We took delivery of our KTM Super Duke R on March 26, 2014, and fought like rabbits for quite some time over whose garage it would reside in until its scheduled return. EiC Duke won, but being the benevolent despot he is, the wealth trickled down and around until the beautiful beast fell into my possession a few months ago. I haven’t complained about having it underfoot. As a matter of fact, the Super Duke might be the finest do-it-all motorcycle it’s ever been my pleasure to possess, living up to its award as MO’s Motorcycle of the Year.

At the bike’s launch in October, ’13, TR found out just how capable a track bike the Super Duke can be on this mildly race-prepped example.

At the bike’s launch in October, ’13, TR found out just how capable a track bike the Super Duke can be on this mildly race-prepped example.

Our first meeting was at MO’s  2014 Super Streetfighter Smackdown, in which it won a narrow victory over the BMW S1000R around Chuckwalla Valley Raceway and on the street, and, after multiple streetfighter shootouts, went on to become our official MOBOTY. According to MOISTR (Motorcycle Online Intelligence Service Tom Roderick), she was showing 2,445 miles on the clock when we picked her up; the odometer now reads 5,579, for a total of 3,134 miles. In our original test flog, the bike returned 37.9 mpg. In less frenetic everyday use, it often returns 42 mpg, giving it a range of over 180 miles (the plastic tank holds 4.7 gallons).

Meanwhile back in the land of the free, we were all agog at how civilized the thing could also be. Another crumpet, darling?

Meanwhile back in the land of the free, we were all agog at how civilized the thing could also be. Another crumpet, darling?

She should’ve had her oil changed at 620 miles and her screens cleaned; the official service manual says that’s not required again until 9300 miles (15,000 km) or one year. I can live with that, but only because it’s not my bike. The bike’s toolkit includes the smallish Torx bit and handle you need to release the oil filter cover and swap in a new one.

The long vertical window on the left side of the engine makes it easy to gauge the oil level and its color at a glance. Ours looks way past due for a change. Not a drop of oil has been added over the last 3,134 miles. The round silver thing under the clutch basket is the oil filter cover.

The long vertical window on the left side of the engine makes it easy to gauge the oil level and its color at a glance. Ours looks way past due for a change. Not a drop of oil has been added over the last 3,134 miles. The round silver thing under the clutch basket is the oil filter cover.

Valve clearances are also supposed to be checked at 9,300 miles, and after that only every 18,600 miles; everything sounds tight and clatter-free at this point. The complete service manual is here if you want all the details. Our local KTM dealer quoted us six hours for the complete 9,300 deal, at $85 per hour.

The rear tire’s got some more right turns left in it, but not many lefts. Stop & Go mushroom plug is holding station, a temporary fix only, of course.

The rear tire’s got some more right turns left in it, but not many lefts. Stop & Go mushroom plug is holding station, a temporary fix only, of course.

The drive chain needs adjusting, but I have not adjusted it; my excuse is that I don’t have the special pin wrench you need to turn the eccentric axle. A whack with a punch would probably do it, but that would be crude. Anyway, chain and sprockets look fine in spite of complete neglect. Okay, the side plates are a bit rusty, my bad. At any given time I have three or four motorcycles hanging around – which is also why the Super Duke doesn’t have more miles.

Just as we suspected, the main thing about this bike that’s going to give your wallet a workout is rear tires; the Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa is just about done, particularly on the left center portion of the tread, where the bike’s 96.5 foot-pounds of torque turns the throttle into your favorite crack pipe as you emulate Casey Stoner at every left turn. The tire’s already suffered one puncture. A Stop&Go mushroom plug has been holding fast for the last 500 or so miles. The beauty of the SDR is that its single-sided swingarm makes rear tire removal a cinch (if you have the right stand, at least). The front Pirelli has lots of miles left in it.

Brake pads don’t have an easy life on the Super Duke either: The front pads are only about 0.7mm from being down to their 1mm thickness wear limit, and the rear pads are similarly worn.

Converting all that velocity into heat isn’t easy on brake pads, either.

Converting all that velocity into heat isn’t easy on brake pads, either.

Aside from the holed tire, our unit has experienced zero problems, and thus far is keeping all its vital fluids contained. Yes, $17k is a lot of dollars for a motorcycle, but when it’s as broad-range capable as this one is, it begins to make sense. If Lockheed-Martin built it, it would probably cost several billion. Progress is going to continue, but the Super Duke seems like it could be destined to enter the pantheon of all-time great motorcycles.

