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2023 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT: MD Ride Review

When KTM redesigned the Super Duke GT for the 2019 model year, MD was one of the first publications to test the bike. You can see our report here. In short, we loved the 2019 model, which combined comfort, great handling and awesome engine performance. The bike we are testing here is a refinement of the 2019 model. An evolution from that model that was available in Europe for 2022 and has just arrived on our shores for 2023.

MD wrote an article summarizing the changes from the 2019 model previously tested. Highlights include a new Euro 5 compliant 1301cc v-twin engine, making an identical 175 hp, according to KTM, a larger TFT display and lighter wheels borrowed from the Super Duke Evo.

In many ways, we were expecting a very similar experience to the 2019 model but found some surprising differences during our testing.

First and foremost, the new engine that complies with the stricter Euro 5 emission standards has a significantly different character despite reaching the same peak horsepower. The power delivery is still smooth and predictable, but seems to have been tamed somewhat from the 2019 model.

Our test unit, as is typical for KTM press bikes, had the optional performance mode and tech pack. In addition to the three standard ride modes, (the most aggressive being Sport), our test unit had the ability to adjust traction control, adjust launch control and turn wheelie control completely off.

Other electronic controls remain similar to the 2019 model, and include motorcycle stability control, cornering ABS and motorcycle traction control. If you like to “back it in”, you can switch ABS to Super Moto mode, allowing the rider to lock up the rear wheel.

The same comfortable ergonomics and upright riding position, coupled with adjustable windscreen, heated grips, and cruise control mean the Super Duke GT is still a capable tourer, in addition to being an equally capable sport bike. Missing for 2023 are the formerly standard saddlebags, which are now optional.

The bright TFT display is slightly larger (7” versus 6.5”) and brighter. New switchgear makes the already intuitive function control even simpler.

The bike still comes with a proximity key fob that puts the rider in control as soon as he is near the bike. We used to miss the old-fashioned ignition key, but we are getting used to the newer alternative.

The engine, as we said, is rated at the same peak horsepower, but feels more tame in the standard settings. Acceleration is still plenty strong, but we found ourselves dialing traction control back to level 3 (level 9 is the most intrusive). It appears KTM has taken a more conservative approach to traction control and the standard setting limits the severity of the power put to the rear wheel in most conditions. Dialing back the traction control to a less intrusive setting brought the engine back to life, however, and the same instant, vicious acceleration we had come to know and love in 2019 was still there.

We can’t say that we noticed any difference with the slightly lighter wheels this year, but the handling was already stellar in 2019 and continues to be so. The 2019 model was shod with Pirelli Angel GT tires, and the new model gets Continental Sport Attack 4 rubber. Again, not much difference noted as both sets of tires provided good feedback, grip and confidence.

The electronically adjustable suspension that we praised in 2019 is still very good, but it may be just a tad behind the latest system found on the new Super Duke Evo that MD recently tested. Damping control is very good, but the new system takes a small step forward, in our opinion.

This bike has a cult following. Deservedly so. We can’t think of another motorcycle that combines touring comfort and sport bike speed and handling in the way that the 1290 Super Duke GT does.

The price is $19,799 US MSRP. You get an awful lot of motorcycle for the money, in our opinion. Take a look at KTM’s website for additional details and specifications.


  1. Sensible Steve says:

    I’ve long hankered after a 1290GT, but when I really looked into buying one 18 months ago it was difficult to find a review of a KTM road bike which didn’t include a list of technical gripes and gremlins. When I’m touring Europe, 1500 miles from home I don’t want to be thinking to myself “I told you so!” I ride a Suzuki 1000GT now, not as dynamically capable maybe, but so far it starts every time and only stops when I want it to.

  2. SBK Stash says:

    I’m on my 2nd SDGT, a 2019. The 1st was destroyed in “I didn’t see the motorcycle accident”. It replaced a Ninja 1000. I liked the Ninja, but found it lacked power. The ~40hp advantage of the KTM has over it’s sport touring competitors (Ninja 1000, GSX-S1000GT, R1250RS) is the primary reason in my opinion to choose the KTM. At over 500 lbs. wet, none of the bikes are convincing as real sport bikes. At 425 lbs wet with 20hp more power than the KTM, my BMW S1000RR is much better handling lighter and more powerful than the KTM. The primary reason to not choose the KTM in my experience is that it is sinfully ugly. Fortunately I can’t see how ugly it is while riding it.

