KTM 1290 Super Duke R test


V2, 1301 cm3, 177 hp at 9750 rpm, 141 N.m at 7000 rpm, 195 kilos, € 16,690

Ergonomics, ABS, keyless, assistance: the Austrian maxi roadster remains at the top of the category

Losail circuit. Qatar. The most powerful roadster on the market gives us the handlebars. And besides the pleasure of discovering a new model, this experience is also an opportunity to meditate on the meaning of evolution.

Do not think that the next few lines fall under a column "I tell you about my life which, rightly so, you have nothing to beat", but I happen to know the Losail circuit a little bit. The first time was in 2006, when the Aprilia RSV 1000 R twin was launched. At the time, this was the gratin of the Italian sportswoman, a real Superbike machine, with high quality components. 10 years later, we hurtle down the Losail straight line just as quickly without sacrificing anything when entering a curve: but this time, it’s riding a roadster, a much more versatile machine and just as capable of taking you to the bread every morning. Let those who think it was better before go and get dressed.

The 1290 Supe Duke R is more an evolution of the first generation marketed from 2014 to 2016 than a real novelty and shows the distance traveled since the first 990 Superduke of 2005. Technically, it adapts to meet Euro 4 standards, but the engine is still evolving at all stages (crankshaft, intake ducts, valves, resonance chambers), while the most visible evolution obviously concerns the aesthetics that KTM, in accordance with its philosophy, wanted even more aggressive than ever. On the mechanical side, you might think that the bike has lost power (minus 3 horses) and torque (minus 3 N.m) with the switch to Euro 4, since the first 1290 Super Duke R claimed 180 horsepower. But when asked on the subject, KTM admits that they had communicated 180, but that it was in fact 173. And for the couple, admittedly, the value has fallen a little, but it is better smoothed. And the mechanical evolutions make it possible to make the big V2 of 1301 cm3 take more turns (from 9250 to 9750 rpm), which is always useful on the circuit to gain a little extension between two turns, for example..

KTM 1290 Super Duke R review

Another development, real, but less visible: it concerns the electronic package that must now display any machine with sporting pretensions. Of course, not everything is standard, but by resorting to separate options (such as the up and down shifter, for example), or to packs (the Performance pack is at 540 € and the Track pack at 343 €) , the Superduke R is able to meet the needs of the most demanding bikers: driving modes, traction control, rear wheel drift management when downshifting, anti-wheeling, launch control. She has the total !

The less bleeding drivers (there are, fortunately!) Will be delighted to see the arrival of standard cruise control. As we can see, the Superduke R is casting a wider net than ever, even if it is its sporting pretensions that are put forward and reinforced by its new plastic..


Everyone has the right to have an opinion on everything, but there are two points that should be agreed upon. The 2017 1290 Super Duke R has a hell of a face and its very sharp identity is in tune with the KTM spirit. It is obviously designed by the teams of Gérald Kiska, about whom two legends circulate: the first says that he is the spiritual son of a Picasso cubic period; the second that he was abused by rules as a child, that he has a morbid fascination with set squares and that he knew how to monetize this trauma by becoming a designer for KTM. Still, if it is the optics of LED headlights that appeals at first glance, with its signature post-atomic praying mantis, we also notice that the side scoops are sharper at the front while the almost -disappearance of saddle sides highlights the trellis frame, even more in its white & orange version (which, we grant you, contrasts with a combination of white leather with green threads placed on blue boots …): all this contributes to giving the machine an identity intrinsically linked to performance and that is of course the desired goal..

The new 1290 fork crown

For its part, the dashboard is new and is rather readable (the simplicity of the graphics is a virtue that not all manufacturers know), while the manipulation of the menus is done easily thanks to a keypad on the control unit. left. They are backlit.

A KTM has never been a frenzy. Glitter paints, flashy details, that’s not their thing. The "ready to race" is not just a marketing slogan: it is a reality that we see in the choice of components.

