KTM 1290 Super Duke R motorcycle test


Feel it !

180 hp, 189 kg dry, 140 Nm of torque, 18,199 euros

The grasshopper and the ant … The flamboyance of the first masks the truth of the ardor of the second. A bit like the image takes precedence over the text. In-depth work bears better fruit than superficiality. KTM with the Super Duke, like BMW with the R 1250 GS or Honda with the GoldWing, has done an ant job to raise its roadster, soon to be legendary, to the rank of mature motorcycles. The old model was already magical, the new Super Duke R relegates it to history textbooks. All this for a few pounds less and three more horses? Not at all. All this for crazy sensations and an unusual feeling. The magic of the motorcycle lies in the relationship that we forge with it. There are some that we insult, others that we flatter, some that we thank and then deceive, some that we respect respectfully … The Super Duke R, we acclaim it, we howls it, we whistle it, like a rock n ‘rollesque ecstasy in the middle of a concert! The hardest part with her is to relax.

KTM 1290 Super Duke R reviewKTM 1290 Super Duke R review


Like a rock band, the enchantment completely covers the work. The Rolling Stones’ working hours disappeared in the sensual tension of the live. It’s the same with the Super Duke. When engineers rigorously specify each element of their work, it’s a bit like a magician who explains his turn: technique, method, experience, training … It’s not funny real life, eh? Well yes, you just have to ride a motorcycle.

'The Beast' retains its sharp design‘The Beast’ retains its sharp design

We are going to relax a bit anyway. The mill first. Still the LC8 twin-cylinder open at 75 °, 1301 cm3. The crankcases have been changed to modify their anchoring in the new frame (0.8 kg less in passing), in order to raise the weight to improve handling. "Too high masses are harmful to mass transfers, when they are too low, they hamper handling" explains Hermann Sporn, in charge of the development of the Super Duke since the first 990.

The V-Twin has a displacement of 1,301 cm3The V-Twin has a displacement of 1,301 cm3

Pistons, distribution, crankshaft, the main thing, has hardly changed, apart from the titanium valves. KTM has especially worked hard to reduce internal friction (surface treatments), both for performance (hence part of the 3 hp gained) and to pass the noise standards required by Euro5. The Super Duke R is also mechanically ready to comply, but not yet electronically. So this model, for 2020, has been approved Euro4. Another task which monopolized the attention, the injection. Intake ducts, injection body (widened to 56 mm), new settings, to improve the introduction of the mixture into the cylinders. The performance is increased, as well as the feeling of the throttle (which of course depends above all on the ride by wire, but the electronics cannot do everything). However the feeling, the agreement between the pilot and the bike, constitutes the framework of the work carried out on the Duke R 2020..

The dual LED headlight features aggressive linesThe dual LED headlight features aggressive lines

At the other end of the mechanical chain, the diameter of the tailpipes has taken a few millimeters, while the silencer has lost some weight. The Pankl gearbox (a company which is now partly owned by KTM) received new pinions machined differently compared to the old model, as well as new forks (bronzed copper treatment) for the same reason: to facilitate the gearshift, reduce jerks (standard shifter up, optional down, but also WP fork cartridge kit or WP 4618 shock absorber, we tested on a motorcycle equipped with pure track with Bridg ‘slicks, quite barge!).

The Akrapovic silencer mounted on the Super Duke RThe Akrapovic silencer mounted on the Super Duke R

The most impressive is not there. When we talk about cycle parts, the discussion sometimes stifles in thick, mysterious fog. When you get on the brel, everything becomes crystal clear. The Super Duke R has the privilege of a new frame, faithful to the lattice / steel tradition of KTM, lightened by 2 kg. Its torsional rigidity is however three times greater than the old frame, according to KTM, but its geometry would allow better "elasticity" laterally … The single-sided arm, lighter and stiffer too (!), Including the anchor point on the engine was raised by 5 mm, is the other new element, as well as the steering column, the angle of which opened a few degrees. Hermann Sporn details the puzzle represented by the agreement between each of these parts: “We start of course with specific software, but nothing replaces the thousands of kilometers of tests. »And we can see the tedious job of the tester-developer profession: if we raised the swingarm a little, with the position of the engine in the frame tested on day X? Then we raise the engine a little in the frame, we open the column angle and we notice by chance that by changing the saddle / footrest / handlebar triangulation we obtain better results. Yes, but with the more rigid frame? Oh yeah, have to try! Which swing arm are we going up this time? It presupposes rigor, method, compromise, teamwork, kind of happiness … Here, try to see a more aggressive engine cardboard, what does it give in part-cycle behavior? Not bad, but you should try with a more closed fork with spring preload. Etc.

