2018 KTM 1290 SU­PER DUKE R

1300cc of girthy KTM round Cad­well’s tight curves is a man­dle­bar-wrestling laugh

Performance Bikes (UK) - - CONTENTS - Pho­tog­ra­phy Si­mon Lee CHRIS NEW­BIG­GING

I LIKE HOW the Su­per Duke ploughs its own fur­row. Dif­fer­ent looks, a dif­fer­ent en­gine and chas­sis to ev­ery other naked gives it unique ap­peal. Those two mas­sive pis­tons hog­ging up and down, and an open rid­ing po­si­tion on a qual­ity chas­sis makes it a bril­liant, sev­eral-laughs-a-minute road bike. And it’s good on track – it holds a re­spectable po­si­tion on the Rutter Test leaderboard, and the launch on Qatar’s Grand Prix track is a great mem­ory for me.

But Cad­well, my cho­sen first track jaunt on my 1290 R, is not Don­ing­ton or Lo­sail, where the KTM can stretch its legs and use the width of an in­tern at iona lspec cir­cuit. There are bumps, gra­di­ents, cam­bers and unique di­rec­tion changes crammed into a strip of as­phalt not even half the width in the places. The Su­per Duke’s whop­ping grunt and girth might work nicely, or work against me.

The Su­per Duke has been rolling nicely on a pair of Miche­lin Road 5 sports-tour­ing tyres, han­dling well and not over­step­ping the lim­its of rub­ber I suspected might be a bit too all-rounder­ish for a bike so lairy. But wet, dry, cold, hot, slow or fast, the R5s have done ev­ery­thing I’ve asked. The big tread grooves are a great con­ver­sa­tion starter, too – ev­ery­body wants to know what those weird tyres are...

They also en­ti­tle you to a spot on the £50 Miche­lin track­days – Power Days – even though they’re not strictly rec­om­mended for track use. Michi’s tech man Tony Charl­ton rec­om­mended run­ning them at 31 front/34 rear and no less to keep them happy, but ad­vised they’ll have a very ob­vi­ous limit when pushed. As I fully ex­pect from rub­ber like this. But I wanted to know where that was, as they’ve stepped up so well.

Another perk of the KTM is the many func­tions of its dash – the tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor sys­tem comes in use­ful for warm-up laps. I’ve checked the read­ings against ac­cu­rate gauges, and they’re cock on. Bring up the read­out, get out on track and keep one eye on it. You can use it to back up your feel for a warm tyre – once both have in­creased by around 3psi, they’re good to go.

The Road 5s put up a de­cent per­for­mance: it takes the sec­ond ses­sion and a bit more con­fi­dence on my part to fig­ure out where the limit is. The front gets a lit­tle vague in high-speed cor­ners as you tran­si­tion across the very open tread ar­eas – Char­lies one and two no­tably. But there’s enough warn­ing that you don’t need to over­step the mark.

The rear is pretty good, al­though once it got hot it did step out sud­denly twice: in fair­ness, I was driv­ing very hard and early with trac­tion con­trol set to level two. One out-of-the-seat mo­ment was enough: an ad­mirable per­for­mance, but I tapped up the Miche­lin truck for a pair of Power RSs for later.

The fo­cus switches from tyres to the bike again: the KTM is in­stantly hap­pier with sports rub­ber to play on. Char­lies is taken in full con­fi­dence, and it hooks up and drives with only a bit of move­ment. The trac­tion con­trol is good – even for­get­ting to turn the ABS off be­fore­hand doesn’t ruin the fun en­tirely, it just grumps at late brak­ing once in a while.

Fast cor­ners are the bike’s limit – it laps up ev­ery­thing from the Goose­neck to Barn, mostly in third – only need­ing sec­ond briefly for the chi­cane. It grunts up the Moun­tain from low down, wheely­ing from be­fore the nor­mal point and re­fus­ing to drop un­til you shut the throt­tle fully. A gear higher than nor­mal is the key – even when it doesn’t sound like it, the most ef­fi­cient drive is found go­ing from low in the revs and us­ing the range. Keep the revs up and you’re past peak torque at 6500rpm, so bet­ter to let it seem­ingly chug out, but you’re us­ing the best bit of the mo­tor’s power.

It’s bet­ter with more grip, but it’s still a tall, wide bike, so high speed con­fi­dence isn’t 100%. It’s fast, but lacks a lit­tle on a few cor­ners. A small price to pay for the ver­sa­tile lu­nacy it of­fers the rest of the time. But there’s more to come from the chas­sis: I’ve al­ready di­alled some K-Tech wis­dom into the stock sus­pen­sion, but there’s the op­tion of the WP fork/shock up­grade. It might just want a set of full-on track tyres to claw back that lit­tle bit sports­bikes pull out on cor­ner en­try and at the apex: it’s there, but needs some­thing to un­lock that crit­i­cal bit of front end feel. In­ves­ti­ga­tion re­quired...

Third gear takes care of most of Cad­well

Miche­lin Road 5s (right) have been sur­pris­ingly adeptGTC Mo­tor­cy­cles get busy with the fit­ment of Miche­lin Power RSs

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