Touring’s not boring
‘Don’t let the upright riding position and panniers confuse you, this is a ballistic, 173bhp twin’
Trust Austrian speed merchants KTM to create something as barking as the new 1290 Super Duke GT. On one hand it’s totally sensible: there’s a big screen, cornering lights, optional panniers and a 23-litre fuel tank. But on the other hand there’s also the bonkers 173bhp V-twin, beefy superbike-style Brembos and crazy Bosch cornering ABS with hooligan-spec Supermoto mode.
KTM say the new 1290 Super Duke GT has been designed to give you all the dynamic thrills of riding a sportsbike but over a longer distance, in total comfort and with the maximum amount of fun.
The Austrian company’s motto is ‘Ready to Race’ but surely that doesn’t translate to their new sports-tourer with its adjustable screen, heated grips, cruise control and 23-litre fuel tank?
KTM’S new GT is sporty; save for a few Euro 4 tweaks, it shares the same LC8 engine as the 1290 Super Duke and produces the same power and torque, but the torque has moved lower in the rev range.
The main chassis elements are also identical to the Super Duke R, the only difference being the rear subframe, which has been bolstered to take luggage and a pillion with ease.
The WP suspension is different, too; the new GT uses semi-active suspension just like its adventurous big brother, the 1290 Super Adventure. There are three riding modes, Comfort, Street and Sport, and the GT even comes with a quickshifter as standard. Keeping everything in line is KTM’S clever lean angle sensitive MSC traction control, which ties in with the three rider modes to tame the power delivery.
Huge Brembo radial brakes offer monstrous braking up front, and now benefit from combined cornering ABS. You can also switch off the ABS or opt for the ‘Supermoto’ setting which allows you to lock the rear but not the front. All this performance focus makes it impossible to question KTM’S claims for the sporting prowess of their new sports-tourer, but does that mean they’ve skimped on the comfort?
KTM have increased the size of the bodywork over the Super Duke R its now much wider, offering more protection, and accommodates the huge 23-litre fuel tank. The frontal design now incorporates a manually adjustable screen and cornering lights that sit either side of the aggressively angular bodywork and built-in indicators. Cruise control comes as standard as do heated grips, adjustable bars, a tyre pressure monitoring system and informative clocks with a separate mode screen. Pillions get a new wider seat, lower pegs and a decent size grab handle too. KTM have had to strengthen the subframe to take into account the added weight of a pillion and luggage, options for which include integrated pannier mountings just below the pillion seat on either side. Not only are the panniers easy to attach and re-attach, they have a real quality feel, and each is big enough to take a full-face helmet.
It appears KTM have ticked all the boxes, but can the GT be the best of both worlds? Fun and exciting, but also be able to extend that feeling for longer with comfort?
After chasing KTM ambassador and former GP star Jeremy Mcwilliams around the Island of Majorca for most of the day, I can confirm it’s certainly scoring high in the fun department. The masses of torque from the motor means it’s deceptively quick. In tricky conditions you really do need the traction control to prevent the rear from spinning, even with excellent Pirelli Angel GT rubber fitted. Don’t let that upright riding position and panniers confuse you, this is still a ballistic 173bhp V-twin.
With a full 23 litres in the fuel tank the GT initially feels a little top heavy but once on the move the handling is impressive. The two road-biased suspension modes, Comfort and Street, are designed to promote comfort and safety rather than performance. The semi-active WP suspension works overtime to keep the bike level, constantly changing compression and rebound on the move, and it works hard to reduce fork dive under heavy braking. It works really well, and is more than sufficient for fast road riding.
There’s a noticeable change in the handling when you select the third suspension mode, Sport, which is very similar to the Super Duke R track settings. Now the semi-active suspension allows the front to dive, which enables
‘Looks are subjective and while the GT is dramatic I wouldn’t say it’s sexy’