2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R First Look: Extensive Changes
The 2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R broke cover at the 2019 ECIMA show in Milan, revealing that the Austrian brand has been hard at work refining one of the most exciting naked sport machines on the market.While not an all-new motorcycle, the Super Duke R has been upgraded with extensive changes to its 1301cc V-twin engine and transmission, a new steel trellis frame, updated WP suspension, and much more.
Aptly dubbed The Beast by the orange -loving brand, the 1290 Super Duke R has been a fan favorite since its inception. We’re excited about the changes and can’t wait to see how they perform. Until then, we’ll hit you with the Fast Facts.1. The 1301cc 75-degree LC8 engine has been refined—more efficiency, more fun, and less weight await. Producing a staggering claimed 177 horsepower and 103 ft/lbs of torque, the Duke R’s 1301cc V-twin is one of the most raucous, good-time-inducing engines on the market—a perfect fit for a naked sport machine. But it isn’t all laughs for the KTM engineers, who have given the twin-engine thinner engine cases, along with revised cooling and oil mounts, which shaved 1.7 pounds from the total weight. New top-feed fuel injectors and more substantial 56mm throttle bodies have given KTM greater control of fueling, claiming to improve performance and fuel consumption. Also, to help the beast breathe and ensure proper fuel/air mixture, a new ram-air system is deployed.2. New headers help the Super Duke R pass stricter emission standards. Revised headers now incorporate two catalytic converters, which seems to the trend in the motorcycle industry when addressing more stringent Euro 5 emissions standards. However, KTM states that the headers help optimize gas-flow without quelling the Duke R’s notable V-twin growl.3. The new Pankl six-speed gearbox has been tightened up, claiming to provide faster shift times and shorter shift actuation. We suspect a heavier spring and shift detent are in play, but however Pankl managed it, it’s a welcome change. At an extra cost, KTM will provide up and down quickshifting to your steed.4. An all-new lightweight chromoly frame is featured on the 2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R. This year, the Super Duke R’s steel trellis frame claims to shed 4.4 pounds compared to its previous generation. Don’t worry, not only is it lighter, but KTM claims that it is three times stiffer than before. That should make the KTM even more stable at pace. Also, a new composite subframe is used to save weight.5. An updated engine mount bracket and linkage mount are part of the chassis upgrades. Helping the chassis stiffness cause is a new engine mount bracket and linkage mount, which are integrated into the 1301cc V-twin engine case. The swingarm pivot point has been raised 5mm and helps improve stability, as well as anti-squat characteristics.6. To control The Beast, a longer swingarm is introduced. The wheelbase of the new Duke R grows to 58.9-inches, over a half-inch longer than the previous generation—another stability enhancer. Also, the swingarm is positioned closer to the output sprocket, claiming to improve control under acceleration.7. The suspension is updated and upgraded in several ways. The WP Apex 48mm inverted fork returns, and is now fully adjustable. All previous iterations of the Super Duke R only had compression and rebound damping adjustments, mysteriously lacking the ability to alter spring-preload. The fork is now secured by lighter forged aluminum triple clamps with a 32mm offset, and paired with an aluminum steering column for additional weight savings. The fully adjustable WP Apex shock is brand new, featuring toolless spring-preload adjustment, helping owners change settings on the fly, though we suggest you pull over. Also, the shock features separate gas and oil reservoirs, reducing weight and size. An all-new linkage has been implemented for the shock to smooth out the ride.8. Fresh Bridgestone Battlax S22 rubber and redesigned 17-inch wheels are on the 2020 Duke R. KTM have opted for the latest and greatest sporty-street rubber with the S22. Newly designed aluminum wheels will be in play, which KTM claims are lighter.9. Ride modes have been revised and are less restrictive. 10. A full suite of six-axis IMU-supported electronics is standard, though full adjustability will cost extra with the optional Performance and Track modes. In standard trim, the Super Duke R boasts cornering ABS, lean-angle-detecting traction control, wheelie control, cruise control, and KTM My Ride Bluetooth connectivity. Motor Slip Regulation is still left as an option but included in the Performance mode. The Performance mode is aimed at street riding, as it allows the throttle response, wheel slip, and wheelie control settings to be altered, while keeping cruise control and KTM My Ride active. Track mode eliminates all street niceties, but introduces nine-level traction control, a track riding mode, launch control, and allows wheelie control to be disabled. KTM has not released the price for these modes yet.11. An all-new full-color TFT display is in play. KTM claims that the new dash is brighter and features more functionality than before. That remains to be seen (pun intended). Also, forget about a key—the KTM Race On system makes it unnecessary.12. The riding position remains the same, while the steel 4.2-gallon fuel tank is new. The latest fuel tank claims to offer more support to the rider. Previous iterations of the Super Duke R have made it one of the most comfortable upright naked machines on the market, so we’ll have to see how it plays out.13. New paddle buttons and revised controls are on the 2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R. KTM has gone with paddle buttons on the left-hand controls that can adjust ride modes or traction control. Alternatively, the buttons can be programmed to quickly access your favorite features in the menu on the fly. This is easily one of the best hand-control solutions available. We’re quite glad that KTM has adopted this strategy.14. Lighting up front is LED, including the daytime running light. The headlight is all-new. That gives the front end of the Super Duke R a new look.15. New bodywork also updates the appearance of the Super Duke R. KTM has optimized the thickness of each piece to balance strength and weight.16. Pricing begins at $18,699 for the 2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R. The 1290 Super Duke R’s price has increased by $700, and we’ll have to ride it to find out if changes listed might be more than worth it. Adjustable fork pre-load on the Super Duke R? What a time to be alive!
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This week, in the first segment Editor Don Williams talks to us about the new Kawasaki Versys 650 LT. It’s the middleweight ADV style machine that uses the same 650 parallel twin motor as the Ninja 650, so it’s an excellent performer in a user-friendly, good looking package.
In the second segment, I chat with one of my dearest industry friends—now retired Honda PR executive, Jon Seidel. Jon’s fascinating career spans some 30 years with Big Red, and gave him some great experiences with some incredible machines. I was fortunate enough to be invited on many of the press launches that he organized. His new project is documenting and saving many of the old archives from years gone by—and incidentally, if you have anything that may be of value to the project, please contact us by email at email@example.com and we’ll pass it all on to Jon.
So on that note, from all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!