The Aprilia Tuono and BMW S 1000 R are based on existing superbikes, but the original 990 Super Duke, which debuted for 2007, was launched prior to KTM’s RC8. Powered by a 999cc version of the LC8 V-twin also found in the 950/990/1190 Adventure, 950 Supermoto and other models, the 990 Super Duke was designed first and foremost for the street. We praised its good handling, tractable power and real-world comfort, saying “if there is such a thing as a user-friendly big-bore motorcycle, the Super Duke is it” (Rider, December 2007). But sales were poor and it was dropped from KTM’s lineup for 2009.
Rebooted for 2014, the 1290 Super Duke R is powered by a 1,301cc, 75-degree V-twin that’s rated at 180 horsepower and 106 lb-ft of torque at the crank. It incorporates some of the innovations found on the cutting-edge 1190 Adventure, such as throttle-by-wire, riding modes, lean angle-sensitive traction control and multi-mode ABS. The Sport, Street and Rain riding modes adjust engine output, throttle response and traction control, and ABS can be set to On, Off or Supermoto, which allows the rear wheel to be locked up. Unlike the 1190 Adventure, however, the Super Duke does not have Motorcycle Stability Control (cornering ABS).
Our test bike is equipped with semi-rigid saddlebags with zippered clamshell closures and dry bag liners ($499.99, plus $124.99 mounting kit) and heated grips ($134.99). A tankbag, an expandable tailbag and other accessories are also available.