Final Long Term Test: KTM 1290 Super Duke R

Never has a motorcycle been so utterly capable, comfortable, yet thrilling and charismatic right out of the crate

WRIST: Zack Courts
MSRP (2014): $16,999
MILES: 15,414
MPG: 37
MODS: Stock rocks!
UPDATE: 12

Saying goodbye to the KTM 1290 is not easy. As the ringleader for this long-term test I have predictably developed a soft spot for the KTM Super Duke R, but interestingly, so has everyone else. And why wouldn't they? This is, after all, our 2014 Motorcycle Of The Year. The KTM super Duke R is a fully adjustable, totally capable, bright orange chariot powered by one of the finest engines ever bolted to two wheels. Before I get all choked up saying goodbye, here are some closing items from my final stint with the 1290.

The first note is the total fuel mileage of the 1290 jumped up one digit to 37 mpg. I must have been excited when I first got it because mid-30s was all I could really hope for, but the last pile of numbers I gathered had plenty of figures in the high 30s and low 40s. That’s not going to impress any Prius drivers, but I think for a motorcycle as exhilarating as the 1290, that’s decent mileage.

Speaking of gas, on more than a few occasions I have put more than the advertised 4.8-gallon fuel capacity in the tank at a station. I’m not sure what to make of that, frankly, but I do know that I’ve consistently stretched the 1290 to 180 miles between fill-ups—one particular tank took me 200 miles. Excellent, especially when you consider that some big-bore, naked street fighters illuminate the gas light as soon as 100 miles into a trip.

Recently, I had an odd hardware malfunction when the taillight mounts broke and the light dangled off the back of the bike. I was at the track, riding hard, when this happened, so if you’re more polite than I am you likely won’t have this problem. But, fact is, the Super Duke is fully capable of taking on the track and being ridden hard. What I should have done was remove the taillight before going to the track. But I didn’t. My fault.

Here’s what happened: There are two plastic bosses that are a part of the taillight housing, and two screws reach through the tail of the bike to thread into the bosses and hold the unit in place. The bosses broke, which makes a fix kind of tricky. If this happens to you, give Ari’s epoxy fix from the How To section (page 90) a try; it might just work.

It brought to the front of my mind all of the problems I've had with this KTM, which is to say very few. I had an issue with the front brake dragging, but some maintenance cleared that up. One of the mirror stalks was broken while parked on the street (perhaps a jealous peer lusting after my ride?), and while I waited for a replacement KTM admitted the stalks are delicate. The only other disappointment with the stock bike is that some of the stickers—the swingarm rash guard and, ironically, the "Ready To Race" stickers—started to peel off in a way unbecoming of the $17,000 Super Duke. Annoying, but a reason not to buy a bike? No way.

KTM 1290 Super Duke R

Other than that, this thing has been largely maintenance free for 15,000 miles. It had a major service done for $365, and other than that it’s needed tires, oil, and gas. I tried an aftermarket seat, slip-on muffler and windscreen, but in my opinion stock is the way to go. Some would say it better be good for that price, and I say in this case you get what you pay for.

This is where I’m going to get weepy. No, I’m not going to miss the heated grips, comfy ergonomics, or 92 pound-feet of torque. Not the adjustable ABS, 190-mile range, 150 hp, track-ready chassis, or endless wheelies. What I am going to miss is having all of that—and more—in one machine. Never has a motorcycle been so utterly capable, comfortable, yet thrilling and charismatic right out of the crate and suited my taste more perfectly. I am going to miss this bike more than I care to admit.