Seriously fast: KTM 1290 Super Duke GT – RM125,080

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  • The KTM 1290 Super Duke GT has electronics that make you feel like a hero, it is so fast that you could hunt down R1’s, RR’s, Panigale’s and the other usual suspects.
  • The engine is a 1301cc, liquid-cooled masterpiece that also powers the 1290 Super Duke R, the latter fondly known within the industry as ‘The Beast’.
  • Besides the manic engine, the suspension is the other best part about this bike.
  • It is the type of bike that lets you get your elbow down on a fast circuit on one day, and will happily take you to Phuket the next day.

The KTM 1290 Super Duke GT is the very definition of what some people like to call a crotch rocket – it is fast, somewhat comfortable, looks great, and it is makes you feel like a hero. Despite all that it does not look like your typical mentally fast bike. It is a cross between a track bike, a supermotard and an adventure bike and though it is KTM’s first attempt at making such a bike, they have done a super job because the bike is fantastic where ever and how ever you ride it. So if you have RM125,080 and want a fast touring machine, go out and buy this bike and you will be happy for a very long time.

If motorcycle reviews were simple straight to the point articles, that would be how I would review the 1290 Super Duke GT. It is such a brilliant bike that there is almost no point in beating around the bush with it, you should buy it if you have the money and want versatility more than anything else. It has electronics that truly make you feel like a hero, it is so fast that you could hunt down R1’s, RR’s, Panigale’s and the other usual suspects. It is also good enough to ride long distances with and is quite versatile. What else could you actually want in a motorcycle?

But motorcycle reviews do not work that way and so I will explain why the 1290 Super Duke GT deserves your precious dollar.

It is a handsome motorcycle for starters. It really is. That edgy overall design makes it look like it is going somewhere quick even when it is standing still. You know it is a serious machine simply from its stance alone, the way you know a cruise missile will create some serious destruction just from the way it looks.

But the idea of a bike like the 1290 Super Duke GT is nothing new, it didn’t create this sport touring segment but it is currently the best at creating a sports touring machine.

Ducati and BMW both have bikes that bridge the gap between superbikes and touring machines, and both do it really well, but this KTM is just pushing the boundaries of what is capable with bikes in this category.

The engine is a 1301cc masterpiece that also powers the 1290 Super Duke R, the latter fondly known within the industry as ‘The Beast’. The engine puts out an almost mental 173hp and 144Nm of torque, which is a lot for a bike in this segment. Fast is this bike’s first nature, and just in case you were wondering, it produces more power than the ‘already very fast’ BMW S1000XR and the ‘also very fast’ Ducati Multistrada 1200S.

But it is the combination of the engine and electronics package that allows this bike to do what it does. And though I did not try it for myself, but this is a bike you could slide into corners and come out sideways with. It even has a riding mode dedicated to riders who like to lock their rear wheels and slide around, the ‘Supermoto Mode’ allows the rider to lock the rear wheel for a deliberate slide. KTM makes some of the best supermoto’s and superbike’s in the industry, it is rather normal then for them to try to combine the two into a touring package, and the result is simply superb.

There are other intelligent electronics like the Motorcycle Traction Control that calculates the lean-angle of the bike to the rotational speed of the rear wheel and immediately kicks in should it detect something amiss. It does so by intervening at the throttle valve level to minimise engine output. The rider too can decide how much electronic interference there should be by selecting one of three modes – street, rain or sport. And of course, because people who build KTM’s are supposedly wild riders, you can trust them to include the option to completely turn off the electronics package. And yes it shuts off completely.

The electronic wizardry continues with the Motorcycle Stability Control with C-ABS, the latter stands for Cornering-ABS. It is the world’s first lean-angle sensitive cornering ABS that applies just the right amount of ABS by calculating the lean angle. And both front and rear brakes are also connected, meaning that when the front brake lever is actuated, the rear brake is automatically applied to keep the bike steady under braking. This system too can be switched off.

Then there is the Motor Slip Regulation (MSR) that works in the opposite way of the Traction Control. The MSR works by minimising or eliminating rear wheel lock or drift when the rider performs quick downshifts, a move which usually locks the rear wheel. The MSR however is also connected to the Stability Control system, and is thus also lean-angle sensitive.

So the Super Duke GT has a bunch of electronics that keep the rider safe and lets the bike perform some ridiculous tricks with relative ease (read: come out of a corner sideways with the rear wheel smoking). But it is not just the many acronyms that help it achieve that.

There is the WP Semi-Active suspension as well, the electronics package adjusts the nature of both the front and rear suspension – makes it soft for more comfort, and stiffens it up for better handling, all at the push of a button. There are three different suspension set up available for the rider – comfort, street and sport. Once that has been chosen, the suspension can then be micro-tuned via the Suspension Control Unit to adjust the damping rate in real-time depending on the situation. It gives you the option to adjust damping to accommodate a pillion, or a pillion with baggage, just the rider, or just the rider with baggage. It then adjusts the suspension to the different weights and to give you the best control possible. All at the push of a button as well.

Also contributing to the phenomenal handling is the frame and subframe. The trellis frame is made from laser-cut, chrome-molydenum steel. Smart welding concepts make this frame extremely stable while the choice of lightweight metals contribute to a frame weight of only 9.8 kilograms. This helps the bike tip the scale at just 228 kilogram’s fully fueled and ready to ride.

This KTM also comes standard with a steering damper, grippy Pirelli Angel GT tyres and a lightweight single-sided swing arm which also happens to be the lightest in its class.

Despite all of the technology and a manic engine, the 1290 Super Duke GT can be gentle and docile on the road. Because it has huge power, you just have to squeeze the throttle a little to get past traffic, no need to bother with a downshift. But should you need a sudden burst of power, there is a quick shifter that lets you bang home gears super quick.

Besides the manic engine, the suspension is the other best part about this bike. When it’s soft it is really soft, plush even, and does really well at soaking up bad roads, but it is a little too soft for corners and makes the bike feel wobbly. On the flip side, it adopts a completely different character in Sport mode where it stiffens up the entire package and the bike responds to the slightest input. Street was just the right setting as Sport becomes a little too racy and even throws you off the saddle should you not be careful over bumps and such.

Complaints there are none, well maybe the seat could do with better cushioning and the standard equipment like the plastic oil reservoir could do with better quality, or you could opt for something out of the optional aftermarket KTM Power Parts catalogue, some of which are shown in the gallery below like the front caliper protector, and the brake oil reservoir.

I have a few complaints but there is a lot about this bike I love, like the cruise control system for example, it is one of the most simple and straightforward systems in the industry, and is arguably the best too. Then there are the brakes, twin 320mm discs gripped by Brembo M50 four-piston calipers that automatically grip the rear 240mm disc via a two-piston Brembo caliper. Speed retardation is amazing on this bike, seriously the stopping power is so immense it threatens to rip off your eyebrows. And ABS does not even rear its head unless it is the most serious of conditions.

But seriously, the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT is one of the best motorcycles we have ever ridden. It is crazy fast, and yet it is perfectly happy on a slow ride along the country side. It is the type of bike that lets you get your knee down on a fast circuit on one day, and will happily take you to Phuket the next day.

If fast is synonymous with this KTM 1290 Super Duke GT, then versatility is its middle name.

Now click here to see how the 1290 Super Duke GT compares against its competitors from BMW and Ducati!
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