KTM's Superduke GT is a master of all trades
What do you get when KTM takes the jaw-droppingly fast Superduke 1290 R super-naked and civilises it a little for long-distance riding use?
Arguably the most complete sport-touring motorcycle on the market. The $29,995 Superduke 1290 GT can do it all thanks to possessing similar electronic sophistication to a luxury car. It'll potentially rip up a track day, giving its rider the opportunity to pass and chuckle at all the silly race-reps, or it'll happily light out towards the horizon with a passenger and a couple of weeks' worth of groceries and clean clothes on board.
At the mo', you can choose between two versions of the Superduke GT in New Zealand – the MY2017 and the MY2016 versions. They're absolutely identical except for the handy luggage panniers that come with the older model.
And it's probably worth investing in those bags, either by paying extra for them on the 2017 or going for the more complete package that is the 2016. For those panniers will soon be of use. This is a bike with such versatile performance over a wide range of riding scenarios that it'd be absolutely scandalous not to take it on an inter-island tour some time.
READ MORE: Duke 200 key to KTM's high aspirations
I can't remember another bike that weighs a svelte 205kg (dry) and develops a sportsbike-like 173bhp, and can turn itself into a pampering gentle giant after a few judicious selections of the multiple riding menus available. And the details are particularly well thought out.
Take just the GT's quick-shifter, which allows full-throttle upshifts and downshifts while blipping the throttle. On other bikes, quick-shifters are usually attached to the gearlever linkage, exposed to muck and corrosion. The GT's is fully integrated into the transmission and resides well protected from harm inside the bike's crankcases. It even has a pillion setting that'll smooth out the ratio swaps beautifully to prevent the pillion banging helmets with the rider.
Some of the KTM's competitors also come with lights that illuminate when leaning the bike into corners at night, but the GT's are like much of the rest of the bike – next level. For the bike's inertia measurement unit (IMU) doesn't just light up these lights when it senses cornering lean, it progressively illuminates more of them as it measures the lean.
At ten degrees you get some of the LEDs sparking up, joined by some more at 20 degrees, and by 30 degrees it's the whole show, turning the once-dark corner into a theatre stage for your bike play.
This fastidious detailing is almost impressive as the performance of the SDGT, and given that there's more of the latter than competitors like the Ducati Multistrada 1200 and BMW S1000XR provide, that's quite some statement.
Increased cubic capacity is the key to the slight performance advantage that the GT lords over the Multi and the XR. At 1301cc, the eight-valve, dual overhead cam, liquid-cooled V-twin of the Austrian brand is quite a bit larger than Ducati's 1199cc L-twin and BMW's 998cc inline four. This gives KTM the opportunity to massage its delivery a little from that of the harsher Superduke R engine donor, allowing it to feel more refined and tractable, while increasing riding force in the basement of the rev range.
The result is an omnipotence throughout the 9500rpm rev range that is just as impressive as the variable-valve-timed Ducati 1200's. What the Italian brand has done with valve-gear trickery, KTM has achieved with larger cylinder dimensions coupled to its own expertise at getting an engine to breath deeply and efficiently.
At 3000rpm, torque romps through the slick-shifting six-speed gearbox to the back wheel, building a 90Nm-high plateau that sticks around to 5500rpm. Then things take a turn towards what Tesla would call "ludicrous". Bam, more riding force arrives to float the front wheel skywards, and produce a feral bark from the exhaust.
At 8000rpm, the 136Nm torque peak finally arrives, just 1100rpm before the 129kW power peak. This engine is therefore solid-gold muscle all the way from idle to redline. If you only rode the SDGT in the 3000-5000rpm band, you'd still be impressed. The tunnel vision-causing top end rush that follows is a mind-scrambling bonus.
Such a potent powertrain would challenge the skills of many riders were it not for the comprehensive electronic riding aids fitted to the KTM. These come in all manner of levels so that you can dial in as much or as little assistance as you require. They're also monitored by the IMU so can account for the extra draw on the grip of the tyres when the bike is leaning through corners.
It'd take a bible to fully describe what's available in the multiple menus of the SDGT, but what's really impressive is the seamless way that the traction control and ABS systems work. You don't fully appreciate how much assistance they provide until you fully turn them off.
Then, it's only the Pirelli Angel GT radials left as the last line of defense from hospital food. And they're pretty adept at keeping you out of the emergency department. So, you carry on enjoying the agile and trustworthy handling of the SDGT, which is enhanced by adaptive automatic suspension damping that always seems to choose the right setting for the bump of the moment.
If any super-performance bike is fool-proof to ride, it's this one. So overlook the challenging design of the Superduke GT if you can. Even that radically-shaped fairing works a lot better than it looks.