In the saddle

Before drawing any conclusions, let’s remember that we are on a 1300 which develops 177 horsepower and 141 N.m of torque: in fact, we can only find the machine compact and it is the case. The seat height is 835mm, but the tank is thin at the crotch. The levers are adjusted by micrometric screw.

New in 2017: the presence of a keyless start button. Remote control in pocket, just press the gray button on the right stalk to turn on the machine and unlock the fuel filler cap. Handlebars turned, the reverse maneuver blocks the steering. It takes a little getting used to, because sometimes you push this button instead of the starter ….

Despite its saddle height of 835 mm, the machine remains compact

As standard, the machine offers four engine maps: street, sport, rain and track, with adequate acceleration response.

KTM 1290 Super Duke R dashboard

There’s more than that: the big V2 comes to life with a deep and low tone at the same time. The hydraulic clutch is smooth and easy to adjust and the by-wire throttle always provides the desired response. But good.

In the city

Let’s be frank: we drove a few kilometers in Doha, the capital of Qatar, and the urban experience has nothing to do with this ultimate sadomasochist holy grail of a semi-ring road in winter in the bold and dark..

What we can say, despite everything, is that the turning radius is not catastrophic, that the response to the accelerator offers all the smoothness required by this type of evolution and that the big V2 is flexible (even more flexible than the previous 990 Super Duke), because able to evolve at 3000 rpm in third, or 50 km / h, without hiccups. And the braking offers a sufficiently progressive bite over the first few millimeters.

The KTM 1290 Super Duke R in the streets of Qatar

A different urban scenario may arise and in this case, the 1290 Super Duke R may reveal another side of its personality. Imagine. You are at the exit of the Vélizy II shopping area, after a good meal at Hippopotamus. In a cheerful mood and prone to bliss, you see life in a serene mood when, suddenly, an intruder walks by your side at a red light. He drives in a Seat Ibiza tuning (pleonasm). Your educational mission takes over: do not miss this opportunity to humiliate him.

You therefore select the launch control (two manipulations on the left stalk), you check that the anti-wheeling has not been released and you weld the handle to the stop. And above all, you do not release, which would deactivate the system, which can be annoying when you go full throttle with 180 horsepower.

Launch control of the KTM 1290 Super Duke R

The speed then stabilizes at 6500 rpm. When you let go of the clutch, a very furtive feeling of sluggishness emerges, before the electronics take charge and allow you to shift gears by controlling the lift of the front wheel and the level of power delivered. It’s just bluffing efficiency, even if it takes a bit of psychological work to stay with the gas fully welded !

Jekyll & Hyde: that’s it too, the 1290 Super Duke R. And no doubt that the keyless start, as standard, will make everyday use easier..

On motorways and main roads

It was not on the program of the celebrations, nevertheless, before a more thorough test, one can say two or three things. One: the ergonomics are more sporty, as is the slightly more radical positioning of the machine. With a handlebars 20 mm wider, 5 mm lower, but above all 18.5 mm further forward, we are a little more head in the handlebars. This is good for the highway. What is less is that the new headlight is significantly lower and the old one provided a bit of protection. No longer, high speeds are synonymous with wind in the quiche and in the long straight line of Qatar (philosophically close to a German highway), it becomes physical to cling to the branches.

This test at Losail was an opportunity to drive at night

In addition, the 1290 Super Duke R does not pull short: while its red zone is at 9,750 rpm, we find ourselves cruising at 130 km / h in the last gear at around 4,500 rpm (the tachometer by barograph is not very precise on reading). Very good for diet and consumption, however. The bike does not vibrate and the saddle feels relatively welcoming, although only a long journey can tell. Good point: the cruise control, just to ensure connections without risking succumbing to temptation (the V2 is on fire and each rolled up a millimeter of cable – it’s an expression, it has a by wire, follow a little!) is synonymous with recoveries that deposit) and losing points…

On departmental

There, nothing to say in view of the test conditions. We will talk about it again on a subsequent resumption of contact, even if the quality and the travel of the suspensions should allow this Super Duke not to do too badly. Let’s not forget that the big V2 is surprisingly flexible and that if the torque value is an impressive 141 N.m, more than 100 N.m are already available from 2500 rpm..

