KTM Super Duke: time flies…

2005-2013: eight years between the very first and the last Super Duke model. Both of them have been very important stages for KTM, although for different reasons. We compared them to find out if, with all the electronic introduced in the last years, the DNA did or not remain the same

Super Duke vs. Super Duke. In between, eight years of development, eight years of hard work in Mattighofen, pursuing the “Ready to race” philosophy. Eight years during which the people working on Super Duke were also having a lot of fun, in designing and in riding it. Every time I participate to a KTM press launch, I see something that I can’t find anywhere else: the enthusiasm, like a child’s one, of whom designed, projected and built the bike. You can see the “orange” people, their pride, and the fact that they are enjoying their job.I don’t know if all this enthusiasm and passion can be helpful to reach a commercial success, like KTM’s: you surely need something else, but I guess enthusiasm does help, a lot. I was there in 2005, in Fuerteventura, for the first Super Duke model press launch. In the eyes of KTM’s people, I could see the same feelings I see today, but the attending journalists were not very confident, when they heard from KTM: ”We will become the first motorcycle brand in Europe in the next years.” Reactions were hilarious, or skeptical: how could a brand that only produced off-road bikes and was launching its first street bike, reach such a goal? 7 years later, KTM kept the promise, producing and selling over 110.000 bikes around the world, doing even better that BMW Motorrad.I think Super Duke perfectly represents the evolution of KTM in the last years: the one we tested in 2005 was the first high-performance street bike from Mattighofen, neither enduro nor motard. The 990 Super Duke was something completely new, born from the 990 Adventure (chassis, engine and fork were the same), but there was nothing on the new bike that could be linked to an off-road use. It was also the very first KTM bike to implement the electronic injection.Back in those days, it was the most technologically evolved KTM bike ever, but there were still many features to refine. The biggest attention was for the content, and not for the look of the bike: chassis, engine and suspensions were perfect, but the rest of the bike was built with simple plastic parts, some cables just left free and open, the design of the bike was sharp, cutting. To look at it and to compare it with the last Super Duke, has a strong effect: you can tell that the hand of Kiska and the designers have worked on it, and that they were very faithful towards the original KTM-DNA. But a strong evolution on equipment and features is undeniable. People in Mattighofen have always been very pragmatic: something that works doesn’t have to look good. Today, things are changed: 1290 Super Duke proves, with its high-level features and all the details, a new kind of concern, that includes also the “outside” part of the bike.The years that passed between 2005 and 2013 are just a clue: it’s by riding both bikes that you really understand all the progress that has been done. To me, to climb again on the 990 (also equipped with tyres from 2005, Metzeler Sportec M3) was a wonderful flashback: extreme measures, high saddle, the nasty and over-reacting engine, are sensations I very well remember. The logic consequence of these radical technical choices was an extreme and exciting ride. Still today, the 990 can give you strong emotions, if you can manage it: agile, hard chassis and suspensions, a rude front brake (the first bike with Brembo 4 pads brakes) and the reactivity of the gas grip that made it look more like a trigger, than a grip.Marco Fierro, our guest for this test and 990 owner, has no doubts: ”It’s the funniest bike I ever rode, it always keeps you heads-up.” That’s true: still today, when you climb on the 990’s saddle, you find an ultra-light and quick limber, as if the bike was asking you to trust it, because it’s solid. Reactive in every situation, the Super Duke 990 incites you to disobey, to be a bad boy. It hates traffic and low speed, the V2 engine really struggles to keep the sixth gear, if you ride at less than 70 km/h.The 1290 is a brand new chapter, but the bike keeps the original Super Duke-DNA: you just need to climb on to feel it, and to understand that time didn’t pass in vain. The bike is lower and more comfortable than its ancestor, but, although the high-powered engine, it’s easier to ride than the 990. The credit for this should go to the electronic improvements? Sure, it’s not the only reason though: the 1290 Super Duke’s engine is solid, strong but friendly, the structure remains loyal to the aggressive nature of this model, but this time it also considers the possibility to use the bike in your everyday. That’s the big difference, that’s where you understand how much time really passed, how different the 990 and the 1290 Super Duke really are. On the new one, the riding position is more comfortable, the saddle was lowered and you reach better to the ground with your feet when you stop.The KTM-spirit remained untouched; the gas grip is very manageable, but still very reactive when you suddenly give gas. The character, the soul of this model haven’t changed: the best thing about KTM 1290 Super Duke is its capacity to give you what you want whenever you want it, not too early, not too late. The 1290 didn’t only increase its power, but also its dimensions: interaxis distance is wider, which makes the bike more manageable, the limber is more precise on the trajectory and that gives the rider a strong confidence about the bike. During our test, we are delighted in feeling that the 1290 bends even easier and faster than the 990, which is probably due to the continued development of tyres, during the past eight years. Riding this bike is really easy, much easier than the 990, the electronic is perfectly coordinated with the way chassis, engine and suspensions work. In our hands, now, we have greater performances, safety and usability.The Duke-spirit is still there, and many things have been improved, so clearly that Marco, after having tested the 1290, leaves us with an obsessing thought in his mind:” I should buy the new Super Duke…”. See you in eight years.