Travel and Gear

KTM 1290 Super Duke GT… Is this the motorcycle I need?

Having recently changed my Kawasaki ZRX1200R to KTM Super Duke GT, I began to wonder – “why did I sell my old bike? And why did I choose this particular model as its successor? Was the previous one bad for my needs? And will the new one do the job better?”

These are pretty standard questions. Maybe we don’t say them out loud…. but they surely resonate after the emotions calm down a little, after the adrenaline of finding a new ride goes away.

Is the answer to the questions above rational?

Maybe for some of You it is. If You choose a motorcycle to be 100% practical and a good all-rounder. But You don’t choose a KTM or Ducati based on pure pragmatism.

I know what I like in motorcycling. I know how my perception of it… changed through time. How my preferences shifted. The purpose for which I use the motorcycle. My style of riding.

It all started with a nimble city naked, went through retro machines right to the GT bike. Not a full-blown Grand Tourer like the FJR or the Goldwing. I like to keep the motorcycle naked or with some lesser fairing, to be more true to the origins… and what’s most important: to keep my adrenaline lower, by having the wind to remind me to slow down. I also still want to use it for every day commuting.

These are all rational arguments to weigh when you choose a bike. But…

what is the balance between “need and want” in the decision-making process?

Objectively – considering the specs and preferences I would be perfectly fine with some sport touring or half faired machine with about 80-100 hp. This would be enough, as I don’t ride fast. I’m not interested in drag racing, or track days (for reasons other than improving the road skills). And still, despite my best efforts – I spend 70% of the time commuting to work.

Another aspect is safety. I need a more modern motorcycle than the Kawasaki ZRX.  So far I managed to ride motorcycles without any electronic safety systems without any bad incidents. But…  I will surely appreciate them with the growing number of kilometres done every year. I wanted to have the ABS… at least.

So why didn’t I buy the Moto Guzzi V85TT?

A couple of times on this blog, I already mentioned how I like the bike from Lake Como region. Being a retro culture enthusiast: I love V85 TT. The looks, the colour pattern of the yellow/white/red version. The exotic brand speaks to me. I’m sure that I wouldn’t meet another one of these any time soon. And yet – this is also a fully capable medium adventure machine. I even considered buying this model, and I “almost” did! But “the signs” didn’t let me. I believe that the universe sent a few hints that I shouldn’t 😉

After I sold the Kawasaki I headed to the Moto Guzzi dealer for a test drive. After confirming (on Thursday) if they had a demo of a V85TT available, I went there on Saturday – only to find out, that on the day before, some sensor broke down. And their V85TT will be waiting for the part… for about 3 weeks.

So 1. new demo bike is not working. 2 – it needed 3 weeks to get fixed. So… the universe…

After scanning the internet, picking a few candidates…

I bought a 2016 KTM Super Duke 1290 GT

A GT is a version of “The Beast” released by KTM in 2013. So… why buy a 173 hp machine? Didn’t I just write that 80 hp would be enough? Yes, I did. The answer is: “Because… why not?” 🙂 I can (and will) ride it 95% of the time like it only had 70 hp.

But for the 5% of cases – it’s so worth it!

I don’t want to get into technical details and make it a “review” of a model. The bigger brother of “The Beast” is well known. Many journalists claimed that the engine is excellent and… this is a wheelie monster. The torque and power figures are quite scary. Considering the level of sophistication of the machine:  that has the top of the line cornering ABS, traction control and semi-active suspension… I also love the system KTM designed for the panniers, that doesn’t require any visible rack. But I don’t want to focus on this.

Besides personal preferences regarding the motorcycle segment (GT) I would like to concentrate on 2 (more philosophical) aspects.

  1. This is the top of the line model from a premium motorcycle brand. That is quite famous for staying true to its origins. I just wanted to have something special and exotic. Not another BMW GS or a Japanese bike (sorry).
  2. The thing that is not visible in the technical specs and charts. I want to write a few words about…

the character.

I’m not comparing the sophistication of the KTM safety features to the ZRX. The onboard computer, tire pressure monitor, hill holder, heated seats, heated grips, quick-shifter, Akrapovic exhaust, cornering lights or semi-active suspension… and three ride modes… and three engine maps. Super Duke GT wins here obviously. And I also don’t want to elaborate on how this Austrian monster does a power wheelie (when the TC is off) on the 3rd gear. This engine…

The ZRX was calm and balanced

The carbureted power plant was super smooth in the lower rev range (still dynamic due to displacement) and crazy when You went above 6k rpm. But the smoothness was an issue there. Stay with me for a while.

“It” tells you every time You go in the upper rev range – that this is not its comfort zone. When you have the smooth inline-four, and You get into ranges that start to vibrate a little – it causes discomfort. You get used to the smoothness in the low range. It’s also that… the car engine is not the best solution for a motorcycle;) The suspension is comfortable, the seat is big… so “why hurry?” I never noticed it before… But I started to dislike this aspect when pushing a little harder on mountain passes during the trip to Romania.

Super Duke GT is a rocket ship

On the opposite side, when You have 1301 ccs V-twin, That vibrates constantly – You get used to this “culture” of the machine. It’s not uncomfortable – it’s just how it rolls. KTM hates to be below 3-4k rpm. It rattles the chain, puffs and roars. You can feel it doesn’t like to be calm. On the other hand – it appears similar at 5k rpm as it does at 9k rpm. It feels like it constantly tells you to use the torque. Doesn’t matter how fast you go, as long as you don’t get below 4k rpm.

I can’t stress enough how big of a difference it is. There is hardly anything similar between these 2 power bikes in real life. On the charts and specs – both are impressive by numbers. But it doesn’t matter at all. On the Kawasaki, I was a very calm rider. I often found myself not wanting to ride to work, as it wasn’t a motorcycle ride, but a boring daily commute.

On KTM – no ride is boring

Have I found the bike that I need? I can never be sure, as probably I’ll never have time to test every model on the market and its every edition. But for now – there is no other bike I would like to have.

Yes, it burns a lot of fuel (about 1-1,5 litre per 100km more than the ZRX!!!). But I don’t really care. I like to think about motorcycles as of the power toys. They are the last bastion of irrational decision making in a world measured and regulated by laws, pseudo-ecology rationality and accounting. So I don’t care that it would be more reasonable to buy a Japanese bike, more practical to buy a full-blown Sport Tourer. Or should I have bought an R1250 GS? As every motorcyclist eventually does?

No! Not yet 🙂 Right now: I own an exotic, top of the line machine, that is perfectly suited by to my needs by its definition… and by character. All 3 factors mentioned before – materialise as this KTM. Will it stay this way? I have feeling that in a few years, after riding through Romania and the Alps couple of times… I will change the GT bike to a Big Adventure. But let’s enjoy the moment for a while. So far I’ve done about 1k km on the KTM since I wrote the text above… Can’t get enough of it… too bad – that “the winter is coming” so fast.

Good Bye old friend



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