2014 KTM 1290 Super Duke R FIRST RIDE

15 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 2014 KTM 1290 Super Duke R FIRST RIDE
KTM 690 Super Duke R

Beast Mode On!

They say: “Torque; Beast.”

KTM has never been shy about its intentions for the signature Super Duke streetfighter. Born from a sketch by Gerald Kiska way back in 2000, the Super Duke was intended from the beginning to be the most extreme, aggressive hooligan bike you could wheelie away from a dealership. This latest, fourth-generation version, redesigned from the ground up, remains true to form—the most extreme, aggressive hooligan bike you can buy today.

We’ve long loved the Super Duke, even naming the second-generation platform Motorcycle of the Year back in 2007. And this is the best one yet. Officially designated the 1290 Super Duke R —there is no base model, the full-stick R version is the only choice—this is a quantum leap forward from the third-gen bike, expanding engine capacity from 990cc to 1,301cc, incorporating sophisticated rider aids including variable ride modes, traction control and ABS, and grafting top-end braking and suspension components for to set a new standard for naked bike performance.

Such an ambitious Super Duke redesign underlines KTM’s newfound commitment to streetbikes. (This was KTM’s third major streetbike presentation for the 2014 model year, after the 1190 Adventure and 200/390 Duke.) Though best known for its bright-orange off-road racers, streetbikes now account for nearly 50 percent of the Austrian firm’s annual output—which, na 2013, numbered nearly 110,000 units, making KTM Europe’s largest full-size motorcycle producer, ahead of BMW, Ducati, and Triumph. KTM’s Duke lineup, covering everything from 125cc to 1,300cc, is driving this stratospheric streetbike growth, tripling the company’s market share in the past four years (with much of this growth coming from Asian markets). The Super Duke is the flagship, making this redesign doubly important.

The R revision is another Kiska creation, and his signature sharp-edged styling cues remain prominent as ever. The overall effect is that of a razor-shaped dirtbike, with dagger-like shrouds concealing the radiator and an elongated beak that mimics the outline of a conventional MX fender. The contrast-colored steel trellis frame is a prominent styling element, with the bolt-on rear subframe trimmed with the tiniest plastic skirt.

The Super Duke R’s real attitude comes from the engine. To create the 1290 engine, KTM engineers increased the bore of the LC8 superbike engine 3mm and stretched the stroke 2mm, pushing the 75-degree V-twin nearly to max capacity. Superlight, F1-style box-in-a-box pistons weigh less than the old 990 slugs and lighter, single-piece cams and DLC-coated finger followers further reduce reciprocating mass, so the 1290 delivers a delightfully free-revving character, despite the added displacement.

Revised cam timing, a reshaped combustion chamber and intake ports, and staggered-fire dual-spark ignition improve combustion efficiency for smoother running across the powerband. Bonus: Nitrified exhaust valves extend the service interval to 10,000 kilomita.

Our first impression of this 1.3-liter, 180-claimed-horsepower mountain motor matches what KTM Street Product Manager Jöerg Schueller says was his first reaction after riding the initial prototype: Jesus F*cking Keerist! Talk about torque… KTM claims a peak figure of 106 pound-feet at 6,500 rpm, and says it surpasses the old 990 engine’s peak output at just 2,800 rpm.

KTM 690 Super Duke R

This engine reminds us why we used to love big-inch V-twins, before the modern era of peaky twins like Ducati’s Superquadro and even KTM’s own RC8R superbikes that trade low-end thrust for high-rpm horsepower. Super Duke R delivers supersized acceleration in any gear, at any speed, even power wheelying in fourth gear! There’s simply no replacement for displacement.

Such a mega-powerful motorcycle might be difficult for many to enjoy without well-developed rider assists, so KTM turned to its partners at Keihin and Bosch to develop a cutting-edge electronic control system combining ride-by-wire throttle operation with traction control and ABS. The Keihin throttle bodies, widened from 52mm to 56mm this year, fuel flawlessly at any rpm, with perfectly calibrated ride-by-wire circuitry knocking the edge off what would otherwise be a massive low-rpm power hit.

There are three ride modes—Sport, Street, and Rain (the latter 100 hp max)—each with different throttle response, traction control, wheelie control, and ABS parameters. Traction control can be turned off completely; so can the ABS, which additionally offers a Supermoto mode that disconnects the rear pressure modulator to allow rear wheel drifting, a must for any proper hooligan bike.

Electronic settings are manipulated using the same thumb controls as the 1190 Adventure (the dash is shared with the Adventure, too), making changes less convenient than some other brands. Ride-mode selection sits two menus deep and requires you to close the throttle and depress a button for two seconds; disabling ABS or TC requires traversing three menu screens and a five-second button push. A necessary liability precaution, KTM says, so you’ll never accidentally switch these safety overrides off.

Unless you need balance-point wheelies, though, there’s no reason to switch anything off. The Sport settings are especially impressive, and permissive enough to let you slide the rear under power, skim the front wheel off corners and over rises in the road, and subtly drift the back end up to any apex.

Bosch’s latest MM500 sensor platform reads both wheel speed and lean angle to interpret traction and acts on the throttle plates, rather than cutting fuel or spark, to make TC intervention essentially invisible. The only time you’ll feel the traction control step in is when you really want it to, after your antics cross the threshold from exciting to something scary.

KTM 690 Super Duke R


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