Review: 2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R
The 2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R has an all-new look lots of refinements. Here is our 1290 Super Duke R Review. Test: Jeff Ware Photography: SMAC Media
When the first gen Super Duke 1290 R landed Down Under it was one of those few bikes that come along from time to time and actually exceed the pre reveal marketing hype. It was off tap. Insane. Fast. Angry. It still is, it just looks better and is even easier to ride…
Like all manufacturers, KTM have to meet strict Euro 4 emissions regulations and this really throws up a challenge. The result for most high performance bikes is a drop in peak power and torque, but compromised with a broader spread of power and in this case, an extra 500rpm to play with. The previous Super Duke R made a claimed 131.7kW@8880rpm and 144Nm@6600rpm.
The 2017 LC8 is 130kW@9750rpm and 141Nm@7000rpm, so an insignificant drop in power and torque and engineers have got that extra 500rpm out of the LC8 to make the drop less than it would have been otherwise and moved peak power and torque higher in the rev range. We’re only talking a few hp and ft-lbs. Like others meeting Euro 4, weight is up too, from a claimed 189kg for the first model to 195kg for 2017, a 6kg increase, no doubt due to the exhaust system most likely.
Does any of that matter? To be honest, without riding them back to back on the same rubber and gearing and suspension, it’s impossible to say, but after spending a half day lapping SMSP South Circuit on the Beast 2.0, I can confirm it is a step forward in terms of refinement over the previous model and is a sensational motorbike.
The changes for 2017 are detailed in the tech breakout but in short, the 2017 Beast 2.0 has an all-new look led by the standout theme, the wild LED headlight, complete with built in heat sinks that act as reflectors. The LED Beast 2.0 headlight face is a theme across the Duke range that is here to stay.
The slimmer bodywork looks fantastic. The seat is new, the dash is a trick TFT display, the ‘bars are wider and lower and the suspension has been tweaked for a sportier ride.
More changes sit within that lusciously powerful and lightweight 75-degree LC8 engine, along with the RbW system, which has been fine-tuned and revised. There is also a tyre pressure monitor, cruise control and a keyless ignition system, as well as indicator auto reset and the existing three riding modes Sport, Street, Rain, have been revised. Stock tyres are Metzeler M7 RR.
2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R – The Ride
I was lucky enough to attend my only second ever KTM launch with the 2017 Street Range. Yep, that’s right, in almost 17-years as a journo and hundreds of launches attended I’ve only been to one KTM launch, a domestic RC8 launch at SMSP years ago. For one reason or another, I’ve always had to send staff on my behalf over the years and so I was really looking forward to this event, particularly as it included a tour of the amazing new KTM HQ in Sydney, which you can see in the gallery.
This one was also held at SMSP, on the South Circuit, a tight back section with a one-minute lap time that was great to test the agility and power delivery of the Super Duke R. Not to mention the electronic rider aids in the cool conditions.
After the marketing presentation, where we got a sneak peak video clip of the 790 Super Duke R Parallel Twin first revealed in December 2016, it was time to hit the track and I was chomping at the bit. Well, after a hot coffee… or three…
With the standard tyres fitted, no tyre warmers and a 3ºC track surface the first few sessions were certainly going to be a challenge to get the best out of the bike. What the M7RRs did do, though, was exaggerate and highlight what a fantastic electronics package the KTM engineers have refined for us this year and how smooth power delivery is now.
The bikes were all stock aside from one machine, which had an Akro system on it and the $799 Performance Pack fitted (Quickshifter, MTS, My Ride connectivity) and lowered gearing. I got to ride both bikes and had a blast.
After a quick session a few of us agreed on some changes to the standard set-up and we dialed in more support both ends and slowed rear rebound down considerably. I also raised tyre pressures a few PSI (they had been dropped from standard by a fair amount). These changes improved the bikes and we spent the rest of the half-day going nuts!
I started testing with the bike in Street mode, which worked well in the cool and slick conditions. The peak power is still 177hp but the Street Mode has a softer throttle and smooth power delivery. I was happy with the bike in Street for the first session but the throttle to rear tyre connection is not quite intimate enough for racetrack use once the pace came up, particularly in the tricky low grip conditions where feel is so important, so I switched to Sport after that session.
