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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

  • March 17, 2014
  • Dirck Edge
  • Chris Rubino and Dirck Edge

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


Being a thoroughly jaded motorcycle journalist, there are few motorcycles that genuinely surprise me these days. The new KTM 1290 Super Duke R proved to be one of those.

Although we tested the bike at the launch in Europe, this was my first opportunity to ride the bike myself on roads familiar to me here in Southern California. My first taste of the Super Duke was a short trip back to the garage from KTM’s Southern California headquarters in Temecula. Immediately, the bike reminded me of some of the dirt bikes I had raced when I was younger. Stiff, direct and communicative.

The bike also felt surprisingly docile, but I was in traffic that required me to keep the throttle quite a ways short of wide open. Sure, the bike felt like it had plenty of low-end power, but nothing startling or worthy of the “Beast” nickname.

The big Super Duke is comfy. KTM learned from its early days of building street bikes with dirt bike seats. Seriously, some of those earlier KTM street bike efforts were quite uncomfortable. The new Super Duke has a broad, relatively flat seat with good support and excellent comfort on longer rides.

The ergonomics are otherwise fairly up-right, with decent leg room. The short, stubby gear shift lever dug into the relatively soft cover of the boots I was wearing for the trip home from KTM. Other than that, it was hard to fault the ergos of this big supermoto.


A few days later, I had a chance to ride the Super Duke on the open highway, and twisty back roads. My first chance to twist the throttle hard erased all thoughts that this motor was in any sense unremarkable. Above 7500 rpm, through to roughly 10,000 rpm, the Super Duke truly is a Beast. It revs fast and hard, and combines both massive peak horsepower with the big torque you would expect from a large displacement (1301 cc) twin. The acceleration feels different from that offered by an inline-four superbike, somehow meatier and beefier, but just as ferocious. Indeed, I don’t recall a superbike featuring gratuitous power wheelies in third gear … particularly with my weight forward and over the tank. The KTM does.  The big KTM also gives you way more around-town, low rpm grunt, a fantastic combination.

This bike is both effortless in its acceleration, and truly fierce! The suspension and chassis have a lot to live up to in the context of this engine performance, and they largely do the job. Those top notch Brembo calipers in front combine excellent power and feel, and the fully adjustable suspension allows the rider to dial in both comfort and control. I had some minor issues with the handling that I will discuss in Part 2 of this report.

We had a chance to put quite a few miles on the big Super Duke, and the phenomenal engine performance compelled me to write this short piece … I’ll save additional thoughts for Part 2 later this week.


  1. mudnducs says:

    man I want on of these….BAD!

  2. vitesse says:

    I’ve been following the roll-out of this bike since its introduction and so far have not seen a single, significant criticism. It appears state-of-the-art and flawless, a rare combination. The glowing reviews have been unanimous. This could very well be my next bike. (Wish the plumbing wasn’t so obtrusive.)

    • frostbite says:

      “State of the Art” and “Flawless” – Are you of poor sight ? Have a close look at the thing, you, yourself said the plumbing wasn’t up to standard. Check out the exhaust pipes, surely they are kidding, it is definitely not a pretty site – it all looks like a rushed job to me, nothing in the slightest appealing about it at all. The rear mudguard, if that is what you could call it, is hideous – it looks like they have just formed a ducati type lattice frame and stuffed a liquid cooled v-twin engine in it and had a 30sec brain flash and stuck some very ODD bits on it to make a barn yard road/dirt bike out of it … There is nothing aesthetically pleasing about this monstrosity at all – there is no finesse anywhere to be seen – it all looks like an add hock clild’s play thing …. Transformer type of crud …

      What is wrong with these manufacturers? They will have to sack their design department if they ever want to sell their product to me.

      Take a good look at it and be brutally honest about what you see, there is not much that can be praised about this poor excuse for a “World Class” motorcycle.

  3. Provologna says:

    The Labor Force Participation rate for men in the US ( steadily falls now for many decades. Since the ’08 Great Depression a graph displaying this rate falls almost vertical, with no recovery in sight.

    Everyone reading this knows how many female bike fanatics they’ve met. Wonder how many females are interested in this 34″ seat height Goliath. (Female basketball players maybe?)

    Females are the fastest growing demographic for disposable income, but I doubt many are attracted to this sport no matter what trick advertisers pull.

    More good news is that actual dollar adjusted income has also steadily decreased since ’99 or possibly earlier.

    If the US Govt did not increase its dead load $1T/annually for the past several years there might not even be an economy, at least nothing like what we have now. (Only earners making over $70k express content with Ben Bernanke’s actions since the Depression hit, but that’s another story.)

    It’s interesting to muse what might the market look like in several years. Wonder if bikes like this KTM will exist at that time. If they do, I sure hope they look better, because this one’s cosmetic design is apparently inversely proportional to its performance.

  4. MassMike says:

    UGH! talk about butt ugly. One of the Transformers and Predator somehow had a secreted a love-child. RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!

    • frostbite says:

      Best you have another LOOK – it’s a CAMEL with wheels, only things missing are the EYELASHES and a camel toe or two ….

  5. Joe Bogusheimer says:

    What I’m wondering is this: will this bike work the way it’s supposed to (fuelling-wise), and if it does when new, will it continue to do so reliably? I’m hearing a lot of comments in places about the reliability and dependability of KTM streetbikes, most of it not good. It’s a shame if so, because they certainly make interesting bikes.