On track

Here is finally the main course! Submitting a roadster, even a sporty one, to a playground as demanding as a MotoGP circuit shows how much KTM has confidence in its product and in its "ready to race" philosophy. Obviously, on paper, the Super Duke R is equipped: 177 horsepower, high-end peripherals, very sporty tires, everything is in place for performance..

The KTM 1290 Super Duke R on the track

So let’s enter the Losail circuit quietly. First test: easy handling, despite the large torque, the bike is gently swept along while the tires warm up. The big V2 allows you to pick up already strong at medium speed and, when you start to make your mark on the track, its low inertia and its respectable reach become allies. Thus, in Losail, we can keep the third in a few sequences, such as between turns 4 and 6, as well as between 7 and 10, for example. The third amount to more than 180 km / h, it allows you to concentrate on driving in these technical sections of the Qatari circuit..

The KTM 1290 Super Duke R on the Losail circuit

First passage in the straight line: we no longer doubted it, but when the go-around was in third, the big V2 had resources and despite the electronic settings, the machine allowed itself a small power wheeling in third, while that throughout the life of the fourth (from 180 to 210 km / h, therefore), the front end is still taken with desire for freedom. Fortunately, at this time, we begin to stabilize on the bike and wedging on the backrest allows less strain on the handlebars and limit movement. The fifth sends up to 235 km / h and there, the dab position is essential. The digital rev counter changes from blue to red when approaching maximum speed and this signal is sufficient to know, on the handlebars, when to give it a shifter. The sixth, on the other hand, pulls a long hair and the force of the acceleration decreases a little. Hanging on the handlebars, the helmet pressing against the chin, shoulders sore, we struggle to get a little over 250 km / h (KTM test driver Jeremy McWilliams takes 260, but it is three times thinner than me and three times better, too). On the other hand, we can go to brake beyond the vibrator, on the tire tracks of MotoGP riders, who reach more than 330 km / h. The 1290 Super Duke R does not flinch, its fork takes hold and the engine brake is an ally so as not to miss its entry into the first straight, which goes into third. Then, the qualities are revealed: an excellent front axle, a powerful braking, a perfect shifter (there is even a function "little gas" to the downshifting) and the 1290 Super Duke R lavishes a lot of pleasure on this circuit. On the other hand, there are limits, too, summarized in the following equation: large displacement + large torque + short wheelbase (1482 mm) + suspension with substantial travel (125 mm in front, 156 mm behind) + large handlebars, all that. fact that there is a bit of movement, with marked mass transfers on heavy braking and steering movements sensitive to acceleration. Fortunately, it is easy to be mobile on the handlebars, to compensate a little. Likewise, the large torque makes it tricky in the parabolic (turns 10 to 12), where we go out in fifth at more than 200 km / h, with a machine that only asks to widen the trajectory and put itself on Rear wheel. To each his own technique, I compensated by passing the 5th rather early (after we are full angle to the left and it is difficult to change gear) and by forcing the machine with the thighs to bring it back inwards. But we must not forget the essential (it remains a twin-cylinder 1300 cm3 roadster, so a priori not the most suitable machine for the track) and if things move, it remains healthy and we take real pleasure on the handlebars..

The KTM 1290 Super Duke R on the corner

To judge the potential of the bike, KTM had made available some "track" machines: rear controls, ad hoc suspension strings and slick tires. Just by climbing on it, you realize that the dead travel of the shock absorbers has disappeared. Higher trim, the Super Duke Track requires a little more engagement on the handlebars, but the front end is much more precise in tight turns and the ground clearance is finally correct (we are quickly on the footrests, on the standard version; racing footrests can then be taken from the Power Parts catalog). In any case, the electronics are pretty transparent and the traction control, when it kicks in, stealthily slows the machine down rather than abruptly cutting it off in its tracks..

