Ride Review: KTM 1290 Super Duke R

10/21/2013 @ 3:31 pm, by Iwan van der Valk17 COMMENTS


Attending KTM’s launch of the 2014 KTM 1290 Super Duke R in Spain, or friend Iwan van der Valk from Testmotor.nl has been kind enough to share his thoughts and review regarding Austria’s newest hooligan machine.

Getting a chance to put the KTM 1290 Super Duke R through its paces on the road as well as the track at Ascari, we are supremely jealous of Iwan’s experience. Hopefully KTM USA will let Asphalt & Rubber have a turn on the 1290 Super Duke R soon. – Jensen

For 2014, KTM is launching the third model of the Super Duke line, which they have been selling since 2005 (note: KTM mentions it’s the fourth edition because of the small upgrade in 2011).

The new KTM 1290 Super Duke R has a brand new 1,301 cc v-twin engine, that delivers a huge amount of horsepower (180bhp) and a mountain of torque (106 lbs•ft). The 1290 Super Duke R only weighs 417 lbs dry.


The previous iterations of the LC8-lump were always hampered with a difficult throttle response. According to KTM, this part-throttle behaviour has been reworked extensively on the KTM 1290 Super Duke R, and we have to agree it does feel fine now, apart from a minimal on-off reaction when you first open the throttle mid-corner.

Overall though, we like the driveability of the ride-by-wire system. The big v-twin sounds amazing and runs so smoothly that you can use a broad RPM range in any gear, although you do need to stay above 4,000 rpm to avoid bucking.

Above that the engine truly is a beast: turn the traction control off and it’s simply impossible to keep the front wheel down in the first 3 gears. In fourth, fifth, or sixth, a tiny crest in the road will result into a power-wheelie. KTM definitely didn’t lie when they christened this bike as ‘The Beast’: the 1290 Super Duke R is faster, stronger, wilder than you can imagine.

It is however geared too long. At freeway speeds in 6th, the engine is lugging along as it sits below 4,000 rpm, and doesn’t feel particularly happy about it. You really don’t need more than 4 gears on public roads unless of course you are addicted to prison speeds. Gearing The Beast shorter however doesn’t seem like a valid solution because of the enormous power that’s available.


This is where KTM’s state-of-the-art electronics package, a modern Bosch ABS and traction control system, comes into play. It should be noted that these systems are not the same as the ones on the KTM 1190 Adventure, which means that KTM will not be offering the recently flaunted Bosch MSC stability system on the big Duke.

The ABS system is different from most other sport bikes too, in that it works fine on the street, but on track it seems that you can get the most out of the brakes by disabling the ABS altogether. Even in its sports setting, the ABS system comes in too quickly on track. It’s probably more a gimmick than anything else, but experienced riders can also choose a ‘supermoto’ setting for the ABS, which allows you to slide the rear tire.

The Bosch Traction Control on the other hand is fantastic. The rough asphalt of the Spanish mountain passes didn’t phase the 180 hp / 106 lbs•ft bike at all as the system worked overtime on the broken surface. At first this felt a bit awkward, but soon you gain full-confidence in the electronics.

The system worked just as brilliantly on the Ascari track: we could see the TC light coming on in the 90° left-hander, but we couldn’t feel the system working at all, and the Super Duke R stayed perfectly stable.

The only downside of this electronics package is the irritating way of turning it off and on. You have to push a button for 5 seconds ,while being stationary, which means that you can’t make any changes on-the-fly and react quickly to changing conditions.

KTM says that they have done this for safety reasons, but this doesn’t seem to add up with their ‘ready to race’ image, and the simple fact of introducing a 180 horsepower bike into the market.


The Brembo M50 monoblocs already proved themselves on other bikes, like the Ducati 1199 Panigale, and they are no different on the 1290 Super Duke. The braking power is immense, but you get so much feedback and feel from the system that you never lose confidence in the front. You can execute emergency stops on loose surfaces without fear of lowsiding.

The comfortable seating position really adds to this feeling of total control with a great stock seat and a gentle knee-angle to the pegs . Shifting gears is very easy, although we did get a couple of false neutrals on the rough twisting roads, most probably because of the hectic riding conditions and dodgy roads during the test.

The all-new trellis frame is suspended – as always with KTM – by high quality WP elements. The front forks each have separate damping controls, meaning that one leg controls the rebound, while the other one takes care of the compression damping.

All in all, there’s more flex in this chassis than you would encounter on a superbike —  this is not a hot rod RC8 without fairings. When riding fast, the bike moves around quite a bit and in these extreme conditions it feels nice to have a steering damper as a fail safe.

The flexibility does take some getting used to, but you definitely gain confidence after a while. On public roads there’s plenty of ground clearance, but on track our toesliders got a good workout. The race-version we tried had much more ground clearance for this exact reason.

The performance of the front end was somewhat hit and miss however. The Dunlop Sportsmart2 tires gave full confidence at one point while lacking grip a little while later. According to KTM no changes were done to the bikes, so we don’t really know why the front-end feedback and grip was so changeable.

The rear suspension is of a beautiful single-sided construction, which always feels stable, tight, confident, and perfectly in control thanks to the traction control system.


The KTM 1290 Super Duke R is a quality product: the fit and finish looks wonderful except for the contrasting cheap looking exhaust system. Of course KTM likes you to solve this issue by buying a full Akrapovic system…very expensive but then again, it promises an extra 12 horses.

The headlight with striking LED daytime running lights is mounted very low on the forks and takes some getting used to visually. It turns on and off automatically and we still feel that the rider should control this but luckily this setup doesn’t flicker as nervously as the Adventure headlight.


