Following his first ride on the 2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT in Spain last spring, EIC Tuttle described it as “nearly flawless, the perfect sport-touring bike for a rider who doesn’t want to give up sportbike levels of engine performance and handling. It’s comfortable for all-day riding, offers decent wind protection, makes enormous power and does indeed handle and stop like a sportbike.” Given his glowing assessment, the Rider staff was eager to get its hands on a test bike. We had to wait until fall to do so, but the upshot is that we were able to do a long-term test of the GT—well, two of them actually.
Last September KTM loaned us a pre-release Super Duke GT. We tested it through the end of the year, racking up 2,000 miles with regular commuting and daylong test rides, falling under the spell of its generous torque, nimble handling and everyday practicality. But it had shortcomings too, like a glitch that caused the LED cornering lights to stop working, an improbably long kickstand tang that snapped off and excessive engine heat—an issue we’ve had with other KTMs powered by the LC8 V-twin.
In January we swapped our pre-release GT for a 2017 production model, and we quickly put 1,500 miles on it, including a multi-day tour. In terms of differences between the first test bike and the second one, KTM says it made minor changes to the tuning of the WP semi-active suspension, the windscreen is now clear instead of tinted and the kickstand tang is now shorter and stronger. As for the engine heat, cold temperatures during winter testing and multiple layers of riding gear have insulated us from the problem, but we doubt it has gone away. And we haven’t had any issues with the cornering lights, which helpfully illuminate the insides of turns when riding after dark.
What’s the 1290 Super Duke GT like to live with on a daily basis? In terms of creature comforts, it has a tall, flat, firm seat, an upright, adjustable handlebar and generous legroom. The small windscreen is easily adjustable with one hand, but raising and lowering it has little effect; airflow is smooth but hits the rider squarely on the upper chest and shoulders. Heated grips are standard, but on cold days they don’t get hot enough. Hard, lockable, removable saddlebags are also standard, and they hold 30 liters each—just enough to fit a medium full-face helmet. The latch mechanisms can be left unlocked for convenience, but they’re rather fiddly to open and close. And when the bags are full, the front of the clamshell lids have a tendency to separate from the main part of the bag, leaving a sizable gap in the leading edge. However, we’ve ridden the GT at speed in steady rain and the bags didn’t leak. Long days in the saddle are no problem thanks to standard cruise control and 6.1 gallons of fuel capacity (good for more than 200 miles of range at our 35.7 mpg average). We also like the self-cancelling turn signals and tire-pressure monitoring system, but a chain-driven sport-touring bike like this one could really use a centerstand.
Honestly, though, if wind protection and comfort (especially for a passenger) are your primary considerations, sport-touring stalwarts such as the BMW R 1200 RT or Yamaha FJR1300 are better choices. The 1290 Super Duke GT is the pointy end of the sport-touring spear, an aggressively-styled, no-compromise bike that puts 150 horsepower and 95 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheel (as measured on Jett Tuning’s dyno) and weighs just 524 pounds full of gas. Don’t let the saddlebags fool you; the GT is designed to excite you more than pamper you, though it certainly offers much plusher accommodations than the Super Duke R it’s derived from. It is so ridiculously easy to ride fast that we’re lucky to have completed this test without getting any speeding tickets. In full-power Sport mode, the torque curve resembles a high-elevation plateau—remarkably flat and 80 lb-ft or higher between 3,500 rpm and the 9,500-rpm redline. (Full power is also available in Street mode; Rain mode reduces output to 97 horsepower and 72 lb-ft of torque.) Quick twists of the throttle make the bike leap forward, the grips, seat and pegs thrusting you into the wind. Few bikes feel so eager, so ready to take your breath away.
