Tour­ing’s not bor­ing

‘Don’t let the upright rid­ing po­si­tion and pan­niers con­fuse you, this is a bal­lis­tic, 173bhp twin’

Motorcycle News (UK) - - News - ADAM CHILD SE­NIOR ROAD TESTER adam.child@mo­tor­cy­cle­news.com

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’

Putting the sports into sports tour­ing, the Su­per Duke GT is the best of both worlds

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