Me Too packs. KTM: Wicked fast, looks like a pissed-off praying mantis from the planet Orange, has tech for days, surprisingly comfortable, passengers need not apply. Doesn’t mind traveling in packs, but rarely has the patience for such things.

          “Hey, you, ringside doctor. Yeah, you. Be ready. Once this thing starts, we’re going to need you in here, quick.”

    • todd says:

      I don’t know what you’re after. The Harley would be so far behind you would need two camera teams for pictures. It’s like the difference between a Piper Cub and a F-16.

      • Bubba Blue says:

        What I’m after is that there’s more to motorcycling than street racing. I can do anything I want streetwise and passing three cars quickly at 110 is no problem.

        Like I said it isn’t the same as a race bike. So what.

        • TimC says:

          FIFY:

          “So what?”

        • Anonymous says:

          um, you’re the one that said your Hardley had “breath taking acceleration”, now you’re telling us there’s more to life than street racing. Most fat guys get winded getting another beer, so it’s ok that you think your Hardley has “breath taking acceleration”.

      • Anonymous says:

        “It’s like the difference between a Piper Cub and a F-16.”
        A Cub can land and takeoff places that an F-16 can’t. It can also be used for FAC duty, rescue, CAP, and fly for years on the fuel used by an F-16 on one sorty. It can fly low and slow and serve as a good trainer or clipped-wing aerobatic bird. On the other hand, the F-16, like the KTM, is fast. No argument.
        So when you compare two bikes you have to consider the purpose they were built for and each does an admirable job at doing what they were designed for. I’m a rare sort that can ride with the slow group or fast guys and can appreciate both. Harley, Ducati, Honda, it doesn’t matter. Each can be fun (isn’t that why most of us ride?) if you ride it like is supposed to be ridden. Also, having more than one bike is nice as the only compromises you have to make are the ones you choose.

  9. ducremus says:

    I’ve owned two brand new KTM’s: an 1190 Adventure and a 1290 Adventure. Both left me stranded by the side of the road, both had less than 1000 miles on them. Fool me 3 times? I don’t think so…

    • TimC says:

      What about 5?

    • TF says:

      I have owned seven KTMs. My 1090R has been all over the US and Canada and my dirt only KTMs have been to places where hikers would not go. None of them have left me stranded. Have you ever watched or participated in an enduro? A majority of the bikes will be KTMs and they will generally all finish, if the rider is capable.

        • TF says:

          Disgruntled owner makes youtube video. No, I had not seen it. Should I make videos about KDX’s that eat KIPs valves and water pump seals like popcorn or YZ250F’s where you have to replace the timing chain at least once per season to avoid damaging the crankshaft? I really should have made a video about early YZ250F kickstart levers that get chewed in half by the footpeg. How about the R3 that was recalled five times in the short time I owned it?

          I will dare say that KTMs see more use and abuse than the average motorcycle which may explain some of the issues in the video. The electric starter issue is a legitimate gripe that I have lived through but I have never seen nor heard of a broken triple clamp or frame (although I am not an MX guy). And the fork issue….are we going to make videos for every poorly performing fork that is sold to the public? You’d better start with Honda/Showa!

          I live in a part of the world where KTM’s are very popular and well supported. I do not see them being hauled out of the woods and I know countless riders and racers who have ridden nothing else since the early 1990’s. Capitalism is a wonderful thing so if cost and/or reliability are truly issues, those people will eventually shop elsewhere as there other options. Then, KTM will improve thus benefiting everyone.

          The interesting thing I heard was that the disgruntled dude sad he might shop for a GasGas or a Sherco, good for him. Did you notice he did not say Honda/Yamaha?

  10. dt-175 says:

    who is the test rider that (lovingly) thinks of himself as experienced? our old buddy kent k.?
    48mm forks, pipes like an anaconda, 96 pounds of torque, sit-up-and-beg riding position? come a long way from cb 750 k1…

  11. mickey says:

    KTM is like a dog with a bone on styling aren’t they? lol

    Got to appreciate their efforts on lightness and power.

