KTM 1290 SUPERDUKE R (2020 - on) Review

Highlights

  • One of the best super nakeds you can buy
  • 2020 update makes it a
  • Superbike performance from brilliant engine

At a glance

Power: 178 bhp
Seat height: Medium (32.9 in / 835 mm)
Weight: Medium (417 lbs / 189 kg)

Prices

New £15,699
Used £13,700 - £15,700

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The KTM 1290 Superduke R's unique selling point has always been its V-twin motor’s monster amount of grunt. However, previous models were just too abrupt with this surge of torque and it overwhelmed the bike’s chassis and electronics to the point that the ride became too wild and you felt like you were fighting against, rather than enjoying it.

By dialling back this aggression, and refining its chassis and power output, KTM have made their naked bike far more fun to ride while still ensuring 'The Beast' retains a welcome bit of attitude. It’s had its claws trimmed, but its teeth remain nice and sharp…

Super naked group test video: KTM 1290 Superduke R vs Kawasaki Z H2 vs Ducati Streetfighter V4 vs Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory vs Yamaha MT-10 SP

KTM 1290 Superduke R or 890 Duke R?

KTM Superduke 1290 R vs KTM 890 Duke R

MCN have tested the 1290 Superduke R against its smaller sibling, the 890 Duke R, on UK roads as part of the MCN250 test. Our verdict is definitive - KTM have done such a fine job in creating the 890 Duke R, at first glance it’s hard to imagine why you’d want the 1290 Super Duke R. Little is as quick on the road and the 890 is lighter, lither, more involving and cheaper. It stops, goes and handles so much better than the old 790 Duke, it’s hard to believe they’re related.

But KTM have moved the 1290 on from the previous model, too – and with its sharper chassis, smoother motor and more refinement everywhere you look, it’s now one of the best of the super-naked breed and the more rounded machine here. It has a more premium feel, deeper reserves of performance and can do more than just get your rocks off on a Sunday morning.

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
5 out of 5 (5/5)

Road riders will certainly spot that the new suspension linkages allow the shock’s movement to be more progressive over a longer stroke, delivering a less choppy ride quality than the previous generation of Duke and helping the bike feel more settled under hard acceleration and over bumps.

On KTM’s suggested settings, both the WP Apex forks (which have spring preload adjustment for 2020) and WP Apex shock (which now has a handy remote preload adjuster) are hard to fault, delivering a compliant ride on the road and more than enough support for hard track riding.

KTM 1290 Super Duke R knee down

Engine

Next up: Reliability
5 out of 5 (5/5)

The LC8 engine still dominates the show, but thanks to a series of refinements and a revised torque curve it feels far less aggressive and is much better for it. You still get that monster hit of torque, but it no longer smacks you in the face and means you can open the throttle with greater confidence, making for a more pleasant riding experience.

You need to treat it with caution though and turning off the anti-wheelie results in the first three gears becoming very exciting very quickly. That said, it feels less like it is trying to simply throw you off the back when you ask it to accelerate and the gearbox is far slicker.

KTM 1290 Super Duke R rear wheelie

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
4 out of 5 (4/5)

The Super Duke R is built in Austria, not India like some of KTM’s models, however it is no secret that there have been a few issues with reliability and build quality in the larger-capacity Duke models.

KTM have ironed out most of the problems and there is no reason to suspect the new one should suffer from any major issues, as it is now a tried and tested engine.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
3 out of 5 (3/5)

At £15,699 (2020 launch price) the Super Duke R sits in the upper mid of the super naked price band, with Yamaha’s MT-10 costing considerably less at £12,245 (or £14,745 for the SP version).

At £11,570, the BMW S1000R and Aprilia’s £13,999 Tuono V4 1100 are also cheaper and so is the all-new supercharged Kawasaki Z H2 at £15,149.

The Tuono Factory is more at £17,199 and so is Ducati’s new Streetfighter V4 S at £17,595 (or £19,795 for the S), but PCP deals do tend to narrow this gap to within most riders' reach.

