If you want a no-compromise Sports Tourer, the 1290 Super Duke GT is the most fun choice available.
Whether you like adventure bikes, cruisers, naked or sport bikes, purchasing a motorcycle is always an emotional decision. Sports Tourers has become extremely popular in the last few years, mainly because some people can’t afford to have multiple bikes, and some people tend to find rational excuses for their emotional decisions. Regardless of which type of person you are, the 2023 KTM 1290 Super Duke might be the most fun one-bike solution money can buy.
The 1290 Super Duke GT has been challenging the Sports Touring market in its unique way, including its polarizing looks. Although there aren’t any significant changes from a distance, the new colour combination makes it looks sportier while still keeping the traditional KTM design language with a lot of sharp angles. The headlights are undoubtedly KTM, and it is more of a love-or-hate relationship for many riders. If you don’t want the traditional sport bike looks, the 1290 Super Duke GT is pretty much the only option with unique design details.
As expected from this price range, there are lots of premium design features such as the single swing arm and new wheels that reduce the unsprung weight around 2.2 lbs. The only gripe I had is the rear halogen turn signals, it was an interesting cost-cutting measure as you expect full LED lighting standard in this price range. On the positive side, it is an easy and cheap upgrade in case you want to do it yourself.
The biggest update is the new 7″ TFT dashboard that shows a lot of information and different layouts based on your riding style, but it is also easy to use with the buttons located on the left side of the handlebar. As always, KTM is known for having great electronics, and the 1290 Super Duke GT is no exception. You can control tons of customized settings, riding modes and safety systems. The bike allows the rider to fine-tune every setting, including premium features like the wheelie control, spin adjuster, track mode, 6-axis IMU system, and the Supermoto ABS.
Although the 1290 Super Duke GT shares its platform with the naked variant, the Super Duke R, they aren’t the same. As expected from a Sports Tourer, it offers a nice balanced riding geometry with relatively upright upper body positioning and slightly lower foot pegs than the Hyper naked version. It can also be fine-tuned based on your body style, but at 6’1″, the bike didn’t feel cramped at all with the factory settings, mainly due to the relatively higher (32.8 in / 835 mm) seat height. If you are taller or shorter, the ergonomics can be fine-tuned with an adjustable handlebar, levers, shifter and brake levers.
The relaxed geometry itself isn’t enough without the touring-oriented features. The nine-way-adjustable windscreen, integrated pannier mounting points, two small storage compartments that fold away inside each side of the fairing, and one of them come with a USB port. It also comes with handguards, and a longer subframe for better passenger accommodation that makes the GT a better option than the Super Duke R, or any other naked variant for longer trips.
The feature list is too long, but the cruise control and heated grips come standard, which are probably the two most useful features for any touring-oriented bike. There are also fancy features that you would find in most premium bikes, such as the Hill Hold Control and Quickshifter+, and they work flawlessly. However, the biggest selling point is the 23-litre tank for long trips. The Super Duke GT can easily put over 300 kilometres per tank, which puts some adventure and touring bikes to shame.
Despite its great touring capabilities, what makes the Super Duke GT different is the engine. The 1301cc 75° V-Twin engine is just a masterpiece and one of the main reasons why you would choose the Super Duke GT especially if you don’t like the inline-4 engine character. The updated LC8 engine generates around 175 horsepower and 104 lb-ft of torque, which is just a little bit less horsepower, but more torque than the Super Duke R for a better touring experience.
Perhaps the numbers on the spec sheet look impressive, and it already has so much more horsepower than the direct competition such as the Ninja 1000, and the GSX-S1000GT. The 1301cc LC8 engine has two less cylinders, but more displacement, which means it also has more torque anywhere in the powerband. It is close to the Kawasaki H2 SX when it comes to the horsepower figures, even without a supercharger. Either way, the V-Twin engine feels much more special and full of character compared to any other inline-4 engine. The exhaust is not the loudest mainly due to the EU5 norms, but you can still hear the exhaust note, especially at lower speeds.
The heat management is surprisingly good for a big V-Twin engine. It does not have the traditional V-Twin exhaust design, the exhaust manifolds are connected underneath the engine block and it is quite far from your right leg, meaning that you stay much cooler at low speed riding in the city, or in a stop and go traffic. It is also not a single-piece design, so it is much easier to install an aftermarket slip-on muffler. The muffler and catalytic converter are also located at the very bottom, which helps to achieve lower center of gravity, and that is the main reason why it feels very balanced at low-speed maneuvering.
Unlike the inline-4 variants in this segment, the V-twin engine is also much more fun when you ride normally, as it has tons of torque starting from very low RPMs. In typical V-twin fashion, it does not like to stay below 3000 RPM at higher gears as you feel more vibration through the handlebar and foot pegs, but it has torque everywhere. The roll-on power is just thoroughly enjoyable at any gear, and brutally fun. Just like any other bike with over 150 horsepower, the power figures are absolutely overkill for any type of action on a public road, and that’s what makes it even more fun. The bike wants to do a power wheelie even at higher gears, it always wants to be pushed to the limits even when you ride it casually, it is by far the most fun choice in its class.
For many riders, the fun factor isn’t just a straight-line acceleration, the bike must be fun on twisties as well. The KTM 1290 Super Duke GT will not disappoint when you take it to the corners. The bike gives you a lot of confidence, and with the help of electronic rider aids, it makes you feel more skilled than you actually are. The WP Semi-active electronic suspension is tuned on the firmer side even in Comfort mode, but it can be adjusted based on your riding style, the chassis and the handlebar gives the rider tons of feedback about what each wheel is doing. As expected, the Brembo Stylema calipers provide excellent stopping power with a good lever feeling, and the brake modulation is smooth and predictable.
Riding the 1290 Super Duke GT was truly an eye-opening experience. In a market with several different types of Sports Tourers, the 1290 Super Duke GT has its own unique spot. You can still make it a better tourer with small tweaks such as installing taller windscreen or adding side bags with minimal effort, but there is so much more. It is the edgiest, sharpest but also the most livable Sports Tourer in its class, with the combination of top-notch electronics, great touring features and a masterpiece V-Twin engine that makes you feel younger than ever.
|1301cc 2-cylinder, 4-stroke, 75° V-Twin
|175 hp @ 9750 rpm
|104 lb-ft @ 7000 rpm
|Dual four-piston Brembo calipers with 320mm discs
|Single two-piston caliper with 240mm disc
|476 lbs – 216 kg
|6.1 gallons – 23 L
|32.8 in – 835 mm
|Base Price (2023)