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Living with KTM 1290 Super Duke R | Gassit Garage | Long Term

AMCN has been a fan of the KTM 1290 Super Duke R since we snapped spy pics of the prototype back in 2012. Now it’s time to find out what the latest Super Duke 1290 R is like to live with

It had been 12 months since I last rode the KTM 1290 Super Duke R, so I was overdue for some time on the big V-twin. The break had been long enough for me to forget just how impressive the package is. The grunt-filled 1301cc LC8 V-twin engine mated to a superb trellis-frame chassis delivers riding performance on an upper-deck level.

After connecting my phone to the My Ride system (which is part of the optional Performance Pack), I headed straight for my favourite twisty ribbon of tarmac. The 2018-model isn’t an all-new machine, but there’s enough evolution in the new package to see it take a sizable step forward. Visually, the updated Kiska styling makes this Duke the most aggressive-looking yet. There’s also a new TFT dash, ergonomic tweaks, more engine power and lighter alloy wheels.

At the end of my first spirited run, I stopped and wondered where all the corners had gone. The effortless handling of the Super Duke R had transformed the twisty road into a series of slight bends. Since then, I have used the big Duke for daily commuting duties. Its nickname might be ‘the Beast’, but its manners in heavy traffic are impeccable. The tall and narrow chassis, coupled with remarkable low-speed stability, make tight lane filtering as easy as many small-capacity bikes. The generous turning lock also makes negotiating tight spots a breeze. Riding in warmer weather generated minimal heat from the engine, making life in the slow lane a little more comfortable – except for the seat, which does become uncomfortable at around the one-hour mark. This seems to be a common theme with big nakedbikes, or maybe I just have an uncomfortably shaped arse? I have also found myself constantly fiddling with the span-adjustable brake lever (the clutch lever is also adjustable), I can’t get it into the ideal position. And speaking of levers, they both feel about a centimetre too short; my pinkies hang off the ends which is distracting. The fact that these small niggles have come to my attention so early though, reveals just how easy it is to get in tune with the bike.

The note from the exhaust is joyous but restricted; an Akrapovič slip-on would give the bike the voice to match its looks. The electric steering lock and keyless ignition are nice touches; I leave the key in my jacket and it’s one less thing to look for when I’m running out the door.

One of the big winners for me is the 18-litre fuel tank. The 4.8L/100km fuel economy I’m getting means the bike is good for 375km, that’s two trips to and from Gassit HQ – just.

I’m still getting acquainted with the big naked but, on my list is to have a fiddle with the suspension; the feedback and turn-in is impressive, but mid-corner bumps are causing the front-end to bounce. I’ll also delve a little deeper into the goodies of the optional Performance Pack. 

Retail price

$24,995 (+ORC)

Distance covered


Fuel Economy

4.8L/100km  18L tank


1000km/15,000km intervals

Options added

Performance Pack (Quickshifter, KTM My Ride, Motor Slip Regulation) $799.99