The 1290 on the attack

Cycle part

Few changes compared to the first generation. The compression and rebound settings are adapted to a more sporty philosophy and in good KTM, the machine is really sensitive to the suspension settings. We therefore find a solid inverted WP fork of 48 mm in diameter swinging over 125 mm, as well as a WP mono shock absorber swinging over 156 mm, the whole being obviously adjustable in all directions..

This year, KTM changes its tire mounting and the 1290 Super Duke R adopts Metzeler M7 RR, 120/70 x 17 in front and 190/55 x 17 behind.

For 2017 the Super Duke R adopts Metzeler M7 RR tires

The weight of the machine takes, on the technical sheet, 6 kilos and according to engineers, 4.5. KTM does not communicate on the details of this weight gain, but attributes it in part to the new exhaust with valve, to all the sensors (inertial unit), to the TPMS, to the more sophisticated Bosch ABS unit….


Quality gear with 320 mm discs in front clamped by Brembo M50 radial calipers! Power and dosability are there even if, in factory setting, the mass transfers are sensitive. The ABS disconnects and has a "supermoto" mode, to be able to orchestrate glides from the rear while maintaining safety in front. There are some to whom it will speak…

Brembo M50 radial calipers and 320mm discs provide front braking

Comfort and duo

The type of test carried out does not really allow us to comment. That said, the Super Dukes have always provided a comfort that is far superior to what their aggressive styling suggests. The new version should be no exception to the rule, although the new driving position and firmer suspensions should lower overall comfort a bit. To be checked in the long term, therefore.

Consumption / autonomy

We’ll talk about it the next time we drive it, because there … The tank is 18 liters with a reserve of 3.5 liters. The modifications made to the engine allow KTM to announce a reduction in CO2 emissions of 10% and lower consumption. The dashboard incorporates a fuel gauge.


The way you throw yourself into a turn and the vigor with which you come out of it prove once again that this machine has real sporting genes. This supercharged roadster really shines and its ease of driving is quite impressive. The electronic package contributes to the pleasure that we quickly take on the handlebars. Admittedly, this track test does not show all the facets of the motorcycle: in real life, its rounder engine at low revs and its quality suspensions will give it real versatility, while its unique look in the motorcycle world will seduce. those who are looking for a real street cred! In any case, whether we play with the launch control, that we enter hard in a curve after swinging a downshift, or that we savor the deep rumblings of the V2 in a sustained acceleration where the front wheel has a lot of trouble staying on the ground, the 1290 Super Duke R plays the same score, that of a sensation machine.

The 1290 in the curves of Losail

The KTM 1290 Superduke R will be available from February 2017 and KTM France hopes to sell more than 1,000 units this year (more than the 750 sold in 2014 and the 800 in 2016, knowing that the 990 Super Duke revolved around 250 to 300 annual units, with a peak of 600 during its 2008 makeover). In short, the Super Duke R is on the rise and its 2017 package only improves it.

Strong points

  • Lively and powerful motor
  • Awesome couple
  • Electronics easy to handle and efficient in action
  • Mean look !!
  • Compactness for a 1300
  • Powerful braking
  • Driving pleasure

Weak points

  • Fast track physics
  • Some false dead spots
  • Pulls a long hair in 6th
  • Ground clearance on track
  • Comfort in the background ?

The technical sheet of the KTM 1290 Super Duke R

Test conditions

  • Itinerary: Test carried out in Qatar with a short stroll through town, followed by 4 long sessions of 30 minutes on the Losail GP circuit including two at night and one with a "race" version in slicks, as well as two dragster-style runs for judge the merits of launch control.
  • Motorcycle mileage: 1000 km
  • Problem encountered: it’s a bit addictive, this kind of driving…

Competition: Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 RR, BMW S 1000 R, Ducati Monster 1200 R, Yamaha MT-10.

The test of the KTM 1290 Super Duke R in video

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