First Ride: 2007 KTM Superduke - Up To Speed

Late But Worth The Wait

If there's one thing racing and sex have in common, it's this: No sooner does it start than you just want it to be over. That's what people tell me, anyway.

I was feeling a little that way about testing the Superduke at KTM's annual dealer meeting in Portland. Not that I've got anything against KTM or its streetbikes, I just haven't been getting enough dirt in my diet lately, and the Washougal motocross track was beckoning.

That changed as soon as I let out the clutch and remembered what a riot the Superduke is. Considering I'd previously ridden a prototype at the factory in Austria, that shouldn't have been surprising. Thing is, that was in 2003, and we haven't seen one on this side of the Atlantic until now.

The reason is KTM lacked the resources to get the fuel-injected 990cc version of its carbur-eted 950 Adventure V-twin homologated for U.S. use. But the company's short-lived alliance with Polaris gave it the necessary dosh, and the Superduke is now available stateside.

Back before there was a Supermoto in KTM's lineup, the Superduke might have been considered just that. Now, it's a naked bike-a very naked bike, with minimalist bodywork, twin mufflers jutting out from beneath the seat and a spartan dash with the same weird orange multifunction display that comes on the Adventure. Really, though, the Superduke is what it is: a twin-cylinder, 118-horsepower version of the Duke II single that preceded it.

The prototype I rode had somewhat abrupt on/off throttle response, and while the production version works better, it's still relatively snatchy. Lug it down to walking speed, hold the throttle to the stop and the engine chugs its way to 2000 rpm, then pulls cleanly beyond. Whack the throttle open in the lower gears and the front end snaps right up and stays there; this is one of the easiest bikes to wheelie ever. And thanks to the radial-mount front Brembos, it does great stoppies, too.

With a claimed dry weight of 405 pounds, the Superduke is light by twin-cylinder standards. Few bikes can carve up a set of esses as quickly; in fact, in one European magazine's handling test, the Superduke had the highest cornering speed. You get so much feedback from the tires, and you have so much leverage with the tubular handlebar, you feel like you can ride right off the edges of the tires and still save it.

The only real issue with the Superduke is its timing. Four years ago, this bike would have owned the naked-bike class. Now, it's got stiff competition across the board. And at a couple bucks shy of 14 grand, it ain't cheap.

As for my test ride, I ended up running a full tank of gas through the Superduke and brought it back on fumes, grinning. It might have taken a long time to get here, but it was assuredly worth the wait.

2007 KTM Superduke

MSRP $13,998
Type l-c V-twin
Valves DOHC, 8v
Displacement 999cc
Transmission 6-speed
Weight 405 lb., claimed dry (184 kg)
Fuel capacity 3.9 gal. (15L)
Wheelbase 56.6 in. (1438mm)
Seat height 33.7 in. (855mm)