2017 KTM Super Duke GT: What’s Not to Like?

KTM Super Duke GT Review
KTM Super Duke GT

Riding Style: Helmet: AGV K5 Multi-Hurricane; Jacket and Pants: Dainese Carve Master; Gloves: Racer Feeling; Boots: Dainese TR-Course Out; Communications: U-Clear HBC 200-Force

From the moment it was launched, the KTM 1290 Super Duke R had received accolades and praise from almost everyone fortunate enough to ride one—including myself. The SDR’s recipe for success is a combination of startling performance from its large capacity V-twin engine and spectacular handling from its lightweight chassis. All of this is wrapped in package of comfortable ergonomics from an upright riding position.

Actually, the Super Duke R ergonomics are so comfortable that it’s a natural long-distance motorcycle. It comes as no surprise that KTM decided to evolve its acclaimed naked bike into a pukka touring mount. Although not in the same luxury category as say a Honda Gold Wing or BMW K1600GTL, the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT is so capable overall that its appeal is likely to be quite a lot broader than one might at first assume.

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The conversion of the KTM Super Duke R to touring mount has several facets. Weighing only some 33 pounds more than the SDR, the GT has a front fairing with adjustable windshield and frame-mounted headlight; a larger six-gallon fuel tank; an extended subframe with lowered rear footpegs to make it a little roomier for the passenger; the obligatory hard luggage bags; and, of course, cruise control and a tire pressure monitoring system.

The biggest change is to the suspension. The Super Duke GT now gets the WP semi-active electronic suspension from the Super Adventure, albeit with much shorter travel. This means the GT can be effortlessly adjusted on the fly to have either a Comfortable ‘floating’ feeling ride, or a sporty ‘reactive’ type of ride that is identical to the SDR. “Street” mode is the middle ground between the two. The price is still to be decided, as the GT will not arrive in the States until the Fall 2016 as a 2017 model. However, KTM North America is confident the price will be slightly under $20,000, making it around $2,500 more expensive than the SDR.

KTM Super Duke GT Test
KTM Super Duke GT

The LC8 V-twin motor has new cylinder heads and exhaust, but is essentially unchanged and outputs the same prodigious 173 horsepower (100 hp in Rain mode) and 106 ft/lbs of torque. However, it has been re-tuned to provide maximum power 1000 rpm lower at 9500, and the torque curve now peaks at just 6750 rpm for more low-down and mid-range power. The Super Duke GT responds to throttle inputs with the same beautiful smoothness of the SDR. Riding the narrow, twisting roads of Mallorca (aka Majorca), even in Sport mode, didn’t faze either the GT or me one bit.

The electronics suite is easy to access via buttons on the left handlebar, and an intuitive easy-to-read menu system. In normal use, most people will really only need to change the suspension modes between Sport and Comfort, and less frequently, the riding modes between Sport and Rain. The traction control is integrated with the typical three fuel maps, with Rain mode allowing least amount of wheelspin, and Sport allowing the most. The traction control can be disabled, if desired. As you might expect, that allows unfettered wheelies, if you’re so inclined.

The Super Duke GT retains the SDR’s excellent quickshifter and, although not currently equipped with a blip-downshift ability, the gearbox is so smooth and easily operated that clutchless downshifts can be accomplished without effort. The quickshift interrupt times have been carefully calibrated to optimize shifts and keep them smooth as glass, irrespective of speed. Pottering around town at low revs shifts as seamlessly as rapid-fire full-bore upshifts at high speed. I’m now becoming quite the quickshifter snob; some pundits claim they’re unnecessary unless you’re on track, but I disagree. Quickshifters are useful on twisty roads where the rider is very busy, and where absolute focus is at a premium. “Ride slower!” I hear you cry. “No,” I reply.  Suffice to say, please try a quickshift equipped machine—believe me, there is no going back.

KTM also incorporates both a stability control and a combined ABS system into the Super Duke GT, where the bank angle sensor varies the amount of wheel slippage allowed whether you’re on the throttle or on the brakes. Combining the brakes worked well for me, as I typically don’t use the rear brake; the C-ABS does that automatically. There is a Supermoto mode where the ABS allows the rear wheel to lock so you can back into corners—I’m sure your passenger will appreciate your riding skills. The bank angle sensor also allows for self-canceling turn signals, which is an appreciated convenience.

2017 KTM Super Duke GT blackOptional electronic functions (about $200 each) are the Hill Hold Control, which ensures a smooth start on inclines, as well as Motor Slip Regulation, which, in conjunction with the slipper clutch, helps prevent rear wheel lockup under heavy deceleration by opening the throttle butterflies a fraction.

Suspension is now “hybrid” or even “semi-active” on the Super Duke GT. The 48mm WP forks and rear shock have both compression and rebound damping automatically and constantly adjustable on-the-fly based on your choice of either Sport, Street, or Comfort mode. Spring preload can only be changed when stopped, and the typical four settings range from rider alone, to rider-with-passenger-and-luggage, while the damping modes of Sport, Street and Comfort can be adjusted on the fly, even without closing the throttle.

Sport mode has been carefully calibrated to mimic the suspension settings of the SDR and gives the same firm yet supple ride and brilliant SDR handling. The Super Duke GT’s handling in Sport mode is truly exceptional, and the GT turns in predictably on command without flopping into corners.

