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2022 KTM 1290 Super Duke R EVO: MD Ride Review, Part 1

MD has been fortunate enough to test every generation of the KTM 1290 Super Duke. Most recently, following extensive redesigning in 2020, MD tested the lighter, chassis-optimized 1290 Super Duke R here.

Perhaps the one thing that makes riding the KTM Super Duke so unique, and special, is the massive 1,301cc 75° v-twin that powers it. At just 3,500 rpm (where it rises above 80 foot/pounds), the KTM makes more torque than a 1,000cc four-cylinder superbike at its torque peak (typically, well north of 10,000 rpm). The big KTM punches out more than 90 foot/pounds by 8,000 rpm! These numbers are at the rear wheel, not theoretical. Of course, a wheel horsepower peak in the mid-160s is pretty impressive, as well.

The most recent generation Super Duke lost a lot of weight while gaining chassis rigidity and much improved handling, including feedback from the front tire. Indeed, it is a much more precise, evolved machine compared to the original version.

Speaking of evolution, MD recently got its hands on the 2022 1290 Super Duke R EVO. Featuring the same basic engine/frame design as the latest generation R, the R EVO gains a few new tweaks and refinements. Most notably, in place of the standard adjustable suspension found on the R, the R EVO is anchored by the latest WP APEX semi-active suspension.

The EVO comes standard with three damping modes selectable by the rider, including Comfort, Street and Sport. Rear spring preload can be set electronically (via the TFT display) with the rider able to select 10 separate levels for a total range of 20mm. Our test bike has the optional Suspension Pro package, which dealers can install. It adds three other damping modes, including Track, Advanced and Auto. We will delve into these in more detail in Part 2 of this review.

Of course, three rider modes are also standard, including Rain, Street and Sport. Our test bike came with the optional Track and Performance ride modes. Essentially, these ride modes progress through more direct, sharp throttle response.

Photo by Evan Edge

In this Part 1 of our review, we want to give you some brief thoughts on what it is like to ride the new Super Duke R EVO. In short, we have been very impressed with the semi-active suspension. KTM, which owns WP, has had this technology on production bikes for several years. We already thought KTM was ahead of some of its competitors, but this latest generation technology is another step forward.

The Street damping mode is pretty versatile. Stiffer than Comfort, it is a bit more buttoned-down, but still entirely livable for daily riding or commuting. The Sport damping setting really shines, with stiffer, more controlled compression and rebound while still able to absorb sharp edge hits without harshness.

This new suspension, combined with the proven chassis and engine, is extremely impressive on the road … particularly when carving up the twisties. The bike just feels stable and precise. Changing direction with surprisingly little effort, it is not that far off the stellar 890 Duke R when it comes to flickability.

The Brembo brake package is also impressive with strong, but controllable initial bite and awesome power.

Stay tuned for Part 2 and a more detailed discussion of the 2022 1290 Super Duke R EVO.

Photo by Evan Edge

53 Comments

  1. Brian K says:

    Some may think the KTM bikes ugly…I might agree. But they are so fantastic to ride. I bought a 2021 890 (non-R). With addition of the comfort seat, it is an all-day-all-arounder which never ceases to entertain. Its difficult to go back to riding pretty bikes (bonneville, etc) after this.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Will we ever see Part II? Been waiting a minute…

  3. Doug Basinger says:

    Where is part 2?

  4. mike d says:

    All KTM road bikes look terrible. They took the praying mantis, robo, Japanese MC look and managed to make it even more boring by limiting the colors. That said, I want the 2022 890 Duke R, …but based on performance and weight. Not on looks. 🙂

  5. Dave says:

    All of that torque and power. It would’ve been a powerful flex to release this bike with a 4 speed transmission.

    • Tom R says:

      Many years ago I worked at a Suzuki dealer when they came out with the 1400 Intruder cruiser. It had a 4-speed trans, which I thought was an oversight or rip-off…until I rode the thing. The torque of that big motor made a 5th or 6th gear, with resulting closer ratios, unnecessary. I imagine the KTM could easily do with a 4 speeder as well. Less shifting can be a good thing.

  6. VLJ says:

    Unless you’re dragracing or doing top speed runs, which are two things SDR owners rarely if ever do, I can’t imagine many circumstances in which the 890 SDR wouldn’t be faster, easier to ride fast, and a whole lot more fun than the 1290 SDR. The 890 would also be easier to live with, and so much less expensive.

