Ballistic sports tourer gets big improvements for 2019, with no increase in price. Bike’s Ben Lindley heads to Austria and grabs an exclusive 24-hour test on the pre-production bike…
THIS PRE-PRODUCTION BIKE is so new it’s running an Austrian trade plate. When I pick the bike up from KTM Austria, the staff warn me to lock the plate in a pannier when I stop. Apparently, everyone in Austria wants one. The plate, not the 1290 Super Duke GT. But it’s this GT they actually need. They need the huge 158bhp thrust from the Super Duke R’s 1301cc V-twin, the furious braking capability of the Brembo monobloc fourpots, the spacious panniers and generous wind protection. Pedalling hard in comfort: it’s a great feeling. All that applies to the 2016 bike I’m following through the Upper Austrian countryside. But unlike my guide, I’m riding the 2019 machine. It boasts a lightly-revised engine from last year’s Super Duke R, smarter suspension, cleaner controls, a TFT dash, and a longer lug on its sidestand. There’s more to this bike than these few tasters, but amazingly the price is still pegged at £16,299 – exactly the same amount you would have paid for the previous model. My 24 hours with the new GT started five minutes ago and we’re already speeding through farmland west of KTM’S Mattighofen base. In the few seconds between flat-out-in-second uphill right and a long cresting left,
I scan the new bike’s dashboard. It’s a tasty cockpit. Last-gen GTS had a complicated mash-up of analogue clock and two LCD screens. One gave gear, fuel and speed information, and the other delivered traction control and damping settings. There was also a hulking growth on the right-hand switchgear where the cruise control brain was kept. But no longer. Cruising is miniaturised and swapped to the left hand, and a huge 6.5-inch dashboard holds all information. Smart tech. Red brake light and the sound of gurgling downshifts lift my concentration back to the road. A wiggly road sign flicks past, the cresting left heading straight towards a wall of trees. Moments later my guide rocks the old GT sideways into the undergrowth. I follow him in blind, hard on the front brake and frantically tapping down on the gear lever. Suddenly the GT has to cope with lean, massive braking force, quick downshifts and lurching weight transfer. Sounds like chaos… Not on the GT. Semi-active electronic suspension set to ‘Sport’ immediately firms up front fork damping to reduce pitch. A new autoblipper flicks at the engine revs to make each cog drop clean. Cornering ABS censors the huge power from the Brembo four-pot calipers to all-but-eliminate chances of a front wheel washout. The whole manoeuvre is accomplished with the dispassionate efficiency of Benico del Toro in Sicario. It’s impressive. A click into the optional ‘Track’ mode makes the dashboard change configuration and allows me to separate anti-wheelie from a nine-stage traction control layout. Ridden a Super Duke R or 790 Duke? You’ll recognise the four-way switchgear and ‘Track’ setting. There’s extra snap to throttle openings and pleasing front wheel lift on these wooded corner exits. I suspect weight is on the up, even though it feels as nimble here as the old model did. KTM are only estimating the new bike’s figures right now, but after pushing old and new GTS around a car park earlier I’m expecting 5kg extra. Four hours later we’re cruising the outskirts of Salzburg city. Electronic suspension in Comfort mode feels like you’re riding on thick pile, the cruise control (same as the Super Adventure’s system) is set to 60mph in sixth with enough grunt at the twistgrip to top 100mph in five seconds. I’m amazingly comfortable, given how aggressively this bike can also pitch through corners. The seat’s a £208 KTM accessory, with a sumptuous two-level thickness to it. But Bike’s 5000-mile test of the previous GT revealed the standard perch is nearly as good. No extra price for the aerodynamic overhaul, though. The 2019 GT’S
Bike says: ‘I’m amazingly comfy given how aggressively this bike can pitch through corners’
project manager Tobias Eisele specialises in aerodynamics, and he’s had a hand in sculpting the new headlight-windshield cluster. KTM say the screen’s 20% smaller than the old, yet much more efficient. They’re right – there’s a big difference between the bikes. Top mirrors, too. There’s a better field of vision than the BMW S1000XR’S offering, and more adjustable than the stalks on the Ducati Multistrada 1260. V-twin vibrations? Non-existent. The next twelve hours starts with dinner at an Asian buffet in Obertrum. The trade plate goes in the right pannier (£670 for the pair). The left takes my XL Shark helmet upside-down. It’s dark heading back to KTM’S Mattighofen base, and the new LED lights make a mockery of the old model’s conventional bulbs. The next morning is cold, the bike covered in dew. Perhaps this is why the dashboard gets stuck in a boot loop for five minutes. It takes three miles’ riding for the TFT to catch up with the bike. I’m assured technical anomalies will be ironed out before the GT’S launch. There are other nitpicks, however. Sometimes the gear lever won’t let me quickshift up out of second, leaving me to flounder in second at the limiter. The traction control light flickers during normal riding. And a 10,750rpm redline means gears are over almost too quickly. But it’s harder to fault this second-gen bike than the GT that came before. And the unmoved price? You can thank the Germans for that. 50% of current GTS were sold in Germany, so it seems this unprecedented demand for the insane sports tourer has allowed KTM to revise their sales estimates upwards. So thanks to the power of spreadsheets, this army of improvements is served up at no extra cost. It’s a brilliant, versatile ride, easily 9/10 when they fix the electronic faults. Just don’t expect an Austrian trade plate locked in the pannier.
Welcome to the family: redesigned front end with LED mantis headlight from Super Duke R