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…

BIKE (UK) - - CONTENTS - Pho­tog­ra­phy Heiko Mandl

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

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