    Like I said before I’ve known 4 people who have bought KTM’s for their weight and performance. None of them have kept them, all traded away within a year or two for something other than another KTM. Two of them traded for Guzzi’s with way more weight and nowhere near the HP. Makes one wonder why?

    • todd says:

      I’m at seven months now, mickey. I’ll check back in five months!

    • Pedro says:

      I get that KTMs aren’t of the best build quality – but when you say they traded for a guzzi, I suspect they’re just old and “wanna see the scenery”. What’s the saying: “From the frying pan to the slow cooker”?

    • Dogdog says:

      I have 4 KTMs, and love them all. Best motorcycles in terms of build quality, performance, reliability and they are tough! All my friends ride them, and I would say we have less issues, or at least about the same, as any other bikes. But you can’t beat the performance or the build quality. They are truly things of beauty in regards to quality of materials and workmanship. Can’t say that about any Japanese bikes these days.

      • Pedro says:

        If a Japanese bike was manufactured to the level of a KTM, the engineer would be fired.

        No objective person considers the KTM, or other Euros, to be at the same level of manufacturing quality or refinement as the Japanese. Other desirable qualities: sure, quality of construction: no..

        • Motoman says:

          I sold motos for about 10 years including from Japan and Europe. And I don’t agree with you on build quality Pedro.

          • mickey says:

            I sold motorcycles for 17 years 1972 to 1989 Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha, Moto Guzzi and Norton. We’ve had 13 members of our family who ride and we’ve owned all of the above plus Harley Davidson, KTM, Ducati,Triumph, BMW, BSA, and Aermacchi and I agree with Pedro wholeheartedly. The Japanese bikes were always better built, more reliable and had less issues than their Euro or American counter parts and cost less too.

          • todd says:

            I grew up with British bikes and my uncle owned the Honda motorcycle dealer in Oakland. My step dad was a member of, and eventually killed by, a Harley gang in Oakland. I’ve sat on gold plated Harleys and been around all sorts of H-Ds and their questionable owners. As far as quality goes, I’d say I saw more running Brit bikes than running Harleys but everyone knew that the Hondas just worked and never had issues. No one seemed to care about that in the day and, frankly, it’s not that big of a deal now either.

          • Motoman says:

            This post is in reply to Mickey. I think both are comments are relevant as I sold bikes from 2001 to 2010. I’m sure you’d agree the Euro brands were a different story when you were selling. For context, I was born in 1960 and started riding 10 years later. My moto career was later in life.

          • mickey says:

            Motoman, yes we all have to relate to our own personal experiences. But as an avid motorcyclist I also read a lot because I still consider other brands and there are still a ton of complaints about the reliability of the Euro’s on the Euro’s forums. Go to a Duc, or Guzzi or KTM forum and read a little bit and the electrical problems and suspension problems and gearbox problems, cases breaking, etc. It’s incredible in this day and age that major manufacturers would be having these type of issues.

            of course there is always the I’ve been riding “Euro” for 20 years and they have been just as reliable as a Japanese bike” posters, but they are hardly the norm. Reputations are usually based on a lot of truth, and few would claim Euro bikes as reliable as their Japanese counterparts.

            just a fact.

          • Motoman says:

            Hard to argue with that Mickey. If you read my post though I was talking about build quality specifically.

            I have owned about 20 or so Japanese bikes and two that were not. I ride a lot of miles and they have all served me well.

        • Grover says:

          I’ve been riding since the 70’s and back then the Harleys and Brit bikes were pieces of crap. Drip pans in the showroom to keep the floor clean was the norm. Going on rides with them (I was on a Honda) meant you were soon to be on the side of the road trying to fix whatever issue they were having. Today, it is much different as both Harleys and Brit bikes have a much, much better reputation. I’ve put over 100,000 miles on later Harleys and find reliability on par with the Japanese bikes.
          So all bikes have come a long way as far as reliability is concerned but some issues will happen as they’re all machines and prone to failure at some point. Even 10 million dollar turbine engines have mechanical issues.
          So when it comes to Internet forums you have to remember that bad news travels much faster than good news and 3 opinions out of 30,000 owners does not compromise a reliability issue, only a forum issue. You are likely to have a great experience with your chosen bike because the odds are greatly in your favor. Kind of like COVID-19…you’re still here aren’t you?

