The covers were thrown off the 1290 SUPER DUKE GT last November at the EICMA show in Milan but the first time that anyone outside of Austria has grasped the handlebars in anger happened during the recent international launch on the roads of Majorca. We asked Street PR Manager Luke Brackenbury for three first impressions gathered from motorcycle press that had travelled across the continents to the Spanish island regarding Mattighofen’s newest machine and – in typical style – a motorcycle that cannot quite be pigeon-holed. So, what principal feedback surfaced?
1. Power to the People
“Everyone loves the engine,” LB begins. “I think everyone knew about ‘The Beast’ [1290 SUPER DUKE R] and its potential – even though it was actually the easiest bike to ride – so put a screen and some panniers on it and the mentality changes. With all the electronic rider aids they are not intimidated by the performance.”
Arguably KTM’s most advanced vehicle in terms of electronics and rider assistance ‘tools’ (cornering ABS, traction control, motorcycle stability control, even a quickshifter and you can add hill hold control and a motor slip regulation also) the package hones what is already a meaty source of power from the LC8 coming in at 173hp. The 1290 SUPER DUKE GT seemingly takes the sporty heart of the 1290 SUPER DUKE R, beefs it up and then smoothens out that torque even more to add the touring element to the GT.
The 75 degree V2 is ride by wire but with the engine management systems in place, riders at the launch were exploring the versatility of the LC8 and the potentially different roles the GT could fill.
2. Go all day … and all night
“Another thing we heard about was the comfort aspect … it seems to fit a lot of people in terms of the riding position and the ease of the screen and they are really trying the ride mode settings.”
Lower footpegs, a bigger tank (23 liters), adjustable bars and levers, cruise control, heated grips and cornering LED lights are just some of the assets to emphasize the practical side of the GT. The windshield – operable and changed with just one hand – in particular was winning fans.
“People love how easy it is to adjust on the fly and the combination with the tank and how it is deflecting the wind off them,” Luke says. “It can be a 280-290km day and nobody has complained and I’ve not seen anyone standing on the pegs. We finish the day and there are smiles on faces. Nobody is stretching legs or limbering up.”
Part of the security has to do with the chassis of the GT and the semi-active suspension from WP Performance systems. The KTM press kit talks about the GT ‘combining an extremely lightweight but torsionally highly rigid trellis frame and a beautiful, single-sided aluminum swingarm with the highest quality WP suspension components, unsurpassed Brembo brakes and sticky Pirelli Angel GT tires’.
“The roads change so much here,” Brackenbury adds. “The grey, sun-bleached tarmac can be so slippy and the darker asphalt is then something else. Despite this the road just comes to the riders. Even with the electronic damping suspension and anti-dive they can feel what is going on; this is the message that is coming across. It shows exactly how the WP system has progressed, even from the SUPER ADVENTURE. People are changing the settings and riding modes and can really feel what is going on with the road.”
3. Clever things …
Technical specs of a modern flagship motorcycle now involve various acronyms: MSC, HHC, C-ABS, SCU (suspension control unit for that one) and so on. Simple weight, horsepower and dimensions are not enough any more. The GT is a bold, cutting-edge thrust into the future of street motorcycles for KTM and a fine example of how the bike works just as much as the rider when travelling at pace thanks to all the aspects of the package functioning together.
Brackenbury: “We are four generations into the electronics now with the traction control and cornering ABS and I think these guys trust in those systems. The corners on the route are pretty technical and the people here know that if they get it wrong they can get on the brakes really hard. We have everything here dogs, sheep, tourists in the middle of road, cars moving across and people are able to change and move around easily.”
Aside from the power, the seat, screen and comfort it appears to be the ‘rideability’ of the GT and the melting pot of the electronic aids and engine management system that is making the new bike cause some excitement. At this point we felt compelled to ask: were there any concerns?
“There were only compliments for the GT and you would expect that but it was curious to hear some of the faster guys querying the amount of rebound on the damping in ‘Comfort’ mode … but we were riding them quite hard and the good thing about the bike is that you can program the suspension to however you want it.”
It seems that under the long list of selling points the shape-shifting capacity of the GT is perhaps the most impressive overall element of this bike. Or is it? One word surely for the Kiska-created styling.
“Everyone says it is better in the flesh,” Luke says. “Even I was unsure from the photos but with the panniers and the fact that it has many lines and you can look at it from different angles. People saw the GT in the morning and knew it would deliver the ride. We’ve even had riders calling it ‘the ultimate bike’.”