I've barely had time to slide my helmet off and whip out an earplug before a neighbor is asking questions. He's soon joined by a couple of friends, while the two boys from next door crane their neck over wall. Even the usually indifferent Chinese lady from down the street pauses for a nose. The KTM Super Duke R certainly has presence.
Which is what you'd want after an extra 110,000 Baht over the standard KTM Super Duke for one of limited number coming to Thailand. As the name suggests, this is the hot version of the already frantic KTM Super Duke, and as well as the visual changes has an adjustable steering damper, firmer spring in the suspension and a black nitride coating on the fork legs and shock rod; plus a single seat designed for extreme-hand-over and quick weight transfer. It also gets track-friendly Dunlop tires and tweaked geometry, with trail reduced to 93.9mm from 100.7mm and the head angle steepened from an already serious 23.9” to just 22.7”. By comparison, even a Yamaha YZF-R6 has a steering angle of 24. No wonder there's a steering damper.
Already one of the most agile motorcycles available, the sharper geometry gives the KTM such rapid responses that it's a sensory overload, dropping from upright to knee-dragging angles of lean quicker than your brain expects. Or wants, in most cases – with the unnerving failing sensation as the KTM 990 Super Duke R drops onto its ear, as if losing the front.
The taut suspension frays nerves further as it skips off bumps, battering the rider and testing the damper a little too frequently, I'd turned it right down to stop any chance of the KTM Super Duke's trademark light steering being spoilt, but one lane-crossing wobble too many sees it wound back up. And it's tortuously uncomfortable. The single seat has no padding. None at all.
Ready this back there's not a lot of praise for the matt black twin. That's unfair, as all present: crisp responses and handling; unique style; top-drawer components; one of the greatest engines of the modern are; and robust yet elegant build quality. It's just that all the changes to the KTM Super Duke R are aimed purely at the track, making it less useful on the road.