MCN Fleet: KTM 1290 Super Duke GT story so far
It was a crisp early February morning in the MCN carpark when I first set eyes on the 2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT. Angular, aggressive and booming from its single exhaust can, there was the promise of all-day comfort, superbike straight-line pull and all the tech I could ever want or need.
I was going to use it every day and I was going to pluck up the courage to go long-distance touring. Less than two months later, we were into the coronavirus lockdown. Bugger. Still, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy riding and after just shy of 4500 miles, here’s what I reckon so far...
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Being a stickler for the rules, I like to follow a running-in process as closely as possible. The KTM was no different, with the manual stating you must not use full throttle or exceed 6500rpm until the £215 (at the time) first service at 621 miles (1000km).
On a smaller bike, this could present issues, however the circa 173bhp 1290 will happily exceed motorway speeds at just 4500rpm in top, meaning you can make all the progress in the world without unnecessary stress to the big V-twin.
Despite there being plenty of poke without giving it a big handful, I was gagging to give the KTM a big twist of my right wrist to see what it could do. I was expecting it to be fast, but my word – it pulled harder and shunted forwards quicker than I could’ve ever imagined, snarling aggressively and popping on the upshift like a 60s American muscle car.
Prior to lockdown, I looked forward to my daily dose of aggression to and from work with a beaming smile and, barring a phantom warning light at 917 miles, the bike remained perfectly well-behaved.
From there, the KTM continued to shine; ferrying me across the country to any destination in comfort, as well as taking care of daily duties such as the occasional food shop when travel was limited and the desire to ride was overbearing.
Even after weeks of sitting stationary in the garage during lockdown, the £69.99 OptiMate 4 charger kept the battery primed and it started first time. A quick once over at the fluids and a few pumps of air in the tyres and we were away.
Following the lockdown, the GT was part of a back-to-back test with its closest road-biased rival: the latest BMW S1000XR.
A two-day epic in 30-degree-plus temperatures, it was the first time the KTM’s engine heat became noticeable – toasting my inner legs and bum during prolonged stints at a standstill.
Every other ride before and since, the heat has caused me no discomfort - actually adding some welcome leg warmth on colder days. Unfortunately, this test also saw the KTM’s key fob refuse to communicate with the bike after refuelling.
Unable to lock the steering or start it up, it brought an abrupt end to our road test and left me stranded for hours. It was eventually fixed by undoing and reattaching the battery to reset everything and hasn’t happened again.
Determined to harness a little more practicality, I have now installed a set of £699.48 official hard cases, which slot into pre-existing mounts beside the pillion seat and behind the rear pegs.
Feeling sturdy and finished excellently, they clip-in tight and look part of the motorcycle rather than a cheap afterthought. Not only do they hold plenty of shopping, they also swallowed my Airoh GP500 helmet when I’m parked up at my destination. Bonus!
KTM 1290 Super Duke GT: The story so far
- Update one: Exploring the versatylity of the Super Duke GT
- Update two: Impressions after 1000 miles of riding
- Update three: Where next for the Super Duke GT?
- Update four: Your questions answered and video
- Update five: 1290 Super Duke GT heads to Cadwell Park
KTM 1290 Super Duke GT makes a splash at Cadwell Park
When I took delivery of KTM’s 1290 Super Duke GT in March, two things were certain in my head. I was going to go on a long tour and tackle a trackday.
Four months and a global pandemic later and there’s been no tour and limited opportunity to get on track. But, when a No Limits evening at Cadwell Park presented itself in early July, I jumped at it.
With the forecast promising sunshine and dry tarmac, it looked like the perfect opportunity to scratch my track itch. But much like the rest of 2020, I was left thinking about what could’ve been...
Staying dry until around 2pm, the heavens opened and didn’t stop, spawning deep puddles along the start/finish straight and a stream across the exit of Charlies. Joy.
Riders to the collection area
I’m the only road bike in the fast group, and also the only one on road tyres – OE Pirelli Angel GTs. Unaware of the conditions out of sight, I leave the bike in its sportiest settings. Traction control firmly on.
It soon becomes apparent how impressive the Angel GTs are in wet conditions; bags of feel, allowing me to brake hard and tip in more aggressively than I could on sportier hoops, with enough bite at the rear to best 120mph on the straights.
That said, the torquey twin caused the rear to break away through some corner exits and up the Mountain climb, although always caught by TC. In hindsight, a softer throttle map and suspension set-up would’ve helped.
Into the next session things got better, the conditions remaining the same and me now up-to-speed with the bike’s behaviour. We even managed a couple of overtakes and kept pace with other fully-fledged track mules. Then the rain got harder and soon a lack of wet tyres became a concern.
Not wanting to cause an accident, I pulled in after two laps of session three and called it a day. Frustrated by the conditions and convinced the bike would excel on a dry track, I’ve now fitted a set of Metzeler M9 RRs and will make my return to a dry circuit soon. I hope.
Your questions answered on life with the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
With any recent plans of riding - outside of essential travel - put on hold, I have been spending my time answering your burning questions about the 2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT.
Before Coronavirus I covered 2400 miles of all-weather commuting, weekend rides, two-up adventures and countless motorway stints. Below are my impressions thus far. Got anything you’d like answered? Email me on email@example.com. Watch a full Q&A video below:
Have you taken a pillion and what was it like? Alex Jessop
Just before the lockdown, I took my younger brother Matt on a 100-mile round trip to Melton Mowbray along the glorious A607. Despite him being considerably taller than me at 5ft10in (I’m 5ft6in on a good day) there was plenty of room and separate, well-padded seats for both of us. Those coming from larger road-biased adventure bikes (such as the Kawasaki Versys 1000) will be used to more room between rider and pillion though.
With electronically adjustable WP springs, setting the bike up for the extra weight can be done quickly and there’s plenty of power for making progress. Keep that traction control on though, or the front wheel will be up and down like a pogo stick!
Is it a true GT? How long before numb bum sets in? Russ Ryan
I’ve done around 220 miles of constant motorway between stops on multiple occasions and although not that fun, it was perfectly comfortable.
The only times I stopped were to get fuel. I am hoping to sample the optional £217.98 ergo seat in the near future, which should provide even more cushioning and comfort.
How do you find the screen for noise/protection? Graham Bell
If you’ve come from a sportsbike or naked, the GT will give you all the wind protection you could hope for. That said, it is smaller than what’s fitted to some other GTs or adventure-sports bikes. I run the screen in its tallest setting, which provides me with plenty of protection for daily riding and minimal buffeting. Taller riders could be worse off.
Would you choose it over a KTM Super Adventure? Paul Rogers
Having ridden the latest SDGT almost daily and a Super Adventure S to Wales and back in 2017, my personal preference would be the GT.
The Adventure would arguably be better in all weathers, but I like the GT’s road-biased nature and manageable size. That said, if you like getting muddy and hitting the green lanes, then there is no substitute for the Adventure model. A smaller adventurer may be more manageable on the rough stuff, though.
What is the bike's most endearing quality? Damian Woolfall
The engine. All. Day. Long. Not only does it sound great, but it delivers usable punch anywhere in the revs. Wind it up on a back road and you can’t help but laugh as you’re shunted forwards at superbike-spec speeds. It’s also an overtaking assassin and pulls like a locomotive in any gear – making it a rural commuters’ dream.
Update three: Where next for the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT?
The KTM 1290 Super Duke GT is already a great bike and when ridden around the MCN250 in 2019, fellow tester Phil West said it was '(probably) the best road bike you can get.' Strong praise indeed.
This begs the question of how I can improve on its near perfection for daily use. After 2400 miles, I have compiled a list of proposed changes, which should mould the Austrian brute into an even better proposition.
Can you hear me?
Although the Euro4-compliant stubby exhaust provides a devilishly good soundtrack from tickover to the redline – rumbling nicely and occasionally popping on the upshift like a finely fettled BSB bike – I want to unlock more from the 1301cc twin.
Enter the KTM PowerParts catalogue and the titanium Akrapovič slip-on exhaust. Costing a wallet-denting £787.02, although not an essential mod, it looks far neater than the standard pipe and saves a claimed 1.5kg.
There are louder options out there, but I want to go on track and that means staying on the right side of the noise tester.
I am a massive wuss when it comes to the cold. I don’t like it and am one of the last to ditch the heated layers. Afterall, why just be warm enough, when you can be lovely and toasty?
For that reason, another extra that has caught my eye is the £217.98 ergo seat. Heated and offering three height settings, it should provide some additional comfort.
