Taming The Beast Without Removing its Claws
The Beast. The nickname for the Super Duke 1290 R. And rightly so. It’s a finely crafted work of art that has the power to tear your face off. The Beast is undisputed royalty in the superbike fraternity. It therefore seems that using The Beast as the basis for KTM’s next generation Grand Tourer would require taming the wild nature of the 1290. Would it be possible to create a GT from The Beast without removing its claws?
KTM launched the GT to the press at the South Africa Bike Festival hosted at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit. It seemed rather apt that a brand new bike would be the first to take on the brand new track. This was a double bonus for me, as not only would I get to test out the new bike, but I’d get to do it on the brand new circuit! (So brand new in fact, they were still painting the last bit of it that morning, and meant we couldn’t complete a full lap. More on the track in a bit.)
KTM SA’s Marketing Manager, Riaan Neveling, said at the launch that developing the GT from The Beast, it was important that KTM kept the essence of what earned the bike its moniker, yet at the same time, as a grand tourer it needed to be softer and more comfortable, able to take on the longest road with ease. So while every effort was made to keep the GT as close to The Beast as possible, changes abound, mostly with comfort in mind. What used to be just a space to park your backside as you hurtled along at lightning speeds, now houses a lower, softer, more comfortable seat for instance. Things such as auto-off indicators, and cruise control, shows the GT’s orientation for the long road. There was added focus on riding two-up, with lower pillion foot pegs, leaving ample room for sizable panniers, and niceties like hill start assistance and a quick shifter, which will hopefully limit the bangs to the back of your helmet from your passengers face.
Styling is very much in line with The Beast’s look. There is anodized high carbon steel bling all over the bike. It looks mean and fast, which suits it well. It has the required KTM orange bits to make sure everyone knows which stable this bike comes from. Some clever tricks with the illumination on the bike means that you get extra visibility down next to the handlebars at night when cornering. The amazing feat of engineering that has kept The Beast’s look, while putting the same engine into a frame made for touring is spectacular and must be the work of a magician.
With great power comes great responsibility! Equipping the GT with semi-active suspension with sport, street, race and rain settings, as well as ABS and traction control, all of which can be changed on the fly, enables you as the rider to make full use of this bikes incredible abilities in all conditions. Conditions such as the virgin tar of a brand new grand prix circuit!
The track is a wonderful mix of old and new. Straight out of the pits, you have half the straight up to the new Crowthorne corner, which the Super Duke GT happily skipped up to 200km/h. The corner is a fairly quick one, then on to a series of twists called the Jukskei sweep, and then on to the old track, with old corners such as Sunset followed by Clubhouse, the Esses (which almost caught out a few opened throttle testers) and Leeukop. The Mineshaft returns, followed by a few new turns that mix tight and twisty, with open high speed cornering, some of which required braver souls than me to challenge at full throttle. As the track is brand new, it has not been “rubbered-in” yet. This, combined with the dusty surface makes the track a little slippery, giving the GT’s traction control much to think about when accelerating through the corners and braking at the end of the straights.
All in all the track is brilliant! I could not imagine a single reason why we shouldn’t see the return of international racing at this pristine facility. But riding this track was the added bonus. The big prize of the day was straddling the Super Duke GT. It is most importantly, essentially, The Beast, claws and all. Except, its more than that, because it can be ridden comfortably, and quickly to the last drop of fuel in its large fuel tank, then be filled up and ridden home again. Sure, they say if its orange, it will be two things: fast, and expensive. The GT is both of those things, with a top speed in excess of 290 km/h, and a price tag of R230 000. But it’s more than that. It’s a rocket with a comfortable seat. It’s a superbike tourer. It is incredible.
Gottagged rating 9/10, losing one point for the limited track time and inability to complete a full lap. The bike is incredible though!
By: Dave Sowden