The power of The Beast: KTM 1290 Super Duke R reviewed

Nicknamed ‘The Beast’ and with 174 horse power on tap from a ridiculously compact and light motor, KTM’s 1290 Super Duke R might come across as something of a hooligan.

But this naked, while it can be ridden like a wild animal, also has a more tame side to it.

Compact: 1301cc V-twin
Compact: 1301cc V-twin

The bike certainly looks like it means business, with that eye-catching orange trellis frame and white tank, the short, fat end-can, and its general stocky, powerful stance.

Jump on board, however, and it’s actually quite narrow and you’re straight away struck by the comfortable ride position and wide, upswept bars, which are adjustable to four settings.

The cockpit features a pretty nifty colour, angle-adjustable TFT screen with analogue tachometer and digital speedo, plus oodles of other information.

With the key fob in your pocket, hit the start button to fire up that 1301cc V-twin.

There are three ride modes: Street and Sport offer the full 174hp, but vary the delivery and level of traction control, while Rain limits the maximum output, with smoother performance and earlier traction control intervention.

There is also a Supermoto setting, which turns off the traction control altogether.

All of this is operated via an illuminated menu switch on the left-hand control, which I found simple and intuitive to use.

The power of this bike is simply awesome. It’s super quick and there’s a huge amount of torque all the way from around 3,000rpm to just below 7,000rpm.

The six-speed gearbox is pretty smooth, although an up/down quickshifter is an optional extra at £350.

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However, you do get a slipper clutch as standard, which smooths out any harsh downshifts.

Nice touches include the tyre pressure monitoring system and auto-cancelling indicators.

You can also link your smartphone wirelessly to the TFT screen.

Power: Super Duke R is super quick
Power: Super Duke R is super quick

The suspension set-up on this bike is second to none, with fully adjustable WP 43mm USD forks, a WP fully adjustable rear shock, with external remote reservoir, and a WP steering damper.

As a result, despite being a pretty hefty Beast, the Super Duke R handles superbly through long sweeping bends and even better on tight B-road twistys – it just seems to encourage you to attack the corner before opening up all that power on the way out.

Braking is via Brembo calipers and 320mm front discs, with a 240mm rear.

A stability control unit works in conjunction with the cornering ABS.

The stopping power is excellent and the brakes have great bite and finger-light progression.

Surprisingly – and one of the beauties of the bike – at lower speeds around town, the R behaves almost like a different animal.

It’s quiet, reserved, easy to handle and, with the wide bars and steep rake, plus the light clutch, nimble, too.

Overall, what can I say, other than I loved it?

Fantastic power, confidence inspiring in the bends and perfectly at home around town – it’s the best bike I have ridden for some time.

1290 Super Duke R in white
1290 Super Duke R in white

The Facts

KTM Super Duke R

Engine: 1301cc V-twin

Power: 174bhp

Torque: 104lb ft

Colours: Black/white; black/orange

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