The tubular frame has been completely redesignedThe tubular frame has been completely redesigned

Because of course, the WP suspensions also had to adapt: ​​new springs in the Apex fork, therefore new hydraulics, new link for the shock absorber and new positioning … And presto, we take the opportunity to lighten the latter by 200 grams! By the way, we received the new (lighter) rims ?

The 1290 Super Duke R gets a new WP Apex forkThe 1290 Super Duke R gets a new WP Apex fork

Last extreme pleasures, electronics, with a new inertial unit with six axes, like on the best sports. Traction control (MTC) can be deactivated (Track mode), as can the anti-wheeling, you can also practice taking MotoGP-style starts with a launch control, or playing it as a tourist with cruise control. .. Five pre-programmed modes are selectable on the instrument panel: rain, street, sport, performance and track. Each has specific settings for engine brake, traction control, anti-wheeling, throttle responsiveness … Finally, the Bridgestone S22 series tires, specially developed for the R.

Equipped with Bridgestone S22, the KTM sported slicks for the track testEquipped with Bridgestone S22, the KTM sported slicks for the track test

In the saddle

KTM has cash habits that sometimes get in the way, but has the advantage of being honest. To get a good feel for the evolution, the brand chose the most bumpy and fast roads in Portugal, then one of the craziest circuits in the world, Portimao. History not to make any gifts, especially with a roadster.

The KTM 1290 Super Duke R ready to do battle on the Portimao circuitThe KTM 1290 Super Duke R ready to do battle on the Portimao circuit

Sunday morning, sun a little cool, sky clear, I discovered a Super Duke R a little high in the saddle for my small size but quite narrow. The bust a little on the front, the arms little apart, I enclose the bike enough to blend in (redesigned tank), to form one body, we are compatible. The dashboard (several possible screen layouts) reads perfectly, you enter the menus through the left stalk, without too many headaches. Among the languages ​​available, French; I adopt (France is one of the important markets for this big roadster, the most sold with us in the over 1000 cm3 category). Soft controls, rather comfortable saddle and above all long and wide (except for the passenger!), Legs reasonably bent, go !

The position is very focused on the frontThe position is very carried on the front

The KTM is immediately obvious, agile despite its huge 200 wide rear tire, especially its front axle gives you confidence from the first roundabout. We say to ourselves that we are going to be good friends !


Departure therefore from the Portimao circuit. To find the roads that surround the hills of the Algarve, we have to take the motorway. We get lost quickly beyond 140 km / h (4,500 rpm), we lie down to escape the air pressure, the bike remains stable despite the few bumps … But I will not do not a Paris-Marseille like that. This kind of enormous toy flourishes in kindergartens of the craggy Auvergne type, convoluted Vosges, tortured Alps. “How do you think we did in the 1970s with our Kawa Z1s and Suz ‘GS 750s on the highway? – Ok, do you have to go back to horses and carts to appreciate the benefits of a diversified modernity? We invented the fairing to spare ourselves the osteo. Obviously, it’s not very "stylish" … Why then not be able to install a small adaptable fork crown, just to vary the movements? Ok, ok … We know what to buy when we choose a roadster. And then there’s the GT.

On the highway, you have to lie down to limit the air pressureOn the highway, you have to lie down to limit the air pressure


Revelation! We attacked like Vikings, from the start of the small roads. Bumps, fast turns, wet parts, dusty hairpins, in just two hours on the road, the panel was not bad. The Super Duke R, obvious, reassuring in Prosac mode, turns into a demon at the slightest tease. And that’s the whole problem with this bike: 180 hp, a crazy part-cycle and you want to keep calm? It’s like wanting to visit the gardens of Versailles on a rodeo horse, or go to the paint ball to try a replica of the Mona Lisa..

The twin delivers 180 hp and 140 Nm of torqueThe twin delivers 180 hp and 140 Nm of torque

In short, we are there, we are going to knock. The engine first, hyper reactive, rumbling and scurrying, a few millimeters of throttle and the needle flies off. Sport mode, the twin can be controlled but it doesn’t take much for it to get carried away. Fortunately, the front axle does not flinch too much, unless you hang on to it. The bike then becomes nervous, a few jerks, she quickly explains that it is necessary to control it with the footrests and to tighten its sides of the tank. It turns in a homogeneous block, without forcing. This part-cycle has the whole character, frank and sometimes not very forgiving when one makes a mistake. Because it has no fault, other than being demanding when driving fast, the Super Duke R wants a driver at its level. But less than the old one. Easier to enter turns than its younger sibling, more manoeuvrable, it remains ultra dynamic in wringer mode. Fortunately, the suspensions work wonderfully, progressive and that the electronics ensure grain, smoothly.

