KTM 1290 Super Duke R | DOIN' TIME

Long-Term Update: Investigating the rear hub assembly free-play "mystery."

The fixture that KTM uses to measure the 1290's rear hub free play mounts to the end of the swingarm.

WRIST: Zack Courts
MSRP (2014): $16,999
MILES: 13,803
MPG: 37
MODS: Rear hub research
UPDATE: 11

In this case the play was measured on a rear stand. Later, we measured with a jack and no weight on the axle.

Last month I touched briefly on the elephant in the room regarding the KTM 1290 Super Duke R; free play in the rear hub assembly. I shrugged it off as a "mystery," but I've kept up my search for information. This has been a huge topic of debate surrounding this bike, with videos on forums sparking complaints and arguments over everything from build quality to customer service. Here's what I learned.

A dial indicator with a needle on the rim measures minuscule lateral movements of the wheel in relation to the hub.

Basically, the rear wheel assembly for the Super Duke utilizes a large needle bearing that runs the circumference of the axle. The axle is large, which means the needle bearing is large, and the inherent play in the bearing can be felt by rocking the wheel side to side when crouching next to the bike. Owners (and potential owners) are concerned that this play is indicative of a larger problem with the rear wheel assembly and that it will get worse as time goes on.

This is the same basic system that dealers will use to measure free play on your 1290.

The culmination of all of my research occurred when two KTM representatives came to the Motorcyclist shop with instructions from Austria regarding the process for checking play in the hub, a specification for how much is allowable, and a policy for how KTM will handle these concerns.

Rocking the wheel by holding the top and bottom of the tires when crouched next to the bike determines free play in the bearing assembly.

According to KTM, the free play is measured by affixing a metal plate via one of the hub pinch bolts and using a dial indicator on a fixed arm with a needle that touches the rim to measure how much any given part of the outer circumference of the rim moves in relation to the swingarm. This is the same process that dealers will go through. The allowable play in the rear hub is 0.3mm (0.0118 inches). If a bike displays more than this amount of free play, KTM will replace the bearing seals and, if needed, the axle.

Our 1290 was measured both on a rear stand and with the rear wheel held above the ground without placing any weight on the swingarm assembly.

Following the instructions given, the wheel on my Super Duke was measured as having much less free play than 0.3mm; more like 0.03mm. Two other Super Duke’s in the shop (belonging to sister magazines) were also measured, and displayed even less play than my bike. My 1290 has more miles on it than both of the other two bikes combined (are you reading this, boss?), and also exhibited the most free play. We could surmise that more miles equals more free play, but it could also just be tolerances bike to bike.

The bottom line is this: There is free play in the rear wheel assembly of the Super Duke R. KTM has a process for measuring it, a system for determining whether or not it’s out of spec, and a policy to replace the parts. However, to date, there have been no reports of any actual failures or safety concerns of any kind. My opinion is that the play in the rear hub feels odd in the garage, but I have ridden the bike harder than most will and I have never noticed any instability or issues with any aspect of the bike while riding, rear wheel included. Frankly, I might never have noticed it at all if it hadn’t been pointed out to me.

Next time, a little more levity in the update, with a more in-depth look at fuel mileage and an update on the TomTom GPS unit.