Wednesday, April 2, 2014

KTM 1290 Super Duke R first impressions

When I saw this online I immediately signed up. Going in store at Peter Stevens in the city is nothing but a hard core sales pitch so I was glad I could just enter some details and sign up online for a test ride.

It's been on my radar for months, no demo bike in site until, finally KTM produced the goods! So here are my first my first impressions of the KTM 1290 Super Duke R

First Impressions

Aesthetics

There are no doubts about it, this bike is damn sexy. I really like just about everything it has on offer for my eyeballs. It’s fat, tough and angry as hell.

It looks like it wants to slay the road. There is no mistaking its intention. You own one of these and you are the bad boy and you will be a hooligan and probably shred your license just as fast as your rear tyre.

Ride Position

Sweet! The bars and nice and wide, high up and pretty flat, it feels like a big dirt bike. There really is only one position but it is mostly upright and neutral.

At 6’2” I found I was only tipped forward in the slightest with a small amount of downward pressure on my wrists but over the 30 - 45 min test ride it didn’t bother me in the slightest.

I don’t know that I could cover 500-600kms in a day in 40 degree celsius heat like I can on the Multi but I’m sure that blasting around the mountains for the day wouldn’t be that much of a pain either.

Ride

Smooth. For a massive twin, this is one smooth motorcycle. One twist of the key, one blip of the starter button and it quietly purrs into life, snappy throttle, easy levers, no revs and let the clutch out and roll off into the wild. Immediately I found perfect balance. Amazingly this bike just sits up by itself, even with the pegs up quite high for my liking (much more sport bike orientated) my knees tucked in beautifully to the slimiline tank just under the big fins and at 0-20kms I just glided off into the peak hour traffic with not a concern in the world or even a glimmer of what power lie beneath this silky Kat.

There is no beak or fairing, just uninterrupted view and a couple of nicely placed solid stork mirrors. Great vision, comfortable, easy controls, smooth throttle response and grid locked evil walking pace traffic we inched metre by metre forward into more cages. Stuck. Represent. Full dicky hi-vis vests emblazoned with the company name on my back, it was about ten minutes when that I realised my calfs were practically on fire.

The big Katoom gets hot. Very hot in stop start traffic. It really didn’t enjoy the chug-a-lug of shitty traffic. You could cook bacon on it waiting for the lights to change. Crispy bacon.

After what seemed an eternity we made it onto some freeway merge traffic and I was able to wind on some power and shift out of second and it kind of roared into life. But I wanted more. I wanted that ball tearing fear to well up in my belly and think for a second ‘holy-f*ck-I’m-out-of-control-and-loving-it’ but, it didn’t really happen. I saw the red line blinking at me at short shifted up and down and flicked around a bit of traffic and I have to reinforce how light this bike feels. Comparing it to the Multi it actually feels more like the DRZ which is just crazy but it does. KTM have found what feels like perfect balance. The bike just floats across the road.

When veered off the freeway and into some corners in the shape of the Boulevard. Unfortunately that is all 60km speed rated now but I go to put some power down and slam on a handful of front brakes to see how it felt and I’m really impressed with how nimble this big bore bike feels.

It tips, turns, floats, roars, glides across the road without any hesitation at whatever you can throw at it. This bike is built to be ridden. Incredibly it appears that you can do that quite mildly if you chose or, with mindless recklessness and it won’t complain. This bike is fast too. So very fast. I think on reflecting it is probably the fastest straight line power I have felt on two wheels, it’s that kind of fast. Ridiculous, face shredding fast.

But for some reason it doesn’t tick my boxes. I find it very hard to describe but I have felt it before, when I test rode the previous model about three years ago now the Super Duke R. There is something missing in the whole desirable package for me and I can’t quite put it together. This bike feels so much more refined than the previous 990 Duke R which felt downright agricultural to me, too much raw power without much finesse, and this bike has ALL of that so what’s missing?

Orange. Too much orange. I should have been given the black one. Did you know that there is no word in the English language that rhymes with orange? Try it. Perhaps I was having a moment and this all comes down to attitude and mine quite frankly sucked after my welcome to the whole test ride situation (a story for another day). Had I been greeted in a really friendly manner by someone who was so pumped about me trying the bike to get my opinion rather than try and jump into my wallet, I would have felt differently. That may say ridiculous but it’s true. A whole lot of how you feel goes into your riding.

