KTM 990 Super Duke R

Posted: 10 Jan 2013

If ever a bike could be described as the end result of a Jack Russell bred with a Rottweiler then the KTM’s 990 Super Duke R is that bike. It’s a naked bike in every sense of the term by being a race (hence the ‘R’ designation) bike minus the wind-cheating properties of a full fairing. With this in mind, you will understand the 990 R is a no holds barred, thrill-giving machine best left to experienced riders who can try and make the most of what it is capable of.

From the moment you climb onto the 990 R – with a seat height of 850mm Mr Average will be on tip-toes at the lights – you’ll realise it isn’t for the faint-hearted. The seat is thin enough to iron shirts on and the pegs are set high to cant the rider forward to grab the wide bars. It’s at this point details like lightweight bolts, fully adjustable suspension, Brembo racing calipers and minimalist dash layout give realisation that this is no average motorcycle.

Within ten yards it also hits home the quality WP Suspension forks and rear shock are firmer than an artic’s and set for flat out use. Feedback is everything with the 990 R and even discarded chewing gum is felt as pebbles. Fortunately, KTM provides suspension set-up details for road, fast road/track and track by way of a sticker under the seat and in the handbook. Good job too, because even in the mid-setting you just know the WP steering damper is not there just for its looks.

Held rigid within the tubular steel trellis frame is a water-cooled 999cc V-twin with enough power and torque to keep every wheelie and track fanatic happy for the life of the bike. What is galling and enamouring at the same time is the fact there is a heap of torque to stretch the drive chain just past tickover. Coupled with an acutely responsive throttle action, this can lead to ‘snatchy’ engine delivery in slow moving traffic. Where the engine torque peaks at 7,000rpm it is then replaced with horsepower to top up the hectic drive.

Ultimately, the 990 R is a delight because it is so single-minded – and a genuine reason why it should be included in the imaginary list of top five bikes to have in the garage.

+ points – razor sharp steering, race-like handling, quality components
- points – extreme performance focused

Price: £9,595
Power: 123.4bhp, 73.8ft lbs
Kerb weight: 186kg (without fuel)
Seat height: 850mm
Colours: White/black/orange