In my 21 years, and 300,000+ miles, of riding motorcycles on the road, there have been very few bikes that I’d credit with having changed how I feel about riding – but this is one of them.
I can’t pretend that the SDGT is perfect – we’ll come to that in a bit – but there are very few scenarios in which it doesn’t get very close indeed. In terms of realigning perceptions, shocking with brilliance, and delivering superbly rewarding rides, it’s almost unbeatable. There’s no point trying to pigeonhole it – this bike is whatever you want it to be. We covered 10,199 miles together in 2016, averaging 44.55mph – all with an immoveable grin plastered across my silly face.
High mileage hilarity
Many years ago I once spent two hours in a bus stop because it was better than the misery of being waterboarded at 90mph for hour after hour. And after a 2am start and 600 miles of persistent Noah-worrying rain, I’d usually be praying for any respite, however small. But on the longest day of last year that’s how the day started as I rode the GT from Stamford to Lowestoft Ness, then Land’s End, and home again in one hit, racking up 966.2 miles in 18 hours. The GT was superb. Then, in August, I rode to Austria for the MotoGP, taking a circuitous 1100-mile route down in one hit (with a 4-hour nap on the ground in a carpark somewhere near Munich) – then rode non-stop from the GP to home, the direct route, covering 953.1 miles in 15 hours.
If any of that sounds torturous to you, I can assure you it wasn’t (apart from the potentially fatal blockades at Calais). The only bike I’ve ever covered similar ground on with such ease is the R1200GS – but the SDGT is so much more visceral, so much more accomplished as a road bike. And on Supercorsa SP rubber it was sublime on Alpine passes, and didn’t even eat the tyres on the long motorway schlep.
Big trips were heavenly, but so was the daily grind. I rode the SDGT every day, on every commute, in all weathers – and it never failed to entertain. The comfort was superb, the weather protection adequate, the power delivery addictive, and its naughty gene needed no prodding to surface as irreverent behaviour. I never need much encouragement to add a few extra miles to any journey, but the GT almost demanded it, and blasts to the Norfolk coast after a tough day in the office were a secret summer indulgence.
It wasn’t all perfection though. Gripes included the sidestand arm falling off after three days (replaced under warranty, and never an issue again), a mystery cracked camchain adjuster nut that spewed oil over the left side of the bike, my leg and boot (also fixed under warranty, and never an issue again), and at 9000ish miles one of the front discs started to warp, but it never got bad, and I didn’t get round to having it sorted before the bike went back to KTM.
Other imperfections were more a matter of taste than suitability, like having the cruise control in a difficult-to-access place on the right switchgear (KTM have now moved it to the left). The fuel range gauge was an amusing fiction, too.
Missing you already
And now it’s gone. And I miss it. The obvious retort at this point is ‘buy one then’. It’s a fair point, but it also drags the one significant negative into the room: the price. High-end bikes have long hovered around the £16k region, but it doesn’t mean my head – or wallet – has become any more accustomed to it. I’d happily live without the (admittedly effective) electronic suspension, and could be cajoled into signing on the dotted line for the same bike on conventional hardware for £12k – but my finances can’t stretch to this. I could sell my four other bikes to make it doable, but I’d rather wait a couple of years for an immaculate low-miler to reach the secondhand market. But don’t let my personal miserly lack of moolah put you off – if you can afford one, you really won’t be disappointed.
Buy a Super Duke GT on PCP for £209.75 per month
For a standard £15,999 Super Duke GT, with a £3500 deposit over 42-months years, with a 6,000-mile annual allowance, and 9.9% APR. At the end, you can hand it back, or stump up the optional final payment of £7049.69.
KTM official extras fitted
Akrapovic end can, £729.53
Brake/clutch lever guards, £112.08
GPS mount, £72.26
Tailpack 10-30L, £96.58
GT Pannier set, £648.35
Hill Hold Control, £147.52
Total mods – £1806.32
See more updates about the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT.