With a short stroke of only 62.4mm, the 75-degree V-twin produces a lively and exciting rumble that sounds completely different than my own demo-equipped Ducati. The KTM 990 Super Duke R loves to rev and rewards the rider with strong torque up to 4000rpm, which flattens off for the next 1500rpm or so before getting a decent jump at 6500rpm. This continues for the next 2000rpm unabated and is truly where the fun is at – it's not too difficult to keep it in the meaty part of the power either with gearing a little shorter than most comparable motorcycles. When open the throttle in the higher gears the KTM Super Duke R is a lot of fun.
The KTM is the most stiffly sprung of the motorcycles I ever tested with the rear shock giving more than the odd kick in the pants over sharp bumps. The front-end has fantastic stability, however, and feels almost mismatched to the rear.
As with any motorcycle, setting up the quality WP suspension on the KTM is a game of compromise that we just didn't have the time to play.
Sadly, when cruising around at traffic speeds, the KTM 990 Super Duke R is a pain. Fueling is inconsistent and the gearbox has a rough action that feels agricultural compared to other motorcycles I had the pleasure riding. The tall seat height is great for road vision as you really feel perched up there and the Brembo Monobloc calipers provide exceptional feel and stopping power – but the seat is just plain uncomfortable.
Passengers are mildly accommodated and there is plenty of room to strap a bag down for long trips – which you probably won't be doing. But other than the seat the KTM offers a good riding position and is a perfect fit for riders above 190cm due to the high seat and low pegs.
Despite my groans there is no denying the KTM is a quality piece of kit. A beautifully crafted tubular steel trellis frame, top grade WP forks and shock, Brembo brakes and excellent finish on the bodywork mean it's right up there, but it doesn't all come together like some of the other motorcycles available in the market.