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The KTM V-twin offers the weekend rider a big fun package with an air of exclusivity...

KTM have been busy updating their factory Streetfighter model, the Super Duke 990 for 2007. Now featuring a bigger fuel tank, tweaks to the steering geometry, the fuel injection system and uprated brake calipers.

The KTM V-twin offers the weekend rider a big fun package with an air of exclusivity - this is no cheap `n’ cheerful Suzuki Bandit.

But is the KTM 990 Super Duke worth the hefty £8495 price tag, which is enough to buy a top-of-the-line 1000cc sportbike if you fancy it? Alastair Walker spent a week aboard the Super Duke trying to find some answers. 

Let’s hear it for KTM - they’ve taken the best bits from the Suzuki TL1000S and Ducati Monster S4R and made one of the maddest, baddest, big bruisers on the market. This motorcycle is a prizefighter, a street urchin with an ASBO and a lump hammer in his back pocket. It just makes you want to ride like a damn fool.

In case any ultra sensible types have read this far by mistake, let me bid you a fond farewell, and all the best for your biking life aboard your Kawasaki VN750/BMW R1100RT/Honda Pan-European etc and please don’t write angry emails to me. I won’t grow up, I won’t stop breaking the pathetic speed limits in this Nanny State country if I feel it’s safe to do so. Life needs adventure, some risk, a little tweak of God’s nose now and again, otherwise we are all just drones waiting for our miserable, yet safe, existence, to come to a pant-wetting end.

In the meantime, I want fun, with a capital F and the KTM Super Duke is a machine that reminds you how rich, brutal and primitive life can be. If you relish a challenge in the next set of bends, or fancy letting the handlebars go all light and twitchy on the brow of a hill, then the Super Duke delivers baby.

The secret of its appeal undoubtedly lies in that 999cc four stroke V-twin motor. Four valves per cylinder of course, with a slightly shorter stroke engine than the typical V-twin rival, like say the Monster S4R or Aprilia RSV Tuono and possessed of a real edge, a slight unmistakeable roughness which lets you know straight from the off that it means business. The motor makes a claimed 118bhp at 9000rpm, but there’s a gruff, staccatto bark of aggression from as little as three thousand rpm and the thing is away, tearing up the road and making short work of any dozy car drivers who dither about in your way in town. One twitch of the throttle and they’re history.

The KTM feels poised for action in an urban setting, with the rider sat almost upright, gripping fairly wide handlebars, with a slight rise to them, and a fat, oddly angular shaped gas tank between the knees. It’s a moderately comfortable bike, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone using it for commuting - it would be a criminal waste of a motorcycle to make the Super Duke suffer such tedious riding.

Nope, this machine belongs on your favourite backroads, snapping your arms as it accelerates instantly from the corners, setting your pulse racing as you brake later than you thought possible, then stuff the bike deep into a roundabout, or turn, just revelling in the chance to ride something that feels like a street-racer straight from the crate. The brakes are superb for this kind of `point `n’ squirt’ riding, they offer smooth, progressive bite at the front wheel - real finesse and control.

Likewise the handling is a series of precise equations in motion. The steering has been altered slightly for 2007, with KTM aiming to create a tad more stability at higher speeds. It still feels like a lively bike on a bumpy road to me, but no more twitchy than a Ducati 916/996 felt, or a TL1000S - all potent, rapid-steering, V-twins can get lairy at speeds in the 70-100mph range when you start to nail the thing on bumpy tarmac, it’s just physics and you either live with it, or buy a Harley with the same wheelbase as a Transit van...

WP suspension front and back offers a firm ride. There’s a range of adjustment at both ends, but I don’t think the 48mm diameter forks will ever be capable of offering a `plush’ kind of ride. I’d spend a day at the track - preferably a twisting, Satanic loop of tarmac like Cadwell - setting the bike up to suit my weight and the tyres. I reckon you could lap almost as fast on the Super Duke as someone on a 600 Supersport bike, it just has a beautiful blend of power, braking and precision in its handling that lets the rider press on to whatever limit sets the alarm bells ringing inside your helmet. It makes you feel good to be alive, full stop.


