MCN Fleet: KTM Super Duke GT burns rubber

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“You won’t get more than 800 miles out of those,” said MCN’s tyre fitter as he expertly manipulated a set of Pirelli Diablos Supercorsa SPs onto the 1290 GT’s rims. “They’ll be fine for at least 4000,” said I, and with over 2000 miles to nail in the following 72hours I was really hoping it was me with the upper hand in the knowledge stakes. His face, though, suggested otherwise.

But I’ve done a lot of miles on Supercorsa SPs since they were launched, running them most recently on an 899 Panigale and an S1000RR – in each case to over 4000 miles – and felt confident that while the GT is heavier than both, the 30bhp deficit to the RR would help redress some of the wear balance.

With just 17 miles of bedding-in nailed, I pointed the GT south, and headed for Austria. Three days and 2100-odd miles later we were back, and the SPs looked barely touched. It was a cruel campaign of abuse, too. Mostly motorway, broken only by a few hundred miles of Alpine amusement, the SPs barely even had the opportunity to cool down – the ride out, and the ride back both being undertaken with nothing but fuel stops to pause the torture.

Then over the six weeks that followed, me and the GT racked up another 2400 miles of commuting and weekend blasts. I didn’t go easy on them, either – and yet they resisted everything I could inflict upon them. After 4500 miles they were still legal, while even my adoration of them couldn’t mask the fact that the last 500 miles of their life had been marred by a squaring lip that ruined my confidence at marginal lean, before rewarding pushing past the lip with rock-solid cornering aggression.

You might balk slightly at the mileage, but the SPs turned the 1290 into an aggressive-steering, glued-down superbike with panniers and day-long comfort – and I’d happily trade 1500 miles of tyre life for summers filled with cornering heaven.

The SPs replaced Pirelli’s Angel GTs, which come as standard fitment on the 1290, and which are close to faultless. They only start to find their limit is when pushing on hard, where their design brief can’t quite stretch as far as the KTM’s own extraordinary skill set. They came off the rims at 4000 miles, and looked fit to spin for another 1500.

And now I’ve moved on again, replacing the Supercorsa SPs with Metzeler’s Roadtec 01. Immediately there’s an obvious reduction in steering agility compared to the sharper profiled SPs, but I’m stunned by their capabilities in wet/dry and warm/cold conditions. They warm up with amazing speed, needed almost no bedding in (they felt mint after just 15 miles), and once used to their initial comparative reluctance to drop into a turn, they’re incredibly stable and secure mid-corner. It’ll be interesting to see how they wear – but it’s already clear why MCN’s test team voted this Tyre of the Year in our 2016 awards.

The one thing I’ve noticed on all three sets is how pressure sensitive they are. Drop as little as 3psi below 36/42, and the GT feels tangibly different. Get as much as 5psi down, and it starts to feel much worse. Return the pressures to those figures, and all is perfect again. She’s a sensitive old girl.

See more updates about the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT.