2019 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT | First Ride Review

KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
Cornering lights get progressively brighter as lean angle increases. Photos by Kevin Wing.

KTM’s 1290 Super Duke GT is a sport tourer that checks all the right boxes. It has a powerful, torque-rich, visceral V-twin, high-tech yet easy-to-use electronics, transcendent semi-active suspension, 30-liter locking saddlebags and enough comfort and wind protection for long-haul days, all in a svelte, lightweight package. Acceleration is addictive. Handling is sublime.

When the GT debuted for 2017, we gushed. 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.” The superlatives continued following our six-month, 3,500 mile test: “the GT is designed to excite you more than pamper you…few bikes feel so eager, so ready to take your breath away” (also in Rider, April 2017). No surprise, then, that it was on our short list for 2017 Motorcycle of the Year.

KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
Among the updates for 2019 is a full-color TFT display with Bluetooth and navigation.

Updates for 2019 gave us an excuse to request a new 1290 Super Duke GT for our indulgence…er, I mean, testing purposes. Its liquid-cooled, 1,301cc LC8 V-twin has new lightweight titanium inlet valves and intake resonator chambers for smoother low to midrange torque delivery. Its WP semi-active suspension, which has three modes (Sport, Street and Comfort), has been revised. Other newfangled newness includes an LED headlight, hand guards, cruise control switches moved to the left handlebar, a reshaped windscreen with a manual height adjuster, a redesigned front fairing and the 6.5-inch, full-color TFT display with KTM My Ride navigation we’ve seen on other models. As before, the GT has riding modes, multi-mode cornering ABS and traction control, an up/down quickshifter, keyless ignition and fuel filler cap, heated grips, tire-pressure monitoring and a 6.1-gallon fuel tank.

Even though it’s gained a few pounds (our 2019 tipped the scales at 533 pounds, up from 524), the GT’s on-road performance is every bit as thrilling as it was before; it goes fast, turns fast and stops fast with a level of precision and control that’s hard to beat. On Jett Tuning’s dyno, the 2019 GT cranked out 157 horsepower at 10,100 rpm and 92 lb-ft of torque at 7,400 rpm at its rear Pirelli Angel GT sport-touring radial. Being tall of gear, the 1290 chugs along at 60 mph in top gear at just 3,200 rpm. Set the cruise control and leave your worries behind. Or exit the highway, find a sinuous road and watch the TC light flash as it tames the torque that easily lifts the front wheel on every brisk corner exit.

KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
Deep-lean corners are where the 1290 Super Duke GT really stands out. Its light weight, compact dimensions and stout chassis impart intuitive handling.

Issues we raised in earlier tests — a speedo that reads too high, a low-fuel warning that comes on too early and excessive engine heat on warm days — have yet to be resolved. The first two are easy to live with; the engine heat can be a real drag when you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic in August, but such may be the price for having such a potent engine right between one’s knees. To my eye, the 2019 styling refresh was a step backwards. All of the sharp angles and surfaces on Kiska-designed KTMs have always been fine by me, but the GT’s new proboscis is too disconnected from the windscreen above it. I’ve always been more of a function-over-form guy, so all it takes is a twist of the throttle to make me forget about aesthetics. Bring on the blurred scenery!

KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
KTM’s 1290 Super Duke GT is a high-tech, high-speed sport tourer that sends 157 horsepower and 92 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheel.

2019 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT Specs

Website: ktm.com
Base Price: $20,499 ($20,599 for 2020 model)
Motor Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse 75-degree V-twin, DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Displacement: 1,301cc
Bore x Stroke: 108.0 x 71.0mm
Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated wet assist-and-slipper clutch
Final Drive: X-ring chain
Wheelbase: 58.3 in.
Rake/Trail: 24.9 degrees/4.2 in.
Seat Height: 32.9 in.
Wet Weight: 533 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 6.1 gals., last 0.9 gal. warning light on
MPG: 91 AKI min. (low/avg/high) 35.2/37.3/40.5

Keep scrolling for more photos…

KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
The 1,301cc LC8 V-twin, which gets new titanium inlet valves and intake resonator chambers, churns out huge heaps of torque and a blistering top-end rush.
KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
The 30-liter saddlebags are easy to remove, re-install and pack.
KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
Massively strong Brembos are backed up by multi-mode cornering ABS.
KTM 1290 Super Duke GT
A new headlight arrangement mimics other KTM models, but its overall execution leaves something to be desired.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Read this piece in the print edition and glad to see it promo’ed via email. I have a ’17 GT and it’s a simply fabulous bike. Some things that make me not so eager to upgrade to a ’19 or ’20 — pointless and risky keyless ignition, meh color schemes using glossy paint, and that butt ugly headlight — the “proboscis,” as Greg aptly called it. Wet weight allegedly up from 524 lbs to 533 — that’s odd, anyone know what changed?

  2. I do not understand why KTM chooses to ignore the fact that a seat height of just shy of 33 inches is simply too high for many riders. How about lower seat options or low suspension options like it’s competition offers?

  3. Seems no bike is perfect but the Super Duke GT is as close as it gets for me. Had a ‘17 now have a ‘20 and the little improvements are worth the upgrade especially moving the cruise control switch from right hand to left. With a 30” inseam I can manage the seat height just fine. Love the bike.

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