    Basically, in most sporting environs, which is what these bikes are made for, the 890 likely smokes the 1290.

    What good is excessive power when THAT many electronic nannies are required to reign it all in? In the end, for 99.9% of all road riding, you’re never using more HP or torque than the 890 offers, and you’re rarely even using a high percentage of the 890’s power.

    Okay, I suppose I would rather slog freeway miles on the bigger bike. So, there’s that. Also, FWIW, the 1290 looks marginally better.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      My son Evan was testing the 1290 with me. He owns an 890 Duke R and is an expert rider. I will share his thoughts on comparing the 2 bikes in Part 2. I have spent quite a bit of time testing both (MD had the 890 Duke R twice, as well as a base model 890 Duke). The 890 Duke R is my personal favorite sport naked bike, and the 1290 motor is certainly overkill in many street scenarios, but the 1290 has its unique charms and abilities, e.g., riding a twisty canyon road without ever leaving 3rd gear because the spread of power is so huge. More about this in Part 2.

      • todd says:

        you know me, I can’t resist. I preferred the 690 Duke over the 790 (890 wasn’t available for me to test back then) as it performed better in the twisty roads where I spend 95% of my time. Being lighter and more nimble means it responds quicker to the rider’s inputs. It also means that there is less need to slow down, and therefore speed back up, out of corners. I find myself staying in 3rd gear because the engine has a wide range of RPM and I can maintain higher speeds in the corners. It also looks better than the bigger bikes. Alas, no one wants it because it’s a single…

        • Dirck Edge says:

          I loved the 690 Duke for the same reasons. The 890 Duke R is a much improved bike over the 790.

        • Thad Stelly says:

          Shhh… there is still a slight supply of Vit & Svart 701 series available. A great representation of the fun had when I started riding in the first place.

      • VLJ says:

        Dirck, with well over 100 rwhp and 60+ ft-lbs of torque, while weighing about as much as an empty Pringles can, I’m fairly certain that the 890 could also manage most any twisty canyon road without ever leaving 3rd gear. I’m thinking it could do so while handling better, flicking in harder, maintaining higher cornering speeds, and being simultaneously a lot more fun and a lot less scary than the 1290.

        Maybe I’m wrong.

        Looking forward to your Part 2 review.

        • Curt says:

          There is zero question the 890 has a balanced set of features (power, size, weight). It’s cheaper than the 1290 too. If I was buying a track bike, it would be somewhere in the 390 to 890 range, for sure. Since you reference street riding and scary, your comment about higher corner speeds on the 890 stood out. Higher corner speed = more risk on the street. Assuming decent handling, I corner bikes at about the same speed, right at the convergence of my skill level and the physics of potential adverse outcomes. So for me, when it comes to exiting said corner at 5000 rpm in second thru fourth gear, I prefer the additional torque under my right wrist, which is accessed without undue noise or drama (e.g. lower displacement bike at much higher revs). You can’t hold a 1290 wide open for long, but you can’t hold an 890 wide open for long, either.

          • JVB says:

            I have a ’14 RC8R as a track bike. The engine was used as the starting point for the SDR powerplant. Other than a main straight, the bike can run 3rd gear through the rest of the track. That torque allows me to enjoy a trackday, and ride at a good clip. That torque also allows the power delivery to not be intimidating, being peaky, or having to row through the gears like a 600. The capabilities of todays bikes are incredable, yet would I own one of these for the street? Nope.

    • Jim says:

      Spoken like someone who bought an 890 before riding the 1290 and missed out on an absolute beast. And I say that as an owner of the “old” ’14 model. Better luck next time.

    • Curt says:

      I haven’t ridden a Duke 890 R, but I’d like to. I’d bet it’s awesome. I’d probably ride it equally quickly (the bike tends not to dictate my speed on the street – rather, a desire to live and retain my license do), and it would undoubtedly be fun!

      I do have experience with a second gen SDR (owned) and a recent Super Adventure S (own and ride year-round), and I can tell you, the 1290 engine is intoxicating. I marvel at it every single ride, without fail, for the last five years. The torque, refinement, and flexibility are amazing. Massive overkill at all times? Absolutely massive overkill at ALL times! Why would we consider that a negative, again? Every street bike is fast enough to die or lose one’s license on, so they all are, to one degree or another.

