There is a certain segment of the motorcycle marketplace which wants to have its cake, and eat it. Instead of a hyper-focused high-speed machine, a rider of this sort wants a fast bike, great handling, and to carry everything, including the kitchen sink.

We are, of course, referring to the sports-touring motorcycle, where versatility and the ability to munch the highway miles in comfort is the prime criteria. The caveat is that the high-speed side of things is not to be denied, and, indeed, comes up high on the list of desirable traits.

There was a time when the undisputed king of the sports-tourer was the BMW RT. An 1,100 cc machine, with Krauser panniers on either side, was considered to be the core of a sports-cruiser.

Right up till someone decided that a dual-purpose styled bike, suitably kitted out, offered more in terms of versatility and ease of use. Which brings us to the KTM Super Duke GT, a cruise missile from Mattighofen, Austria.

Having previously ridden the 2016 Ducati Multistrada 1200, which is practically the KTM Duke GT’s direct competitor, we were in a position to see how the two sports-tourers stacked up against each other. That the two are both V-twins is a given, but what do the bikes do well, and what sets the Super Duke GT apart?


To say the KTM 1290 Super Duke GT is a wolf in wolf’s clothing would not be amiss. When the KTM Super Duke R – the “Beast” – first came out, with its 1,301 cc V-twin, even experienced riders were wary of the engine and its power delivery.

But for the Super Duke GT, with the emphasis on touring, considering the bags hooked on the rear of the bike, something seems to have changed with the power delivery from that 170 hp engine. In the Super Duke R, the engine was somewhat violent, and, while grin-inducing when the front wheel was pointed towards the sky, didn’t exactly lend itself to docile puttering about at highway speeds.

This has changed with the GT, through the use of different mapping, coupled with ride modes and that slipper clutch with KTM’s traction control, along with Bosch 9ME linked-ABS. On the first approach, the Super Duke is a lot of bike.

The wide haunches of the front tank cowl shares that much in common with the ‘R’ version. The wide OEM saddlebags – each capable of swallowing a full face helmet – add to the aggressive look of the Super Duke GT.

Something to note, if you purchase the Super Duke GT. One, the bike looks as ugly as an evil step-sister without the bags fitted so get them specc’ed into the purchase, and two, if you store a helmet inside one of the bags, it goes in upside-down, and put the helmet inside a cloth bag first.

Clearance is tight inside the oddly shaped bags, and placing a bare helmet and slamming the lid closed will scratch it beyond all redemption. Please do not ask how we know this.

Climbing onto the GT’s saddle, set at a somewhat tallish 835 mm meant that riders below 1.70-metres in height will find reaching the ground something of a stretch. This can be overcome with suitable mounting and dismounting techniques, of course, although some practice will be necessary.

Thumbing the starter button on the Super Duke GT brought the 75-degree V-twin to life with an immediate and familiar rumble. It was at this we renewed our acquaintance with the buzz inherent in two-cylinder engines, and this one, at low rpm, was somewhat liveable.

We now had to sit through a very comprehensive briefing from the KTM tech on the features and capability of the Super Duke, and there was a lot of it, all controlled via the the toggle switches on the left side handlebar pod, with the right pod holding the controls for the electronic cruise control as well as a single press switch for switching ride modes, though this could be done from either pod.

Other features which could be read off the LCD panel on the left side include the usual trip and odometer, as well as the tyre pressure monitoring system, engine temperature readouts and so on, all read by pressing the up and down switches on the left pod. This was, at first, a touch confusing, something of an occupational hazard because we test a new bike almost every week, but a little time spent studying the controls and all was good.

Setting off with the Super Duke GT from the KTM showroom in Kota Damansara, we were somewhat careful with the throttle engagement and clutch release. Until we got to the first traffic lights, where, when the light turned green, we let the engine have it.

To say the Super Duke GT responded eagerly would be putting it mildly. Popping the clutch immediately brought the front wheel into the air, and the frantic tap dance we performed on the quickshifter-equipped gear lever could barely keep up with the engine revs.

While not being as mad as its sibling, the Beast, there was plenty of power on offer from the GT’s engine, and it kept shovelling it out. By the time our brain and eyeballs caught up with the bike, we were at the next set of lights, and the Brembo M50 Monobloc brakes were slammed full on.

By full we mean the traction control light went on, and stayed on. It was then we realised there was enough in the front brakes to lift the rear end with impunity, the Super Duke GT’s 205 kg dry weight and 1,482 mm wheelbase doing nothing to hold the back down.

