WORDS: GREG LEECH
PHOTOS: SMAC! Media and KTM
Certain things define certain brands. Ducati? Performance and handling. Harley-Davidson? Street presence. Honda? Unbreakability. And when it comes to KTM? Engine, engine, engine. In this case we are talking about the brand’s hero LC8 V-Twin.
Early 1998, as the company grew in size and the need to expand its hitherto single-cylinder range with a twin-cylinder product line became a priority, KTM’s chief engineer Wolfgang Felber was commissioned to make preliminary studies of twin-cylinder engine formats and vehicle concepts.
By August the same year, the decision was made to go with a 75-degree V-twin design, but with special emphasis on light weight and, especially, compact build. The first LC8 was complete and had its first dyno run on August 11, 1999 — exactly 12 months from the initiated design. It has gone on to be the backbone of KTM’s big bore forays, powering all of the brand’s big bikes. And, with the Super Duke R, the tradition continues.
The thunderous LC8 donk is like no other. Making mind-bending power in a crescendo of top-end mechanical, and bellowing exhaust noise, it’s all about sweet, aggressive, take-no-prisoners brutality. Like a significant other that you know is going to open some doors which might be better staying closed, but they are just so damned sexy, you’ll follow them everywhere. And, rightly so, KTM is as proud as punch of its reputation delivered by the LC8.
The last incarnation of the Super Duke was a beauty and I reckon KTM could have well survived sticking with what it had. But the game with the Austrians is improvement. It’s kinda like KTM isn’t sure it belongs at the top and is forever pushing the envelope. That’s good news for you and I. There ain’t no resting on any laurels going on here.
Probably alongside all that romanticism about the revision and detail is the fact that Euro emissions rules suggest that most big bore bike manufacturers are going to have to reset more often than they would probably like. “Well, we are gonna pull the head off this thing anyway. May as well make it even more off its nut” — or something like that, said the boffins in Europe.
So 2017 and the brand’s hero bike. The 1290 Super Duke R. This time the LC8 has evolved. It’s the tried-and-true 75-degree, four-valves-per-cylinder V-twin, with a 108mm bore and 71mm stroke for 1301cc. 56mm Keihin throttle bodies serve up the mix to arrive at 130kW (177hp) at 9750rpm and peak torque is 141Nm at 7000rpm.
While grunt and sheer road presence are one thing, KTM has backed up the engine with an impressive suite of electronics. It’s a much-revised offering and KTM reckons the bike is markedly improved for it. The whole deal has copped the update treatment with that more powerful engine, refined suspension package, reworked ergos, and the aforementioned more capable electronic rider-aid suite.
Cornering ABS is still there, the hardware upfront is Brembo M50 monoblock calipers squeezing 320mm discs, with the addition of a lean-angle-sensitive traction control system and (optional) Motor Slip Regulation system, which is effectively a corner-entry traction control system (TC light flashes on corner entry). In short, it opens the throttle butterflies under deceleration to help the slipper clutch mitigate engine braking.
Riding modes are now Sport, Street and Rain, with the option to upgrade to Track mode, adding launch control, anti-wheelie off setting (yep, you have to upgrade to do wheelies), throttle response selection, and MTC spin adjuster, which enables the rider to adjust wheel spin from levels one to nine. The simple fact is, if you’re going to do track days on this beastie, you’ll be ticking this one on the option sheet.
Cruise control is standard, but you’ll have to upgrade to KTM’s Performance Pack if you want to add the up/down capable Quickshifter+ system, KTM MY RIDE (which connects your phone to the bike’s new TFT display through Bluetooth), and previously mentioned MSR system.
We were given the opportunity to toss the big animal around the South (Amaroo) Circuit, which runs around the famous Corporate Hill. It’s a short, sharp, technical circuit with a mix of corners that put a lot of pressure on the bike. The fact is, 1.8km of twisty tight stuff should have tied the bike in knots — after all, it’s no midget and fourth gear was about as high as I could go. Still, it was a delight — in a very masculine, adrenalin-soaked, holy shit kinda way.
If your idea of fun is an early night and a hot milk, this thing really is not for you. If, on the other hand, the second encore is never enough and you occasionally get home after the sun is up, get to a showroom quick smart and roll one of these things into the street. If there is a better feeling than banging an LC8 to the throttle stop, well, I’m yet to find it. On a bike at least.
It’s pretty refined once you learn to rein in that power. With ride mode set to Sport, I could feel the traction control kick in on the track, but not ridiculously so. It might even have saved a fat slide at one stage. Thanks Mr KTM.
Yep. This is one for the sports freak who might like it all a bit more comfy, but still a little wild. And, well, that’s me.
How about you?
SPECS: 2017 KTM Super Duke R
Type: Liquid-cooled, eight-valve, four-stroke, 75-degree V-twin
Bore x stroke: 108mm x 71mm
Compression ratio: 13.6:1
Engine management: Keihin electronic fuel injection
Claimed maximum power: 130kW at 9750rpm
Claimed maximum torque: 141Nm at 7000rpm
Final drive: Chain
Clutch: PASC (TM) slipper clutch, hydraulically actuated
CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Frame: Chromium-molybdenum steel trellis frame, powder coated
Front suspension: 48mm WP fork, fully adjustable
Rear suspension: WP monoshock, fully adjustable
Front brakes: Dual 320mm discs with four-piston calipers, ABS equipped
Rear brake: Single 240mm disc with twin-piston caliper, ABS equipped
Tyres: Metzeler M7RR, front 120/70ZR17, rear 190/55ZR17
DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Rake: 65.1 degrees
Claimed dry weight: 195kg
Seat height: 835mm
Fuel capacity: 18 litres
Price: $24,995 plus ORC
Colours: Orange, Black, White
Test bike supplied by: KTM Australia
Warranty: 24 months, unlimited kilometres