Shod with Pirelli Angel GT tires (instead of the excellent Dunlop Streetsmart tires on the Super Duke R), both road feel and grip were really impressive in Mallorca’s mix of damp and dry road conditions. There is a normal level of dive under braking in Sport mode, and of course this steepens the steering geometry and helps with the GT’s exceptional turning ability. Coupled with the slightly wider (25mm) adjustable handlebars the GT will hustle through twisties at least as well as the SDR and perhaps even slightly better. That can’t really be true, but it sure feels like it.

Also, check out the video KTM Super Duke GT walk around

Navigating through the intuitive menu system using the switch on the left handlebar, the damping can be adjusted while moving, and with the throttle opened. The operating servos make changes to the damping characteristics in around 20 milliseconds, so the changes are constant, instant, and very effective. Comfort mode is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Sport and the difference is very noticeable, not least because there is no dive at all under braking—something passengers will no doubt really appreciate. The Street option is of course somewhere between the two.

Comfort mode is described by KTM as being a “skyhook” type suspension concept (not to be confused with Ducati’s suspension of that name) where the algorithm operating the damping prioritizes the feeling that the bike is suspended from the air. In other words, the bike’s stance is kept as level as possible, appearing to the rider as if it is floating over the ground—hovercraft mode I suppose you could call it. Both Comfort and Sport settings are so instantly reactive with the skyhook concept and are so good at keeping the bike level that wheelies are almost impossible in those modes.

Sport mode on the other hand prioritizes the ‘ground hook’ concept, making sure that the wheels are in contact with the tarmac at all times. This gives better grip and handling for hard-charging, but ultimately makes for a less comfortable ride, especially for the passenger. All three suspension modes work very well indeed, giving the KTM Super Duke GT differing types of suspension at the opposite ends of the spectrum available in an instant: super-soft and comfy through to firm and sporting. When the going on Majorca’s roads got too bumpy and my pace slowed, Comfort mode was a welcome change, although the lack of dive at the front when turning took a little getting used to. Ultimately, on Mallorca’s super twisty roads I preferred the Sport suspension setting and the front end dive it allowed.

The handlebar comes with heated grips as standard, although the settings have to be accessed via the menu system and not by a dedicated switch. The bar itself is 25mm wider and a little taller than on the SDR, and that slight change must help with the GT’s turning. The bar risers are four-way adjustable, so you will be able to tailor-fit your hand position as preferred. In the standard setting, the handlebar position was simply a non-issue for me; after a nearly 200-mile day of very busy riding, I felt as if I could do it all over again.KTM Super Duke GT seat

The footpegs do not have rubber inserts, but I didn’t notice any undue vibration reaching my feet or legs; the footrest positioning is excellent, and slightly lower than the SDR.

Wind protection is adequate to quite good, and the windshield (available in either plain or tinted) can be easily raised or lowered by hand.

Optional equipment includes the Garmin GPS, an ergonomic, heated seat; Akrapovič titanium muffler; and a set of frame-mounted bump sliders. The quickly detachable luggage (included standard in the US) is slim enough for unhindered riding, yet it is also roomy enough to take a full-face helmet if necessary. Bag liners are available as an accessory.

KTM has taken its exceptionally user-friendly but all-conquering 1290 Super Duke R, and with some well thought out additions has catered to the demand for day-long excursions with a passenger and luggage—without losing or compromising the essence of the SDR. As a pure sporting mount twisting my way through the narrow hills of Mallorca—while dodging other road users—I was incredibly impressed by the GT’s all-round ability and rideability.

I had to keep reminding myself I had luggage, because the GT appears to have inherited the SDR’s amazingly nimble yet neutral turning, stable handling, and smooth, incredibly powerful throttle connection. Even returning to my hotel on the freeway with a stiff side wind coming off the sea, the Super Duke GT held its line perfectly; it was completely unaffected. The day long ride across all types of tarmac was incredibly fun, and surprisingly lacking fatigue—as I mentioned, I could have done it all over again with no problem.

The buying decision for the 2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT is going to come down to such pedestrian choices as your predilection for a V-twin motor, your preference as to the bike’s looks, your brand loyalty, and price. One thing you will not be able to criticize is the way this motorcycle performs; it is absolutely exemplary in every area and, as I said, I believe the Super Duke GT will attract a much wider range of buyers than everyone might suppose. I’m confident that anyone actually riding one will likely buy one.

2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R Specs:

ENGINE

  • Type: 75-degree V-twin
  • Bore x stroke: 108mm x 71mm
  • Displacement: 1301cc
  • Maximum power: 173 horsepower
  • Cooling: Liquid
  • Lubrication: Forced oil lubrication with 3 oil pumps
  • Transmission: 6-speed
  • Clutch: PASC slipper clutch, hydraulically actuated
  • Engine management: Keihin EMS with RBW, twin ignition
  • Chain: 5/8 x 5/16″ X-ring

CHASSIS

  • Frame: Chromoly steel trellis frame, powdercoated
  • Front suspension: WP 48mm semi-active suspension; 4.9 inches of travel
  • Rear suspension: WP semi-active shock; 6.1 inches of travel
  • Front brakes: Brembo Monoblock four-piston radial fixed calipers w/ floating 320mm discs
  • Rear brakes: Brembo twin-piston fixed caliper w/ 240mm disc
  • ABS: Bosch 9ME Combined ABS w/ cornering ABS and Supermoto mode, disengageable)
  • Rake: 24.9 degrees
  • Wheelbase: 58.3 inches
  • Ground clearance: 5.5 inches
  • Seat height: 32.9 inches
  • Fuel capacity: 6.1 gallons

2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke Colors:

  • Orange
  • Gray

2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R Price:

  • $TBD.

2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT Gallery