Review: KTM 990 Super Duke

Review: KTM 990 Super Duke
Austrian motorbike manufacturer KTM has declared road bikes their next target. And, with the launch of the 990 Super Duke, there's a good chance that many proud owners of traditional naked bikes might be seen bawling soon.

KTM, finally presenting the 990 Super Duke after years of numerous announcements, has shaken the pecking order in the category of powerful two-cylinder roadster bikes to its foundations  -  120hp at 179 kilos net weight hardly leaves anything unanswered.

The Heart of the Matter

What started with the KTM 950 Adventure has led to praiseworthy succession in the uncompromising guise of the on-road 990 Super Duke. The engine, a 75-degree V2, was originally developed in Mattighofen and then matured for production in the 950 enduro bike two years ago. The power enhancement from a respectable 98hp to a mighty 120 was achieved by increasing the cylinder bore, reinforcing the cylinders, use of new lightweight pistons and a 48-millimeter intake, optimizing the combustion chamber and the duct cross-section, and by installing a new crankshaft, exhaust pipes, specially developed Keihin sequential fuel injection, two throttle butterflies per cylinder, two lambda sensors and electronic engine management  -  all without doubt, the height of high tech for high performance. Even the new European waste gas standards, Euro 3 (planned for 2006), are met thanks to a catalytic converter and a secondary air system.

The sleek bikini fairing provides adequate protection at moderate speeds.

All of these changes sound great, but you have to ride the bike to grasp their true dimensions. The extremely compact construction of the engine results in an unrivaled weight of 58 kilos, wherein the handling, in particular, benefits tremendously. Despite the fuel injection, the engine works linearly like a spark-ignition engine  -  easy, unresisting, and controllable at all times. At 3,000 rpm you can accelerate without worrying; at 5,000 rpm the bike rockets, and the party really starts howling when you boost the engine to almost 10,000 rpm. The power seems limitless, but you have to be on guard to keep the 120 horses under control. This is top-level biking that is best done on a road circuit.

To Impede the Speed

Such incredible acceleration requires a comparable counterbalance: Two 320mm brake discs on the front wheel with four-piston calipers, and four brake pads each, ensure the presence of Brembo as your guardian angel. Practically any of the most unpredictable situations cannot destabilize you. Fit enough for a hyper-sport bike, this brake bites sharply, and the execution of one precise front-wheel stoppy should silence any cavilers in the crowd!

Powerful propulsion from the world's most compact V-twin.

To get all of the incredible power of this bike on the road, KTM paired a tubular frame  -  similar in appearance to that of the 950 Adventure  -  with a well-balanced and widely adjustable suspension. The super-light construction offers extremely high torsional rigidity and guarantees maximum safety, even at top speed. This arrangement created a hybrid chassis, something new and independent: You won't find it on a supermoto, a supersport, or even on a naked bike or streetfighter. The default setting is firm, but the wide adjustment range guarantees an individual setup. The shock absorbers offer low- and high-speed compression damping, easily adjustable for changing conditions.

Due to a steep steering angle of 66.5° and a short wheel base (1,438 mm), the KTM 990 Super Duke roars into a new dimension of agile handling, well within the segment of naked bikes. The Renthal handlebars are made of tapered aluminum, marking the last remaining link to the off-roaders, and they provide accurate tracking. Consequently, this KTM bike takes corners with remarkable ease and with perfect traction and grip thanks to the Pirelli tires. And, of course. it accelerates lightning fast when back on the straight again.

Brand new, the KTM looks like a timeless classic.

Less can be More

Responsible for the entire line of the current KTM series, Austrian designer Gerald Kiska created the Super Duke's look, which, simply put, is great. An inspection in minute detail reveals no sour spots. The under-seat pipes of the Super Duke are shapely and their sound is unique. The foot pegs are unostentatious and drop-dead gorgeous, and even the indicators and driving mirrors are harmoniously integrated into the overall appearance. Controls and instruments are functional and clearly laid out. The easily read digital speedometer keeps track of your impressive speed, the time of day, total miles and is capable of holding two daily trips in its memory. Revs are displayed in analog format. The background color of both readout systems is orange, another flashy aspect to prod the speeding!

The Duke sports the best in quality parts (as in this WP power monoshock).