After that unexpected and impromptu display of the outer edge of the GT’s prowess, we started to wonder what else was in store. Deciding to take the long way round to the office, we headed out on the highway, and opened up the ride-by-wire throttle, this time a little more gently.

Let’s put it this way, we ride some very high-powered motorcycles, and own a few personally, but it is rare to find a machine that builds up speed as quickly as the Super Duke GT. Heading north, towards Rawang, we glanced down at the speedometer to find it reading somewhere upwards of, well, twice the national speed limit.

We did manage to top out the speedometer, and while paultan.org does not publish top speed figures while reviewing a vehicle on public roads, we will say it is enough. The power and torque from the engine built up in an almost seamless rush, rapidly propelling rider and bike along the highway.

The author would say almost, because, as is inherent in most V-twins, there was an amount of vibration to contend with, coming through all the contact points of the seat, handlebars and pegs. While this wasn’t the sort of annoying vibration you would find in a lesser-spec machine, it was there.

Settling back down to legal highway speed increased the vibration, right at about 120 km/h. This then did become annoying, because the Super Duke GT’s engine felt best at around 150 km/h.

Which is all well and good if the roads are clear, but travelling like a law-abiding citizen on the GT will require some fortitude. This wasn’t all bad though, as the manually adjustable screen allowed the rider to extend or lower the still-air bubble for best comfort.

As we rode the GT, we started adjusting the semi-active WP suspension, which is done with the switches on the left handlebar. There are five presets, which, coupled with the three ride modes, allowed for some mix-and-match action. Adjustment can be done on-the-go, but it did take a few minutes for the suspension settings to settle down.

More to the point, the adjustments did make a difference in the suspension behaviour, from solo riding with no bags, all the way up to fully-loaded. There is also an intermediate setting for full-sized rider and smaller passenger, which amused our pint-sized pillion to no end.

Taking the Super Duke GT on long romps down the highway revealed its strength, long miles in the saddle on the highway, at very illegal speeds. Taking it up the mountain for canyon strafing had us wondering if the trademark KTM hooligan handling had been softened, but it wasn’t.

Diving into the corners on the Ulu Yam road showed that this sports-tourer emphasised the sports side of things in the suspension, and the harder we threw it into the corners, the more we liked it. There is a caveat to this, though.

When we picked up the Super Duke GT from KTM, it was pointed out that the tyres fitted were not standard but rather super-sticky Pirelli Rosso IIIs. This was coupled with the machine being decked out with parts from the KTM Powerparts catalogue, including a pair of delicious looking rearsets.

This was done because the weekend before, the Super Duke GT we were reviewing was being taken around Sepang by Gabit, Malaysian motocross champion, and a decision was made to leave the bike in that configuration. “We think you wouldn’t mind it like this, and are pretty sure you will use it to the max,” said KTM’s marketing to us by way of explanation.

And no, we did not mind at all. The Powerparts components, aside from being very bling, do serve a function. The biggest difference for us was the rearsets.

While the standard peg fitting and position puts the rider in a somewhat normal position, changing over to rearsets immediately puts one in the “arms out, head down” attack position. For the Super Duke GT, even in sports touring mode, this made sense, in a perverse way.

The seat itself, cut narrow in front and broad at the back, provided adequate support, although fore-and-aft movement was a little limited. Our pillion didn’t complain about accommodation at the rear, and insisted the Super Duke GT be used for the school run.

Speaking of runs, the fuel consumption returned by the Super Duke GT was a fairly respectable 11-ish kilometres per litre, and we were not sparing any horses. The 23-litre fuel tank should thus give some 300 or so km of range, depending on how heavy you are with the throttle.

For a sports-touring rig, the KTM Super Duke GT acquits itself well, albeit more on the high-speed side of things. Retailing at RM125,080, including GST, the Super Duke GT goes head-to-head – spec and power wise – with the Ducati Multistrada 1200 S at RM125,999.

So, who needs a Super Duke GT? Choices in this segment of the sports-touring market abound, from the base BMW R 1200 GS, to the Ducati Multistrada and Aprilia Caponord. There are other choices, of course, but since none of them are officially imported, we’re leaving them off the comparison list.

For the rider who likes his or her touring fast, with handling that would shame some sportsbikes, the Super Duke GT is a logical choice, if German and Italian sports-tourers don’t blow your skirt up. This is not a bike for a newbie, or the born-again rider, though.

You’ll need to polish your skills some before taking this slightly tamer “Beast” out on the road. As for the author? Yeah, the choice is easy. He’d live in Melaka and work in Kuala Lumpur. And he would wake up late.