Priced at €17,599 in Europe (not pricing is available in the USA yet), the 2014 KTM 1290 Super Duke R is a hell of a lot of money for a naked bike. For that amount we feel that KTM should have thrown in some carbon bits and a better race-ABS system.

But all-in-all this brand new 1290 Super Duke R doesn’t have any real flaws (apart from the MTC and ABS controls). This bike delivers what’s been promised: a insane streetfighter with an obscene amount of power, controlled to be enjoyed to the fullest.

You can ask yourself if all this power is really necessary, but in practice, the huge and addictive wave of torque gives you riding pleasure few bikes can match: powering this beast out of corners feels fantastic, over and over again. It has more power than you’ll ever need or want.

The commanding seating position and the wild ride nicely finish off the concept of this big ballsy naked. Just try to keep your licence, if at all possible.






Photos: KTM

A special “dankuwel” to our friends at Testmotor.nl for sharing this article with us, and big thank you as well to Jan DeMan, who translated Iwan’s work from Dutch into English for our readers.

  • luke

    €17,599?? Sweet Jesus, I wonder what astronomical price it will end up with when it gets to Australia.

  • AK

    I was expecting it to be around 15K-16K. damn it …. I guess tuano V4 now.

  • Mormont

    Really wanted to pick one of these up but for (my guess) $17K-18K US, no thanks.

  • when I first saw the concept it looked fantastic, the production version looks FUGLY and at 17k looks FUGLIER NOW.

  • That’s 192 hp with the good exhaust system, which means after a little mapping and better plugs, it should be easy enough to get 200hp and 110 lb/ft of torque on pump gas, then add some 104 to 112 race fuel and you’re riding a demon straight from hell. And I don’t even want to think about what could be achieved by a serious reworking of the motor.

    Aaron like! :-)

  • Ian

    Yep Luke i was expecting near vertical pricing, and as such will be applied in OZ.
    I bet with the Akra can the price will push near 30k AUD.
    Price here was crazy for the RC8, this is typical.


  • Tom

    I would love to own a KTM Enduro EXC or Super Duke some day but as the phrase goes: KTM = “Kost Too Much”

  • Brian stevens

    The 690 Duke will do me just fine.

  • Jerry

    All that technology comes at a price! If they don’t do it the industry will shun the bike for not having it! So they include it which drives the price way up! It’s like cant I get a Ktoom 350 something dirt bike new for less than 9 grand??!!

  • Dustin

    Typical internet moaning.

    The (non) buying public won’t be happy until they have a sport bike with the ergos of a Goldwing that weighs 150 lbs wet with a 400 mile range and a 250 cc motor that revs to 25,000 RPM and has 100 lb-ft of torque and has soul and is $2000 but is built in America and blessed by the pope. Oh and it has to have MotoGP suspension with a full electronics package (but no electronics at all) and come with free tires for life and 30,000 mile service intervals and they pay YOU to change the oil which you’ll do every 2000 miles because you only ride that much in a year.

  • You’ll notice you never see Iwan’s face. That’s because he’s really a test dummy….. just look at his helmet.

  • A

    +1 Dustin

    All I have to say to all the potential “super-naked” buyers out there (like me), the 2013 Milan show will be something to see. 2014 looks like the year of the super-naked bikes! 3 more weeks I think! And yes, I will attend from my chair through this website. Jensen, we’re counting on you! :0) Sweet site BTW, been here since ’08 keep it up!

  • Ian

    Take the blanket off “your” bike and go for a ride. Or have a Snickers.
    The Buying public choose to be cynical, because its our right.
    We are motorcycle enthusiasts, some purists.
    My bike is no garage sleeper, i hit the hills, commute, high km’s. So i command better and the best for my buck.
    If it not good enough ill moan, if its too dear, ill moan.
    We just hope that manufactures read high quality websites like this and take on the feedback.
    Yes, aged Suzuki and sans V4 Honda. I be pointing at you.
    KTM, please drop pricing so everyone can afford / justify a new ride and make big titty V-twin noise!!!!

  • hipsabad

    How can KTM drop the price when they keep making (along with all the other manufacturers gone mad) bikes that are increasingly unrealistic. Case in point: BIKE magazine in Britain did an article a few years back, wherein they took a bunch of talented riders out on the road, and on the track and had them ride some big, powerful bikes. They also rigged up an instrument to give them precise throttle opening readings. at all times. Lo and behold, according to the instrument’s readings these riders rarely used the bike to even half its potential. But luckily, we now have bikes where talented riders (to say nothing of the average rider) can use maybe a third the potential power. With more technical development and more sophisticated, expensive machines we can always hope to get it down to a quarter sometime in the future. Onward, hubris.

  • Jake318

    The KTM LC8 V-Twin is a race engineers dream that has been an under achiever due to lack of race development. Yes KTM has participated in the German Superbike and AMA Superbike series. But there effort in these series was more like a well funded privateer level team than a a full fledged factory effort.
    KTM has shown that they can be a technical powerhouse creating the most powerful 250cc engine in Moto3
    (and there where around 5 F1 engineering firms and HONDA developing A 250ccMoto3 engine) and a very powerful V-5 MotoGP engine for Kenny Roberts racing team in the days of 990cc MotoGP Machines.
    This 1290cc naked bike seems like an answer to a question no one ever asked ?
    KTM would have gotten much more notoriety if they fulfilled the ..RACE READY ..promise/ad campaign and turned the RC8R Superbike into the world beater/ Ducati beater that it was supposed to be from the start.

  • Hagbard Celine

    Anyone dyno this thing yet? The quoted figures are always over-estimated or taken at the crank or drive sprocket.