KTM 1290 Super Duke R on UK roads

We tested the cream of the new super naked crop in MCN recently: the new 205bhp Ducati Streetfighter V4 S, the 197bhp supercharged Kawasaki Z H2 and the Aprilia Tuono  V4 1100 Factory. It was a surprise to find that the ‘modestly’ powered KTM was the best for the road, neatly proving that 200bhp is pretty much irrelevant and midrange grunt is king.

But is the Super Duke better than the Tuono? Well, it’s fitting how these two have finally met each other. It’s Austrian V-twin versus Italian V4. Both bikes make 170bhp-ish power figures and they each cost around 17 grand. The Aprilia is a bit more and with KTM’s Tech Pack, fitted to unlock all its electronic rider aids (which should really be standard). The Super Duke is a bit under. But it’s worth bearing in mind the Tuono is cheaper with an equivalent PCP deal and because it’s been around a few years, there are silly money deals to be had on ‘old’, box-fresh showroom stock.

Before we rode any of 2020’s new super nakeds we figured the Ducati would be the one to beat. Derived from the Goliath that is the Panigale V4 S, it’s riotously quick, electronically well-endowed and racetrack-sharp, but it takes life very seriously. The new, third-generation 1290 Super Duke R covers ground every bit as quickly, but it’s more fluid on the road and although the updated engine, new chassis and brakes are designed to work flat out on track, it’s far more playful than the Ducati.

Both the KTM and Aprilia are surprisingly close in the way they go about their business. Neither have headline-grabbing bhp figures, but they produce mountains of usable torque thanks to their characterful V-shaped engines. The Super Duke has a more modern feel, but they’re both generously equipped, are similarly priced, comfortable and easy to get on with, making them more than just trackday blasters. The KTM has taken a step-up in refinement, which is why it’s the best of the new 2020 super-nakeds, but the Aprilia just edges it. Its big V4 is crisper, louder and more visceral, it has a more supple ride, feeling of grip and better wind protection. They’re the reasons the Tuono V4 1100 Factory has been so hard to beat after all these years and it’s just proven itself again.

 

KTM 1290 Super Duke R both colours

Equipment

4 out of 5 (4/5)

The Duke is stuffed with tech and new for 2020 is a six-axis IMU to control its angle-sensitive ABS and traction control. That sits alongside uprated Brembo Stylema monobloc calipers and KTM’s TFT dash, with a new menu structure to boot.

The Duke’s electronics have been uprated for 2020, too, and you get three rider modes; Rain, Street and Sport. There's also been a lot of fine-tuning to the various assists in the dash’s sub-menus, with optional extra Track and Performance modes now available.

Cruise control and a keyless ignition are standard fitment but a quickshifter still sits in the optional extra catalogue alongside heated grips and an adaptive brake light, which feels a bit of an omission.

Specs

Engine size 1301cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 8v, V-twin
Frame type Tubular steel trellis
Fuel capacity 16 litres
Seat height 835mm
Bike weight 189kg
Front suspension 48mm, WP Apex forks, fully adjustable
Rear suspension Single WP Apex rear shock, fully adjustable, high and low speed
Front brake 2 x 320mm discs with Brembo Stylema four-piston radial monobloc calipers. Cornering ABS.
Rear brake 240mm single disc with two-piston caliper. Cornering ABS
Front tyre size 120/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 200/55 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption -
Annual road tax £93
Annual service cost -
New price £15,699
Used price £13,700 - £15,700
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 178 bhp
Max torque 103.3 ft-lb
Top speed 165 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range -

Model history & versions

Model history

2014: KTM 1290 Super Duke R hits dealers, replacing the 990 Super Duke.

2017: Second-generation Super Duke R has Euro 4 engine with 4bhp more, styling, electronics and chassis tweaks.

2020: A heavily revised third-generation Super Duke R now boasts a new frame, making it leaner, meaner and even more menacing according to KTM.

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