But the KTM isn’t just about power; it offers a complete performance package, with a lightweight chassis, top-shelf components and state-of-the-art electronics. The 1,301cc V-twin is mounted within a tubular-steel trellis frame with a short wheelbase and sporty steering geometry. Connected to the engine and frame is a beefy, cast aluminum single-sided swingarm, an upside-down fork and a linked shock, the latter two made by WP and offering semi-active damping with three modes. Lightweight, cast aluminum wheels are shod with grippy Pirelli Angel GT tires and the brakes are by Brembo, with dual floating discs up front gripped by M50 Monobloc radial 4-piston calipers. In addition to the engine and suspension modes, there are multiple modes for traction control and combined ABS, both of which adapt automatically to lean angle and can be turned off. A quickshifter and a steering damper are standard.
Just a few days after the Super Duke GT arrived last fall, I took it on a two-day Arai Helmets press ride here in Southern California, a 400-mile loop on roads we regularly ride and test on. After doing some photo passes, the loosely assembled group started making its way up a mountain road that I know like the back of my hand. I left ahead of the group but right behind Steve Rapp, a longtime road racer who won the Daytona 200 in 2007 and raced in MotoGP for Aprilia in 2012. He was riding an Aprilia RSV4, a 200-horsepower sportbike he owns personally. Steve set a fast pace, over the first pass, through the convoluted valley, over another pass and across desert flatlands to the next gas stop. Yet there I was, loaded saddlebags and all, right on his six, bending the KTM through one familiar curve after another, enjoying the genuine pleasure of riding a highly capable motorcycle at speed on a smoothly paved, sinuous road. Crisp, precise throttle response transmitted every subtle twist of the grip to the rear wheel. Torque catapulted me out of every corner. Semi-active suspension adjusted to every change in speed, orientation and road condition, keeping the chassis stable and the tires firmly in contact with the asphalt. Massive brakes scrubbed off speed effortlessly and electronics provided a reassuring safety net. The KTM did exactly what I wanted it to and nothing that I didn’t, allowing me to ride fast yet feel relaxed, focused and confident. The only downside was that fuel economy dropped to 28 mpg!
Going fast in short bursts is one thing, but we also wanted to know what it was like to spend long days in the GT’s saddle. I mapped out a big, clockwise route around the Mojave Desert in Southern California—across the Antelope Valley to the southern foothills of the Sierra Nevada, north on U.S. Route 395 to Lone Pine, south through Death Valley National Park and Mojave National Preserve, and then west toward home. My trip started and ended with rain, but waterproof apparel kept me dry. Temperatures ranged from just above freezing to the upper 50s, but double base layers and a heated jacket liner and gloves kept me warm. Gusting crosswinds were common, but I dodged the worst of them; 80-90 mph winds coming down from the Sierra shut down U.S. 395 and caused a blackout in Lone Pine just a few hours after I passed through.
My solo journey was more of a meander than a marathon—no one to keep up with, no one to keep track of. Being alone gave me the space to let my mind wander, my attention constantly shifting from the road to the instruments to the sensations in my body (a cold draft on the back of my neck, the nagging tendinitis in my elbow) to the scenery and back again. At my cruising pace, the tall-geared KTM purred quietly. The firm seat was supportive, but its square edges dug into my thighs after a while. The intuitive switchgear and menu system made it easy to adjust engine and damping modes on the fly or keep track of trip statistics, though mostly I just left everything alone and enjoyed the ride. With its low windscreen and high seat, I sat on top of the bike rather than down in it, fairly exposed to the elements rather than tucked into a protective bubble. With its powerful, lively engine and naked bike roots, the Super Duke GT provides a visceral riding experience. Not hard-edged or lacking in refinement, but certainly biased in favor of performance.
Living with the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT for the better part of five months has underscored EIC Tuttle’s initial impressions: This is a powerful, sophisticated, exciting sportbike that you can live with day in and day out, not just for short rides or track days. But it also has the seating position, saddlebags, fuel and load capacity, cruise control, heated grips and other features to qualify as a sport tourer, with emphasis on the sport side of the equation. Several thousand miles on all manner of roads in all sorts of weather has revealed some flaws—in addition to those described above, the speedo reads too high and the low-fuel light comes on too early—but none are deal breakers. Here at Rider we love motorcycles that offer exceptional performance and handling, and we’re willing to trade some comfort, wind protection and convenience for the sort of excitement that makes us happy to be alive and traveling on two wheels.