  3. Skybullet says:

    Reading the comments, I wonder how many ever rode a SDGT. I put 16K on my 2016 with zero problems. Yes, it’s a very high performance bike IF you push it. I learned very quickly to moderate the throttle, avoided downshifting (a plus) and enjoyed the excellent suspension, transmission and all day long distance comfort. It just sold on Bring a Trailer for $8,500 which is a steal for the performance and quality. Cycle Trader has similar prices for low mileage comparables.

  4. Gary in NJ says:

    I note that after nearly a week, this article only has ~23 views (I just added one…so make it 24). That is an unusually low number for a bike review on MD as bikes of interest usually get 50-75 comments and bikes of high interest get over 100. That tells me that the market for 175HP street bikes is limited – no surprise there. I think KTM chooses to build a bike like this not as a mass production machine, but as a halo machine – making it because they can – and showing off design capability. Technology for bikes in this class is usually leading edge and in time will trickle down to motorcycles with higher volume. That what strikes me as odd with this version of the bike – it doesn’t represent any changes that will trickle down to other bikes – the technology on this machine has already made its way to other KTM machines.

    • Richard says:

      Maybe less and less comments, because there is less and less articles…
      I would be curious to know if there is less and less views on this site too.

      This kind of site as well as forums are replaced by Youtube videos and pages on Facebook.


      • Gary in NJ says:

        I still like written articles. There is more in-depth information provided. However, a written article supplemented with a short video is the most preferred (to me) way of gaining information.

        Dirck – have you ever considered adding video to your reviews?

        Regarding the number of articles, like many I’m disappointed that the frequency has declined over the years (I’m one of those people who still check this site daily after 20 or so years), but I also understand that it takes a lot of time to secure a test bike – and it’s competitive. I’d enjoy an article (with a video 🙂 ) that shows the process of securing a test bike, writing the test plan and then executing it – and then the editing process to get it published. An article like that would generate more interest than probably any previously posted.

        • Dave says:

          Bikes that are more interesting get more conversation. The grossly overpowered identity bike is played out. We’ve seen this over and over so there isn’t much more to say.

          The new Triumph 400 article quickly gathered over 70 comments and it isn’t even a ride review. People are interested in that because it’s something new and different.

        • MGNorge says:

          MC Daily had started doing video reviews some years ago and I agree, it added a depth to the written review. Those video reviews petered out some time ago and never came back. I assumed too time consuming and perhaps not enough positive feedback? I’ve noticed the diminished comments also. In the back of my mind I thought it might be fewer new riders entering the fray and older riders aging out. Mix that with the possibility that tastes in bikes are changing, and they’re not getting any cheaper. I know for myself that increased traffic density close to big cities has served to sap much of the enjoyment in going for a ride.

          • TP says:

            MD is better than whose new website I can’t stand. It’s just full of ads. But it’s obvious that MD’s concentration is Moto GP and I’m not all that interested in that. I do like Dirck though, and I understand the challenges of online publishing. I’m happy for any bike reviews, but I’m personally not that interested in H-D or even in most adventure bikes.

  5. todd says:

    When you feel the need to compensate for other shortcomings…

  6. TP says:

    Too wild for me. And as usual, the styling on KTM just doesn’t work. It’s unique and identifiable but the styling doesn’t make me want to buy or ride a KTM. Yamaha already has plenty of peculiar-looking bikes, if that’s what you want.

  7. joe b says:

    Pictures of the bike, through the curves and haybales, looks like the beginning of Caliente to Bodfish? So many times is just the road up to Palomar from SD. It seems there is any bike you could ever want, these days. Ah, but I am no longer young, you see. Have I turned into my parents, possibly my grand parents? What a machine, I could only dream of owning one.

  8. Jim says:

    I loved my 1290 SD-R, but it was just too much for my weak willpower.

    • Mick says:

      It has long been my opinion that if you find yourself speeding too much too often, the bike is overpowered for a public road venue. It appears that KTM seems to be addressing the issue on this bike with electronics, and maybe some engine tuning, by “taming” it. I wonder if they are using feedback from the IMU. Instead of giving you about the amount of throttle opening you ask for. You get a percentage of the available amount of acceleration. At low engine speeds half throttle gives almost full throttle acceleration until the engine speed picks up.

      I started to suspect this sort of thing after recently reading a recent review of the Multistrada Rally. The press launch was in Durango, CO and there was a bit of high altitude riding. The reviewer complained that he had to gas it pretty hard at high altitude. He may have been unknowingly complaining about the ride by wire tuning and not the lack of available power. As half of the available acceleration gets less and less at altitude, you are going to have to gas it harder to get what a halfway open throttle body would give you at low engine speeds.

