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2014 Bike of the Year review: KTM 1290 Super Duke R

2014-06-27 13:11


KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R: It's probably the most hyped motor-cycle of the year. Image: DRIES VAN DER WALT

KTM’s 1290 Super Duke is probably the most-hyped bike to hit South Africa this year but there have been grumblings in the media that the bike’s sophisticated electronics have tamed the beast overmuch.

Even so, it is a finalist for the Pirelli SA Bike of the Year title and the second in our series of Boty finalist reviews.

On paper the Super Duke is awe-inspiring with impressive peak power and torque, combined with light weight and a small frame. By rights it should be practically unmanageable but electronics do a great job of keeping all that power in check.


In my opinion more freedom from the digital department might have made the bike less suitable for everyday riding – fine if you buy it as a plaything but if (like most of us) you expect your bike to do double duty then the electronic nanny is very welcome.

IMAGE GALLERY: KTM 1290 Super Duke

The bike sports a typical KTM minimal look that seems to consist of only the bare essentials needed to make it roadable. It seems to be made up of little more than the big V-twin mill, a tank, a seat, two wheels and a (very visible) frame.

Seating is comfortably upright, allowing a commanding view over the surrounding traffic. Controls are light and easy to reach and the secondary multi-function display (see image gallery) offers a bewildering variety of information on multiple pages.

Even with the riding aids kicking in every so often the bike offers immense punch on the road. KTM claims that the Super Duke makes more torque at 2000rpm than its predecessor did at peak revs. That's not hard to believe when you give the throttle an enthusiastic twist. Even with the traction control on, the bike is happy to lift its front wheel up into fourth gear and one gets the impression that it would simply flip if the TCS were turned off.

Roll-on acceleration is equally impressive and I think it was only the lack of wind protection at speed that at times stood between me and spending some quality time with Bubba.


Handling is sharp, as can be expected from a short-wheelbase machine. An interesting aside is that the TCS includes a lean angle sensor. It saved my posterior at least once when I accelerated hard out of a corner. I didn’t find the traction control particularly intrusive, rather viewing it as a welcome safety net when my enthusiasm overcame my sense of self-preservation.

In the final analysis, I agree that the electronics on the Super Duke may almost have extinguished the dragon’s fiery breath, but I see that as a benefit rather than a drawback.

What may count in its favour: Immensely powerful; huge fun to ride hard.
What may count against it: Some might feel the traction control has tamed its brutal character too much.

 •  BMW S1000R
 •  BMW R1200GS Adventure
Ducati 899 Panigale
Ducati Monster 1200
 •  Kawasaki Z1000
KTM 1290 Super Duke
 •  Suzuki V-Strom
Yamaha MT-09
 •  Yamaha MT-07


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