2024 KTM 1390 Super Duke R EVO Review – First Ride

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

We’ve officially entered into the world of the ridiculous

Photos by Francesc Montero and Sebas Romero

There’s only so much you can learn about a motorcycle after getting about four laps on a racetrack you haven’t seen in a decade. Factor in the cold conditions, a brand new, race-compound rear tire, and no tire warmers, and you can basically throw away any sort of authoritative impressions about the bike. Oh, and did I mention the bike in question is the 2024 KTM 1390 Super Duke R EVO and the racetrack was the ultra-tricky Almeria circuit? There was a lot to take in, not least of which were the myriad of blind corners, sketchy tires that weren’t up to temp, and the literal cold air blasting me from head to toe. But, despite all of this, there is one impression that I’m certain of: If you thought the previous Super Dukes were wild, this new 1390 Super Duke increases the ridiculousness to another level.

2024 KTM 1390 Super Duke R Evo

KTM have made the Super Duke even wilder by giving it a bigger engine and a broader spread of torque. It's a wild ride, but have we gone too far?

Editor Score: 92.5%




















  • An engine that will leave you searching for new curse words to describe the experience
  • Electronics don't have as steep a learning curve as you'd expect
  • An incredible value for the money


  • Have we gone a bit too far in this quest for power?
  • A little tall and a little wide. Shorties beware.
  • Would be nice to have the option of the R model, too
The 1390 Super Duke family includes the R version on the left and the EVO in the middle, which is the only version we’re getting in the US. The main difference being the electronic suspension on the EVO models. The SDR on the right is kitted out with a ton of goodies from the KTM PowerParts catalog.

My time aboard the Super Duke was cut short due to rain and the lack of rain tires, so a large chunk of our riding time was taken away from us. Instead, the assembled group resorted to wheelies and burnouts – in the rain – for the cameras. The rain did eventually stop, but the track conditions never improved enough to make venturing out an educational experience (not to mention the temps never got any higher), so what you’re about to read is the definition of a first impression. Once we can get a bike on this side of the pond, we’ll put some proper miles on it and offer a thorough evaluation.

Before getting into the impressions, you can get yourself up to speed on the latest Super Duke by reading this First Look piece. KTM also posted a separate behind the scenes look at the development of the Super Duke if you want to view the process from some of the people responsible for bringing this bike to life.

As the last standing big-bore V-Twin dedicated to performance, the 1350cc LC8 engine didn’t need to get bigger or badder – but KTM did it anyway. Cam Shift technology broadens the torque curve massively.

Broadly speaking, there are three things you need to know about the new Super Duke. First, the big V-Twin is now even bigger – from 1301cc to 1350cc. Second, KTM’s Cam Shift variable cam timing technology has been introduced to focus on broadening the Duke’s midrange power. And third, the US is only getting the 1390 Super Duke R EVO model with semi-active WP suspension (the non-EVO model Europe is getting has analog suspension). Again, if you want to learn more about these technologies or get a deeper dive into the specs, click the links above.

Quick Ride Impressions

A handful of cold laps around a racetrack is not enough to explore everything the 1390 Super Duke has to offer, but you only need one twist of the wrist to get the overall point: this bike is an absolute beast. Just leaving the pit lane to catch up with the lead rider to show us around the track for our first lap, the SDR spun up the rear tire without hesitation. It happened so quickly I didn’t realize it until it was over. I can only guess that traction control kicked in and brought the tire back in line.

Look closely and you might be able to see a shiny sheen on my tires. The weather was not cooperating on this day.

Almeria is a very technical circuit where you’re spending a lot of time on the side of the tire. Each short squirt between corners gave me an idea of the massive torque on offer, but all hell broke loose once we reached the nearly kilometer-long back straight. The 1350cc LC8 released all 107 lb-ft of torque through the rear tire with a ferocity I’ve only experienced on electric bikes. It was a Jekyll and Hyde moment, except Jekyll was crazy to begin with and Hyde was rabid. The Super Duke started squirming and bucking as it tried to find traction, and the engine wailed in anger with a corresponding rush in torque and speed. Each click of the quickshifter ignited a pop as it shifted into the next gear, and the pure acceleration simply would not stop – even in sixth gear. Couple this with the lack of wind protection and the sensation of speed gets amplified – except it’s not an amplification. The 1390 Super Duke is simply relentless in its pursuit of acceleration. And it’s amazing.

On paper, the 1390 Super Duke “only” puts down a claimed 190 horsepower – but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The 107 lb-ft of torque is what tries to pull your arms out of your sockets, and with the Cam Shift system, it feels as though all of those 107 lb-ft are trying to rip your arms off as early as 3,000 rpm with no end in sight until you hit redline. Then you upshift and do it all again. Except this bike still wants to rip your arms off in sixth gear. This is not hyperbole or exaggeration when I say this engine is an absolute powerhouse. Swap out the stock exhaust for the accessory Akrapovič racing exhaust and you add 10 horses, four more lb-ft, and lose some weight in the process. Because that’s exactly what this bike needs, more insanity.

Maybe it was because I had just hopped off the 990 Duke about an hour before, but the cockpit of the 1390 felt a little wider where the seat meets the tank compared to what I remember with the previous 1290.

