Malaysia became one of the first country in the Asian region to welcome KTM’s flagship road-going bike, the new KTM 1290 Super Duke R. We were among the first to experience the sheer monstrosity of the naked bike at the Sepang International Circuit (SIC). Luckily we lived to tell the tale.
Whether you notice it or not, KTM is one of the brands that is on the rise over the last few years, and the case is apparent looking at the locally-assembled Duke trio – the 200, 390 and 690 that are selling like hot cakes (at least here in Malaysia). In 2013, street-based products like the Duke lineup account for almost 50 percent of the Austrian marque’s yearly output, edging other European motorcycle manufacturers. With the presence of the new Super Duke R, the Duke family, ranging from 125 to 1,300 cc, is now complete.
Being on top of the line, the 1290 Super Duke R is nothing like its Duke siblings, and judging by technical specs and media hype, the fourth generation Super Duke is a major departure from its predecessors. In the sense of styling, the Super Duke is akin to a beast on steroid, wearing space-age body armours or whatever it is that the designer Gerald Kiska must have had in his mind while working on the drawing board. Although looking aggressive, the Super Duke R is still vulnerable to the wind. It is a naked afterall.
Driven by an improved LC8 engine from the RC8R superbike, the 1290 Super Duke R must always be approached with great caution, especially since the mill has gained an additional 100 cc with a 3 mm wider bore and a 2 mm longer stroke, resulting in a delightful (and hair-raising!) free-revving characteristic. The engine is also lighter compared to the one that powered the 990 Super Duke thanks to its larger but lighter pistons and DLC-coated (Diamond-Like Coating) internals.
The engine, which spews out 180 hp and 144 Nm, was proven “wild” on the Sepang circuit. With help from a smooth-shifting six-speed transmission with slipper clutch, power from the engine comes on demand, so forget about opening the throttle wide when coming out of corners unless you feel lucky. With peak torque coming as early as 6,500 rpm, the Super Duke R has every right to crown itself as the naked bike with the highest power-to-weight ratio.
The bike’s ability to melt faces is largely down to the concert between the engine and the array of electronics KTM has thrown into this machine. First up, it features a Ride by Wire throttle system with three modes – Sport, Street and Rain. ‘Rain’ mode will provide only 100 hp with soft response while ‘Street’ gives the bike full power with sharper throttle response. Meanwhile, everything is put on the top notch in ‘Sport’ mode – even the rear wheel is allowed to spin for a little, just not enough to send you to the hospital. Then there’s the traction control and ABS from Bosch. Both can be switched ‘on’ and ‘off’ but the TC will not allow the bike to wheelie once activated.
Sounds cumbersome, but the impressive electronics package is easily accessible via control buttons on the left handlebar. All can be viewed via an instrument panel that is rather easy to read.
With an engine that is comparable only to a wild horse and extensive electronics package, all the Super Duke R needs is a capable chassis to harness all the power down. And that’s exactly what the boffins at KTM have come up with. A combination of 48 mm adjustable WP front fork with an aluminium single-sided swingarm with WP monoshock at the rear sandwiching a lightweight chromoly trellis frame translates in an ideal front end feel with composed handling and turning-ins around the track. But the track, as we know, is even so there’s no really indication on how the suspension would fare on Malaysian roads. Nevertheless, who cares if its stiff – it’s a Super Duke R.
Meanwhile, braking duty for the chunky naked bike is taken care of by a pair of 320 mm discs with Brembo monobloc caliper and a 240 mm disc at the rear, gripped by a two-piston Brembo caliper. ‘It bites hard’ was our rider’s prompt response when asked about the Brembos. The calipers are always hungry, it tricks you by allowing you to think that you have the confidence to apply the brake just a little bit later before entering the corner. But once you know the brakes are capable of hard labour at any given time, you’ll always brake a little later. Helping you with the newfound ‘confidence’ are the standard-issue Dunlop SportSmart 2 rubbers that shouldn’t be undermined as it provide adequate grip too.
The 1290 Super Duke R is definitely a beast, but a restrained one in the sense that the engine, chassis and electronics all together work in harmony. But why would one purchase this orange beast when there are other naked bikes selling for less money? Well, if you don’t mind spending RM133,000 for a bike that looks far from civilised, goes mental as you fire it to life and challenges you by saying “Come on, you can do better than that!” as you twist the throttle – then this is the one for you. Doesn’t come with the chicks pictured, though.
|Engine Type||2-cylinder, 4-stroke V 75º|
|Power||180 hp @ 8,870 rpm|
|Clutch||PASC slipper clutch, hydraulically operated|
|Weight (Dry)||189 kg|
|Frame||Chromium-Molybdenum-Steel trellis frame, powder coated|
|Front Suspension||WP-USD 48mm|
|Rear Suspension||Aluminium single-sided swingarm, WP monoshock|
|Seat Height||835 mm|
|Fuel Capacity||18 Litres|
|Tyres||120/70 ZR17 (F), 180/55 ZR17 (R)|