      I don’t think it’s a bad idea as motorcycles get ever more powerful. People will learn the new paradigm. But I’m an old guy that prefers old power levels and cable throttles. So I bought a low miles 2008 Multistrada 1100S yesterday to replace my two up bike. Air cooled, two valves per cylinder, cable throttle, Ohlins suspension. Old school baby! I’ll probably croak before I need another street bike. I even saved a huge wad of money.

      • Curt says:

        All the 1290s I’ve ridden are massively overpowered for the street, by most any criteria (as are a lot of other bikes). The Rain throttle map has much less power but the others are all nice and sporty. I use the cruise control, not the maps, to avoid speeding tickets.

      • Curt says:

        Congrats on the new bike! I had a 2008 Hypermotard and I bet the engine was similar. Lovely mid-range and cadence. I bet you’ll really enjoy it.

        • Mick says:

          I have a thing for that engine. I had a ’92 900SS, and hated the carburetors. When I took the wife to choose a two up ride she chose the 2004 Multistrada that the 2008 is replacing. When she wanted to buy me a new bike for my 60th birthday I bought a 2012 Hypermotard instead. It is the last year the Hypermotard came with the air cooled 1100.

          I always say that I want a street bike with about 90hp because I felt that the 916 Ducati, at about 105hp, that I had really duspised the limitations of public roadways. The industry doesn’t seem interested in making a better 90hp bike. Ride by wire is starting to come on anything with about that much power. Ride by wire is full stop for me. Our cars have it and I absolutely hate it.

          I just don’t see anything for me coming from the street bike industry in the foreseeable future. So I shop the past for low mileage bikes. It’s kind of sad really.

  9. Gremlin says:

    Buyer Beware concerning KTM Quality Control. I purchased two of these Super Duke GT bikes, the original 2016 version, and the revised version in 2019. Both were full of electronic gremlins: A TFT screen that routinely stopped working, multiple engine warning lights that required 6-8 trips to the dealership to be told software updates were needed each time (the KTM special diagnostic tool is pricy if the bike is out of the initial warranty).

    The worst and most dangerous unresolved issue was the 2019 bike stopped running while at highway speeds on three different occasions…twice it restarted after frantically finding a safe spot to pull off the road, the other time it had to be towed. Hardware issues included a pannier that stopped working and was sent to KTM HQ for repairs, and rear-view mirrors that would not stay tightened and vibrated while riding. Calls to KTM HQ in Murrieta California met with little concern and no fixes. Multiple KTM SDGT internet reviews note similar electronic issues (Check out MCN and DSR KTM SDGT reviews on Youtube).

    I’ve bought over 25 other motorcycles, with 9 currently sitting in my garage, all with stellar reliability. As Dirck states, this bike is incredible, hence why I bought a 2nd one thinking the first was just bad luck with poor reliability. Shame on me for being fooled by KTM a second time. Never again for KTM.

    • Grover says:

      I will continue to steer clear of KTM until they mature into a reliable machine. My guess is if it hasn’t happened yet, it never will.

    • Gary says:

      The Web is full of similar stories. It’s a real pity. I’m sure it’s a great thrill to ride, but the substandard programming/ECU make it a no go for me.

    • Mick says:

      Oddly, I had a friend text me yesterday about how much he likes some traction control setting on his 1290. I didn’t ask if the thing has given him any grief.

      It seems to me to be a supplier issue with whoever is supplying the enhanced electronics. Looks like KTM should think about a new vendor.

      It’s this sort of overcomplication of what could be simple devices that is really beating up on motorcycles industry wide. Even the two strokes are ditching proven simple reliability in favor of complicated systems with numerous possible failure points, that are tending to fail at times.

      Count me out. Keep it simple.

      • Curt says:

        My 1290s have been very reliable and exciting. I wouldn’t want to ride one without some electronics. Seriously.

        • Gary says:

          “I wouldn’t want to ride without some electronics.” Me neither. And I prefer electronics that work as they’re supposed to.

  10. pole sitter says:

    Thinking the Triumph 1200 RS triple would be a better fit for the masses..Lighter weight similar performance and that awesome triple that only Triumph can produce…but they all have the same $$$$$$ problem that puts them out of reach for the average Joe….

  11. Stuki Moi says:

    For “sportbike power and handling,” the GSX-S1000GT is more to the point. The PDS suspension in this one is not very sportbike’y at all. Better in some ways, especially for bumpier roads. But not sportbike’y. The engine is also a bit different, compared to a typical “sportbike”, despite having plenty of power and grunt.

