For several years now, KTM has been teasing us with the Super Duke. It started way back in Y2K, when we first rode the Duke II, a spunky, single-cylinder motard bike that was crazy-fun. At that time, the Super Duke was more than a rumor; it was a promise: A similarly wild two-cylinder version was on the way. A couple of years went by before we even saw pictures, then Adventure and Supermoto versions sporting the LC8 V-twin mill were rolled out-but not the Super Duke. Most agonizingly, another couple of years later, the '05 Sir Duke was released-not for the U.S., though. This was worse than when we cornered the homecoming queen under the bleachers at the...uh, never mind.
Now, finally, the 990 Super Duke has arrived on this continent as an '07 model. KTM recently introduced the bike, along with its other new on-road models, at the Streets of Willow. Even though the bike has been in production for two years with few changes, it's still an innovative package with some interesting tidbits. The highlight is the LC8 engine, which sports a 75-degree angle between two cylinders that are just slightly more oversquare than the Ducati 999 and Honda RC51 jugs and displaces an actual 999.9cc. Nestled between the cylinders is a "multifunction shaft," which has two counterweights and drives the water pump and one of two oil pumps for the dry sump. Cam drive is by chain from this shaft up to another idler shaft in each cylinder head, with gears from there.
KTM 990 Super DukeMSRP $13,99EngineType: Liquid-cooled, DOHC 75-degree V-twin, 4 valves/cyl.Displacement: 1000ccBore x stroke: 101.0 x 62.4mm Compression ratio: 11.5:1Induction: Keihin EFI, 48mm throttlebodies
ChassisFront tire: 120/70ZR-17 Dunlop D208RRRear tire: 180/55ZR-17 Dunlop D208RRRake/trail: 23.5 deg./4.1 in. (103mm)Wheelbase: 56.6 in. (1438mm)Seat height: 34.0 in. (865mm)Fuel capacity: 4.0 gal. (15L)Claimed dry weight: 406 lb. (184kg)
The layout makes for a compact package that is claimed to be lighter than other liter-sized V-twins. The engine is housed in a chromoly tubular space frame, with WP suspension at both ends and typical top-drawer KTM components in between (see the accompanying sidebar for details). The company claims a dry weight of 406 pounds for the Super Duke and 120 horsepower. That puts the 990 in line with Ducati's Monster S4R, Aprilia's Tuono and Triumph's Speed Triple-three potential competitors-although at just less than $14,000, it's more expensive than even the Ducati.
As with most standards, the Super Duke is quite comfortable at low speeds. The seat is a bit on the high side, with the pegs slightly rearward and the seat on the plush side for a layout more like the Tuono than the S4R or Speed Triple. A tiny flyscreen does an adequate job at lower speeds, but there's a substantial windblast at racetrack velocity. We'll have to wait to find out how the Duke fares on the highway, as this was a track-only intro.
My first impression of the KTM after a couple of laps was that it is a very raw motorcycle. Not in the sense of being rough or crude-in fact, the bike is beautifully turned out and nicely finished-but rather because you are in direct contact with every aspect of the motorcycle. For example, response from the dual-butterfly throttle bodies is crisp, bordering on abrupt. The WP suspension and the Dunlop D208RR tires are stiff and provide excellent feedback, but almost to the point of harshness. And steering is quick, verging on unstable. It definitely pays to be precise with any control inputs, and after a few laps the rawness faded as I smoothed things out.