      Given the option between riding a slow bike fast, and riding a fast bike however I feel at the time, I’ll take the latter. Not everyone agrees, and that’s cool! I haven’t found a time when the 1290 ruined my experience. Your mileage may vary.

      I’ve got a pretty good relationship with a local dealer. Maybe they’ll let me try an 890 sometime. Meanwhile, I’ve got a deposit on the first silver EVO that comes to town. I doubt I’ll be disappointed. 😉

      Looking forward to part 2 of this series!

      • todd says:

        because, some of us have found that a fast bike is slower than the slow bike ridden fast in the type of roads we like to ride on.

        • Curt says:

          Of course neither the 890 nor 1290 are slow: to the contrary, they both haul ass. I was using a motorcycling theme which you know very well, to make a point: my opinion is that, all things equal, it’s more fun to have more torque at a lower RPM, than not. I ride pretty much all bikes at the same speed.

          What is interesting, that I do hear repeated, is the concern that the 1290 is unmanageable. Certainly if a person is bent on holding the throttle to the stop, they’ll crash and die right away (also true for most bikes). But what really surprises about the 1290 is it’s civility at normal street speeds. There doesn’t seem like a penalty for riding The Beast. That said, I need to find an 890 to try.

      • VLJ says:

        This is not a case of fast bike/slow vs slow bike/fast. We’re not talking about a Bonneville T-120 or a Guzzi V7 here. Nobody in their right mind would ever call the 890 SDR “slow.” By any measure, street or track, the 890 is a very fast bike.

        • fred says:

          To a great extent, it’s about perspective. Some of us consider T-120’s and V7’s to be fast bikes. Others consider the 890R to be slow. For example, I’m pretty confident no MotoGP rider would replace their current track bike with an 890R.

          As for me, I’m able to enjoy myself on just about any motorcycle, often without dramatically breaking any laws.
          Ride what you like, like what you ride.

          I have a friend who has an 890R on order. He spent about $5k on accessories/upgrades to have them installed on day 1. The parts are here, but not the bike. He’ now in the process of negotiating a refund, because he saw the sneak previews of the 990R and doesn’t want to be stuck with the “old” model as soon as he takes delivery.

          • VLJ says:

            990R?

            They’re already replacing the 890R? It’s only been out, what, one year? Two years, tops?

          • Dave says:

            Dealers had barely unpacked their 790’s when KTM started promoting the 890.

            I thought an article claiming that we’d see a smaller version/s of these P2 engines. As cool as the 690 is, it might be even cooler if it were a 590 twin.

      • newtonmetres says:

        My sentiments exactly: Rather ride a fast bike however i feel
        than ride a slow bike fast. To each his own of course.

        • Curtis Brandt says:

          Some have pointed out that the 890 isn’t slow. They’re right, of course. You knew what I meant. 😉

  7. bob says:

    Mechanically, this bike is awesome. Aesthetically, not so much, but close. All it would take is to flatten the seat, get rid of the weird plastic slash at the radiator and replace the headlight with a nice round one. Oh, and maybe add a classic style bikini fairing. Maybe young guys like insect-like styling and I’m just too old, but I see a really amazing cafe racer hiding in this bike.

  8. TP says:

    I just can’t get over KTM’s weird styling and use of orange. The engines are great, supposedly, but
    I never take a second look.

    • RDKLL says:

      Check out this article, it explains why KTMs look like they do. A pretty good article.
      https://www.motorcyclistonline.com/man-behind-ktm-gerald-kiska-interview/

      • Mick says:

        I don’t mind the stylized dirt bike bit. But the headlights are just plain hostile. Like they are actually trying to harm you visually in some way with a weird assemblage of plastic parts.

        What I would rather is that they went full dirt bike with inexpensive plastics that you can buy from a graphics guy all done up any way you want. And stick with a headlight that a dirt biker can recognize. Not some prop from a Sci fi B movie.

      • TP says:

        I like the stress on emotion in their designs, and it does seem that the company is run by people who like to ride and understand motorcycling. Motorcycles are many things but first of all they have to be FUN. KTM seems to understand that. I’m not always sure Honda, which can do just about anything it wants, remembers that. If I were KTM, I’d appreciate their nearness to Italy and approach some of the design studios in Milan to make their bikes look more appealing.