In terms of its suitability for touring, the Super Duke won't impress, but that's not its claim to fame. This bike was born for street fighting and if one really needs luggage (a toothbrush? a towel?), strap a rucksack to your back and stop worrying. The light mask with its two reflectors (one above the other) protects adequately when you're motoring within the ticket-free zone. But when going more than 160kmh one has to fold flat; and, if you're a certifiable maniac, 210kmh is certainly possible, even when wearing a motocross helmet.

At 179 kilograms, the 990 Super Duke is a real lightweight in its category. KTM has come up with several power parts to reduce the weight even further  -  23 different carbon trims take three kilos off, the carbon tank deletes another two, and use of the sinful carbon wheels sheds three more kilos. If you dare adding an Akrapovic racing-exhaust system (six kilos off), you will be down to 165 kilograms. It's all a matter of desire and money, of course.

US riders will have to wait a year or else move to Europe to get their hands on this black beauty.

A Final Take

KTM's 990 Super Duke was constructed by riders for riders, which is evident in every filament of its big orange soul. It's a great handling bike that's easily controlled, with an extremely harmonic, stable chassis, a phenomenally powerful and agile engine, muscle-bound brakes, and terrific gearing. There's no end to the street-fighting fun and enticements to accelerate like no other bike can in this market segment.

KTM project leader Philipp Habsburg was dead-on, saying, "We packed every single wish we had into the Super Duke in order to have a lot of fun with the bike!" Indeed! The personnel at KTM are real enthusiasts and they know exactly what they want. The 990 Super Duke is a bike that meets the demands of a streetfighter in every aspect. Kudos, KTM. What you've delivered is a dueling weapon that leaves but one question open: Where is your rival?

Looking Forward

The first Super Dukes will be delivered to European costumers this spring; bikers in the U.S. will have to wait another year.

Until that time, any married man salivating for a Super Duke should be ever so nice to his wife  -  plying her with flowers, romantic dinners, that cute necklace she's been eyeing, and telling her that he loves her at least nine-hundred and ninety times a month. You could be one of the lucky ones in the spring of 2006. Get in line now. With only a few hundred in production, the KTM 990 Super Duke will soon be super scarce.

Technical Specs

KTM 990 Super Duke

Retail Price model not available in USA
Warranty n/a
Maintenance Schedule n/a
27635 Diaz Road Temecula, CA 92590

Type 2-cylinder, 75°, 4 stroke
Cooling liquid-cooled
Valve Arrangement DOHC
Bore & Stroke 101/62.4mm
Displacement 999cc
Compression Ratio 11.5:1
Carburetion electronic fuel injection, throttle body with 2 butterflies per cylinder
Exhaust Emission Control stainless steel, feedback catalytic converter, two-into-two

Gearbox 6-speed
Clutch multi-disc wet clutch, hydraulically operated
Final Drive X-ring chain 5/8 x 5/16"

Frame tubular chrome-moly space frame, powder-coated, aluminum subframe
Wheelbase 1.438mm
Steering head angle66.5°
Trail 103mm
Front Suspension WP-UDS
Stanchion Diameter 48mm
Adjustments completely adjustable
Travel 135mm
Rear Suspension WP-Monoshock
Adjustments adjustable rebound, low and high speed compression
Travel 160mm

Wheels & Tires
Type Pirelli Diablo
Front 3.5 x 17"
Rear 5.5 x 17"
Front Tire 120/70 ZR 17"
Rear Tire 180/55 ZR 17"

Front Brake 2 x Brembo, 4-piston, fixed caliper
Diameter 2 x 320mm
Rear Brake Brembo single-piston, floating brake caliper
Diameter 240mm

Dimensions & Capacities
Seat Height 855mm
Dry-Weight 171kg
Fuel Capacity app. 15 liters

(European Measurements)
Claimed Horsepower (measured at crank) 120 bhp@9000rpm
Torque 100 Nm@7000rpm
Top Speed app. 250kmh
Acceleration n/a
Fuel Consumption 7 liters/100km
Fuel Range 210km
Equipment Various carbon trims, carbon tank, carbon wheels, Akrapovic racing-exhaust system, anti-theft alarm, front pad, rear pad, tank bag.

RoadRUNNER Test Diagram

Engine 4/5

Chassis 4/5

Brakes 4/5

Comfort 2/5

Luggage w/accessories 3/5

Equipment 4/5

Design 4/5

Bike for the buck 4/5