    • Dave says:

      “combines touring comfort and…”. Like the 2A, it’s important to consider statements in their entirety.

      • Stuki Moi says:

        The mentioned Suzuki is also touring comfortable….

        The 1290, in at least all except it’s latest, linkage, iteration, is just not very “sportbike like” in handling. Nor in powerband and delivery. It’s fast as what all, but for someone wanting an experience close to that of a typical “sportbike”, the 1290 is just not really it. Heck, the ‘Busa, the adv’y s1000XR, perhaps even the ZX-14R, are closer to typical sportbikes, and they’re all a bit off as well. The 1290 is closer to the H2SX.

        The ‘Zuk literally has the engine from a legendary sportbike. The swingarm ditto. A girder stiff “deltabox” frame and steering head. A very progressive, flat running shock. Doesn’t necessarily make it “better” than the KTM. It’s no faster on public roads, and is strictly worse for legroom… Bt it is much closer to a touring equipped and comfortable “sportbike” feel-alike, than the KTM is.

        Again, I do not mean to slight the KTM. It’s singularly great, for being as rough-road competent as near any Adv bike, but with much more higher-speed appropriate ergos. It just feels more like a Versys 1000 with Ninja 1000 ergos, than like a “real” sportbike slightly tweaked for luggage and longer stints in the saddle.

        • Mick says:

          For me sportbike feel is all about ergonomics. The bike doesn’t need to be wrapped in plastic. But if it has general sportbike ergos and decent suspension it will provide a sportbike experience. It’s the way your body is positioned over the pavement and how close your body is to that pavement while at full lean. You really feel how far the bike is tipped in. A bike with ADV ergos doesn’t provide the same experience at the same sort of lean angles. I dare say the sportbikes are more exciting to corner on. But really, you can go full lean from one side to the other faster and easier on a bike with ADV ergos.

          I kind of liken it to the bicycle world. Sprtbikes are the skinny tired road bikes that are all about riding fast on paved surfaces. Their ergos are all about staying low and going as fast as possible. The ADV segment have mountain bike ergos that favor control over speed. Other segments have their bicycle counterparts as well. Save some of the cruisers that are somewhere between a beach bike and a recumbent.

  12. mechanicus says:

    +1 Harry +1 Rusty. Your 2 posts read back-to-back summarize my view perfectly.

  13. Rusty says:

    OMG do they not have rainbows in Austria? Do you think you could mix the color theme up just a
    little? Maybe experiment with bodywork that is not so angular?

    • Tom R says:

      The unusual atmosphere in Austria apparently affects the visible light spectrum in that orange and black stand out as the only primary colors that are work a crap.

      They must really, really love Halloween there.

      • Mick says:

        They have this odd bluish color that shows up now and again. For a couple of years they had silver dirt bike plastic. Some guys really liked that stuff for how durable it was.

        I don’t remember what my 2017 300XC looked like when it was new. I take all the plastic off any new dirt bike and replace it with black stuff. I save it for when I sell the bike. Having scuffed up black plastic with no graphics has long been my brand. But a couple of decades ago some guy sold me a huge box of blue Yamaha plastic. So my YZs have been plain blue ever since. Though the two I have right now have my last blue plastics on them. If I wad the plastic on one of them it’ll turn black. I have a fresh set of 2007 YZ plastic that will go on one when I sell it.

        It’s really too bad that street bikes don’t have plastic like dirt bikes do. It’s not very expensive to buy custom graphics on plastic in srveral colors for any dirt bike. In minutes you can change your bike from Barbie to Oppenheimer to SpongeBob or just plain black.

        A Barbie bike would be pretty hilarious now that I think about it. I got a buddy who doesn’t like my plain black bikes. I should show up with a Barbie bike and tell him to be careful what he wishes for. It would be extra credit if I dredged Craigslist for pink riding gear from the eighties. I have a pair of pink socks that he hates. So naturally I wear them when I ride with him sometimes. As you might guess. I am NOT a slave to fashion. When I lived in Paris I built a bamboo fatbike. I would dress like a slob and ride it around Longchamp with the skinny tire guys in their spandex suits. French guys are funny when they’re cursing you out.

  14. Harry says:

    It’s a beautifully engineering machine. No doubt about it. I marvel at the engineering. But it is not for me. Why? Just a practical guy. For me you buy what you need and can use. Twenty thousand dollars can be spent in other areas. Thats’s just me. For me a bike that costs no more than 10-12 thousand, at 1 liter or less and weights closer or under 400 pounds fits the bill. Again, you make your own decision.

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