  9. Jon says:

    Look like an awesome bike. It be interesting to know on these torque monsters what the rear wheel torque is so we can make comparisons to bikes that rev higher but make a bit less engine torque. By rear wheel torque i don’t mean engine torque with drivetrain losses, I mean engine torque multiplied by the gear ratio. Of course, this kind of thing would make harleys and other cruisers look bad, as though the engine torque figures are decent, they are neutered by the low redline, meaning the gears are relatively speaking much longer.

    Many years ago bike mags used to do this, but I haven’t seen it in a long time. Ironically enough tesla did do it for one of their cars I think, but it was useless as no other manufacturer releases the same numbers.

    • todd says:

      I wasn’t going to say anything until you brought it up. The 1290 Duke is actually punching out 1,115 ft-lb of calculated torque at the rear wheel in first gear. Take away ~10% for drivetrain efficiency and you still have 1,000 ft-lb. Even in 6th gear, the bike is producing 331 ft-lb of torque at the rear wheel.

      Harleys typically have fairly low first gear ratios. The overall gear reduction in a 107 inch Road King in first gear is 9.3:1. Considering that the 107 motor produces 101 ft-lb that means there is around 846 ft-lb of peak rear wheel torque in first. That sounds like a lot but now consider that low gearing and low RPM means first gear is only 38 mph max at peak power on the Harley. because of the gearing and low RPM, the Harley will be in 4th gear before you’re even shifting into second on the KTM! This means there is never a point at which the Harley produces more torque at the wheel than the KTM.

      Since motorcycle tires are roughly 24″ in diameter, rear wheel torque is equivalent to actual thrust. That 1,000 lbf of thrust in first gear only needs to propel 600 lb of bike and rider. The Harley’s 846 lbf of thrust has to push 962 lb of bike and rider – and it only has that level of thrust for a short period of time until the rider needs to shift up. There is absolutely no way ever in hell that a Harley can out-accelerate a 1290 Duke.

    • todd says:

      FYI, horsepower is rear wheel torque considering RPM. 100 hp is twice as much rear wheel torque as 50 hp for any given road speed. This is somewhat theoretical since most bikes aren’t geared for the same speed range and it assumes that peak power is also being accessed in that particular gear at that particular road speed. Most people on cruisers shift up well before max power is achieved in each gear whereas sport bike riders are more likely to try to access peak power during acceleration. Regardless, it is safe to say a bike that produces 100 hp will accelerate twice as hard as a bike of equal weight that is producing 50 hp.

  10. Mick says:

    I wonder what the dealers arrangement is with the software. Do they have to pony up every time they give a customer access to all the ride modes? Can a dealer just pay a flat fee and just load all the modes as part of the setup for every bike?

    It seems like such a sleazy way to do business to me. Paying extra for access to features that you already paid for is the new thing in the vehicle industry I know. But I reserve the right to not like it one bit.

    A sure way to get on the companies I hate list is to start BS like that. We have Tesla to thank for this particular customer rape. Don’t get me started on headphone jacks and the availability of headphones that will stay on my ear for the length of a mountain bike ride.

    • Motoman says:

      Hmmm. I spent 10 years in the moto industry before semi-retiring although I wouldn’t assume any more credibility in my opinion because of it. However, I would think the software thing is probably downloaded from the dealer website for each software purchase by the consumer. Possibly with a similar markup scenario as with any parts purchase. Anybody have direct knowledge form the dealer level?

    • Bluesea says:

      You’re not accessing features that “you’ve already paid for at all”. The software is present but disabled and certainly not paid for. You pay for access to that software when it’s enabled. Similar to other software products, when extra ‘features’ are grayed out, you pay for them to be activated. Perfectly good way to sell additional features as it also benefits the owner who doesn’t have to out up with a full installation procedure.

    • Dave says:

      I lean in your direction on this one, Mick.

      What I would offer is that software is an expensive to develop product, even if it isn’t something you can walk away with in your hand. Perhaps this is a way to recoup some of the costs of developing it without saddling the base price of the bike for it? I really don’t know if that’s realistic.

      I get much more cheesed off at airline baggage fees..

      • Jeremy says:

        Though not related to the motorcycle industry, I do have experience with pricing models for paywalls in a few other industries. The model I’ve seen so far is universal at its core. 100% of the instances I’ve seen bake the development cost into the acquisition price of the product so that every buyer effectively pays for the feature. Then either a one-time fee or a subscription is required from anyone who wants to use that feature.

        As an aside, there is a huge push to get away from the one-time fee model and move to subscription. Investors assign far more value to revenue derived from subscription paywalls than they do a one-time fee.