VIDEO: 2017 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
2017 KTM Super Duke GT Specs
Base Price: $19,999
Warranty: 2 yrs., 24,000 miles
Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse 75-degree V-twin
Bore x Stroke: 108.0 x 71.0mm
Compression Ratio: 13.2:1
Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Insp. Interval: 18,600 miles
Fuel Delivery: Keihin EFI w/ 56mm throttle bodies x 2
Lubrication System: Dry sump, 3.8-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated wet slipper clutch
Final Drive: X-ring chain
Ignition: Digital electronic
Charging Output: 450 watts max.
Battery: 12V 12AH
Frame: Chrome-moly steel trellis w/ engine as stressed member & cast aluminum single-sided swingarm
Wheelbase: 58.3 in.
Rake/Trail: 24.9 degrees/4.2 in.
Seat Height: 32.9 in.
Suspension, Front: 48mm USD fork, semi-active w/ 4.9-in. travel
Rear: Single shock, semi-active w/ 6.1-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual 320mm discs w/ opposed 4-piston radial calipers & cornering ABS
Rear: Single 240mm disc w/ 2-piston fixed caliper & cornering ABS
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 17 in.
Rear: Cast, 6.00 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: 120/70-ZR17
Wet Weight: 524 lbs.
Load Capacity: 481 lbs.
GVWR: 1,005 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 6.1 gals., last 0.9 gal. warning light on
MPG: 91 PON min. (low/avg/high) 28.0/35.7/40.9
Estimated Range: 218 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 3,500
Helmet: HJC RPHA 11 Pro
Jacket: Fly Terra Trek 4
Pants: Aerostich AD1
Boots: iXS Madox
This is a well written article; it really informs the reader about how the bike handles, its features and specifications. However, it doesn’t really address its central question: What’s the 1290 Super Duke GT like to live with on a daily basis?
Aside from the information provided, one thing I’d like to know about is the “real world” cost of ownership. When I look back over the fifty years I’ve been riding, the reasons I’ve admired one bike more than another bike falls into three categories: What hit me at first, what hit me later – after at least 10 000 miles, and how it fit into the circumstances of my life. It’s that second category that could be teased out a tad more: Cost of scheduled maintenance, tire/fuel/chain consumption, access to quality dealerships, common farkles and upgrades along with other idiosyncrasies that cause my wallet to open.
Appears the specs given for the KTM motorcycle in this article might be a little confusing.
The specs say “Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse 75-degree V-twin.” The photos show a V twin mounted like a Ducati or Harley.
From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transverse_engine – A transverse engine is an engine mounted in a vehicle so that the engine’s crankshaft axis is perpendicular to the long axis of the vehicle, such as Honda CX series and several Moto Guzzis since the 1960s. Motorcycles with a V-twin mounted with its crankshaft mounted perpendicular to the frame, e.g. most Ducatis since the 1970s and most Harley-Davidsons, are said to have “longitudinal” engines.
So please clear this up – which engine is in the KTM – a transverse or a longitudinal engine?
@Nebular – I think if you look at the footnotes on that particular article, you will see that there are some caveats to that alternate definition you reference. The two sources cited make concessions to defining ‘transverse’ the opposite of the standard based on different criteria. The other articles about engine configuration adhere to the basic conventions.
a transverse engine is the common across the frame crankshaft style most bikes including this one has! when the crank runs lengthwise in the frame, as in so many BMW and Moto Guzzis, it is called longtitudinal.
I looked at this bike, but was let down, first by the too angular styling of the fairing, UGH!, then the boring paint choices. on to the high price, the jump to a whole lot of electronics, no centerstand, the too small bags and now I read the engine dumps too much heat. Glad I passed. It went like this, first I was going to get a 1290 Superduke. Then I read the GT seemed to offer some advantages, but then the pics came out. So I found an immaculate 2013 990 SMT. with the optional center stand and aftermarket hard bags. I cant say I miss the extra top end , the engine has never bothered me with heat, and it has ABS. The excellent suspension is manually adjusted, OH DEAR!, The black paint is sharper to my eye than any paint KTM offers since, and it has a centerstand!
