Streetfighter/Hooligan of the Year Winner:
KTM 1290 Super Duke R
By John Burns
With this bike, the advertising is actually pretty accurate. KTM’s website concludes the Super Duke R’s descriptor with this: “The new KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R transforms optimum performance with maximum safety into ultimate riding pleasure.”
Yes it does make 156 hp on the Dynojet 250, only a couple more than the BMW S1000R it narrowly beat out this year, but the KTM also makes 96.5 ft-lb of torque to the BMW’s not-quite-80, and in comparing those numbers you’ll find a big part of the KTM’s magic. Twist the throttle a little and bimble along slow as you want. Give it a big whack and become Gumby, as the Austrian express pulls you by your elastic arms into next week. There’s no waiting, no necessity to plan your trip ahead of time.
It’s fast enough to be scary, really, if not for all the ingenious electronics that keep you from hurting yourself. Ride-by-wire gives you the engine response you should’ve requested. Lean-angle-sensing traction control has your back in Rain, Street and Sport modes (or you can turn it off). Antilock brakes also take their cues from the mode you select, and add Supermoto as well – which allows you to lock the rear but not the front.
The performance is definitely there, but what boosted the KTM into the win was its even more impressive user interface. Tall riders who moan about not being able to fit on hi-po sportbikes, especially for lack of legroom, should try on the SDR for size. Its handlebar has a bit more rise than its competitors, placing the rider in an almost adventure-bike uprightness that works amazingly well everywhere. The transverse V-Twin layout lets it be skinny between your knees and ankles, then its big fuel tank bulges out in the right places for both trackday elbow dragging and comfy commuting, while air flows smoothly around the gas tank and headlight nacelle. Although lacking electronic suspension, the Duke’s manually adjustable units are practically faultless – they maintain order in the face of complete chaos and also lull you into a false sense of being on some sort of sport-tourer when the road goes straight and flat. We can’t remember a bike that blends this much performance with so much comfort and ease of use.
This one’s a game changer, and a strong contender for the coveted MOBOTY14, it really is.
Former GP racer Jeremy McWilliams explains his role in helping KTM develop the Super Duke R, with some lovely track footage showing the SDR’s sensational performance capabilities.
Honorable Mention: MV Agusta Rivale
By Tom Roderick
Finally, finally, finally MV Agusta has a motorcycle whose performance matches its sexy, good looks. We have forever been complaining about the ill-fueling and unnatural feel in the throttle twist of MV’s bikes. With the Rivale, MV has vanquished those demons and brought forth a hooligan bike that’s both a stunning beauty as well as a backroad shredder.
It was close, but in our Mega Motard Shootout the Rivale narrowly defeated Ducati’s Hypermotard SP. Troy Siahaan was quoted saying, “A skilled rider can keep up with his buddy in the tight stuff if you’re on the Hyper and he on the Rivale, but once the MV has a chance to stretch its legs, it’s gone.”
It was also in that shootout we discovered the hard way (by running out of f’ing gas!) how disappointingly small the Rivale’s fuel tank is – 3.4 gallons to be exact. What we realized when scoring that shootout, as well as in choosing the Rivale for Honorable Mention, is that a streetfighter isn’t measured by its practicality, but by how it upholds the responsibilities and performs the antics expected of a hooligan. By these standards, the rip-roaringly thrilling Rivale is worthy of a runner-up finish.