KTM’s 1290 Super Duke GT.

Business suit with the heart of a hooligan.

Words: Séan Hendley

Pics: René Swart


KTM is on a roll. In 1992 KTM produced 6,300 motorcycles. That year, Pierer Mobility purchased the company out of bankruptcy. Fast forward to 2022. KTM built and sold 268,575 motorcycles.

How do you like that for a success story? 

Perhaps part of that success is due to exciting bikes that the  riding public wants. That and, of course, variety…. 

Re-enter the Duke GT. A hooligan in a suit.


KTM’s 1290 Dukes have been a thing of awe and legend ever since their inception. 

Short wheel based, wild 1290cc V-Twin motors with a ridiculous torque and exciting handling. These bikes demand respect from their riders and a fair amount of quaking from their competitors. 


Derived from the 1290 Super Duke R – a 180-hp naked sportbike known as “The Beast” – the sport-touring GT was introduced in early 2016. A sport-touring bike for a rider who didn’t want to give up sportbike levels of engine performance and handling.”

In 2019, the bike underwent a refresh and featured updates to the GT’s engine, suspension, comfort, and instrumentation. They also updated the modernistic styling which drew mixed reactions from our lot.

But the star of the package was always the 1290 Super Duke GT’s torquey twin donk, blended with sportsbike handling.

Then… the GT disappeared from KTM’s lineup for a few years…

Well, it’s back in 2023 and Sean drew the straw to ride it.

He Says:

Personally, I’ve always made sure I wear my brown underpants when I ride a KTM 1290 Super Duke. I recently got to ride the latest iterations of both the Duke GT and the R, you would have read my review at https://ridefast.co.za/ktms-superduke/

Howeverrrrrrrr…. being the Big Girls Blouse I am I initially took the GT out first – just to get my eye in as it were.

Our test bike was equipped with the optional Tech Pack, which adds the Track Pack, Motor Slip Regulation, Hill Hold Control, and Quickshifter+.

I’m not going to bore you with all the specs, if you don’t know them already, you can google em.

Suffice to say there are some very, very impressive numbers there.


I am, however, going to tell you my experience about what the bike feels like to ride as a 2 metre tall, 115kg, fifty three year old moderately fast, very social road rider who likes clocking up the miles.

Updates for 2023 include a larger 7-inch colour TFT display with new graphics, Turn by Turn+ navigation that integrates with the TFT via the KTMconnect app, and redesigned switches with adjustable backlighting. Navigation through the onboard electronics is basically self-explanatory especially if you RTFM first. 

The GT has two customizable quick-access buttons that allow the rider to set the bike to his or her preference and storing the settings. 



Standard features include cruise control, handguards, heated grips, tyre-pressure monitoring, self-cancelling indicators, and a fob to power on the bike and to lock and unlock the steering and fuel cap.

KTM has invested much attention into making the GT suitable for touring. 

It has a frame-mounted fairing with integrated LED cornering lights, an on-the fly hand-adjustable windscreen, a large 24 litre fuel tank, and a longer rear subframe that better accommodates a passenger and saddlebags. Two storage compartments fold away inside each side of the fairing. The left storage compartment has a USB charging port.

Updated TFT screen
Duke GT
More space out back.


I dwarf just about every bike on the market, even the big bruiser cruiser, overweight “adventure tourers’ and the land yacht fully dressed tourers, and the Super Duke GT is no exception. I can easily adapt my riding position to suit any bike, after nearly 50 years riding with at least forty of them being 2 metres tall, I have had a lot of practice. 

The rider triangle from handlebars, to the seat and the foot pegs is comfortable with a relaxed sporty-esque forward slanted sitting position. The bars, brake lever and gear lever have three adjustments to suit your boot or riding shoe size just to aid with that little bit of extra comfort.

Compared to the Super Duke R, the GT has more relaxed ergonomics, with lower footpegs, a taller and wider handlebar, and a seat that is larger and more supportive.

Duke GT
Brush guards. Tall screen. Cornering lights.

So, no issues there… or are there? 

Welllll…. The tank shroud did get in my way quite a lot, no matter how adjusted my sitting position and feet on the foot pegs, it kept interfering with the insides of my knees, not painfully but enough to make me constantly aware of it and maybe even affect my form tilting into fast sweeping bends, which is a possibly a good thing considering the condition of our South African roads as I didn’t attack the corners as aggressively as I would have on say the Duke-R. If you have long legs like I do, you need to take this into consideration. 

The “Normal” sized folks had no such problem.

Hitting the long road:

There is plenty of room in the cockpit to move around. The seat is ergonomically designed to be firm, yet comfortable but also allows you to slide over it when flipping from left to right and back again along your favourite mountain pass or even sneaking in a bit of track time. Aim it down a long straight highway, flick on the cruise control, pull the windshield up to the highest of its nine on the fly adjustable positions, slump into the bike and relax as the landscape changes around you.

