Saturday, April 27, 2013

2012 KTM Superduke 990R - it takes me back...

Somewhere, we've gone full circle.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised; fashions come and go, beards are back, and sports bikes one day turn into tourers the next. We've been coddled with some of the best handling bikes ever built over the last few years, but maybe, just maybe they left us feeling a little empty. 

Why? They're quick as you like, turn fast and make knee-down on the way to the shops normal, almost boring. So what the f*#k happened? 

Growing up on Brit-twins and eighties Jap fours was different. The power was saner, blended with a nice flexible frame that let you know when you were going a little too fast (believe me, they let you know). And although you could make alterations, and improve things with aftermarket accessories, you knew death was just an extra few mph away. You respected the bike, and the sweat pouring from the workout it gave you was achieved at a slightly safer speed. On a modern thou, to get off feeling like that, you're either trying to hang onto Michael Dunlop, or just bastard quick (read talented)!

But then came the in-betweeners.
Bigger and heavier than a supermoto, but not quite retro, cafe-racer, tourer or sports bike. It's a bit of a do everything type bike, but all-rounder doesn't do it justice. It'll come to me in a minute.

It certainly looks the dogs, and comes with all the niceties you can think of including WP suspension, Brembo brakes, Marchesini wheels and Magura clutch. High spec indeed.

So, first go on the Katoom and initial impression was lots of suspension, with me sat very high. Like being on a chunkier supermoto. Never a big fan of V-twins, I took off on my favourite road. It's ok, got good low down power, but never life threatening. I want to feel power so savage the bike'll pull a wheelie and try and stab me in the face with a rogue handlebar. It's what I love about big fours, the power just climbs up, up and up some more! 

But wait... I've followed lots of V-twins, big Ducatis, TL's, VTR's and Tuono's and they've been incredibly quick in the right hands. What am I missing?

As the pace increases, it does become more fun though feels vibey through the pegs no matter what I do. Bugger it, time to crack on and see what it'll do while I hang off round a few bends. 

Strewth! Mistake number one. As the big KTM tried to pitch me off (both ends are bouncing up and down uncontrollably) I decide it's time for suspension adjustments. Maybe it's my lack of style, but it seems to work better just sitting in the middle rather than me moving my arse all over the shop. I could've been back on dad's '76 Trident for a moment!

I turn around and return to the garage, which is when I notice the next quirk. This baby runs hot! Fans are blasting as soon as I stop at the lights, but then it has got the biggest cat/silencer you've ever seen under the rear. Dave, the owner of this scorch-framed satsuma, already has Akrapovic cans coming. Once fitted, suspension will be dialled in for him and a tail tidy slotted in. Then we can have another go. It'll be run-in then so I won't mind giving it some proper stick.

A few weeks pass.
I love riding different bikes, but I must admit I wasn't that bothered about getting back on the KTM, although it sounds a hell of a lot better now and looks sharper with the Akro's onboard. I'm just not convinced it's going to handle that much better. Still, tally ho.

Horsing into the first few bends it's feeling good. The suspension is stiffer and, with massive 48mm WP forks, you'd expect them to handle road riding with ease. I'm starting to like this thing, so it's time to hang off again (purely for aesthetic reasons you realise), but as I try to get my knee-down, the bike drops into a small pothole, gets a weave on and I end up grounding my boot out. Oops, horse it again, hope no one was watching and all is well!

From now on I'm keeping my arse right in the middle of the comfy seat - that's it. It ain't no Gixer, lets just try and get the best out of it. I'm not saying it won't do it, it's just tall and it feels slightly alien to me. Enough drivel already, back to the road and more bends, leaning over further then winding it on hard in second - and it all came good.


This is proper old school - it's shaking all over the shop from the bars, frame and swingarm flexing as it propels itself on up the hill regardless of whether I'm still on it or no. This is fun. Brakes on hard, but not much finesse from me as I battle around the next bend. I'm smiling, with two fights on my hand; one with the bike, and one with Dave when i've got to hand it back over.

And so it goes for the next few miles. The bike is making me work hard for it now, but my face says it all. Fun fun fun. A look in the mirrors confirms the others have been left behind for a bit. It can't be too bad. Top speed doesn't matter a bit with a bike like this; there's too much fun to be had everywhere else and, once you're giving it stick, you don't really notice the vibes.

It's probably what most of us need in the real world. No safe, wrapped in cotton wool, aluminium beam frame to keep you cocooned from the shagged road conditions. Getting out of shape momentarily, then dragging itself back inline before your brain's even realised you're out of control. The Superduke is the modern version of the bikes we grew up on (or should've). Bring it on!


Engine Typetwo cylinder, 4-stroke, V75
Displacement999 cc
Bore / Stroke101 x 62.4 mm
Performance92 kW (123 hp)
Starter / Batteryelectric start
Transmission6 speed, claw shifted
Fuel ManagementEFI
Lubricationdry sump lubrication with 2 rotor pumps
Primary Ratio35:67
Final Drive16:38
Coolingliquid cooled
Clutchwet multi disc clutch operated hydraulically
Ignitioncontactless, controlled, fully electronic ignition system with 

Frametubular space frame made from chrome molybdenum steel
Front SuspensionWP USD 48 mm
Rear SuspensionWP mono shock
Suspension Travel - Front / Rear135/150 mm
Front / Rear Brakestwin 320 mm floating disc brake with radially mounted brake calipers front / single 240 mm disc brake rear
Front / Rear Rims3.50 x 17" x 5.50 x 17"
Front / Rear Tyres120/70 ZR 17" ; 180/55 ZR 17"
ChainX-ring 5/8 x 5/16"
Silencertwin stainless steel
Steering Head Angle67.3
Wheel Base1450 +15 mm
Ground Clearance150 mm
Seat Height850 mm
Tank Capacity approx.18.5 L
Weight Without Fuel approx.186 kg

Akrapovic slip-ons

What are they like to ride?
If you're used to a four, a V-twin can tend to feel boring. They make strong power right from idle, but it runs out quite fast. I always feel like i'm short-shifting. That's not to say they're slow, just different. The big Katoom produces good torque (100Nm at 7,000 rpm) which is great for doing wheel nuts up, but on the road means you'll be able to overtake the odd car without dropping two cogs first. Happy days. 

On this gearing, fifth and sixth seem almost redundant, and years ago it would have been offered with a five-speed box only. With a larger rear sprocket fitted, this thing will rock.

The brakes are typical sports bike - bloody brilliant. Anyone who moans about modern bike brakes should go and do a few weeks on a drum-braked Beesa. The suspension, once set-up accordingly, feels good and only really gets out of shape when you start demanding too much. By that I mean moving out about too much and hanging on too tightly when you're caning it. A few more rides on it would probably sort out any issues. 

So, in short, I like it. It's a modern RD350. Pair of ripped jeans, scuffed Doc Martens and you're back to your youth.

HOOLIGAN! That's the word I wanted - ride it and you'll know why.