What to do?

Chris finds the 1290 near-per­fect; so much so, room for im­prove­ment is limited

Performance Bikes (UK) - - LONG-TERMERS - Pho­tog­ra­phy Gareth Har­ford

IT’S THE PEREN­NIAL ques­tion for a bike jour­nal­ist: “What’s the best bike you’ve ridden? What would you buy with your own money?” It’s a weird one, be­cause the job de­mands riding such a huge va­ri­ety of bikes for dif­fer­ent pur­poses. I loved the Suter 500, but it’d be a shit com­muter. I had great fun on a GPX250 in cen­tral Lon­don once, but I’d get my hat nailed on in the fast group...

But my KTM Su­per Duke long-ter­mer is the clos­est I’ve got to a firm an­swer. Why? Be­cause it ab­so­lutely suits me. I dearly loved my 2016 R1, but it was a bit small and fo­cused to span the breadth of my riding – it loved the track­days but not the mid-dis­tance tour­ing, or com­mutes in the rain. There were things that ir­ri­tated me, too – linked brakes, fu­elling, riding po­si­tion... Putting those right soon adds to the bill, so it wasn’t the most con­vinc­ing the­o­ret­i­cal ‘for­ever bike’.

But I’ve se­ri­ously gelled with the KTM: I’ve ridden it more than any other bike I’ve ei­ther owned or had cus­tody of, since I got a moped at 16 and spunked every last quid I earnt wear­ing a groove around Peter­bor­ough. It fits me phys­i­cally and I find it com­fort­able, as much as you can ex­pect from any­thing sporty. The big-twin torque de­liv­ers my sort of power. The chas­sis is good enough that it’s not dis­graced or un­sat­is­fy­ing on a track­day, yet it’s getting on with daily com­mut­ing and longer runs with­out is­sue.

It’s gen­uinely hard to pick fault and seek im­prove­ments – I’m even re­luc­tant to change the ex­haust. Si­lencers are well-doc­u­mented as noth­ing more than cos­metic (the cat cham­ber un­der the bike does most of the noise/emis­sions con­trol), but full sys­tems are ob­nox­ious and touch-and-go for ‘noisy’ track­days, let alone can­ing it on the road with­out draw­ing at­ten­tion to your­self. Be­sides, John B’s 2014 bike al­ready has the Akra, so we can al­ready tell you how they work. Very well, is the an­swer... A mod­er­ately si­lenced de-cat would be of in­ter­est, but it doesn’t ex­ist.

I was at Don­ing­ton re­cently, where I saw a large group of 1290 R own­ers with fet­tled bikes. But when I looked closely, none were very rad­i­cal, and I didn’t spot any­thing that screamed ‘must have’ – they’d all been tweaked for the track, and I don’t want to ruin it for road use when it’s a win­ning combo of fun and use­ful. A few sec­onds a lap won’t help me: there’s no prizes for track­days. Though judg­ing by some peo­ple, you’d think there were...

So I’m look­ing at sim­ple, de­tail changes. I’ve started with a £158 tank bag. Dull, but the up­right riding po­si­tion means a ruck­sack fouls a tail pack of any size, so I’m try­ing to spread the load. KTM do a spe­cific op­tion that se­cures to the fuel cap. No ar­s­ing around with straps, and the plas­tic tank means mag­netic bags won’t work. Bolt a fit­ting to the fuel cap, drill the bag (re­ally!), fit the quick-re­lease re­tainer. Sorted. It doesn’t have a clear map pocket or ex­ter­nal pocket for coins/ toll tick­ets, etc, but it’s well made and un­ob­tru­sive.

The orange mob also sell a com­fort seat – slip the orig­i­nal off, pop the new one on. It feels bet­ter, but next month’s 1200-trip will re­veal more. They also sell a dis­com­fort seat – a glass­fi­bre race seat that I’ll try later on track for a sim­ple, eas­ily-re­versible in­crease in feel.

Garmin’s lat­est Zumo 396 sat nav has gone on, too, though a neat fit­ting on the min­i­mal Su­per Duke isn’t pos­si­ble with the in­cluded parts, so I’ve or­dered a bet­ter fit­ting to tuck it in. Whip­ping the tank and seat off for bat­tery ac­cess and ca­ble rout­ing is easy: it’s far more log­i­cally as­sem­bled than a Ja­panese bike, down to the fuel hose dry-break con­nec­tor be­ing po­si­tioned so you can undo it with­out bal­anc­ing the tank in the air with your other hand, as is usu­ally the way...

That’s about as much as I feel it needs: next stop, the Alps for a long week­end. Then it’s getting some cos­metic tweaks, and KTM’s race sus­pen­sion op­tion is getting tested. I can al­ways put it back as it was if doesn’t work out...

‘Whip­ping the tank and seat off for ca­ble and bat­tery ac­cess is easy’

Next stop: the Alps. If Chris can find his way out of Peter­bor­ough

Getting a neat fit for the Garmin re­quired some home butcher­ing of the sup­plied kit

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