Honestly, I think we’ve reached a point where this is just too much. Does the 1390 get the blood pumping like few (if any) other bikes can? Absolutely. But KTM might have outdone themselves here. The blood isn’t pumping solely because it’s excited, but partially because your senses are having a hard time keeping up. I think I understand now why the 990 Duke exists. It’s a wild bike in its own right, but compared to the 1390, it’s a kitty cat the average mortal can wrap their head around.

But back to the 1390. Once I was able to wrap my head around the power, it felt as though the bike was riding with a rearward weight bias, exacerbating the squirm from the back tire when getting on the gas while also taking away confidence in the front tire. Since the overall frame and chassis is largely unchanged from the previous model, this was a perfect opportunity to experiment with the Apex SAT (Semi-Active Technology) suspension.

Among the many things you can change in Track Pro mode, the suspension settings are one of the big ones. On the 5-inch TFT screen are individual line items for fork compression and rebound, shock rebound, as well as high/low speed compression for the shock, too. All are navigable through the switches on the left button cluster.

In the past, semi-active suspension would allow you to adjust compression and rebound settings electronically, but changing preload required tools. With the Apex SAT system, assuming you’re in Track Mode, at the push of a button (well, a couple buttons actually), you can now dial in more or less preload at either end as well.

Old school riders will likely prefer the traditional analog clickers because the continuous issue with electronic suspension is the lack of consistency. Because semi-active suspension is always trying to be one step ahead of the next bump, you can’t necessarily expect the same feedback twice. That’s not an issue when you’re riding on the street, but it can be when riding on circuits.

Of course, none of this really matters for the US market since we’re not getting the standard Super Duke R (non-EVO) with analog suspension anyway. Not only that, but the rain came in during the second session and that was the end of my evaluation anyway.

No other headlight has generated so much controversy than this one, but before you finalize your stance, see it in person. It fits the overall design flow of the bike, and if you needed a physical symbol to understand how KTM’s operating philosophy is unlike any other OEM, this is it.

Those brief riding impressions aside, here are some other odds and ends worth mentioning:

  • The new Brembo 19:21 MCS master cylinder is phenomenal and provides minute levels of feedback other master cylinders lack.
  • At 32.8 inches, the seat height is on par with others in the category, but to me the seat/tank junction felt fairly wide, making the seat feel taller than it is. For my 5-foot, 8-inch frame and 30-inch inseam, I could put the tips of my feet on the ground, but would have to lean off if I wanted to place one foot firmly on the tarmac.
  • For all the electronics equipped on the 1390 SDR EVO, KTM did a good job minimizing the learning curve for button presses. The menus are easy to read and navigate on the big TFT display. For non-EVO models with analog suspension, the majority of suspension adjustments can be made without tools, via knobs you can turn with your fingers.
  • That headlight. Judging from the 990 review, many of you hate it (at least the ones who felt strongly enough to comment about it). While I wouldn’t say I love it, I do think it embodies the overall attitude of the 1390 SDR. At any angle the bike is bold, angular, and ripe with aggression. So it makes sense that the boldest profile is the one coming right at you. If I were to view the reactions from KTM’s eyes, I’d guess they don’t really care if you like it or not, because the ones who dig it are too busy riding and the ones who don’t, well, they don’t matter.

If you look closely you’ll see rain drops on both me and the bike. It made spinning the back tire really easy, but it also took away the smoke show the rolling burnout would have created.

Run It Back

Despite the extremely limited amount of time I had on the 1390 SDR, I can say with certainty that it is the most lively and exhilarating bike in its class – and as we all know, this is a class stacked with rivals like the Ducati Streetfighter V4, Aprilia Tuono V4, and BMW M1000R, just to name a few. But notice I didn’t say it was the fastest or can get around a racetrack the quickest. The brute nature of the Duke makes me think its Italian and German rivals can probably do those things better – but none of them will get your heart pumping in quite the same way as the KTM.

What makes the Super Duke EVO even more appealing is its price: $21,499 – that’s a huge value in this field of competitors considering what you get for the money. It undercuts the Streetfighter V4 S ($27,595) by a significant amount and is on par with the Tuono V4 Factory 1100 (starting at $19,599), and a nicely equipped S 1000 R ($20,685). It even comes in a little less than a base model M 1000 R, too ($21,695).

Which is why it’s even more of a shame our time with the Super Duke R Evo was cut short, as this was only a taste of what the bike can do, and we know we’ve only scratched the surface. We didn’t come close to reaching our limits or the bike’s (not that any of us are skilled enough to reach the bike’s limits…). So, once we’re able to get one in our hands, it seems only right to put it up against the competition and do our best not to get our licenses torn to bits or get thrown behind bars. But we’re not making any promises.

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Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at Motorcycle.com in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.

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2 of 18 comments
  • David David on Mar 12, 2024

    Im 68 years old, living in Australia, growing up riding kawasaki 500 H1 and 750H2s. No other bike since the early 1970s appeals more that the new KTM 1390, Super Duke. I was contemplating a new Kawasaki supercharged H2, but it is fundamentally not naked. When i was young my ambition was able to keep up with the limited handling of the two strokes, but now my excitement has not wained, just my overall mental and physical ability. The one thing i have learnt about relationships, whether it be motorcycles or a person, is respect and this keeps the desire alive. I love wheelies, and raw power, and only after reading your great evaluation, the comment about 6th gear acceleration, reminds me of my Ferrari 246 targa, and I want new memories.

  • Gabriel Gabriel on Apr 02, 2024

    Did they fix the wobble?