      • TF says:

        What is it with posters who throw around the phrase “build quality” seeming to imply that bikes are produced with incorrectly installed or missing parts and poor or forgotten welds. When pressed for examples they always cite what I would consider to be design shortcomings. Yeah, I see some design issues (eg. WP fork seals, fuel level sensor failures, fuel filtration, soft Ducati fasteners, etc.) but I can’t remember any shining examples of “build quality” issues in 50 years of owning, riding, and repairing motorcycles, all brands. The closest I can come is a 1986 Honda I am currently restoring……the welds on that frame are laughable.

        For the most part, the level of quality on any modern (major brand) motorcycle is pretty amazing compared to many other consumer products. I have noticed that KTMs have great frames and fasteners and the two-stroke engines in particular are bullet proof. I also think that the KTM V-twin engines have fueling that is beyond comparison for a V-twin engine.

        The idea that the rest of the world is scrambling to catch up to Japan in terms of manufacturing and design quality is 1980s thinking. Some parts of the world have surpassed Japan. It became evident to me a couple years ago when I drove an Audi Q3 back to back with a Rav 4 and a CRV. Some will say that’s not a fair comparison but all three were priced competitively. BTW, the Q3 has been a great car with zero trips back to the dealer.

    • Stuki Moi says:

      I got an 1190 when it first arrived. Ordered it, based on rave reviews and an engine layout which could lane split. I found it a good bike, but boring as whatnot UNLESS you rode it like you stole it.

      Even back then, reviewers gushed about throttle smoothness. But at least on mine, that smoothness was very obviously the result of a computer interfering massively and reinterpreting what my wrist was doing (for my own good, no doubt….). It was always a half step behind the grip, and constantly kept fumbling around adjusting things for smoothness. Which is what race bikes do as well, these days, and it makes sense if the goal is simply to go as fast as possible. But it’s dull, remote, lifeless and boring as heck absolutely anywhere else. On a 150hp bike, if you treat the throttle clumsily, the bike is supposed to react violently and clumsily and upset the chassis. Otherwise you are just along for the ride. Being chauffeured around by some Uber-Teuton from the Alps.

      Ditto steering dampers. On all bikes (at least aside from the old CBR600). Talk about dullification device at anything shy of race pace. Like the throttle smoothing, it does allow you to go faster down a canyon, and perhaps that’s what KTM means with their “Ready to Race” tagline. But man, if you don’t race; they obviously don’t much care about you.

      After a year, I traded it. For a Superduke, when that arrived…. Once past the even crazier objective performance (7000rpm full throttle really is vertigo inducing…), that one was just more of the same (it feels much sharper than the lanky ADV for just long enough of a test ride to close the sale…..). With an even tighter steering damper, to the point where it would fall into turns (at, no doubt, speeds way to slow to be worthy of a KTM…). And the same twist-grip-sends-request-to-Mattighofen-who-will-then-decide-what-you-really-need throttle. Aside from slightly too rearset pegs, the rgos on that one was great, though. And the suspension really plush for a supernaked. Handling was scary at pace, however. Frame was just way too soft, which was not being helped by the linkage less shock. Once laid over in a fast sweeper, getting it over to the other side was really, really tough. And slow. Like, literally, very dangerously so…. The new ones have a rear linkage, which I’m sure cures that. The latest one supposedly a much stiffer frame and headstock as well. Considering the caliber of riders test riding for KTM, I have no doubt this one handles. But I also suspect 99.9% of the effort is directed solely at making it work well at Jeremy McWilliams pace and skil levels. Or at least Motojourno test ride such. Which, unless that’s how you ride on a daily basis, cannot help but make it dull at more normal speeds and chassis loads.

