Those of you that read my Goldwing review recently will know that we covered over 3000 kay’s of tar road travel. Fact is, I was not travelling alone. Irene and I were on the Goldwing, with our American friends, Bill and Tammy Snell on a KTM 1290 Adventure S. Also along for the ride was Pastor Joseph Thomson on a KTM 1290 Super Duke. Long days in the saddle give one plenty of time to mull thoughts around in your head and reflect on these incredible “pandemonium’s” that we call motorcycles.
A bit like coffee actually. Let’s consider for a moment a good strong espresso. A blast of steaming water through finely-ground premium Arabica with perhaps just a smidgen of Robusta. Categorically the purest coffee experience that you can get! Love it or hate it you will never forget the experience. Kind of sums up the Super Duke. Pure, strong and undiluted. In a world of multiple-choice, it will appeal to a handful of purists that can appreciate its virtues. Raw and muscular. 1301cc’s of V – Twin power churning out around 180 horses and 144Nm of torque, propelling a mere 189 kg’s. An upright riding position with wide flat bars, seat you in, rather than on the bike. Pegs are rear set giving you plenty of ground clearance. Crack the throttle and you are battling a speed induced force 10 gale almost instantly. Remember what I said. Undiluted!
Our trip threw almost every kind of weather at us. Cruising through Swaziland in 34-degree heat, Joseph may well have been the coolest of the lot. In two ways. Firstly, the lack of wind protection is a blessing in really hot weather as it allows the maximum airflow over your body. Secondly, because the KTM Super Duke makes such a cool statement. Joseph’s bike was black with orange detailing on the tank and gorgeous orange wheels. [That is to look at, not to try and keep clean]. The huge back gumball is accentuated by the single-sided swingarm. Typically, as with most Katooms, the suspension is WP and brakes Brembos finest. The sloped, triangulated headlight, also trademark KTM, completes a muscular aggressive and purposeful stance that screams “bring it on”. The upswept two into one pipe can also get surprisingly vocal when you jump on the main jet, so to speak.
Cold and rainy weather brings obvious unpleasant challenges to riders on naked bikes. So it was on our ride from Durban to Notties Hotel near Mooi River. Sleet like drizzle and eight degrees cold, with a 120kph chill factor thrown in, saw a sodden, teeth chattering Joseph climb stiffly from the bike and seek solace in front of a blazing log fire whilst quaffing hot coffee. Can’t argue that he had the purest experience though. As you bikers know, it is the hottest, coldest, darkest, gnarliest rides that sit longest in the memory bank, to be told over and over again in the company of our wonderful band of brothers who all nod knowingly.
To give a Super Duke it’s head through the twisties is to get a glimpse of motorcycling Nirvana. A monster engine in a really good chassis which is as happy pitched on its ear as it is up straight. The ride to Himeville the following day put a smile on Joseph’s face that you would need surgery to remove. We have so many decent luggage options these days that riding one-up you can just cinch a bag to the pillion and go. Luckily bags don’t complain, ‘cause the pillion perch on the big Duke is somewhat minimalistic. We tend to be so spoilt for choice these days where we have a purpose-built bike for every application. Sometimes though, there is a lot of satisfaction to be had in using what you have, to do whatever. A sort of “Run what you brung” approach. My mate, Richard Harper of “Ride motos take photos” fame, reminds me of this simple philosophy. No matter where the boys go, Richard and his faithful T120 Bonnie follow [and sometimes lead]. One bike does all. But then again, he’s a purist, you see!
OK, we done with the espresso riders, so let’s get on to the Cappuccino crew. This has a shot of espresso but it’s tempered by the addition of steamed milk and dense milk froth spooned on top. This is the most popular form of coffee on the planet. Kinda the GS of coffees, if you will. In the context of our trip it was the KTM 1290 Adventure S that I’m talking about. Bill and Tammy were Adventure S mounted. Also 1301cc’s, but retuned to 160 hp and similar torque to the Super Duke, the 1290 Adventure is more of a double shot cappuccino than your mainstream adventure bike. The “S” variant has shorter suspension travel [and a 19-inch front wheel] versus the more dirt focussed “R” version. What we have here, like with cappuccino, is the most widely used genre of bike around, and for good reason. They are hugely versatile.
KTM’s S makes an incredible road bike whilst still maintaining a high degree of offroad prowess. The Snell’s found the bike comfortable. The screen adjusts to attain a high degree of wind and weather protection. Handguards deflect wind from the hands and one can add optional heated handgrips too. Seating is firm, yet surprisingly comfortable for both rider and pillion. The bike has factory luggage options galore. In our case, we strapped two stuff bags to the ample rack and that worked perfectly for our week-long tour. At 215kg’s it is light for a big adventure bike however it does carry the weight a trifle high. Once on the move, everything comes together sweetly and you can make the most of the ample, almost excessive, [did I really say that], power. A 23-litre fuel tank and frugal consumption gives a 400 kay range at a lazy 140 kph.
Adventure bike riding positions are ergonomically excellent, so they can belt out huge distances without wasting the rider and pillion. Ally to that a brilliant motor, albeit a tad vibey, a really good chassis and suspension and once again the bike rocks in every application. KTM’s unique “Ready to Race” DNA is evident in every model that they produce. This adds a hard to define element to the mix that makes them a touch too hardcore for some but hugely more appealing to others. Worrying for other manufacturers is how they adapt to the demands of their followers like few others. This is winning them an ever-increasing fan base and corresponding market share. They can be criticised for many things but “boring” will never appear on that list.
And then we have the punters who want nothing short of a Mochaccino. It kind of wallows in it’s excess. The base espresso is still there but hidden by thick, creamy frothed milk stolen from a Latte’. Add to this some chocolate powder, or syrup and top it with fresh whipped cream. Enter the Goldwing that carried Irene and me serenely across the landscape. In the immortal words of Sheriff Buford T Pusser, who, aghast at the behaviour of his son, muttered “there ain’t no way you could have sprung from my loins”, it is hard to imagine that there is any common DNA between the excessive Goldwing and the minimalistic, pure KTM Super Duke 1290. Yes, they are undeniably both motorcycles and hugely competent and accomplished in what they do, yet they are as different as a full Arabica espresso is to a decadent and delicious Mochaccino.
Consider, just for a moment, how blessed we are in this day and age. When my grandfather traversed this land on his Indian Scout to see if farmers crops were right for threshing, he set up camp and brewed strong black “moerkoffie”. He had no other options. So too with his ride. Now we pull in to a boutique coffee roastery and take our pick. The Barista does his thing and Voila! Espresso, Cappuccino or Mochaccino at your command. So it is for us today as bikers. Whatever your taste may be, it’s yours for the taking. With two wheels there really are no bad choices so, whatever your ride, be sure to sip and savour every mouthful!
A huge word of thanks to Riaan Fourie at Honda for entrusting me with their magnificent Goldwing and so too to Riaan Neveling [now promoting team Orange in Austria] and Franziska at KTM SA for your always accommodating, can-do attitude. Your bikes absolutely blew the Americans away. They went home somewhat enlightened and with more than a touch of orange in their blood!