I think KTM went to far, dropping the 990 line was a loss, I would rather stay with a bit smaller engine, leave the big blocks for heavy cruisers. BTW, I can not imagine wanting their upcoming parallel twin, not as long as a 950/990 still is running.
You would be so far back on that bike you wouldn’t see the paint anyways. Until the KTM stopped that is.
I have now put just over 800 miles on 2017 GT. The engine heat is bothersome at lights on hot days. Otherwise, I don’t really notice it. The seast starts to get uncomfortable after as few hours. Contemplating getting the optional comfort seat for it. Rode it to Laguna Seca for WSBK from my home in the south Bay area. Had the opportunity to ride it on the track, Lots of fun despite the fact that it wasn’t broken in yet. I commute on it daily. So far, I’m totally enamored with the bike.
I’m picking my 2017 up in two days, super excited but now I’m anxious after googling “issues” with this bike. Any insight after owning it this long? Are the 9300 mile maintence intervals really $1300? Btw I’m also in the South Bay, Gilroy/Morgan Hill area, did you buy your bike locally? I didn’t have the best sales experience with a localish Ducati dealer (who happens to be a KTM dealer too as luck would have it). Flying to LA and driving back on my bike, it’s going to be an adventure right off the bat😊. Going to see how the dealer is with maintenance and any warranty issues, I’d love to buy my next bike from them but we’ll see. Thanks for any insight👍
9300 mile maintenance is an oil change. DIY, or fork over $100. Valves are every 18000 miles. A shop will probably charge you $800-1300 for it, but you can do it yourself.
Big block is amazing. Never boring.
Power and performance in general are incredible. Acceleration is mind boggling and handling is superb!!
The fun factor is fantastic which is why most of us ride. Twist the throttle a bit and you will grin ear to ear!!
Downside..comfort! The seat is too hard, even after I changed to the “comfort” aftermarket seat! The bike is also too tall for short people like me at 5’8″.
A PIA at stoplights! After an hour on it…I’m done! Sport Tourer my ass. Take the “Tourer” out and you have it..
I’m glad I have 3 other bikes for long rides or riding on a Sunday with Harley people!
I do not find the engine heat to be any worse than my 2014 Indian Chief or My Triumph Rocket III.
Any big displacement engine produces the enormous heat so….. ride a 350 cc Honda if you cant stand the heat in the kitchen!
I owned a 383 ci stroker Boss Hoss with a 480 hp Corvette V8 engine upon which I sat in traffic. Talk about heat !!!
Just returned from a 2000 mile round trip from UK to Majorca and back on the GT.
The bike is awesome but not without flaws, they are fairly well documented elsewhere…long stand, too firm seat (even the upgrade) cruise control on the same side as the throttle(!) , useless mirrors above 70 etc.
The flip side is staggering power, pinpoint handling and eye bulging brakes, looks are subjective,personally I love it…it’s unique but not in a B-King kind of way.
I mainly did motorway riding down through France and I may as well have been on anything really apart from the fact that every time
I stopped for fuel, people would come over and take a look or a photo. Nobody gives a second look to a Multi or a GS anymore, they are both fabulous motorcycles but they are an incredibly common sight in Europe. This bike has the X factor.
Once I hit the Pyrenees I knew I was on the right bike, it was as if KTM had designed the roads for this bike and vice versa, it was absolutely synchronous.
I lost count of the amount of times I caught myself laughing at the sheer euphoria of riding in motorcycle nirvana, it’s a cliche but I was literally grinning like a madman every time I boomed out of a hairpin. After two days in the mountains I felt I was on a par with Rossi or Foggy and I’m a fairly conservative rider, that’s what this bike gives you, huge confidence and belief.
If you live within a hundred or so miles of some mountains buy this bike. It’s incredible.
