Review: KTM 1290 Super Duke GT

KTM has been producing one of the most radical supernakeds on the market for a couple of years now. The 1290 Super Duke R, nicknamed The Beast, received a complete make-over for 2020. A few years earlier though, someone at KTM must have seen some touring potential in the Super Duke: mount a windscreen, add a larger fuel tank, stick on some panniers and there you have it: the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT was born. At any other manufacturer you would be fired on the spot, but not at KTM. Over there even the touring machines are Ready to Race.

The GT’s 2020 model is still based on the previous generation Super Duke. The engineers merely pinched off some top-end power of the original beastly engine: it still delivers 175 bhp and 141 Newton meters of torque. More than enough to turn the GT into a proper rocket. One that is fit to travel in style. Even though the Kiska design is not everybody’s cup of tea, the GT stands out with its aggressive headlights that are flanked by LED cornering lights and blinkers that are integrated into the fuel tank. The wide shoulders and narrow hips are eye-catching and the panniers fit into the picture really well. During a week of domestic touring I received regular comments on this successful design mix.

The 23 l fuel tank and the 9-stage adjustable windscreen underline the touring characteristics of this big boy. Long 350 km rides proved no problem at all. The shape of the panniers isn’t very practical and the capacity isn’t too large either, but the attachment points are very neatly integrated into the subframe. Heated grips, tyre pressure sensors and cruise control make sure those long touring rides are carefree. Small storage compartments in the fairing, a USB-port and a 12V-socket complete the picture.

Despite the massive 1301 cc V-twin, the Super Duke GT will surprise you with its ease of riding. The wide front disappears completely once you mount the bike and thanks to the cutouts in the surprisingly narrow tank, it’s very easy to grip with your knees. Below 3,000 rpm there’s not a lot happening and slow riding asks for smooth throttle control in the lower gears. But once it gets going, it’s surprisingly fluent and steers very light. This allows you to enjoy the surroundings while gently cruising. And there’s no lack of comfort either: the windscreen and tank will protect your body very well while you’re firmly supported by the wide seat that initially felt a bit hard. If you dial in the semi-active WP suspension to the Comfort setting, it feels like a magic carpet ride. Cruise control comes as standard and it really helps to stay within the speed limits.

But let’s be honest, the GT wasn’t made for laidback cruising. Twist the throttle wide open and all hell breaks loose, but of course you can decide on the intensity via the 6.5” large TFT-screen that we already saw on the 1290 Super Adventure. You’ll find four riding modes (Rain – 100 bhp, Street, Sport, Track) that adjust the power deliverance to the rear wheel. The Street mode provides more than enough ‘oomph’ for daily use and will still allow the front wheel to lift in third gear. In Rain mode, the GT feels a bit tame and in Sport or Track it will positively try to rip your arms off. Luckily, the brakes are equally performant. The initial bite offers a lot of feedback and when you squeeze a bit harder the deceleration is phenomenal.

The semi-active WP suspension adjusts the damping characteristics to the riding conditions in the blink of an eye. In the menu, you can still select your own preferences. There are four presets: Comfort, Street, Sport and Track. If you leave the suspension in Comfort on a sporty ride, the GT will be all over the place. In the Street or Sport preset, it will stick to your chosen line nicely, which really boosts confidence in those long, fast turns. The spring preload can also be adjusted in the menu, depending on the load. On a well worn road, from time to time the electronic suspension has a hard time keeping up. Especially when riding on asphalt that has more patches than the average Hell’s Angels jacket, it’s prone to malfunction, resulting in a kick to the kidneys.

Apart from that, the GT provides all modern electronic aids like cornering-ABS and traction control. An up/down quickshifter comes as standard and even with the huge amount of torque on tap, it never missed a gear. Impressive stuff.

Conclusion

A supernaked, made to travel. That’s the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT in a nutshell. It combines the sharp steering of a naked bike with the practical side of a touring bike. It provides all the luxury you want and the neutral seating position is very comfortable. The big, addictive V-twin engine keeps on asking for more while behind the scenes the electronic features guarantee your safety. This GT truly offers the best of both worlds.

Pros

+ Addictive engine
+ Versatility
+ Very complete equipment

Cons

– Impractical pannier shape
– The semi-active suspension sometimes can’t keep up

Tech specs

Engine

Torque: 141 Nm
Transmission: 6-speed
Cooling:Liquid cooled
Power: 128.7 kW / 175 hp
Starter: Electric starter
Stroke: 71 mm
Bore: 108 mm
Clutch: PASC (TM) slipper clutch, hydraulically actuated
Displacement: 1301 cm³
EMS: Keihin EMS with RBW and cruise control, double ignition
Design: 2-cylinder, 4-stroke, V 75°
Lubrication: Forced oil lubrication with 3 oil pumps

Chassis

Tank capacity: approx. 23 l
ABS: Bosch 9ME Combined ABS (incl. cornering ABS and supermoto mode, disengageable)
Front brake disc diameter: 320 mm
Rear brake disc diameter: 240 mm
Front brake: 2 x Brembo monoblock four-piston radial fixed calliper, brake discs, floating
Rear brake: Brembo twin-piston fixed calliper, brake disc
Chain: 525 X-Ring
Dry weight: 209 kg
Frame design: Chrome-moly tubular space frame, powder-coated
Front suspension: WP Semi-active suspension USD Ø 48 mm
Ground clearance: 141 mm
Rear suspension: WP Semi-active suspension monoshock
Seat height: 835 mm
Steering head angle: 65.1 °
Suspension: 125 mm (front) / 156 mm (rear)

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