I do look forward to riding the GT when it comes out with adaptive cruise control…

Even for my extra-long body the wind protection is fantastic, both from the windshield as well the aerodynamics of the body work. As mentioned earlier, the seat is firm yet comfortable which sounds counterintuitive, but the firm foam does prevent you from sitting through the seat onto the hard base plate during many long hours emptying tanks of fuel, it kind of moulds around your butt – like a wonder bra for your bum and the step up to the pillion seat aids in supporting your lower back quite nicely.

This is the heart of the matter. The Grin stretcher. The LC8 twin. All dressed up in a suit.


Do I really have to tell you that in any of the rider modes and in any gear that rukking en plukking on the right-hand handle bar is exciting, that beeeeeg V-Twin and that short wheelbase is any hooligan riders dream, even if it is dressed in a business suit like the GT, and this is where the onboard electronics and rider aids really come into their own. It’s all easily navigable from the elegantly simple left handlebar switch.


While the 1290 Super Duke GT is pretty explosive, it’s a well controlled beasty, with finely tuned throttle response and easily controllable power. The complement of electronics allows the ride experience to be set to your preference and gives a great feeling of safety, despite the bikes seriously sporty LC8 engine. 

Three standard ride modes (Sport, Street, and Rain) adjust throttle response and engine output, and the optional Tech Pack adds two extra modes – Track and Performance – with unique throttle-response settings, launch control, a nine-level rear wheelspin adjuster, and the ability to turn off wheelie control…

For most of my riding, I toggled between Sport and Streetmodes with ABS in Road mode. Performance mode is the street-oriented version of Track mode for those who want to be able to adjust traction control on the fly and pop the front wheel. 

Get it wrong and need to opt out?

The Duke GT has something called MSC with Cornering ABS which hooks up the front and rear brakes and modulates the pressure accordingly even at extreme lean angles to bring everything back in line and save your ass. Bang down hard on the gear lever and generally big V-Twins lock up and bounce or slide the rear wheel.

This is where the GT’s MSR will sort. It’s connected to the ride by wire system and opens the throttles to the exact amount to dial out rear wheel waywardness.

The bike rolls in and out of corners with superbike ease, and it stays planted when blasting out of the corners. Brembo Stylema front calipers clamp 320mm rotors and allow speed to be scrubbed off with much precision.

Technically challenged:

I got stuck on an uphill, The GT just refused to be pushed backwards or forwards which confused me for a bit and had me using my most fluent expletives. Duh! Hill hold control, just roll on the gas in first gear a bit twazzle, this function stops you and your bike rolling backwards unintentionally, I am old school and passing hill hold control manually was part of my licence test, but a cool feature if you’re on a slippery slope and heavily laden or at an awkward angle…


The Bi-directional Quick Shifter – now that makes sense to me. 

Quicker smoother shifts mean more time on the power. Something that’s really worthwhile is the TBT, turn by turn navigation, why the heck doesn’t every bike come with this?

Ok, I know – I’ve said that often.

In closing.

Read the title. 

That’s exactly what this bike is. A brilliant bike to ride every day in every situation and you just know it’s fast because, well, it’s a Duke. Not a princess.

But my personal favourite is still the Super Duke – R. You’ll need to ride them both and decide which you’ll park in your garage. Both a great choice – Oh yes! Then there’s that 1290 ADV. Decisions, Decisions.

But that’s another story

2023 KTM 1290 Super Duke GT Specs:


  • Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse 75-degree V-Twin, DOHC, w/ 4 valves per cyl.
  • Displacement: 1,301cc
  • Bore x Stroke: 108.0 x 71.0mm
  • Compression Ratio: 13.2:1
  • Fuel Delivery: Keihin EFI w/ 56mm throttle bodies x 2
  • Lubrication System: Dry sump, 3.8-qt. cap.
  • Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated slip/assist wet clutch


  • Frame: Chromoly-steel trellis & cast aluminum single-sided swingarm
  • Seat Height: 83.5 cms
  • Suspension, Front: 48mm inverted fork, semi-active damping w/ 4.9-in. travel
  • Rear: Single shock, semi-active damping w/ 6.1-in. travel
  • Brakes, Front: Dual 320mm discs w/ opposed 4-piston radial callipers. Cornering ABS
  • Rear: Single 240mm disc w/ 2-piston fixed calliper. Cornering ABS
  • Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 17 in.
  • Rear: Cast, 6.00 x 17 in.
  • Tyre. Front: 120/70-ZR17
  • Rear: 190/55-ZR17
  • Wet Weight: 234 KG


  • Horsepower: 158.0 hp @ 10,000 rpm
  • Torque: 91.9 lb-ft @ 9,400 rpm
  • Fuel Capacity: 24 litres
  • Estimated Range: 340 km’s (Depending on how you ride)


Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top