2014 KTM Super Duke R Road Test Review

Beasts, Not Beauties - 2014 Big-bore naked-bike comparison test

2014 KTM Super Duke R

This review is part of our 2014 big-bore naked-bike comparison test, featuring the Aprilia Tuono V4R, BMW S 1000 R, Ducati Monster 1200 S, Kawasaki Z1000 ABS and KTM Super Duke R. Read the remainder of the test, and the reviews of the other bikes, here: Beasts, Not Beauties.

"The performance naked-bike category in the US has suddenly become a very crowded—and formidable—group," said Kento in SR 's road test of the 2014 KTM Super Duke R ("Living With the Beast"). "The class was blown wide open by Aprilia's Tuono V4 R two years ago…but now the Aprilia is going to be facing some very stiff competition in the form of BMW's S 1000 R, Kawasaki's latest Z1000… and the KTM 1290 Super Duke R. All of the other machines had better bring their A-game. The KTM is that good," he added. And while the remainder of those bikes did pose a threat to KTM's quest for the crown during this test, the new kid on the block is simply too good to beat. But what makes the KTM Super Duke R such an amazing motorcycle?

To start, the Super Duke R has that aggressive, more provocative design you’d expect from a bike in this category. The fairings are sharp-edged but functional, with the tank having a nice cutout for your knees and the headlight an aerodynamic enough angle to flow air smoothly over your helmet, a nice characteristic considering there’s little else in the way of wind protection. Moreover, the KTM’s seat is thin but cut in a way that keeps your derrière from going numb, and its footpeg-to-seat gap is wider than the same gap on any other bike in this test. The handlebar is a bit narrower than the pieces on the BMW, Ducati, or Aprilia, but the bike is narrow at the waistline and still very easy to steer into a corner.

2014 KTM Super Duke R

The KTM’s chassis plays a large role in those exemplary handling traits and, while not as stable as the longer-wheelbase S 1000 R, provides good feedback when running through the twisties. Suspension action is good, a nice balance between highway comfort and canyon firm, plus we like the ease at which you can adjust the damping with the knobs on the fork tube. Similarly, the KTM’s Brembo M50 fourpiston calipers biting on 320mm discs provide great braking power and exceptional feel through the lever.

The engine is even more impressive. “This is one of the few bikes I’ve ridden that pulls the front wheel up in third gear,” proclaimed Bradley’s grandfather Ray, whose inner child was more than excited to lend a hand in this test. “The Duke’s got the hands-down best engine in the group,” he concludes. With so much torque and horsepower on tap, it really doesn’t matter where you are in the rev range. The engine is that stout, that flexible, and that entertaining.

2014 KTM Super Duke R

What’s there bad to say about the KTM, aside from its $16,999 price tag and the distance you’ll probably have to travel just to get to a dealer? Well, to be completely honest, the only thing we really disliked were the Ducati-esque footrests that’ll having you sliding about in wet or dry conditions. Traction control cuts aren’t as smooth as they are on the BMW, Aprilia, or Ducati, and due to the wheelie control being tied into the traction control system, abrupt pulls to the narrower bar (another concern) result in minor whiplash assuming the TC is on. In reality, you’ll rarely ride these naked bikes hard enough on the street to get into the rider-aid threshold.

And for that reason, the KTM Super Duke R managed to find its way onto every test riders’ tongue when asked which bike they’d buy.

2014 KTM Super Duke R
The Super Duke R’s slippery footrests are downright dangerous when wet. On the plus side, it says something about a bike when the biggest shortcoming is slippery footpegs.

Test Notes
+ Comfortable rider triangle
+ Great brakes
+ Torque-rich engine
- High price
- Slippery footrests
- Umm…
x Bravo, KTM

Suggested Suspension Settings
FRONT: Rebound damping—9 clicks out from full stiff; compression damping—9 clicks out from full stiff
REAR: 19mm thread showing on shock body; rebound damping—10 clicks out from full stiff; high-speed compression damping—1.5 turns out from full stiff; low-speed compression damping—12 clicks out from full stiff

Continue reading our 2014 big-bore naked-bike comparison test here: Beasts, Not Beauties.

Related articles: