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2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R: First ride

Published: 05 December 2016

Updated: 05 December 2016

We’ve managed to grab a sneaky go on KTM’s new £13,999 1290 Super Duke R here at its world launch in Qatar…before this evening’s technical presentation and tomorrow’s track action at the Losail circuit.

Riding the new super naked (in dealers next February) around the city streets, we stuck strictly to the laws of the land, mindful of the fact that if we were caught being anything  other than angelic, we’d by quickly thrown in jail, then after a few days kicked out of the country, never to return…


But our steady ride gave us a little taste of what the revised KTM will be like in everyday conditions – we can go as fast as we want when we take it on track tomorrow.

There are lots of small detail changes for the new 2017 model, the main one being the new Euro 4 spec engine, which is more powerful than before….although we’re not quite sure.

When the 1290 Super Duke R came out two years ago the claimed figure was 180bhp, it changed to a claimed 170bhp last year and the new one is 130kw (174bhp). In any case, on our dyno the out-going model makes around 160bhp at the rear wheel.

Other than that it’s nip and tuck. There’s revised damping internals for the WP suspension and heavier fork springs (up from 95 to 10N/mm). Styling is tweaked, including twin LED lights and a full colour dash replaces the old black and white display. Keyless ignition and cruise control are also standard. 

Our test bike is also fitted with optional extras, including a quickshifter, autoblipper and electronic engine braking control.

To be honest, at slow speeds the KTM feels much the same as the last model and isn’t a huge step forward. But that’s no bad thing, because you’ve got a comfortable, roomy, cockpit to settle in, a smooth throttle and despite having superbike-levels of power and the ability to explode away from traffic lights and out of roundabouts, the 1301cc, V-twin motor is docile and easy-to-manage.

It’s still agile, sounds great and the brakes are some of the most powerful in the business. But what we can say about the new bike is the suspension offers a plusher, more sophisticated ride and in general the KTM is a nicer place to be, with its time and effort saving up and down quickshifter and coloured dash display. These are the kind of things that aren’t such a big deal when you step up to them, but you really miss when they’re taken away.

The electronics have been tweaked and offer confidence-inspiring lean-sensitive traction and ABS control in emergencies. Like the old bike, if you turn the traction and ABS off to have fun it resets after you’ve switch the bike off, which was always a disappointment, but done for safety, according to KTM.

But for wheelie fans everywhere (and let’s face it, this is why you buy a naked superbike) the new ‘Track’ riding mode lets you have your super naked kicks. Turn the anti-wheelie off and it stays off.

I’m sure we’ll be able to squeeze in some mono-wheeling action on track tomorrow, where we’ll get to ride the new KTM 1290 Super Duke R in anger. 

You can now read how we got on with the new KTM here.


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