It’s crazy to think that the KTM 1290 Super Duke R has been around for 10 years now and the original Mack Daddy of supermoto hooliganism, the 990 Super Duke, is almost a vintage motorcycle with the release date of 2005 echoing away. The 1290 Super Duke really holds a special place in my heart, I can still smell the coffee beans from all the cappuccinos I used to make behind the counter at a certain KTM dealer during my high school weekends. It was that orange and white wheelie machine that would play on the screens day in and day out, with the super talented Jeremy McWilliams behind the bars. Down the Goodwood Festival of speed, around the beautiful Ascari raceway and hooning on the streets of the official KTM teaser videos on YouTube, it feels like yesterday.
So, what has happened to that bonkers naked bike, the bike that KTM nicknamed ‘The Beast’? The no-rules super naked that held the reputation of being an unhinged torque monster back in the day has now become slightly more domesticated thanks to new chassis development and the latest electronic riding aids. To say that the latest gen is no longer a true beast would be a lie, I think with its new and improved handling package, you can truly unleash even more wrath from its 180 hp 1301 cc 75° V-twin engine.
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better than the latest Super Duke R, KTM dropped an extra R behind the beast and an EVO. With the RR being a limited offering and almost impossible to purchase, unless you camped in line, this begs the question: Is the EVO the next best hoon? The Awesome guys and girls from RAD KTM gave me the keys to their not-so-standard KTM 1290 Super Duke R EVO, kitted out in Evotech accessories and a tasty SC Projects exhaust to find out.
Specs-wise, the EVO doesn’t look any different on paper nor in looks, in fact, besides the new WP Apex Semi-Active Suspension and the new quick turn throttle twist grip, it’s the same bike—it may have even gotten 2 kg heavier. Many of you die-hard KTM riders will have questions about why KTM has gone the semi-active route, especially when the R’s WP suspension already comes fit with hand-adjustable clickers (toolless adjustment). Then comes the 32k premium for the EVO over the R and in KTM language, this could have been spent on orange or carbon bling bits instead.
So, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, the 2nd generation WP Apex Semi-Active suspension. KTM’s theory behind the EVO is that the Super Duke has retained its ferocity, but has also gained a wider range of usability. Before we can jump into “usability”, it’s good to note, that like on all modern KTM products today, there is a standard software and several additional packs that can be unlocked at an extra fee. The standard Semi-Active suspension package comes with three damping modes (Comfort, Street, Sport) and 20 mm of rear spring preload adjustability (adjusted in 2 mm increments) from the TFT menu.
For the 90 percenters, the riders who spend most of their time commuting or riding on the road, these modes are all one needs for simple and quick adjustments. I love the fact that you can adjust preload with a press of a button, especially if you do a lot of two-up riding or touring with extra weight on the back. A lot of the time my girlfriend rides with me on the weekends and quite often there will be a road where she climbs off so I can have some single-seater fun. With the preload adjustability, I can dial it down when she climbs off and I can also change my suspension mode from Comfort to Sport.
Obviously, RAD’s EVO wasn’t standard and had the optional suspension ‘PRO’ package unlocked. This makes three more damping modes available, namely Track, Advanced, and Auto. With Track mode on the EVO is in its stiffest setting and is ready for some Top Gun kind of weekend battles. For riders who would like to fine-tune their damping settings for those marginal gains or peace of mind, you’ve got Advanced mode.
My absolute favourite, and the mode I would leave it in 24/7 would be Auto. Auto mode really impressed me, I mean who am I to pretend that I am more clever than a whole room of engineers and technicians? The auto mode on the semi-active suspension is just another level of intelligence one never thought they needed until they tried it. Pop it into auto and let the suspension detect your change in riding style and automatically adapt the damping of suspension to suit, being softer and more comfortable when cruising through the city, and more rigid and more focused when riding aggressively on a fast twisty stuff. It’s like having your own personal suspension technician travel with you wherever you go.
Another setting available on the Pro package is an anti-dive setting. I must be honest and say, that I didn’t have much time to play around and figure it out completely. However, the anti-dive setting is supposed to keep the front end high under hard braking. I think the only dude who should have anti-diving forks is Brad Binder, but that’s just my opinion. I must say, it would be interesting to see how it would work in a touring or two up-riding situation.
So, what’s my verdict about the EVO and its semi-active suspension compared to the R? I think the EVO takes things to the next level for the street rider and possibly for the track rider who wants to ride to the track and back home. For pure track-focused riders, the R is still the better buy. If it were my money, I would buy the EVO all day long, it’s in my opinion the daily rider’s dream. If I were you, I would make a turn past RAD KTM and test their EVO with all the goodies unlocked to make your final decision.
KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R EVO
For more information on the bike that we tested in this article, click on the link below…