So if a motorbike feels that good, are there any good reasons for NOT buying it?

Well the 8500 quid price tag is one. That’s more dosh than a GSXR1000 costs, which is a beautifully fast, responsive motorcycle - and faster and more comfortable than the KTM, in fact compared to the Super Duke the Gixer 1000 is a bargain sports-tourer, because even with a bigger 18 litre gas tank, the KTM would be a physically and mentally exhausting motorbike to ride from Nuneaton to the Nurburgring, even if the fun factor at the `Ring would be identical once you arrived.

On the upside, your money buys you something that looks truly unique in the world of naked roadster bikes. The Triumph Speed Triple 1050 looks just as aggressive and mean as the KTM, but many rivals don’t come close to the Austrian machine when it comes to looks. The Monster looks old and tired to my eyes, the big 1250 Bandit has a general blandness about it, which actually disguises its sheer fun-filled soul. A great shame, as the original Bandit had a rough-hewn, muscular edginess about it. As for the bling bling, Xmas cracker gift styled Kawasaki Z1000 - Gawd help the design team, they must have a serious addiction to viewing re-runs of `Pimp My Ride.’

I love riding the Aprilia Tuono, which has exactly the same raw, meaty lunge as the KTM, but I think they’ve spoiled the styling in the last couple of years. I also worry about getting hold of Aprilia spare parts during the summer months - which is the main reason I have never owned an Aprilia, much as I admire the V-twin motor which powers the 1000cc range. Honda don’t even have a viable contender in this class, with the old 900 Hornet looking like some trainspotter’s shopping trolley by comparison to the Super Duke.

So it comes down to how badly you need to stand out from the crowd. Yes, the Triumph Speed Triple has an all the naked roadster kicks you’ll ever need, and it’s a whopping 800 notes less to buy, but the Super Duke has a classiness, a road-racing kudos, oozing from its matt black panels. It has a sense of purpose, a serious streak to its kick-ass soul that I find really addictive, very inspiring too. I wanted to try riding this bike hard in all weathers, to savour every moment on it. It made me feel glad that an independent manufacturer has the balls to create something so uncompromising, so difficult to ride. The average biker today really isn’t capable of mastering something like the Super Duke and I think it’s right that a few bikes are out there that demand respect, experience and advanced ability.

Basically, they’re saying `come and have a go if you think you’re fast enough’ and I would rather the world of biking had a few lairy machines on offer, than some blandola parade of health `n’ safety department approved, sludge-handling, power-capped, wooden lumps of transport. I don’t ride bikes to stay safe and conserve the Earth’s resources. I ride them because it takes more skill and courage than driving some tinbox on four wheels, or watching some crap virtual version of the real world.

The Super Duke is like some great, joyous V-sign on wheels; a defiant salute to those twittering puritans who want us all tucked up at home, watching Vote-A-Muppet TV shows, and spied on by neighbourhood watch CCTV and microchips in our wheelie bins. If you value true freedom, get yourself a test ride on a Super Duke and see if you can figure out where your bollocks are on bright, traffic-free, summer mornings. Enjoy it while you can.

Get KTM motorcycle insurance for the Super Duke 990.

Vital Statistics
Engine Liquid cooled, 999cc, four stroke, eight valve, 75 degree V-twin
Bore and stroke 101mm X 62.4mm
Fuelling Fuel injection
Compression ratio 11.5:1
Peak Power 118bhp @ 9,000rpm
Peak Torque 74 ft/lbs @ 7,000rpm
Gears 6 speed
Cycle Parts
Chassis Chrome-moly trellis type
Front suspension 48mm WP forks, multi-adjustable
Rear Suspension WP monoshock, multi-adjustable
Rake/Trail 23.9 degrees/100.7mm
Front brakes Twin 320mm discs, 4 piston radial calipers.
Rear brakes Single 240mm disc, single-piston caliper
Wheels/Tyres 120/70 ZR 17 in front, 180/55 ZR 17 inch rear
Seat height 850mm
Fuel capacity 18.5 litres
Dry weight 186kgs
Colours Orange, Black, Grey
Buying Info
Estimated top speed 140mph

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