2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R Spied

Near-production prototype caught on test in the Alps.

2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R
A very complete 2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R was captured testing in the Austrian Alps.S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

The stage is set for 2020 to be the battle of the super nakeds as the ranks of 200-hp unfaired machines swell. We're already set to see Ducati's Panigale-based Streetfighter V4 and BMW just might have a ShiftCam-equipped S 1000 R waiting in the wings—and now KTM is upping its game with a completely new 1290 Super Duke R.

This prototype was spotted when it was forced to stop at a closed road in the Austrian Alps, and the new KTM is clearly ready to make its official debut—even details like the KTM badges and the etched “1290 Super Duke R” logo on the exhaust are clear to see. While the name might be the same as the firm’s existing range-topping naked bike, it seems little else is being carried over to the 2020 model.

2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R spy shot
Very little from the 2019 model will be carried over to the 2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R.S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

Let’s start with the frame; after all, it’s hard to miss in its eye-searing orange paint. Compared to the existing 1290 Super Duke R, it’s clearly a clean-sheet design. It’s still a tubular steel chassis with the engine as stressed member, a layout KTM uses through its line. No aluminum spars here, KTM even uses steel on its MotoGP bike where it’s proving it can compete with the aluminum beam-framed rivals. It is a far lighter-looking design than that used on the current Super Duke. Whereas the 2019 model features a trellis design, similar to some older Ducatis, the new bike appears to use fewer tubes, each with a larger cross section.

Perhaps as a result of that simplified frame, the bike looks smaller and lighter than before. Despite its allegiance to the steel frame ethos, KTM has opted to drop that material when it comes to the seat subframe, instead using a design that appears to be cast aluminum but might even be a painted composite unit.

Also new are the five-spoke wheels, replacing the snowflake design used at the moment, and while the suspension still comes from WP, the fork appears to be an updated design with race-style adjusters for compression and rebound at the tops of the legs. The brakes are the same Brembos used on the 2019 model.

five-spoke wheels
New five-spoke wheels are fitted to the Super Duke R prototype.S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

Although the bike’s 1290 Super Duke R name suggests the engine’s capacity is remaining around the same as the current 1,301cc model, it’s clear the motor is significantly updated. The water pump is noticeably different, potentially hinting at bigger changes inside the V-twin. Although the 174-hp output of the existing Super Duke R was enough to put it at the top of its class when it was launched, we’ve since seen power output for naked bikes spiral upward. This year’s power king in the class, the new MV Agusta Brutale, achieves 208 hp, and Ducati has already confirmed it will have a Panigale V4-based Streetfighter in dealers next March, possibly sharing the same 214-hp spec of the superbike it’s based on. It might be a challenge for KTM to breach the 200-hp barrier with the LC8 V-twin engine, but the Austrians are certainly going to be aiming to get close to it.

2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R
Will the 2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R break the 200-hp barrier?S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

The exhaust, which as mentioned already bears the bike’s name inscribed on the silencer, is a new design, curling under the engine like a nesting snake and tucking the catalytic converter away more neatly than the current model’s design. The new end can also looks less bulky, which is an impressive achievement given the bike will have to meet stringent new Euro 5 emissions limits.

KTM’s penchant for razor-edged bodywork design continues unabated, with the stylist’s ruler clearly never straying far from his hand. The side panels are particularly striking, spearing forward even more aggressively than the current bike’s. The headlight remains KTM’s signature vertically split design, and details like the mirrors are also carried over.

The instruments are new though, with a wafer-thin color screen providing all the information and clearly revealing this bike has the usual complement of switchable riding modes and traction control. New bar controls with a joystick-style switch on the left-hand side will be responsible for navigating the multi-layered menus.

New handlebar controls
New handlebar controls feature a joystick-like switch on the left that will do most of the controlling of the Super Duke R’s menus.S. Baldauf/SB-Medien

The official unveiling of the bike will be at this autumn’s big bike shows at the very latest, but given the prototype’s finished state, could it be possible KTM is planning to reveal it sooner than that?