2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R Fast Facts Review
KTM’s benchmark upright/naked sportbike took the world by storm in 2014 and became an instant icon. Nicknamed "The Beast" by the factory, the prodigiously powerful Super Duke R was paradoxically, also beautifully tame and easy to ride, especially at modest speeds. The new 2017 KTM Super Duke R—"Beast 2.0"—now sees some significant tweaks that take the machine to the next level.
1. The legendary 1290 motor is slightly more powerful. Now Euro 4 compliant, KTM’s LC8 90-degree V-twin retains the same 1301 cc capacity. However, compression ratio is increased, and thanks to a revised crankshaft and titanium inlet valves it now puts out a claimed 177 horsepower (an increase of 4 horsepower over last year’s model) and a remarkable 104 ft/lbs of torque. Small tweaks inside the 2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R engine help it spin up quicker and feel more responsive.
2. Despite the increase in power, the Super Duke R is easier to ride. The rev ceiling has been raised by 500 rpm, making for a broader spread of power in the meaty mid-range. The fueling is still beautifully smooth, and riding around Pearl Island in Qatar at sensible street speeds the Super Duke R feels docile and incredibly manageable.
4. The major change to the SD-R is with the electronics suite that is now much more sophisticated. Two packages are available as options: The Performance pack, which includes a quickshifter with both up- and blip-downshift, the KTM My Ride smartphone integration via Bluetooth, and the electronic Motor Slip Regulation that enhances the mechanical slipper clutch.
The Track pack adds a Track mode to the usual 3 riding modes (Sport, Street and Rain) which allows for separate traction control (9-levels) which can be adjusted on the fly; three levels of aggression with the throttle response; launch control; and wheelie control off. I rode the Losail circuit in Qatar in Track mode, with Track level throttle response (most aggressive), and traction control level 5, and the SD-R behaved impeccably.
The electronic controls are seamless and close to transparent. The Super Duke R now also comes with cornering ABS, and in Track mode that can be switched off completely, or put into Supermoto mode where the ABS only functions on the front wheel, allowing the rear to be backed into corners if you desire. Both electronics packages can be purchased separately or together as desired.
6. The handlebars are now slightly lower, further forward, and wider than previously, making for a slightly more aggressive riding stance. On track, the 2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R was easy to put too much input into the wider bars and upset the handling slightly; once I relaxed a little the front end settled down nicely. The bars are very comfortable, and I was able to tuck in on the long Losail straight.
7. The instrument pod now has a TFT color display. It is also adjustable for viewing angle, and I found the display to be super easy to read in general. The menu system is very comprehensive and intuitive to use via the buttons on the left handlebar.
8. Dunlop out, Metzeler in. The SD-R’s Dunlop Roadsmart tires have now been replaced by Metzeler’s M7 RR tires. At Losail the grip they provided was excellent and despite the asphalt surface of the track being notoriously abrasive and hard on tires, they also lasted quite well.
10. The 2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke R will see no price increase over its predecessor. Remarkably, KTM has announced the Super Duke R price will remain at $17,999; although as tested with both the Track and Performance electronics will add to that number. Prices to be announced but expect it to be around $1000 for both.
KTM has taken its superlative and widely acclaimed upright naked superbike and made it even better. The cruise control will be welcomed by those sporting riders who like to explore, and yet with the additional electronics packages the Super Duke R is now equally at home on the race track as well.