There’s also nothing actually wrong with the KTM’s standard seat; it’s very comfortable, well-shaped for dynamic riding and with such a big twin underneath, becomes slightly heated by the rear cylinder on longer rides. Whether this option is worth the money remains to be seen.
Another avenue I am keen to explore is tyres. The GT comes on Pirelli’s Angel GT and I cannot fault them thus far. Used daily, with over a thousand miles of dual carriageway and motorway work and multiple ventures with a pillion, there are minimal signs of wear.
They also have bags of grip in the wet and dry. However, once Covid-19 has blown over, I am determined to test the bike’s mettle on my favourite back roads and on track and, as such, will look to test some more sporty rubber – such as the new-for-2020 Metzeler M9 RR.
Moving into the autumnal months, I expect I’ll switch again and having spoken to owners of the GT, I have been recommended plenty of rubber - including Michelin's Road 5 GT.
How have you blinged your Super Duke GT? Get in touch and let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
Update two: KTM 1290 Super Duke GT's instant shove is a real selling point
Super Duke GT is the perfect name for KTM’s latest £17,199 sports tourer. It sounds like some sort of aristocratic superhero, and that description isn’t too far wrong. Refined and powerful, it’s as ballistic as long-distance motorcycles come, without sacrificing usability. I’m head-over-heels in love with it.
Posing as a beautifully finished grand tourer, complete with comfortable seat, easy-going road manners and user-friendly motor, the growling KTM transforms into a 173bhp V-twin missile, capable of out-gunning most superbikes, whenever the mood takes you.
After two weeks of daily commutes, weekend exploration and 150-mile motorway slogs, I am smitten, but it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Here’s how I got on for the first 1000 miles.
As a self-confessed flapper and someone who has to check a door’s locked 10 times, the idea of a keyless ignition terrified me. After all, how do I know where the key is if I can’t see it?
It took about a week before I stopped frisking my pockets and can now slip the key in my jacket without fear of losing it completely. The keyless fuel cap means less time messing about at the pumps, too.
Another mild cause concern from the outset was the sidestand. Although flicking down effortlessly and being easily accessed whilst you are sitting on the machine, it stands the bike quite tall and I was worried the KTM could topple over on loose surfaces. So far my fears have proved unfounded, however.
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The first proper maintenance came in late February, during a trip to the Carole Nash MCN London Show. I had travelled from my home just outside Lincoln and following the 147-mile trip, the well-lubed chain had stretched to the point of resting on the swingarm.
Tightening it back up was easily done using a 17mm socket borrowed from the KTM stand at the event and a C-spanner included in the decent onboard tool kit. Simply loosen one bolt and adjust the hub behind the sprocket. Easy.
The running-in period was 621 miles (1000km) and during this time the manual states you must not use full throttle or exceed 6500rpm.
On a smaller capacity bike this could be problematic, but with around 173bhp and 104ftlb of torque, using less than 6500rpm is easy, with motorway speeds (plus VAT) achieved in top gear at little more than 4500rpm. Expect parts and labour to cost around £215 for this work.
With full power unleashed, the following 300 miles were nothing short of amazing. With all the power in the world at your right wrist, muscle car soundtrack, excellent Pirelli Angel GT rubber and oodles of comfort, it did everything I wanted, and I was genuinely excited to see it at every open of the garage door.
That was until an error message pinged up on the TFT dash at 917 miles. Pulling over to a stop and turning the bike on and off saw the message disappear and, having consulted KTM UK about the issue, it hasn’t resurfaced since. My excitement returned.
Since that error message came and went, the Super Duke has been good as gold. Treated to a thorough scrub every weekend and a mid-week rinse to de-gunk the exterior, it has ferried me to and from work, across country lanes and down south to Brands Hatch in perfect comfort. The chain hasn’t needed any further adjustment and there are no signs of surface rust.
You can watch a first impressions video below:
Update one: Exploring the versatility of the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
KTM’s 1290 Super Duke GT sits at the extreme end of the sports-touring segment. I want to find out if this thumping brute is more than simply a superbike expat’s wet dream; testing its ability as a daily commuter, weekend tourer, town tackler and (of course) trackday scratcher.
The rider Dan Sutherland, Senior Writer, 24, 5ft 6in. Year-round commuter, weekend blaster, riding for eight years. Dan.email@example.com
Bike specs 1301cc | 173bhp | 209kg (dry) | 835mm seat height