So, what exactly qualifies a bike as a Sports Tourer? In order to compare bikes, or measure them against their peers, we need to get on the same page. The bike that has epitomised the Sports Touring class, since someone coined the phrase, is Honda’s legendary V4 engined VFR800. What exactly was it about the VFR that earned it the label? Perhaps that is best explained by using my VFR as an example. I went down to ET, as we called Mpumalanga in the old days, riding down on a Friday. There was a slight hitch in that I had a track day at Kyalami the next day. No problem. I hopped on my VFR, rode 350 kay’s to Kyalami, did the track day, then squirted the VFR back to join my mates in ET that afternoon. That, my friends, epitomises what Sport Tourers are about. Try that on a Sportbike and you will have your chiropractor on speed dial. Your Adventure bike would manage that, but you will be outclassed totally at Kyalami by bikes with 17-inch wheels, shod with properly sticky rubber. Enter a bike that currently vies for top honours in the Sport Touring class, KTM’S utterly superb 1290 Super Duke GT.
RAD KTM in Rivonia are running a brilliant campaign on the 2020 1290 Super Duke GT as we speak, where, for R290000, they will put you on a GT, kitted out with Power Parts panniers and an Akropovic slip-on exhaust. Stocks are limited, so get your butt in gear. You do not want to miss out. Read on to find out what you will be missing out on.
To adequately review a Sport Tourer, you need to tour sportily! Where better than to Mpumalanga. Bright and early on a Friday morning, I pulled on my trusty two-piece IXS leathers, fired up the GT and with the lusty bark of an uncorked Akropovic spurring me on, rode to meet the rest of the ZA Bikers team. My overnight luggage was snug and secure in the panniers, which fit onto the bike in a doddle. The design is such that the bike is not cluttered with unsightly brackets when the panniers are removed.
The heart and soul of any bike is its engine. The 1301 cc V-Twin in the GT pumps out a lusty 173 hp and just over 140 Nm of torque. On a bike that weighs a mere 209 Kg’s, you have the makings of a properly exciting riding experience. To tame the power if required, KTM endowed the GT with three perfectly fuelled riding modes. Sport, Road, (same power as Sport but with more linear hit) and Rain (limits power to 100 hp, the max power of the VFR800 referred to earlier). My, we live in wonderful times!.
Give it, it’s head on the right road and you will see around 290 kph on the TFT display. On our ride, I got a brief glimpse of 245, with the GT pulling like an absolute beast, before having to tap off due to road and traffic conditions. This bike makes a mockery of speed. Aiding and abetting this tomfoolery, is an excellent auto blipping quickshifter.
The riding position is an ergonomic delight and conducive to long hours in the saddle. The bars are flat, and wide enough to give you decent leverage, without putting strain on your wrists. This is enhanced by the effective, adjustable screen (easily done by hand), which takes you out of the windblast without any helmet turbulence. The seat is wide and flat and provides a brilliant cush for your tush.
KTM’s have become renowned for the quality of their suspension, confirmed by their Ready to Race mantra. The GT is a shining example of high-performance suspension. The electronically adjusted WP units are brilliant. Enter the menu for bike set-up on the TFT display and adjust preload for what you need. One-up or two-up with luggage, damping on road or sport, with preload adjusted to suit.
The road damping setting provides a compliant ride over dodgy surfaces, yet, with the touch of a button, you can engage sport damping for a really sharp ‘Sport’ riding experience. For the duration of my ride, the bike felt nothing other than perfectly stable and reassuring, even when tipped over onto a knee slider on the legendary ‘22’.
A bike with this performance envelope demands good brakes. The 320 mm front dual discs and 240 mm rear Brembo units with cornering ABS are flawless, both in feel and power.
KTM have really got their instrumentation sorted. The TFT display is excellent, both in its clarity, ease of use, that coming from a BC individual (BC=Before Computers), as well as the wealth of information available at a glance. The general screen tells you the time, temperature, front and rear tyre pressures, trip 1, odo, date, gear position, average consumption, average speed, engine mode, suspension setting, abs and traction control status, speed and rpm at a glance, without looking busy or cluttered. Quite simply the best I’ve seen to date.
Cruise control is a must on this type of bike. KTM have relocated the setting mechanism, which is simple and intuitive to engage, to the left handlebar switchgear. All switchgear is backlit too (why don’t all bikes do this as standard?). The heated grips are engaged via the menu on the TFT display. I’m not crazy about this, as it requires too much attention and is probably best done when stationary.
A 23-litre tank gives you a decent range, given the 5,7 l/100 consumption that I averaged over the course of my trip. Even jumping on the main jet with enthusiasm, should see at least 350 k’s between fill-ups. A USB port is located in a smartphone-friendly, foam-lined storage compartment, in the left side fairing upper, for ‘charge while you ride’ convenience. A similar oddment compartment is similarly located on the right.
The bike rolls on 120/70×17 (front) and 190/55×17 (rear) wheels, painted a spectacular KTM orange. The rear gumball rides on a single-sided swingarm which looks the goods. The overall styling is typical KTM, with almost trademark angular and pointy looks. Love it or hate it, it is unmistakably a distinctive member of the Austrian companies ‘Ready to Race’ performance icons.
I have told you all about the GT’s attributes and specifications, which hopefully makes good reading. What I want to try to get across now, is what it is like to ride, because at the end of the day that is what motorcycles are really about. The riding experience. The KTM Super Duke GT has keyless ignition, so press the grey button on the right-hand bar and the TFT display lights up, indicating that the ‘Beast’ has awakened from its slumber.
Press the kill switch incorporated start button and after a slight hesitation, the big-bore V-Twin explodes into life with a staccato bark from the Akropovic. The hydraulic clutch engages flawlessly and you drop it into first with a positive clunk. Off you go. I found it easiest when dribbling through traffic, to use the clutch on shifts, waiting till the road opened up to revel in the quickshifter. This is really where the fun begins.
Lean on the throttle and the GT hurls itself at the horizon. The individual thuds from the 650 cc pistons become indistinguishable as the revs rise, smoothing out wonderfully at cruising speed. The bike is redlined at 10,000 rpm and turns a mere 5,000 at 150 kph. The fact that the bike is so chilled makes you, as the pilot, feel chilled too, secure in the knowledge that the motor is operating at literally half effort. I got off the gas minutely as I hit the shifter, facilitating super slick shifts with a decent degree of mechanical sympathy. The instant shift is enhanced by the rabid bark from the Akro, as it announces the next gear. Rolling V-Twin thunder at it’s finest! Riding the twisties becomes an almost spiritual experience. Forego the brakes, using the downshifter to harness the declarative engine compression of the massive mill, then pitch it into the next bend, get hard on the throttle out the corner, banging it up through the box with the quickshifter, keeping it on the crest of the huge wave of torque. Then do it all over, again and again.
This is sports motorcycling at it’s very best. I love the infinitely variable riding environment that fast road riding, with its hazards, brings. There is no better test of a motorcycles real capabilities than this. The KTM Super Duke GT, for me, is peerless in this regard. There are bikes which come within a whisker. BMW’s S 1000 XR is sublime, as is their immensely capable R 1250 RS, to name a couple. It is the soul of the big KTM that wins me over. The visceral, slightly raw appeal of the big V-Twin, so superbly harnessed by the capable chassis and wonderful riding position. All the bikes I have mentioned make you a better rider, working with you in real-world riding. All of this can be enjoyed without fatigue and with your pillion on board. This is what makes this bike such a steal. Huge versatility without compromise. It simply doesn’t get better than that!
For more information on this incredible offer visit: www.radmoto.co.za
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