When I first threw my leg over the new KTM Super Duke 1290 GT, I was surprised at how small it felt. I had recently ridden the KTM 1290 Super Adventure and that bike was a beast, so I was expecting the GT, with essentially the same stonking engine, to be as big or bigger.
I’m just under six feet tall, so I really appreciated the lower seat height, which allowed me to put both my feet nearly flat on the pavement while astride the GT.
I thumbed the bike into life and the pleasant sound of the KTM’s power plant, a 1301cc marvel of power and control, filled the air, bouncing off the buildings and the pavement around the KTM dealer in downtown Geneva.
After signing my life away for this week-long test and shaking the hand of the manager of the dealership, who did have a bit of a “Will I ever see this bike again?” look in his eye, I pulled down the visor of my helmet, blipped the throttle and then rode off to put the 1290 GT through its paces.
The Watch: Montblanc 1858 Automatic Dual Time
The 1290 GT is a super modern bike, but it has its roots in bikes from long ago, bikes designed to do just about everything, and have loads of fun doing it. So, I paired the GT with the Montblanc 1858 Vintage Dual Time. You might think that a vintage styled watch wouldn’t go with such a modern motorcycle, but I wanted something that recalled the halcyon days of motorcycling, and was a modern reinterpretation of that feeling, and the Montblanc fit the bill.
Also, with a dual time function built in, it was perfect for the 1290 GT, because this bike is meant to cross continents, laughing at time zones as you go.
The Montblanc was a splendid companion as I rode. Its bronze touches (bezel, lugs and crown) blended well with the orange of the bike, and it was a snap to read at speed. The clear indication of the time, and the lovely integration of the home time zone hand, which hides under the hour hand when not in use, was a snap to decipher at a glance.
The deep black of the dial contrasted well with the beige hands, and the watch got plenty of comments as I wore it everywhere during the week. The beautiful cognac-colored aged-calf leather strap, with its finely stitched contrast beige details, was the perfect complement to this very attractive watch. The 1858 Automatic Dual Time was extremely comfortable to wear and I’m still thinking about it, even though I had to send it back.
On the Highway
The 1290 GT was a breeze on the highway. The riding position, though pitched slightly forward, was very comfortable because at speed, the windblast supported my chest and took any of the weight off my wrists. The GT comes with cruise control built in, as well.
The engine is well suited to high speed cruising. Getting onto the highway was simple, just twist the throttle and you’re on, and overtakes in sixth gear are just as effortless—it feels like nothing can keep pace with the GT when you really have to cover mileage.
The adjustable screen seems small, but it’s really very effective keeping the wind away from your helmet, so there isn’t any buffeting and it doesn’t feel like someone is trying to rip your helmet off your head.
The GT has everything you need in a Grand Tourer—heated grips, cruise control, self-cancelling turn signals, traction control, ABS (along with cornering ABS), a tire pressure monitoring system, motor slip regulation, LED cornering lights, a ride by wire throttle, adjustability (handlebar, brake and shift levers, a 23 liter fuel tank, integrated, one-key panniers and more).
The panniers, or side bags, were easy to use and well made, with lots of space for whatever — grocery shopping, or enough clothes for a long weekend of riding. In a nice touch, the holders for the panniers are integrated into the design of the bike, so when you take them off, you would never know that the bike had panniers fitted.
So, to sum up, the GT is well-designed for time zone travel, cruising on the highway…but that’s not where home for this bike is.
Riding the Twisties
You might take the highway, but your destination is the backroads, the twisties. Backroads are where this motorcycle really shines. The forward canted position mentioned earlier is perfect for carving backroads, as it puts you in complete control of the bike. Cornering is fantastic, with special lean angle sensors and cornering ABS, so you know nothing bad can happen. The ABS is linked, so you apply the front brake, the back brake is actuated as well. For Supermoto mode, if you want the back to be able to slide, the ABS can be switched off (I didn’t do that).
The GT is blink-quick, all you have to do is think about going somewhere and you get there faster than you ever thought possible. The 1301cc engine is a beauty—powerful, but always under complete control. All the engine mapping and modes and traction control make the power plant easy to use and non-intimidating.
The KTM is also equipped with a quickshifter, which means it’s possible to shift the KTM under load without using the clutch, making going fast through the bends even easier. I must admit I was hesitant to use it, but when I did it was a revelation. Sure, all motorcyclists are proud of their ability to shift, but not having to use the clutch when trying to go as quickly as possible was very freeing.
The 1290 GT was a joy to ride fast, slow and anywhere in between.
Just sitting in my courtyard, just outside my office window, the 1290 GT looks fast. Once you are on it, you realize how fast it really is, and how capable. The marketing language is true—it’s the ultimate sports tourer, a do-anything motorcycle that you can ride on the highway to get to the twisties, and then roar through the bends to your hotel.
The bike is beautiful, incredibly powerful and is a real pleasure to ride.
In fact, the KTM 1290 GT is calling me — “Get on and ride,” it is saying.
This is a siren’s call, and one that I must heed.
KTM 1290 Super Duke GT Specifications
2-cylinder, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled V 75°, 1301 cc; 6-speed gearbox; 173 hp and 144 Nm of torque; hill hold control.
Chromium-Molybdenum steel trellis frame; 2 x Brembo monoblock four-piston radial fixed caliper front brake, Brembo twin-piston fixed caliper rear brake; Bosch 9ME Combined ABS (incl. cornering ABS and supermoto mode, disengageable); WP Semi-active front and rear suspension; 1482 ± 15 mm wheelbase; 835mm seat height.
Ride by wire throttle; heated grips; cruise control; engine modes; LED cornering lights; automatic turn signal cancellation.
Technical Specifications: Montblanc 1858 Automatic Dual Time Specs
Self-winding caliber MB 29.19 with Manufacture complication; hours and minutes; second timezone; day/night indicator.
44mm satinated stainless-steel case with bronze bezel; water-resistant to 100 meters.
Black with vintage Montblanc logo; cathedral shaped hands and Arabic numerals with beige Super-LumiNova.
Cognac-colored aged-calf leather strap with beige stitching and satinated stainless-steel buckle.