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2017 KTM STREET MODEL RANGE | Bike Tests | Latest Tests | Manufacture News | News

When Austria’s finest sent us an invite to its new Sydney HQ to ride the updated street range, Matt O’Connell snatched that orange ticket

KTM understands what its bikes are made to do, and isn’t scared to show it. Just look at the plan for promoting its latest street range – a track session at Sydney Motorsport Park. Like Darryl Kerrigan sending his birthday mug ‘straight to the pool room’ in The Castle, KTM was sending its flagship 1290 Super Duke R straight to the circuit. There’s confidence for you.

Consider what the orange marque was contending with – a group of crazy bike journos (except me, I’m not crazy) all punting the 130kW Beast 2.0 around the tight and slippery SMSP South circuit. With such a competitive bunch it could be a recipe for disaster, but KTM embraced it – while approaching it with the respect the bike deserves. In turn, so did us journos.

KTM’s stuntman-in-residence Lukey Luke was on hand to show us his wares, pulling wicked burnouts, wheelies and stoppies – but always with a sense of control. In an increasingly politically correct world, KTM’s street range gives you that fuzzy feeling that the first thing motorcycling should be is fun.

The bikes we sampled are built for the real world – with the learner-legal style of the 390 Duke and RC390 contrasting the off-the-hook performance of the 1290 Super Duke R and Super Duke GT sports-tourer. All feature incremental updates for 2017.

The Beast (now 2.0) is such an apt name for the 1290 Super Duke R and I loved getting the chance to throw a leg over it. Neither the sharp, edgy styling nor the proven LC8 V-twin powerplant needs any introduction. Could there be a better way to spend a winter’s morning?

Since I rode the first iteration of the Beast, KTM has changed a few things on the bike…

There is an increase in power by around 3kW to (a claimed) 130kW, a 500rpm higher redline, refined electronics, and some tasteful styling tweaks. The most notable change visually is the new headlight assembly that features LED strips on the edges that resemble lightning bolts.

The extremely slimline tailpiece makes for an even more aggressive look and complements the sculpted trellis frame. Even standing still this bike looks fast and oozes street cred, either in white or black.

Rolling out onto the chilly South Circuit at Sydney Motorsport Park the feeling from the original Beast hits home – it’s all about the engine. Or more to the point, KTM has done such a good job on this bike, that’s the first thing you focus on.

Once we got moving I also noticed a big improvement in the electronics – the throttle response and anti-wheelie is a lot smoother. There are three selectable engine modes and KTM keeps it relatively simple: Rain, Street and Sport. Street mode was a good starting point – you still get full power, but the throttle response is softer and more forgiving.

As the bikes were dialled in and grip picked up, my confidence grew and I switched to Sport mode. The new ride-by-wire throttle has a much snappier response, but while it does demand respect, I still wouldn’t say it’s intimidating. You could say that Rain and Street tame the beast, while Sport unleashes it.

There’s a host of other rider assistance behind the scenes including traction control, anti-wheelie, and cornering ABS by Bosch, with all settings visible on the ultra-modern TFT display. It’s worth noting there are even more sophisticated electronic options available if you purchase the ‘Performance Pack’ or ‘Track Pack’. KTM didn’t enter MotoGP for nothing.

We didn’t really get a chance to stretch the legs of the Super Duke R on the tight South Circuit, but you can take it as a given this bike is freakishly fast in a straight line. Given the ergonomics, I feel like it’s most at home in the twisty stuff anyway – the handlebar and seat position make it a breeze to move about and change direction quickly, especially with my taller 182cm frame.

The OEM M7 RR Metzeler is a sports-touring tyre and of course, every rider wants softer rubber at the track. On reflection, however, the technology in these tyres is pretty damn amazing – the heat cycle is incredibly fast and the feedback consistent. If you were planning on doing lots of track riding, yeah, you would probably change to something softer, but these Metzelers can still be pushed bloody hard by your average punter.

Off the track there are more features to impress including self-cancelling indicators, cruise control, keyless ignition and tyre pressure monitoring.

I think the key to the Beast is the excellent feedback provided by the chassis and tyres – if the bike is about to step out of line you will know with plenty of warning. That means you can focus on carving up the track and having a blast. And on that crisp winter morning at SMSP that’s exactly what happened.