That you Jonny, that was terrific description… I’m picking up a new 2017 in two days , but I’m a little worried about the niggling issues and costs associated fixing those issues. Is this bike less reliable than others? Is cost of ownership on par with any other performance bike… Do you have any insights? Much appreciated, I’m super exciting but I think I’ve done too much internet research, now I’m freaking out over supposedly $1300 maintenance fees, MTC failures, etc etc.. one word of advice, never google “issues” of a bike you want to buy.. stick to reviews and images😊
G’day Antonio and anyone else looking at a 1290GT. I’m on the other side of this planet (Australia) and I bought my 2017 GT in Feb……have knocked out 10,200kms (wassat in old school errr about 6,000miles). Should have had more on it by now but I’ve been the unreliable element (flu, back pain – not from 1290, crap weather on weekends) last few months……
My Gt has been fantastic. They take longer than some think to fully loosen up (motor AND suspension) and mine was very different from 7-8oookms than when brand spanking new. Hasn’t cost me anything so far (KTM did a precautionary fuel line recall which took less time than a cup of coffee and they also screwed 2 new disc rotors on when one of mine warped – Brembo 320mm disc’s just do that sometimes).
Be cautious of web comments – some owners are more precious than others – I love my orange+silver Gt……it gets great fuel economy if not wringing the throttle (ie: 400kms out of 22Ltrs on 95 Octane Aussie non ethanol) and it is plenty comfortable on 500-600km all day rides – I use lower pressures than the factory recommend (34psi F & 36psiR solo) and my Angel GT’s look like they will just make it to the first scheduled service at 15,000kms…..which I expect will be around $400 as it is really only an official oil & filter change + air filter inspect ( I’m getting them to install a K&N filter). I have already been doing oil changes myself as I am using Motorex 15w50 Formula T semi synth and decided to change it every 5,000kms because I wasn’t familiar with Motorex oils (I’m a Motul 5100 fan but the KTM dealership is Motorex). I have Acerbis ‘Dual Road’ handguards and an SW Motech rack and use 1+lgge for solo rider – 2up for touring with side cases.
My Honda Blackbird has a really easy retired lifestyle ever since the big Cato has moved in…… no whinging here…very happy with my GT! Yeah ok, a centre stand would have been good but I use Motul chain paste – tube with a brush – easy!
Ps…. if you have gone and bought one…..have a look at the KTM Super Twins Forum. Cheers from Aus
Ps…. if you have gone and bought one…..have a look at the KTM Super Twins Forum. Cheers from Aus
Pps….nearly forgot – the big services are at 30,000kms (ummm 18,000miles if I’m thinking right) and that’s when the fancy spark plugs are changed and the valves are checked etc etc – so that one might be $1300…..not the 9000mile minor service.
Get the correcting rings (front and rear needed) to fix your speedo. Otherwise speed reads too high, mpg flasely high, and worse, your warranty will run out 10% too soon. This appears to be an intentional ‘flaw’.
Me again…..can’t let the comment re exhaust heat go on into folklore without challenge……(where’s the emogi’s….??)
Like any bike with a cylinder head under your arrrr… err bottom, there will be some heat but mine is only ever noticeable on a stinking hot summer day while stopped at traffic lights – not an issue as I have a 32″inseam and I fit the bike.
The standard rear header has an aluminium foil wrap which works well shielding the heat. Maybe some complainants tested a GT with an accessory exhaust ( ie foil shield missing).
Has been said before – the GT is a sporty that can be toured in comfort……….I’m very happy with mine and I like the styling. Cheers from Aus!
Cheers Randy…….. my Aussie spec (kilometers) 1290GT speedo has only 1% error with standard Angel GT tyres 3/4 worn …..according to my Garmin Sat Nav …..and the occasional speed checker driver reminder happy face things that the local councils put up near schools etc.. When I change to Michelin PR4 I’ll recheck the error as I expect the Michelin’s will be slightly smaller in circumference than the stock Angel GT’s (same 190/55, 120/70 sizes/profiles)…..might need those adjuster rings then……
I bought the 2017 GT last week but haven’t received it yet. Snow just keeps on falling in Alberta. I ordered the heated seat. The only other change I am planning on making is to the exhaust. Anyone else tried this yet? I got some advice to start with a CAT eliminator pipe instead of a new slip on as most of the V-twin rumble is apparently reduced at the CAT.