However, I could clearly feel how good Street Mode would be for general riding and commuting on the streets and look forward to testing the bike on public roads soon. I didn’t get a chance to try Rain Mode. I’ll save that for the road test.
Sport Mode is full power but has a more aggressive throttle and better feel at the throttle as well. In this mode, I was able to keep the bike more balanced and get it how I wanted it when picking up the throttle in the turns and off the turns, this was important as feel on a cold track is tricky.
The connection was good enough to save me from front end loses a few times, when the front would fold at full lean and I could pick up the throttle. I spent much of the second session and third sessions catching the bike on my knee and saving it, scraping my whole leg in the process.
The fact I was still confident and in the last right-hander before the chute I was actually anticipating it and catching it lap after lap just proves what an incredibly good chassis the Super Duke R has and what a good job engineers have done with the Mode pre sets and the RbW feel and speed.
For touring-sports tyres the M7 RRs handled the task well but were out of their element and limiting on the day. Great street tyre, though.
The engine is still a cracker even though it is more user friendly. It is still raw, insanely fast and the torque is mental. I was using taller gears all around the circuit and lapping in the 1:03 bracket and have no doubt the bike could go sub 1m on RaceTecs or similar.
The fat part is 4200-7500rpm but the fun is 6000-9000rpm. The gearbox is fantastic and I had no issues at all but the optional up and down quickshifter is a must and makes the bike so much better. No quickshifter and it still feels a bit antiquated despite all of the technology. I rode a bike set to Supermoto Mode and it was absolutely fantastic, with rear wheel ABS off and a really good throttle connection.
I then rode with MTS and ABS off and the bike came to life even more, with a close throttle to rear wheel connection and instant power and torque, however, I soon went back to Sport Mode with MTS and ABS there for my safety barrier in the slick conditions and I went faster with the electronics on and felt a lot more comfortable. With all of that power and torque I was more than happy to leave the electronics on to help me, and they truly did. I was mightily impressed.
The 1290 Super Duke R chassis is incredible. It was before and it still is now. Testing the previous model at The Farm was one of my all-time favourite days on a bike, so I knew I’d like this 2017 Beast 2.0 at SMSP. Hugely confidence inspiring, lots of ground clearance, sensitive to small set-up changes, stable yet agile, it does it all. I can’t wait to ride this one at The Farm!
To be honest, the front tyre was lacking in feel and the 1290 Super Duke R made that tyre OK on the day by giving me the feedback to ride around it. The very small changes made to suspension settings were very effective and the brakes impressive. In fact, I left the ABS on almost all day and never had an issue with it or felt it limiting. It actually saved my ass a few times, so I was grateful for it.
The Super Duke R is one of those bikes that goes where you look, and that is so important. It also has a front-end that makes the rider confident, and without that no motorcycle is any good.
Brake feel is up there, with really predictable yet strong initial bite and intimate modulation, as we’d expect from Brembo’s finest and whopping 320mm rotors. Steering in whether on or off the brakes is accurate and the bike hides its weight very well, as it is flickable and light in change of direction, even on hard acceleration. Engine braking is well modulated so you can really carry speed into turns, and MSR is a further option.
The seating position for me was purposeful and natural on the track, however, this track is super busy so I can’t comment on anything other than what it feels like to sit on while cornering. I definitely liked the handlebar position and had plenty of legroom.
The TFT Dash has endless options. My bike unfortunately had a flat key fob battery, so the TFT display was switching off around the back of the circuit. I’ll have a better play with it in my full review.
For now though, after five sensational session on the 2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R, I can honestly say that this is just about the most fun you can have naked, particularly if you already have four kids like I do!
2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R – Tech Talk
The 75° V2 engine was originally derived from the powerplant of the KTM superbike RC8 R. The engineers used a well-balanced enlargement of bore and stroke to increase the displacement of the LC8 engine from 1195 cc to 1301 cc. .
The DOHC 4-valve cylinder heads of the LC8 engine share a significant portion of the credit for its outstanding performance. The intelligent dual spark ignition system controls the sparks of the two spark plugs per cylinder head independently of one another via separate mappings, ensuring a highly efficient combustion as well as a smooth combustion process.
In each cylinder head, two overhead camshafts use DLC coated finger followers to actuate four valves that control the charge cycle via flow-optimized channels. Harder exhaust valve seat inserts and nitrified exhaust valves minimize wear and allow for extended valve clearance inspection intervals – small service inspection every 15000km and the valve adjustment every 30000km.