    • todd says:

      From what I understand with KTM, the dealer logs your VIN number into the KTM computer in Austria and that system determines what software can be downloaded and installed on your particular bike. Like most people’s experience with the 690 Duke, KTM can decide that they will no longer download or install the software on certain models even if it still exists or was advertised to exist before the motorcycle sale – or even if the exact same software can be downloaded on a 701 Husky or a 690 KTM Enduro.

    • Tom R says:

      Hey, I should be able to get premium streaming programing without paying for it. The shows have already been produced, right?

      • Mick says:

        This is the premium R model. You already pay extra fot that. Oh but wait. You want the track day mode with your R model from a company whose slogan is “Ready to race”? You’ll have to pay an additional extra for that.

        Spare me. Never in a million years would I support that sort of behavior. This from a guy whose last new bike purchase was a KTM. Perhaps a Sherco next time.

        I suppose you’re all in on paying extra for your heated seats to work. Not extra for heated seats. Just to make the heated seats that you bought work.

        Toyota is going to disable features on cars that were purchased years ago and offer a subscription to turn them back on. Are you cool with that too? At what point does it become intolerable?

        • TimC says:

          “At what point”

          I’ll take “What is the kill switch they snuck into the infrastructure bill for $600, Mick.”

        • Tom R says:

          The concept does seems kind of cheesy to me. Perhaps restaurants will soon charge extra for salt, pepper, and catsup-a “condiment fee”.

          Is this Toyota issue really a thing?

          • todd says:

            Yes. Toyota is now charging a fee to continue to use remote start even though it’s not a web enabled feature. Your key fob literally sends a radio signal to the car when pressing the lock button three times. Toyota now disables the auto start relay unless you pay for a monthly subscription to a “Connected Services” plan. Their argument is that the feature was on a “trial period” when you bought the car. I just don’t buy cars (or trucks) in the first place. Problem solved.

          • Jeremy says:

            The Toyota issue is really a thing. Technically, the vehicles in question (model years 2017+ with premium computers/audio systems if I remember correctly) came with a “free” subscription for a certain number of years. Soon, the remote start, among some other features controlled by the central computer, will stop working unless one pays a monthly subscription.

            I hope this backfires on Toyota, but most companies are full steam ahead with these kinds of plans. If Toyota’s customers roll over, our fates are sealed.

          • Mick says:

            Remote start on the key fob. It’s a feature that you really shouldn’t use. But geez!

          • todd says:

            I understand that people in cold climates use these features regularly. Apparently there is a need to warm up the engine and the interior as well as clear ice from the windows. This can all be done while you’re brushing your teeth and brewing your coffee.

  11. pPrasseur says:

    KTM is pumping out new models, great!

    Meanwhile I have to wait until December 2022 to get the heated grips I ordered when I bought my KTM Adventure 890 last spring!

    Way to go guys what a great company!

    • Jim says:

      Supply chain issues are hitting the whole power-sports industry, KTM is no exception.

      • Thad Stelly says:

        With the exception of KTM engined CFMOTO bike poised to fly off of their Chinese shelves as the balance of the world is shackled with supply chain shortages.
        Just say “NO!”.

    • Tommy D says:

      I traded my 790R for a 890 Rally in March of 21 and ordered the heated grips for them at that time. I just got my heated grips in this past week. Yup it’s an odd time. I guess it is the new style module with dash integration for the 890 that caused the heated grips to require some integrated circuit design. Chip shortage strikes again?

      The industry is being hit hard right now with the chip shortage. Take a look into purchasing a BMW with radar assisted cruise. You can’t get it in a 2022 RT. They simply can’t get the hardware.

      • Dave says:

        I imagine the moto industry is making hard decisions like the auto industry is. I decided to take advantage of the crazy prices dealerships are offering for used cars and treat myself to an upgrade. I found that hybrids and smaller volume trim levels are nowhere to be found. The sales person related it in simple terms- “the hybrid takes 4x as many microprocessor chips to produce. They’d rather sell 4 ICE cars than 1 hybrid right now”. I thought my last car would be my last “gasser” but I guess I’m in for another 6-10 years.

        Everyone is under such pressure to deliver just anything.

        • Mick says:

          Funny how good the lobby is. Nobody ever even mentions anti-trust laws like they don’t exist.

          It’s a disabled feature that there is no subscription to re-enable.