      Anyway, that’s my KTM twins experience. The 690 OTOH, now that bike IS fun at normal speeds. As well as super-normal ones. No steering damper, linkage rear end… And with an overtuned single, all that throttle smoothing isn’t bothersome anymore, as I doubt it would even be rideable without some help.

  12. skortch says:

    Remember when the original ZX-11 was the ultimate bike for speed junkies and motojournalists? Now it’s just a slow lard bucket…

    Consider that this Super Duke has 30 more hp, way more torque, and weighs close to 150lbs less than the formerly mighty Kawasaki. I imagine the Zed-X may still have the top speed advantage thanks to aerodynamics – I wouldn’t want to be on a naked bike passing 170 on the speedo.

    Way overkill for me; something like a Street Triple suits my riding better. However, it’s the perfect bike for a select few worthy riders out there.

    • Dave says:

      That there are no faster bikes out there doesn’t make bikes like the zx11 any slower. It’s still a rocket by any standard and probably a lot more useful than a bike like this.

  13. mechanicus says:

    What are those jutting extensions for (with the KTM sticker and the lightning bolts)? I went to their web site and there is no mention. The picture on the web site of a guy all leaned over – looks like those extensions would deflect road debris right off the front tire into your face.

  14. Skybullet says:

    What you get when Performance, not Price, is the highest priority. My 2016 SD GT has more power than I need but the nice part is less shifting and torque available all the time.

  15. MGNorge says:

    Peak torque @ 11,500rpm and it comes “on the cam” @ 7,000!! I’d love to see that torque graph. When I was younger …..

  16. Neal says:

    I must be getting old, this is just way too much. I don’t know what kind of person has both the risk tolerance to ride bikes like this and the disposable income to purchase one.

    • Dogdog says:

      I just turned 60 and I have the risk tolerance and can afford this bike (but I’m not rich and I ain’t bragging, just happy and OK at planning.) I know I am not typical, but most people that buy bikes like this are not typical.
      However, I won’t buy it because I love my 1190 so much. Way more comfortable, better weather protection, better two up and can do dirt roads which are plentiful here. I wish it had the power and weight of the SD R!

      • Motoman says:

        ” just turned 60 and I have the risk tolerance”… I’m the same age and sound similar to you. Also have some friends older than me that feel the same way. One rides two up with his wife faster than most do solo (obviously she enjoys and is an excellent riding partner)

    • Curt says:

      Not able to comment on this new Beast 3.0, but I have a second-gen SDR. What you don’t hear many people comment on, is the civility of this thing at low speeds and small throttle openings. All of the controls work in a predicable, smooth manner, and the low-speed fueling is spot-on. With a boat-load of torque never more than a slight twist of the wrist away, the bike’s completely gentlemanly in the every-day. So yeah, no, pretty much no-one would survive riding it around on the limit all the time. That’s true for 90% of bikes. My point is you can enjoy it without being stupid. It’s not too much, it’s just right.

    • fred says:

      I’m a bit past 60, and it’s too much for me, too. Walking into a big box store without a mask or shaking hands with friends doesn’t bother me, but I no longer have a desire to ride a bike that is just waiting to kill me the first time my concentration drops below 100%.

      • Curtis says:

        Motorcycling always requires full concentration. I doubt this motorcycle is homicidal, more than any other. I have a gen 2, and I’ll speak from that perspective: this bike has a well-deserved reputation for vicious performance levels. It does not have, but equally deserves, a reputation for being easy to ride. Mine has never once given me more than I asked for it. It’s completely predictable and civilized. You get out of it what you put into it, very consistently.

  17. Freddy says:

    I would love to see a comparison between the 1290 and the 890. I currently have a SV1000 for the street and Ducati 848 for the track, but I have thought of getting one bike to serve double-duty. These KTM’s seem like the best options I’ve seen so far. I’m especially intrigued by how light these things have gotten!

  18. Kermit says:

    “…courtesy of twin 650cc cylinders tuned for menace”. Now THAT, that’s good writing. Most “moto-journalists” are typists. Well written, Dirck. Superb.

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