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  • Old MOron

    Hasn’t burned any oil, huh? Good to know!
    Here’s a question for you: when you decide to ride some other bike besides the SDR, what is it, and why?

    PS: MOISTR, bwahahaha!

    • john burns

      because I’ve been bad and want to punish myself? I rode our FZ-07 a lot too, till it went away. Hard to believe they can build that one for $10k less than the SDR, another great motorcycle.

  • Funguy

    The one KTM i owned had (reliability) issues. I did some investigation on the 390 and
    it has issues. A guy’s wife says his 990 had multiple issues and he was
    not buying another KTM. All the initial superlatives in the world don’t help if
    a bike ultimately proves to be crap to live with.

    • john burns

      Hence the longish-term report. This one’s been superlative for the 9 months we’ve had it, and who knows who flogged it before us. You’re welcome.

    • Reid

      Here I come with the NAKTMALT (not all ktms are like that) rebuttal: My ’13 690 Duke is solid as a rock with nearly 7,000 miles on the clock. It never uses oil or leaks anything, fires right up every time I press the button, and generally works just how it did when I took it off the showroom floor. I had an oil change at 10K kilometers and had to adjust the chain exactly one time. Other than buying a new, less squishy compound rear tire it hasn’t cost me a whole lot. Works even better with the full factory tuning kit mwahaha

  • Craig Hoffman

    I am impressed, that JB still has his license after having the 1290R around for awhile. The man has more discipline than I thought, or, more likely, he is a crafty type 😉

  • Alan Golightly

    i think some 1290’s had a rear hub problem

  • Craig Hoffman

    FWIW, my ’10 Husaberg FE 450 dirt bike which is basically a very confused KTM 450 XC-W, has been solid. It had the usual KTM idiocy with fuel pump and I added an aftermarket inline fuel filter as insurance. It has been to Hell and back and never missed a beat other than the flaky fuel pump. Slapping the gas tank got it spinning again and even then it did not stand me :)

    KTMs are a little “different” but they have quality parts and are simply cooler than Japanese bikes. If not for the looming spectre of sending two teenagers to college and the financial ruin that will ensue, I would own a 1290R now, without a doubt. Such a pity, the sacrifices we parents make for our spawn…

  • Verners

    8000 Km on mine during last summer no problems what so ever, apart from the stupid grin I always get riding it. Loved it so much that I have ridden more on road last summer then all previous years together. I have only changed the cat to a pipe, and the sound got sweet! Also, changed the rear tire 1 time.

  • Y.A.

    42 MPG. Im happy to get that on my ER6. That’s amazing

  • https://www.facebook.com/sdeekahmed Sdeek Ahmed

    i want buy many used bikes excellent condition and i need someone help me and support me Through can ship the bikes to me and Trustworthy any one can help me send to me and talk to private

  • Bojangles

    I’ve owned mine for almost a year, only clocked 2300 miles, but since the odometer/speedo are so far off I’m sure it’s only about 1500 miles. No problems other than that with mine, no rear hub wobble, no leaky side covers, no front wheel issue, no rear brake brackets breaking off, but again, with so few miles those might appear with more use, time will tell.

    • Cameronius Maximus

      If you’re interested, there’s a fix for the speedo/odometer. Search Australia’s version of eBay for “1290 abs rings.” I just installed a set yesterday afternoon! Including shipping, they were less than 100 bucks…

  • Cameronius Maximus

    How do I go about scoring myself a job as a writer at motorcycle.com? That’s not a clutch basket above the “round silver thing” – the clutch (and subsequent clutch basket) is on the opposite side of the engine! Duh!

  • Mike Breen

    What is it with Americans and oil changes?! Honest to goodness, it’s insane the way Americans just completely ignore service schedules and keep making completely unnecessary oil changes? A bit of colour in oil tells you nothing at all. I see California has even launched a campaign to try and tackle this nonsense. I know two Americans and BOTH have their European garages completely baffled by insisting on their cars getting oil changes well before they are due. Both seem to have been brainwashed to the extent that they feel they are abusing their vehicles if they don’t get the oil changes 4 and five times more often than required by the oil and engine manufactures. One garage refused to do it, so she went and found another! Nuts!