Trying to block it out and just enjoy the ride I was still probably a bit pissed with them and just wanted to try wheelie it at every opportunity (which is does with super ease by the way) rather than enjoy the bike and take it all in.

I tried moving around and getting off the seat a bit, tried pushing the bars around a bit, but the test situation was limited and street legal, so it’s really hard to be much more opinionated about it than that for now.

As we came in off the freeway heading back into the store I saw my opportunity to twhack it one - a clear off ramp with no one ahead of us. I let the leader get some distance and then jumped on all of the gas it had and short shifted up to second and held it WOT for just a second or two.

The front lifted like it was no big deal and felt incredibly controlled as I saw the red limiter peek its tongue out at me again. Not even reaching third, backing off I decided that it wouldn't take much practise to become 'King of Wheelie Land' on this bike.

Value

In Australia we have strange regulations about advertising, what ride away means, and retail floor prices. We have mandatory registration and third party insurance laws which often means a bikes sticker price is not actually what it would cost you to ride out the door on the bike. To cut through all of that shit, you would get no change, maybe a cheeseburger, out of $25, 000 if you want to own a KTM 1290 Super Duke R in Victoria, Australia right now...

 So for that kind of money you could have pretty much any other bike on the market in a base model including a Multistrada, last years BMW 1200 GS, or any of the Japanese model equivalents you can think of.

So is it good value? Look, a lot of to do about 'price' when you reach this stratosphere of bike ownership is irrelevant; if you fall in love for a bike with your groin, your wallet just flies out of your pocket and into the clutches of sales morons waiting to take it.

I shelled out just over $20 large for my 2011 Multistrada 1200 S with a full Termi system and a few other neat touches and just over 5,000kms on the clock. But for that money I got a whole lot of bike that is quite capable in a variety of situations including commuting, touring and dirt riding.

Sure I wouldn’t ride the desert but I don’t shy away from unsealed roads ever. It hauls, it can carry, it can be stripped back and ridden at full throttle high speeds quite comfortably. I don’t know that replacing it with a Super Duke would tick all of those boxes.

So I think it’s a wicked bike with a distinct attitude and for my money if it was what I wanted to ride, then yup, it’s pretty good value. I guarantee every time you step off, you will have a gigantic smile plastered on your face.

Practicality

This one is interesting because from my limited test ride I would say that, heat issues aside, its a pretty capable and comfortable short range commuter. Don’t let it’s aggressive styling put you off. Control your wrist and ride it every day to work. I would.

As mentioned above though, if you’re going to be taking in more longer touring style rides then this probably isn’t the bike for you.

Track days? F**K YEAH! Catch me if you can!

Dirt riding? Check this out.

KTM recently attempted a land speed record on ice, yup on a Super Duke flat tracker. Touring? Look I don’t know about you, but I’ll put up with a lot of compromise to ride my bike of choice,

I've ridden a Ducati Hypermotard around the Victorian Mountains including dirt roads, sleet, rain, and perfect sunshine (admittedly I stopped a lot for petrol) so I would take it out for sure, strap on a Kriega US20 to the tail and hit the road.

You might suffer a bit of arm pump and dead arse after about 500kms in the saddle, but surely it’d be worth it, but I don't expect to see too many 'touring versions' of the Super Duke, for that you'd be looking at the KTM 1190 Adventure.

Summary

I’m left feeling unsure about the bit Katoom. It’s an amazing bike, really goes like fury, it’s smooth and really sophisticated electronically. Everything about it should scream 'BUY ME' at me, but for some reason, it doesn’t.

I couldn’t be as all round happy owning just that as my main bike, as I am with the Multi. Sure it’s faster, tighter, scarier, lighter, (possibly better looking too dammit) but my Multi feels like home and the Super Duke feels like trouble waiting to happen.

I’m impressed, but I’m not ready to switch, this isn’t my next new bike. That could be a Monster 1200 S though, we’ll just have to wait and see about that.