2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R Launch Report – Sydney Motorsport Park
Test by Mark Willis, Images by SMAC! Media & KTM
Sydney Motorsports Park played host to part one of the MY17 launch of KTM’s Street range of motorcycles and here we start off with the 1290 Super Duke R. Or the ‘the Beast,’ the Austrian manufacturer’s inspiring, jaw dropping, appropriately named weapon.
I need to clarify, KTM has actually entitled this new one ‘Beast 2.0,’ as it has been in for some refinements since its inception a couple of years ago. This is my first ride on the Beast, and to say that I was a little excited was an understatement.
I have admired these bikes on dealer showrooms since they were released, the look is unmistakably KTM and they are what I would classify as a real muscle bike.
Combine these emotions with a glorious winter morning at Eastern Creek and I’m the first one ready to get out and start warming some tyres up. We are using the south circuit at the revised Eastern creek layout, which for testing both motorcycles and rider stamina is awesome.
The tight and twisty layout covers 13 corners in around 60 seconds, if you’re having a go. I have done quite a lot of rider coaching on the south circuit over the past three years so I didn’t have to worry about learning the circuit, just the bike.
The 1290 Super Duke R’s engine is a monster. KTM has refined the LC8 V-twin engine and it is now not only lighter, but also cleaner and more powerful with a claimed peak horsepower of nearly 180bhp with 140Nm torque, all of which are available at an incredibly low 6700rpm.
If that doesn’t make for a sensational wheelie bike what will? KTM has increased the bore and stroke on the new engine increasing displacement from 1195cc up to 1301cc.
It’s not only the bore and stroke that are new, there are now titanium valves to help the engine rev quicker along with intake resonators and shorter intake funnels that contribute to the optimisation of power deliver as well as widening power curve by an extra 500rpm.
Out on track I am almost immediately blown away by the power and the sound. V-twins just have that, ‘rip your arm out’ feeling that other engine configurations can’t quite match.
I was fortunate to swing my leg over the bike that had been fitted with the aftermarket option of full titanium Akrapovic and Powershifter+, which has the now almost compulsory option of both up and down shifting without the clutch.
The first couple of runs though I thought I must have been doing something wrong as the quickshifter didn’t seem to want to play ball. After a few quick checks we where hooked up to the KTM diagnostics tool and the shifter was re-calibrated.
From that moment on it shifted effortlessly in both directions without any interaction with the clutch. I soon was starting to scrape the bottoms of the footrests, and while I don’t envisage this would be a big problem for the road rider a serious track day pilot would need to consider adjusting rearsets.
The only problem with riding the bike with the powershifter first up is that you need to retrain your brain when you jump back on the standard bike. Retraining an ex-racer’s brain that has had a few sleeps on the track is no quick process, although I slowly got my head around it.
Like the new Honda Fireblade we tested at Phillip Island some months ago, my hope is that all manufacturers start to bring a quickshift out as a standard feature. I really believe that it is a great thing for not only a track day rider, but will make road riding safer in general as well.
As expected the bike has no trouble in lifting the front wheel, although to do really good wheelies you need to get the settings right with the electronics.
WP is the suspension manufacturer of choice for KTM and the new 1290 Super Duke is sprung with WP suspension both front and back. Up front we have 48mm USD forks, with 125mm of travel and adjustment in the form of compression and rebound.
These adjustments are completely separate with one fork handling compression and the other the rebound. Adjustments are easy to make to both front and rear suspension.
After the first couple of sessions on track, I found the bike was trying to turn itself inside out a little. Envisage a drunk guy riding a bucking bull and you will start to get what I was feeling like. I put this down to both front and rear suspension being a little soft on the spring preload and not quite enough control with the damping.
After relaying this information to the technicians we made those relevant changes to both front and rear of the Beast and the difference it made was night and day.
This is always a compromise as on the road you want the suspension to be more compliant and soft to help absorb the differing road surfaces and grip levels, while at the track where you are pushing harder you need the suspension to be set to a firmer setting to allow for the extra inertia created through more grip and corner speed.
Electronics are typical of what you expect on European sportbikes. In this instance they are impeccable, with the rider being spoilt with a level of aids that is fast becoming standard on most modern high end bikes.
The beast doesn’t disappoint and the engine is controlled with the Rain, Street and Sport modes. In rain mode the traction control is at its highest level of intervention and the engine has a maximum output of 130hp.
In Street mode the horsepower is back to its maximum but still with a moderate level of traction control intervention. In Sport mode power slides become far easier. There is still some control from the brain box (ECU) but this is smooth and doesn’t feel like it is overpowering the riders input.
The MTC can be disengaged completely but the optional track pack must be purchased for this to become an option. The track pack also opens up a comprehensive range of additional functions.
While we started to run a little short on time to test all the features that are available, the main features are Spin Adjuster, Anti Wheelie, and Launch Control. I would have had no problem in being invited back for another full day on the track to sample and play with the full range of features on offer.
The new Beast 2.0 also has the added bonus of cornering ABS and Supermoto mode as standard on the new model.
Navigating your way around the vast array of options is a breeze with the all new one piece TFT display. The brightness of the display automatically adjusts dependent on the ambient light. All information is easily accessed through the now illuminated menu switch on the left handlebar.
The appearance of the new KTM Super Duke R is distinctive with its ultra-modern LED headlight. More KTM road models are now being released with the same distinct LED headlight.
Braking performance is top notch as you would expect with dual floating perforated 320mm Brembo discs with radial monobloc four-piston calipers. The Sydney Motorsports South Circuit is quite demanding on brakes and not once did I feel any form of fade creeping in. The lever was always full and offered great feel for the rider.
Overall, I found the bike comfortable and an absolute joy to ride. Riding fast around a track without the protection from the wind by any type of screen just seems to add to the rawness that this bike exudes.
It’s playful and powerful but with an electronics package that can equally match its potential with aid assisting features. Once we had the suspension dialled in, we were able to paint black lines on the track at will. What more can you ask for in a motorcycle.
2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R Specifications
Engine type – Liquid-cooled, 75° V2, four-stroke, 1301cc, 108 x 71mm bore x stroke, four-valves per cylinder, Double Overhead Cams/Twin Cam (DOHC)
Mark Willis has had a long and distinguished career in motorcycle racing across many disciplines. Australian Long Track Champion (1993), Australian Rider of the Year (1996), Australian Supermoto Champion and has won both the Spa and Bol D’Or 24 Hour World Endurance Championship races. Mark finished fourth in the 1997 Australian Superbike Championship and finished as high as sixth in a wildcard appearance at the 1998 Australian round of the Superbike World Championship. He then went on to ride some unreliable bikes in the 500cc MotoGP World Championship, including the BSL, Modenas and Pulse squads. He made 22 starts in 500 GP with a best finish of 13th at Mugello in 2001.
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