KTM, the Austrian bike manufacturer best known for its fabulous off-road title winning machines, has sets its sights on becoming Europe’s largest motorcycle manufacturer. But, to do so it needs a comprehensive range of machines to compliment its excellent off-road competition machines.
Recent successes on the racetrack show that they now have the technology to move forward and diversify onto the tarmac. Obviously any advances in competition will reflect in its road-based models, meaning they will be, and if the Super Duke is anything to go by, are, state-of-the-art and able to compete with other larger more established manufacturers.
The Super Duke arrives in Europe just a year after KTM launched its first twin-cylinder motorcycle in the shape of the 950 Adventure. But while based on it, the Super Duke itself is virtually all-new.
KTM has upped the capacity of the Adventure’s 942cc LC8 engine to form the heart of the 990 Super Duke. As you would expect, there is marked performance gain that comes from more than just an increase in cubic capacity to 999cc. New fuel injection and engine management systems are just part of it.
The narrow-angle V-Twin is one of the lightest and most compact twin-cylinder motors on the market, weighing in at 58kg (128 lbs), roughly one-third of the bike’s overall 179kg (395-lb) dry weight. KTM says a further 15kg (33 lbs) can be dropped by making use of the carbon fibre performance parts already on the parts shelves at the factory. Needless to say, these are not cheap!
KTM claims you can lighten the 395 lb (dry) load by making use of the carbon fiber parts already on the shelves at the factory.
The cylinders have been strengthened to deal with the larger bores, which have very light pistons running inside them to help reduce the oscillating mass. The head has been worked on to deal with the new 48mm injector bodies (the Adventure uses carbs), new camshafts and the thicker header pipe. At the bottom end, the crankshaft has been changed and a new six-speed transmission has been developed specifically for the street.
The Keihin electronic injection system was tailor-made especially for the Super Duke. There are two throttle valves per cylinder feeding the flow-maximized intake ports. These ensure the perfect mixture preparation and optimum torque progression in every riding situation. Lamba sensors, a catalytic converter and secondary air systems ensure that the bike meets all emissions standards across the world with ease. Claimed output is 120 horsepower at 9000 rpm with the maximum torque of 74 lb-ft coming at 7000 rpm.
The engine is mounted in a completely new lightweight, tubular space frame similar in appearance to the 950 Adventure’s. However, its geometry and dimensions were specially designed for the Super Duke. Weighing less than 10 kilograms (22 lbs), the frame’s light, chrome-moly construction offers extremely high torsional rigidity. The swingarm is constructed of tapered, extruded aluminium to be very light and rigid in its construction, matching the design brief of the chassis.
Suspension comes in the form of a fully adjustable 48mm WP inverted fork at the front with a fully adjustable WP unit being used at the rear. Brakes are supplied by Brembo, as are the wheels which are shod with sticky Pirelli Diablo tyres.
The Super Duke was actually designed for KTM by Kiska Industrial design in Salzburg, Austria, although in was built in-house. In appearance, the bike displays and aggressive stance that looks like it is ready to take on any bike of whatever genre. The traditional KTM tangerine colour adds to this look, but the black option is slightly more subtle in its approach to the onlooker.
Smooth and progressive power offers the rider the opportunity to transform trailing motorists into tiny dots on the horizon.
The sharp lines will not appeal to all and tend to polarize people’s views into the love-it-or-hate-it camps, but the same is true of many bikes on the market these days. Contemporary fashion dictates that the bike has two brushed stainless silencers exiting under the seat. These are fed by a two-in-one exhaust header feeding a three-way catalytic converter.
So, on paper, the Super Duke has all the attributes to be the top dog in the naked Streetfighter class that is currently the fastest growing market segment in Europe.
Sit astride the rather tall bike and you realize the ergonomics have been carefully worked out. Your hands immediately fall onto its Renthal handlebars and your legs slot into the sides of the 15-litre plastic polyamide fuel tank. You realise the moment you fire it up that this far more than just an Adventure trailbike in street clothes. The sound from the rear is superb, and you will not need to change the cans to get a sound as good as a Harley when pottering through town!
Snick silently into first gear and feel the punch from the motor, and you just know you are going to have fun. However, after riding it for a while you begin to realize you have been making progress without fuss and drama and not having to think about things. It’s almost a case of the bike reacting to your thoughts rather than your actions.
The gearbox is one of the smoothest on the market and it never clonks when engaging first gear or misses a change. The new clutch is light in operation and complements it well. Likewise, the fuel injection is well matched to the bikes power characteristics. Every little twist of the throttle is immediately turned into forward thrust, whether that be on the open road or around town.
KTM has put together an impressively smooth gearbox on the Super Duke. Effortless shifts are just one of the highlights of KTM’s sporting tour de force.
The power is smooth and progressive from just a whiff of throttle and there are no steps or glitchesâ€”all of it is useable. At times it is almost like there is a telepathic connection between the throttle and the rear wheel. Despite its civilized nature, the Super Duke will provide an exciting ride on the open road and will top 140 mph (on the track) providing you are hanging on tightly to deal with the wind pressure at these speeds.
Take it onto a set of challenging bends, such as coastal and mountain roads in Fuerteventura where the bike was launched, and up the ante and you realize why the bike has been built.
Bends can be attacked with belief that nothing can challenge the bike’s ability to deal with them. Its quick-reacting chassis ensures plenty of safety reserves in combination with the superb braking provided by the Brembos. The bike can be thrown into either single bends or a series of curves and it is always ultra-precise and agile throughout.
When you tweak the fully adjustable suspension into the sports mode settings, the bike is almost uncatchable and will leave most sportsbikes as mere dots in its mirrors until the roads open out again. Set up like this it loses some of its comfort for normal riding, but as the changes take seconds, it is no problem. This is actually a bike that you could tour on and then unstrap you luggage at the destination and then tweak the suspension before going out to play!
Night-time use is not a problem as the headlight is good enough to light the way even in the inky blackness of unlit roads.
It’s hard to believe that this is KTM’s first attempt at a streetbike. Top-notch handling, excellent power, and a hooligan spirit are just a few of the attributes of the Super Duke.
As an overall package, it is hard to believe that this is the factory’s first attempt at a proper streetbike. It is very user friendly in every department, has top-notch handling and real-world practicality, all wrapped up in a quality package.
The only real downsides are its short range dictated by the 15-litre tank and its lack of an immobiliser as standard. Those small points aside, this is a bike that should tempt you away from the real head-down sports bikes.
After all 180-mph may provide a rush that even this bike cannot, but at a risk that is becoming unacceptable to some on the road! Besides, the Super Duke is far more comfortable and a little cheaper at $16,000, which for many is still the bottom line.
Its direct competitors are bikes like the MV Brutale, the Ducati S4R Monster, Triumph Speed Triple, Cagiva Raptor, Benelli TNT and the Buell XB12R, and the Super Duke will leave them all trailing in its exhaust gases on the road! However, it lacks the name on the street compared to, say, MV, but that is surely going to change in a very short time.
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