  6. ben says:

    Wow what an awesome machine. Thank goodness for the european manufacturers. I dont have any idea why the japanese just keep building the same boring bikes, occasionally incrimentally improved, year after year after year. Is there some law in japan that dictates the manufacturers must stick to arbitrary engine sizes and categories? I could so care less about the next “600 shootout”. The japanese are very very good at thinking well inside the box

    • mickey says:

      Because the Japanese like to sell motorcycles. Hondas worst selling model will outsell this KTM by a bunch. Europe build bikes to specific exotic tastes because they cannot compete in mass marketing production or sales. Japan builds bikes to mass taste. When Japan tries do do something outside the box, its usually a flop, but they are very good at building the bikes that the masses will buy.

      The next 600 shootout will sell a gazillion Japanese bikes.

      • Dave says:

        Re: “The next 600 shootout will sell a gazillion Japanese bikes.”

        In 2012, the entire US motorcycle market sold just less than 500k total new units and 600’s don’t sell much better anywhere else in the world that I am aware of. They’re hardly a business model anymore. The ship is turning. Nut sure which way it’s going to go..

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          “Nut sure which way it’s going to go..”

          Up… as in 34″+ seat heights.

        • mickey says:

          That is a gazillion compared to the number of units this bike will sell. I doubt if they will sell 500 of these nation wide.

    • MGNorge says:

      Only inside the box…..

      Well let’s see, the six cylinder CBX and the CB750-four which started the ball rolling before that. The CX500 and 650 longitudinal V-twins with cylinders “twisted” to tuck carbs inboard for legroom. The turbo versions of same. The VF and VFR series of V-four engined bikes. The NR series of race bikes with their “oval” cylinders, 8 valves, two con rods, and twin plugs per cylinder…and I’m only thinking of Honda here. True these aren’t all road bikes nor everyone’s cup of tea but it’s the European’s who historically stick to architectures much longer than the Japanese.

      In the eyes of the beholder I guess?

  7. vitesse says:

    Why don’t they cover up that junk pile of pipes, hoses and otherwise ugly assortment of paraphernalia with some decent fairing? What’s up with this fetish with nakedness? Is there something Freudian going on here?

    • Daytona James says:

      Uggh!!! I’m comin’ Elizabeth. “…junk pile of pipes”??? That my friend is engineering and craftsmanship. I challenge you to look at the quality of welds on KTM pipes and compare it to your favorite brand. Don’t fool yourself… that highly mechanical look so prevalent in the KTM and water-cooled Duc Monsters / Streetfighters is very desirable to those who appreciate function.

  8. Glen says:

    It is still too friggin cold in the NE. I woke up to a 15degree wind chill. And seeing these sunny Super Duke pictures is really pissing me off!
    My aprilia Tuono is waiting in my garage for some freedom!

  9. RRocket says:

    That short piece is really Part 1?? I’m guessing the story was “mailed in” so he could go drink some green beer or something… 🙂

  10. Tom says:

    Awesome bike, without question.

  11. James says:

    Ugly as sin. I hate those goofy looking headlights and those useless side covers for the radiator or knee fairings or whatever the heck they are supposed to be. But then I’ve always thought KTM is totally clueless about styling so this bike is no surprise there.

    • Fangit says:

      Those radiator covers are there to mainly house electrical conmponents and hide the ugly bits of the radiator. It’s not unique to KTM. Plenty of other bikes use them.

  12. mickey says:

    Two horsepower…and a few more

  13. motowarrior says:

    Be glad you are riding in California. Wheelies will get you arrested these days in Florida. I don’t agree with stunting on the street, but requiring riders to “keep both tires in contact with the ground at all times” is a bit much. Amazing bike. Where does KTM go from here?

    • Daytona James says:

      KTM should market it as a high performance unicycle with a ‘rolling rest’ mode. Do you think the authorities would buy it? I’d pay a lawyer to come up with a good legal argument for wheelying.

    • Gary says:

      Wheelies can get you arrested in California, too. In fact, I’m pretty sure they can get you arrested most anywhere, other than on a racetrack.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        You are clearly not aware of what the state of Florida defines as a wheelie. I was let off with a warning after leaving a stop light when apparently my front wheel came up “about an inch or so” off the ground, which my bike does pretty readily taking off from a stop when I am loaded down. I didn’t even feel it to be honest.

        • Gary says:

          I may not be aware of how Florida defines it, but I’m pretty sure laws and their enforcement are subject to the interpretation of specific officers. And that interpretation, in turn, is largely determined by your attitude in dealing with said officer.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            He told me, according to Florida law, if the wheel leaves the ground at all, intentionally or not, for a split second or for a mile, it is reckless driving. I didn’t look up the statute to verify if that is the case, but I have read as much in an AMA column a while back that they put out in their magazine. Obviously I was respectful as I was not cited for reckless driving. But yes, the wheelie shown in the picture will get you ticketed and/or arrested just about anywhere. Except on the “closed course” MD no doubt uses for such shenanigans. 🙂

  14. ApriliaRST says:

    Nice photo with the horses in the background.

  15. Brinskee says:

    I’d call this review a teaser. At less than 500 words we’re not really getting a Part 1 of a review here… and to be honest I suppose this small rant is simply an admission that I want to read more about this beast! Looking forward to Part 2.

    • Daytona James says:

      Proly’ just means Dirck could barley stay off the thing long enough to put pen to paper. It looks more fun than the Kardashian twins.

      • Jose says:

        And like the Kardashian twins it will have a dark side…lol

        • Kirk R says:

          I don’t think I’d want one of the KTMs if it was half as used up as those girls. Can you say rat bike?

      • Gary says:

        When you say “Kardashian twins,” are we talking about one sister or two? 😉

      • Lenz says:

        What’s that about a Kardashian Komparison – maybe short, lottsa “torque”, prone to attention seeking behaviour, promotes the visible where possible approach ….

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