Of all the models, the GT is the one I had least experience with. But it quickly became apparent who the target market is – weighing in at 205kg dry and sharing DNA with the Super Duke R, the GT is a mile-muncher on steroids.

The 1301cc 75º V-twin has that same free-revving nature, making it an absolute joy to ride, and like the Beast it has outrageous power and torque on tap. There are also the same rider modes, traction control and cornering ABS available.

While the Super Duke R is plenty capable of long distances, the GT takes it to another level by incorporating a more relaxed riding position and other more touring-specific features.

The optional panniers have integrated mounts built into the subframe, so when they’re fitted they truly look like they were meant to be there. They’re big enough to fit a helmet and can be locked and unlocked with the remote. Range is extended too, with the tank carrying five litres more than the 1290 Super Duke R.

Another useful touring feature is the electronic suspension with different payload and dampening configurations that can be selected from the left switchblock. KTM calls it ‘semi-active suspension’ and you can choose between Comfort, Street and Sport. You can also choose whether you are riding solo or with a pillion – with or without luggage – and all this can be adjusted on the fly. It’s another example of how KTM has continually improved its electronics over time.

Other cool tech includes the Hill Hold Control, which acts like the hill starting feature often found on manual cars. The GT also comes equipped with a quickshifter, underlining its sporting credentials. Something I really appreciate on any bike these days is heated grips and cruise control. I never thought I’d say that, but I’m sold. And as I’m writing this with a proper flu in winter, I’d have no hesitation grabbing the Power Part heated seat.

With the limited seat time I had on the GT, it felt like KTM had nailed the design brief. What was surprising is that all the touring extras have been packed in for a dry weight of 205kg. That’s mighty light for a bike with this kind of performance, and only 10kg heavier than the Super Duke R. My final thought – KTM did say the GT would be great for trackdays … but I’m not so sure. Come on guys, you did let us loose on the Super Duke R all morning on the track. I’ve been spoilt now!

When KTM released the RC390, it was a bold attempt to introduce a premium, entry-level sportsbike that gave riders a unique choice in the LAMS segment: a single-cylinder machine with true sporting capabilities. Now the RC390 has come in for an update, and when you see what’s been changed for 2017, it speaks volumes for the original design.

A 320mm disc has been fitted to replace the original 300mm item. It has also been given fresh new graphics. But most notably, the throttle control is now ride-by-wire, which could just give KTM the edge it craves on the racetrack.

‘Ready to race’ is still the slogan, and after a trip through the Royal National Park south of Sydney you can see why – the little single has plenty of performance loaded into its small frame. The engine is full of torque and climbs the rev range easily, with the slipper clutch making things safer on the way back down.

It’s a stack of fun to ride and with the direct handling from the sporty geometry you can lay it into corners with plenty of confidence and then power out by keeping the engine up in the rev range. With the inclusion of Bosch ABS you’ve got a lot of features packed into a very sharply designed sportsbike.

It should come as no surprise that the RC390’s naked cousin, the 390 Duke, is right up there in the fun stakes as well. With a more relaxed riding position, narrow feel and low centre of gravity, the 390 Duke is a brilliant LAMS city bike, light enough and powerful enough when you need it. It’s also got the same distinctive KTM styling that lets you stand out from the crowd.

For 2017 the smallest Duke gets an LED headlight which looks an absolute treat – a very striking element consistent with the look on the bigger Super Duke. Range has been increased thanks to a larger fuel tank, up from 11 litres to 13.4 litres, for the already very economical 372cc single-cylinder engine.

As on the RC390, the 390 Duke is fitted with ride-by-wire and ABS but it’s the new TFT display that is a real eye-catcher, literally. It’s the next level when it comes to rider displays, bright and full of colour. Not only that, as an option you can now hook in your phone using KTM My Ride and have it alert you to incoming calls or show you which song is playing into your headphones – and it is all controlled from the handlebars. It’s all part of the next-gen features we can expect from KTM’s 2017 street range.

These are both bikes I had ridden before, and the updates only enhance KTM’s reputation for producing state-of-the-art street machines – these two models would certainly remain high on my shopping list.

By Matt O’Connell