I can’t wait to get my hands on this machine.
Hi CC….. I haven’t de-cated my GT as I’m ok with 150rwhp, but you are on the right track as the oem exhaust can is straight through. Have a visit to the KTM Super Twins Forum and check out what the GT and SD-R guys have done and what might need to be adjusted etc. Remus is one of the de-cats they talk about and they also mention tricking the ecu into thinking it still has the exhaust flap valve in place. Also a K&N airfilter may help with HP. Happy hunting!
Ps there is a lot more stuff available since I purchased my GT……..latest mention is the BOS muffler…. it looks great and has the S1000RR styling but is same weight as oem can (ie 3kg). photos on the forum of many types.
As of 3/18 Super Duke GT is absent from 2018 KTM lineup on their website. Did they drop the GT?
The 2018 Super Duke GT will not be available in North America.
I have owned a Super Duke 1290 GT for about one year. During that year, I rode almost 10,000 miles on the Mad Duke, including one long ride from Bozeman, MT to Cabo San Lucas. I upgraded to the Duke from a FZ-07 which I also loved but just not nearly as much.
I expected the transition from Yammie to the Krautish Torture Machine to be similar to dumping someone who really loves you for a psychotic trophy wife (excitement + trouble). Switching from the Yamaha to the Duke involved no surprises or divorce lawyers. At least, when riding in “Street” mode. 🙂 I have never dumped my bike yet (knock on wood).
I’m nearly completely ignorant of “big bikes” (Harleys, BMW, Ducatti, etc.), so I’m unable to make any comparisons among other rides whether they be Teutonic, Italiani or otherwise. I rode a Yammie 90 cc kidney loosener as a teen but stayed off bikes for more than 40 years. I’m mortuary bait anyway due to my age, so what do I have to lose by riding?
I’m 5’8″ tall with a 32″ inseam, 30″ waist; I fit perfectly on the Duke. My feet easily reach the ground when seated. I rode other bikes (BMW, Ducatti, Yamaha, Honda) when making the decision about what to buy. The Mad Duke fit me best and I really loved how it handled.. I notice the engine heat only on very hot days when I’m stalled in traffic somewhere between Napa and San Francisco.
I acknowledge the weird placement of the cruise control near the throttle but I haven’t had any problems using it. The cruise control does seem to have some speed “overshoot” when it is re-engaged (never during it’s initial engagement). When I first encountered this quirk, it was a sphincter tightener.
I did an eighteen hour, single day loop from Bozeman around nearly the entire state of Montana. I definitely noticed how hard the seat was after my personal iron butt ride. I generally take a 15 to 30 minute break after every two to three hours of riding. I don’t find the hardness of the seat noticeable under “normal” riding conditions. When you’re actually riding the Mad Duke, you won’t be thinking about the seat. If you are, please consider taking up shuffleboard as a hobby or perhaps, ride a bit more aggressively.
In summary, the Super Duke 1290 GT is capable of doing everything very well except riding two up with a heavyset or tall passenger. My bike has been very reliable. I’m planning to ride it from Europe to Singapore next summer. We’ll see how it fares on that journey with the awful roads and dirty gasoline. I was set back about $200 for service and another $600 for tires/installation at 9000 miles. Like any other Teutonic piece of machinery be prepared to pay through the nose when service is necessary.
If you’re thinking about buying a Mad Duke, do a test ride. If you ride one, you will be very likely to buy it. I did and I have never regretted it.
See ya on down the road. Look for the “No Pickle” stickers (remember the Arlo Guthrie song?) on the panniers of my Mad Duke.
If you think a SD GT is a torture machine to ride long distance, then go just buy a goldwing already. FFS. Try riding 1000+ miles on a DRZ400SM in one day. I’ve done that, didn’t bother me much.
Way to go, hero….er, moron. Who the F rides a 1000+ miles a day on a shitty little dual-sport? Or are you just another lying 16-year-old whose daddy needs to cut off his internet access? Suggest you get a life either way.