The cycle part is based on a set of WP suspensionsThe cycle part is based on a set of WP suspensions

The powerful, vigorous and alert engine in its revving fits perfectly with this new part-cycle easier at medium pace. Stable and agile, but a little stressed when you find yourself almost above your pumps, that is to say at our personal limits. When we’re kidding, less clean…

KTM has nevertheless won its bet, we can better feel the reactions of the bike, we live at its own pace, we exchange. Her management has relaxed, but she is still the boss. The infernal big 8 of Portimao will only confirm this feeling.

The 1290 is easier to take at medium speedThe 1290 is easier to take at medium pace


Always worth checking out Portimao video. A circuit full of blind bends, climbs, vertiginous descents, bumps, accelerations on the angle, a jumble of the craziest amusement parks. It took me three 20 minute sessions to find some marks. Suddenly I was rough, panting ("I had simply forgotten / That I was twice (and a half) eighteen" …).

It takes a few sessions to get the measure of the huge coupleIt takes a few sessions to get the measure of the huge couple

The Super Duke R showed understanding (Track mode) at first, then I thought I could believe it … So I discovered the force of its torque on the angle, at 6000 rpm, the kicks from the rear controlled by electronics, the harsh desire to keep the front axle in check, still controlled by the electronics. I also encountered incredible braking power, a bike that was easy to spin, incredible liveliness, without losing stability. The longer swingarm, the more open column angle, the progressive suspensions, the driving position, everything harmonizes to offer rare control, if it was not the monstrous potato of this twin-cylinder never out of breath..

Precise, the Super Duke R is also very demonstrativePrecise, the Super Duke R is also very demonstrative

We can feel there the work of Jeremy Mc Williams, former MotoGP rider, or Chris Fillmore, winner of Pikes Peak, or Alex Hoffmann, him a former GP rider, all in the service of the development of the Super Duke R. capable of such feats on the road AND on the circuit? Because in addition, the Super Duke R is comfortable, when we find our senses. It embodies the versatility of sport.


The new frame / swingarm / suspension set is all the novelty of the Duke R, more than its engine. Its settings on the angle are easier, without losing any insurance, thanks to the stability of the front axle and the smoothness of the fork (obviously adjustable in all points). On the road, she only knows the limits of our brain, not yet aware that we can keep so much speed in the curve. You can keep the front brake on the angle without the bike locking up. Everything is said then.

The 1290 is also equipped with a WP steering damperThe 1290 is also equipped with a WP steering damper


The attack of the Brembo Stylema before is a little rough, it could be more progressive, but the power does not suffer any reproach, even at 250 km / h at the end of the straight line downhill from Portimao. Above all, the motorcycle does not become destabilized during mass transfers.

Braking is provided at the front by Brembo Stylema calipersBraking is provided at the front by Brembo Stylema calipers


The driving position carries the body less to the front than the old Ducati Street Fighter, it approaches more of a Triumph Speed ​​Triple RS. The bike is thin, the saddle wide and long, the suspensions of a high level, even on the rough roads of the Algarve, they never came apart.

The driving position is sporty, but less drastic than on some sporty roadstersThe driving position is sporty, but less drastic than on some sporty roadsters

Video test of the KTM 1290 Super Duke R


The Super Duke R sets a new standard in the very sporty roadster family. Crazy weight / power ratio, superb chassis feeling, even rare, all tested in somewhat extreme conditions. The pace on the degraded roads of southern Portugal was barge, the circuit of Portimao demanding … The only problem, who can keep his cool when you are so good body with a motorcycle? Whatever at more than 18,000 euros, we have already lost our composure…

Available in two colors, the KTM 1290 Super Duke R is displayed from 18,199 eurosAvailable in two colors, the KTM 1290 Super Duke R appears from 18.199 euros

Strong points

  • Front axle stability
  • Engine fishing at mid and high revs
  • Driving position
  • Suspensions
  • Sporty versatility

Weak points

  • How to stay calm with a motorcycle like this? Riding in Rain mode
  • Slightly sharp front brake attack
  • High price, despite electronic equipment and quality elements (brakes, suspensions)

The technical sheet of the KTM 1290 Super Duke R

Test conditions

  • Itinerary: Algarve routes and Portimao circuit
  • Weather forecast: dry, sunny, 20 ° C
  • Motorcycle mileage: 1.420 km
  • Problem encountered: RAS

Pilot equipment

  • Spidi jumpsuit
  • RST Boots
  • Gloves Furygan
  • Helmet HJC RPHA 11

Related articles

  • KTM 1290 Super Adventure S motorcycle test

    Her Serene Adventurer 1290 V-Twin LC8 of 1,301 cm3, 160 hp and 138 Nm, 220 kg dry, electronic suspensions, adaptive regulator, 18,599 euros The ancestor…