In the latest generation of the LC8 twin, new titanium intake valves carry a chromium nitride PVD coating and, at 39 grams of weight, ensure weight savings of 19 grams each over the previous steel valves. Combined with smaller combustion chambers, their low design supports a compression ratio increase to 13.6:1.
Shortened by 10mm, the new intake funnels specially designed for the new V2 not only contribute to optimizing the power delivery but also ensure a widened powerband that now spans an extra 500rpm. A power assisted slipper clutch automatically reduces the pressure on the clutch discs whenever the torque feedback toward the engine becomes too great.
In addition, it increases pressure on the clutch discs in proportion to the engine torque, so softer clutch springs can be used. The piston skirts have a high-tech, hard-anodized surface coating for minimal friction and maximum durability.
Another factor to contribute to the response is the very low flywheel mass of the crankshaft. In addition, the flow-optimized crank web shape supports the especially low-loss operation of the crank gear, sustained by a third oil pump for crank case evacuation. In the new model, KTM increased the thickness of the crankshaft taper by 3mm on the generator side for enhanced stability.
The brand-new exhaust system is manufactured from stainless steel. As of 2017, a new exhaust flap and the SAC (Smart Actuator System) contribute to the smooth power delivery. With a three-way catalytic converter tucked away inside its underfloor premuffler, it is also responsible for the outstandingly clean emissions.
The optional motor slip regulation (MSR) basically creates the opposite effect of the motorcycle traction control: by controlling the engine’s drag torque, it prevents the rear wheel from locking up, should the rider chop the throttle or pop the clutch on a downshift.
The motorcycle traction control (MTC) reacts immediately whenever the rear wheel speed increases without a proportionate increase of vehicle speed, reducing engine output via the throttles until the system has reduced the slippage to the optimum level under the current drive mode selection. MTC is the lightning-quick acquisition and evaluation of numerous parameters like roll and yaw rate, longitudinal and lateral acceleration as well as squat and lean angles.
Therefore, numerous sensors capture the necessary data and transmit their results to the ride by wire and the engine management system. KTM has developed and implemented the MTC in close cooperation with leading technology supplier Bosch.
There are three ride modes that utilize different engine power mappings: Street and Sport with 177hp (130kW) as well as Rain with approximately 130hp (95kW) of maximum power and a softer power delivery slippage.
The throttle response selection allows the rider to specify which electronic fuel injection mapping is used in ride mode Track to adjust the throttle response to preference. The system offers the three Track, Sport and Street, with Track the most aggressive.
The 1290 is the very first KTM to be equipped with a launch control. The system keeps the engine speed constantly at the ideal value of 6500rpm prior to the start. In order to pull away, all the rider has to do is keep the throttle wide open and clutch in. The launch control system will adjust the power delivery of the engine automatically to the optimum level while limiting rear wheel spin and front wheel lift.
The KTM 1290 Super Duke R is equipped with an anti-lock brake system as standard. Developed by KTM in close cooperation with Bosch, the system can be disengaged and uses the highly sophisticated Bosch braking pressure modulator 9.1MP as well as the latest software. Depending on the terrain and riding style, the rider may select the Street or Supermoto ABS modes or disengage the ABS completely.
Chassis changes are minimal for 2017, with some suspension setting adjustments, new wider ‘bars, TFT dash and completely redesigned bodywork and seat.
2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R Specifications
Price: $24,995 + ORC
Claimed power: 130kW(177hp)@9750rpm
Claimed torque: 141Nm@7000rpm
Dry weight: 195kg
Fuel capacity: 18L
Engine: 1301cc 75 degree DOHC eight-valve V-twin LC8.
Clutch: Wet multi-plate, hydraulic actuation
Frame: Chro-Mo steel trellis frame
Rake: 65º, Trail: 107mm
Suspension: WP 48mm forks, WP monoshock, both fully adjustable
Brakes: Radially mounted four-piston Brembo monoblock calipers (f), 320mm rotors, 240mm rotor (r), Brembo two-piston caliper, ABS
Wheels & Tyres: Cast alloy 3.50 x 17in, 6.00 x 17in, Metzeler Sportec My RR 120/70-17, 190/55-17
Seat height: 835mm
Ground clearance: 141mmmm