The first thing you notice when swinging a leg over the Super Duke R is that the KTM is definitely not for the inseam-challenged. The longer rear shock has raised the ride height enough that the seat is now more than half an inch higher (34 inches) than the standard Super Duke, which already had a tall saddle to begin with. The KTM's narrow midsection helps reduce the effect somewhat, but anyone under six feet tall will still be on their toes at a stop.
The next aspect of the Super Duke R that immediately becomes apparent is that the solo seat is probably the worst saddle in motorcycling. Not only is it thinly padded, but the padding itself is very stiff, and the seat's narrow width only accentuates its somewhat sharp edges on each side. To tell you the truth we've ridden racebikes with seats that basically comprised a half-inch-thick foam pad over the tailpiece that were more comfortable. Any riding on the KTM that doesn't involve a lot of movement on the seat will quickly have your butt screaming for mercy after 15 minutes.
Although the Super Duke R engine is equipped with a counterbalancer, vibration at anything other than aggressive throttle inputs can become bothersome after extended periods, with the vibes tingling through the grips and footpegs. The rear view provided by the mirrors is good, but the images get fuzzed out by the vibration. Fuel consumption never dipped below the 35 mpg mark, even with lots of throttle twisting.
The KTM's solo seat grabs...
The KTM's solo seat grabs the title of the worst saddle in motorcycling, with thin, hard padding and a narrow profile making for major discomfort after 15 minutes of cruising.
A longer WP rear shock jacks...
A longer WP rear shock jacks up the rear end of the Super Duke R substantially, making for a tall seat height and sharper steering-geometry numbers over the standard Super Duke. Rear shock has high- and low-speed compression-damping adjustability but no suspension linkage.
The standard Super Duke stood out among the other naked bikes in last year's group test with its peppy, responsive engine-but the R model takes that trait to a whole new level. The R's engine has a much more aggressive character with very little flywheel effect and a throttle response that is very crisp and immediate right off idle. Bottom-end torque has received a substantial boost, and when coupled with the shorter gearing (the R has a one-tooth-smaller countershaft sprocket), the R zips through city traffic with ease, literally leaping off the exits of slower turns. In fact, the KTM is so responsive at slower speeds and small throttle openings that you need to keep a light grip on the bars when riding at cruising speeds; the stiff suspension (more on that later) can inadvertently cause your throttle hand to move ever so slightly over bumps, resulting in small bursts of unintended acceleration that-combined with the heavy engine braking due to the lack of flywheel effect when backing off the throttle-can fast get annoying.
This is not to say the Super Duke R's off-idle throttle response is overly abrupt, however. The KTM is actually quite smooth when applying the throttle after transitioning off the brakes into the corner, and while the engine's acceleration is pretty responsive, it still has the relatively flat torque curve of a V-twin that doesn't threaten to spin the rear tire out from under you.
The internal tweaks on the R engine make their presence felt even more in the midrange and top-end portions of the powerband. The R will leave the standard Super Duke-and basically every other twin-cylinder naked bike-for dead past 5000 rpm, with a stout midrange pull swiftly transitioning into a hard-charging top end that has you gaining serious speed a lot quicker than you expect. We did notice the power tended to tail off a bit at 8000 rpm, but the KTM was still putting out good steam all the way to the rev limiter at 10,250 rpm (a look at the dyno chart confirmed our initial impressions; we'll be doing some experimenting to see if we can unleash the Super Duke R's full potential). The end result is a peak of 118.4 horsepower at 10,000 rpm, an astounding 16.3-horsepower increase over the standard Super Duke, without changing displacement, bore and stroke, or compression ratio-an impressive accomplishment by KTM engineers.