  • KTM 1290 Super Duke R test

    V2, 1301 cm3, 177 hp at 9750 rpm, 141 N.m at 7000 rpm, 195 kilos, € 16,690 Ergonomics, ABS, keyless, assistance: the Austrian maxi roadster remains at…

  • Suzuki GSX 1200 motorcycle test

    The Inazuma does part of the Bandits family thanks to its engine, which is none other than the block of the 1200 Bandit. Released mid-99, this machine…

  • Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R KRT motorcycle test

    An integer character 4 cylinders in line, 998 cm3, 203 hp, 114.9 Nm, 206 kg all full facts, 18,099 euros. Nice surprise for me to find the Kawasaki…

  • Ducati Multistrada 950 S motorcycle test

    Time concordance A few generations of bikers have dreamed of the ultimate bike, one that adapts to context and mood, needs and desires. As our ancestors…

  • KTM 1290 Super Adventure test

    Ultimate adventurer ! After opposing the German reference BMW R1200 GS with a very attractive KTM 1190 Adventure, the Austrian manufacturer is stepping…

  • Ducati Panigale V2 motorcycle test

    Mini-V4, maxi-pleasure? Controlled origin flavor V-twin Superquadro 955 cm3, Euro5, 155 hp and 104 Nm, 176 kg dry, 18,290 euros Family culture obliges,…

  • Aprilia RS 660 motorcycle test

    Root of RSV4 = RS 660 Parallel twin, 659 cm3, 100 hp, 67 Nm, 183 kg, A2 version, APRC pack, 11,050 euros Sportiness is the emblem of the Aprilia firm,…

  • BMW S 1000 R motorcycle test

    Without hesitation 4 cylinders in line, 165 hp, 114 Nm, 199 kg, Flex Frame, LED headlight, 14,980 euros The BMW S 1000 R is the roadster version of the…

  • KTM Duke 390 test

    Light is Right ! The little Duke 390 is an amazing machine. Ultra light and very powerful without being radical, it comes to hunt on the lands of the…

18 thoughts on “KTM 1290 Super Duke R motorcycle test

  1. Hi David and hi Sandrine,

    Well done and thank you for this great test. As usual it is very well done, it is clear etc etc…

    Would it be possible to have the GPX file of these 3500 kms ?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. Hello everyone

    Saturday, with my sweetheart, we went to try this RT, very handy but a little noisy even with the original pot, on the other hand, in terms of comfort, very very disappointed, we tried all the "modes" for a disappointing result , too bad, I liked this bike very much but my passenger did not like it at all, caramba still missed, vibrations and saddle too hard, to be continued ….

  3. it makes you want but it still lacks the ‘practical’ sides (which those who do not have that to pay notice).

  4. very beautiful motorbike, a beautiful work of art, but above all a very nice test CONGRATULATIONS .

    ah ride on the cool couple by making beautiful, well rounded trajectories! the panard.

    I digress I do not drive in custom but in simple honda nc750 s. only common point is the torque placed low at 3700 rpm

    long live the pleasure motorbike

  5. Charging the alarm is a bit mean isn’t it? It’s good BM.

    Apart from that, this is the best custom, outside the American, with the 1800 Intruder Suzuki, that I have seen..

    It is original, quickly a comparison. On the other hand, only the ride because for the rest, nada.

    A bit expensive for so little performance but I have no doubt that some dandies will enjoy their handlebars.

    We are urgently awaiting the Louis Vuitton tank bag

  6. i prefer the 1250GS, no relation i know. It’s not the same aesthetic, I don’t care when I’m sitting on it, I can’t see it anymore.

  7. Disagree, the motorbike is also a beautiful object or it becomes a banal and utilitarian object, I like to sit down and look at it as one would look at a landscape.

    I imagine that with such a torque the brake is less useful than on a sports car.

  8. Neo-retro-inspired machines are not for me, because I’m too young to be nostalgic for an era I haven’t known and too old to still want to dress up, especially at the cost of disguise.

  9. It’s a bit quick as judgment no ?

    Between :

    an R18 like here,

    a Katana,

    a Kawa W800,

    a Brixton or a Mash,

    a Speed ​​twin or a Z900RS

    There is not much in common, apart from the fact that the aesthetics are reminiscent of a past model (and not even the same years: it goes from the 30s for the R18 to the 90s for the Z800RS).

    The last two, in particular, are largely at the level of modern motorcycles.

  10. I find this machine rather successful; especially the exhausts very well suited to its neo-1930 aesthetic.

    I regret the poverty of its instruments, both in style and ergonomics. On such a machine, this is a real mistake.

  11. I love the daytime running light, very WWII. I hesitate between "it’s stylish" and "it’s a joke". 🙂

  12. a pity not to find a model without too many options, reverse gear at 950 euros so with option over 26,000 euros its starting to hurt, see on resale if it holds up well like a Harley

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.