GT gives you wings

Two thou­sand miles plus and only one overnight stop in a ho­tel? You’ll be want­ing the mon­u­men­tally ca­pa­ble KTM 1290 Su­per Duke GT

Motorcycle News (UK) - - MCN Garage - richard.new­land@mo­tor­cy­cle­news.com

Truly ex­cep­tional mo­tor­cy­cles change your life. Hori­zons seem to stretch that lit­tle bit fur­ther, the mun­dane be­comes an ex­cuse for en­ter­tain­ment, and when you’d nor­mally stop – they in­spire you to carry on.

And so, af­ter weeks of star­ing at the in­vite from KTM to join them in their fan­stand at the Red Bull Ring for the Aus­trian Mo­togp, I fi­nally de­cided to go – just hours be­fore I needed to head south. A late evening push in the of­fice on the Thurs­day saw the decks clear enough to dis­ap­pear the next day, so I booked a flexi ticket on the Euro­tun­nel, and went home to get some sleep.

The next morn­ing I fit­ted the baf­fle back into the GT’S Akrapovic for a less noisy trip, gave the bike a thor­ough wash, ad­justed and lubed the chain, and put the Red Bull Ring co­or­di­nates into my Garmin. With a few spare T-shirts, pants and socks packed in the pan­niers, plus a first aid kit, high-vis vest, punc­ture re­pair kit and a mini pump, I was ready to go.

We rolled off the drive at 12:05pm, and headed for the Chun­nel, the miles melt­ing like but­ter in the heat. What felt like min­utes later I was avoid­ing the hum­drum route through the ter­mi­nal, us­ing my flex­i­pass to jump the queue.

The cross­ing dis­ap­peared in a ca­coph­ony of bike con­ver­sa­tion with a group of guys head­ing into Europe for their an­nual rid­ing tour. They were also headed to Aus­tria via a sim­i­lar route, but their sched­ule meant they’d ar­rive there the day af­ter I’d be home again.

Once in France I arced to­wards Bel­gium, be­fore cling­ing to the bor­der down to­wards Lux­em­bourg and Ger­many. Hav­ing re­fu­eled at Maid­stone ser­vices, the GT didn’t need more juice un­til Spa, where we pulled into a de­serted petrol sta­tion and tanked up.

But as I read­ied to leave af­ter a min­i­mal bit of leg stretch­ing, my Garmin de­cided it wanted to stop right there – so it did. The sun was set­ting fast, I didn’t have a map with me, and be­ing Bel­gium the petrol sta­tion had no shop at­tached. The route back onto the mo­tor­way wasn’t even the way I’d ex­ited, nor was it ob­vi­ous. Bug­ger.

Af­ter a few min­utes star­ing at my iphone I de­cided to head for Mannheim, then Stuttgart, then Mu­nich, hop­ing I’d spot a ho­tel from the road. An­noyed at my lack of an elec­tronic com­pan­ion, I plunged into the dark­ness.

God the GT is good though. I’m so com­fort­able, so at ease. I’m keep­ing the speed down, cruis­ing at a steady 90mph for the best bal­ance of progress and fuel con­sump­tion, and I feel like I could go all night.

But tired­ness creeps in at around 1am. Some­where be­tween Stuttgart and Mu­nich I spot a mo­tel, but there’s no room at the inn. Nor at the next. Nor the one af­ter that. I’m tired and dis­con­so­late. It’s 2am, and while my body is happy to go through the night, my head isn’t. I’ve lost the will to keep ask­ing for a room, and in­stead park the GT side­ways in a park­ing space at the third mo­tel, lay down on the floor be­tween it and a fence, and doze off.

Just be­fore 6am the sound of slam­ming car doors lifts me abruptly from my slum­ber, and I de­cide to get back on the road. As I ap­proach the Aus­trian bor­der I stop for fuel, a vi­gnette, and some break­fast. The GT feels fresh, and no part of me feels like we’ve trav­elled any fur­ther than the end of my drive. That’s amaz­ing with over 700 miles on the trip me­ter.

As we drop into Aus­tria the sun is re­lent­less, and so is the traf­fic. Skirt­ing Saltzberg the A1 feels like a poorly de­signed carpark, and they don’t like fil­ter­ing here. Some are po­lite, some swerve to close the gap and beep their horns. Some bikes queue with them like cars, but I didn’t come by bike to sit in traf­fic. Then we’re free, edg­ing around the Alps that rise like a wall from the land­scape. Stun­ning lakes and moun­tains pass tan­ta­liz­ingly close, but I’m not stop­ping yet. I shun the A1 for the A9 south, and then ran­domly dive off into the hills. It’s Satur­day; there’s no rush to get to the Ring.

The Pirelli Su­per­corsa SPS I had fit­ted just two days be­fore feel awe­some, de­liv­er­ing the sort of com­po­sure and grip the An­gel GTS couldn’t have mus­tered. I do three runs on the 114 from Trieben to Ju­den­burg just for the sheer joy of a de­serted alpine road on a nuts bike and hot rub­ber. Then I head for Graz, where a hastily begged ho­tel room (thanks KTM) over­comes my lack of plan­ning.

Sleep comes eas­ily, and the next morn­ing re­veals more sun­shine and heat. Tales of mas­sive queues into the Ring have reached the ho­tel, but I see none, ar­riv­ing un­hin­dered to the field where we’re di­rected to park, be­fore a short walk to the track. What a beau­ti­ful cir­cuit. The rac­ing passes in a blur, and be­fore I’ve had a chance to get my bear­ings, it’s time to head home.

De­spite the ex­er­tions of the last cou­ple of days I feel ra­zor-sharp. The 114 gets an­other at­tack, be­fore the A9 gives way to Ger­many, and the schlep north­wards. I’m go­ing the short­est way home, still nav­i­gat­ing with my nose and oc­ca­sional checks of the iphone. I call my wife from Frank­furt and sug­gest that I’ll stop at Cologne for the night. When I walk into our bed­room at 08:45 the next morn­ing, 953.1 miles and 15 hours af­ter leav­ing the GP, she opens only one eye be­fore chastis­ing me for not stop­ping. But I never felt the need. The GT pro­vided more com­fort than stop­ping could, and the traf­fic-free night was mes­mer­iz­ing with noth­ing but the V-twin’s pulse for com­pany.

I’ve never rid­den so far, in so lit­tle time, so ef­fort­lessly. The GT has be­come a part of my life his­tory, a part­ner­ship that will al­ways oc­cupy a cor­ner of my mind. It never missed a beat, never caused me pain, never let me get bored or frus­trated, never al­lowed me to dream of any other bike. My wrists didn’t ache, nor my pos­te­rior go numb, and petrol stops were pleas­ingly spaced rather than ag­gra­vat­ingly fre­quent. Given a free choice of bike for a re­peat run, I wouldn’t hes­i­tate to take a 1290 GT.

The Zumo conked in Bel­gium, but mys­te­ri­ously works per­fectly again now Nearly home – on the 06:20 Chun­nel cross­ing to Blighty

Dan­ger in Calais The only blot on an oth­er­wise stun­ning trip was a near-death ex­pe­ri­ence rid­ing to­wards the Euro­tun­nel ter­mi­nal at Calais. A burn­ing road­block set by mi­grants very nearly ended the jour­ney in the all most neg­a­tive way pos­si­ble. Read about it on the MCN web­site at: http://bit.ly/calais­gaunt­let

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