Unleash the beast with the KTM Super Duke R
Biker Boy rides the second incarnation of Super Duke R at a media launch in Qatar's Losail Circuit. Get ready, it'll be here in March
Nicknamed Beast 2.0, the 2017 KTM Super Duke R will be a match for only a select group of riders who can handle its explosive power and performance.
Looks and Design
Its bulbous fuel tank and big exhaust pipe resemble the 2013 version, but it is the hornet-eye headlamp that gets your attention.
The KTM's tail end gets a narrower silhouette, thanks to its exposed trellis sub-frame, which accentuates the rear wheel on a single-sided swingarm.
The fanged beast comes into shape when viewed from the front, with its distinctive headlamp, newly-designed fuel-tank shrouds and daytime running lights switched on.
At a glance, its riding posture is less aggressive compared to a full-on sports bike. Your knees naturally slide into position just below the sculptured fuel tank.
Our short street ride in Doha was comfortable, given the Super Duke R's wider streetfighter handle bars and upright riding stance.
Surely, the 1,301cc V-twin will not feel at home on a circuit, especially one ridden by MotoGP riders on their race-prepped machines?
I realised how wrong I was, after just a few laps of the 5.3km Losail Circuit with former MotoGP rider and KTM brand ambassador, Jeremy McWilliams.
As he increased the pace, showing me the lines, it became apparent that the six-speed KTM is no slouch on a circuit.
The bike's ergonomics made it natural to hunker down to shelter against the increasing wind blast.
But I knew my limits and ignored attempting McWilliams' track antics, as he entered a left-hand bend with one hand on the throttle and the other sweeping the rumble strip.
Power and handling
In the first two track-riding sessions, I rode in sport mode with the bike's refined engine belting out the full 177hp and 141Nm with just a twist of the throttle.
McWilliams' advice of taking the left-hand turns in third gear and the more smooth-flowing continuous right handers in fourth improved my lap times.
The KTM's generous torque spread is both forgiving and a life-saver for a track novice like me.
From as low as 2,750rpm, there is already about 100Nm of torque on tap. Mistakes are easily recoverable from, especially when I ran wide.
All I needed was to crack the throttle open and the explosive torque propelled me out of the turns.
Powerful dual Brembo M50 radial caliper front brakes scrubbed serious speed quickly at the end of the straightaway and corner entries.
It is equipped with cornering anti-lock brakes too. On the fly, you forget the 195kg (dry weight) KTM's size.
Its wide handlebars did not get in the way of aggressive cornering as it is capable of crazy lean angles judging by my worn toe and knee sliders.
But the Beast was clearly capable of more, as I was overtaken by riders who plunged their machines into the bends.
The keyless KTM has a dizzying array of electronic aids.
The three ride modes - sport, street and rain - are standard, with varying power and throttle settings.
The ride-by-wire KTM offers more customisable selections such as traction control, rear wheel slip and anti-wheelie.
For the track junkie, there is the optional track pack.
I took a leap of faith when I nervously engaged KTM's launch control. What followed was blinding acceleration from standstill, with the throttle pinned in the first three gears without going into an uncontrollable wheelie.
Too quickly, our time on the Beast was up, so I can't say much about long-distance rides or fuel consumption.
KTM head press honcho Thomas Kuttruf concedes that the Super Duke R is not a race-only motorcycle.
"It will be used on the open road. But a guy can use it on the same day, without making any major changes to the bike, to go for his track day.
"This is the future."
Make and model: KTM 1290 Super Duke R
Engine: Twin cylinder, 1,301cc, four-stroke
Horsepower and torque: 177hp and 141Nm
Dry weight: 195kg