KTM Duke 1290 R – Buy The New Evo or a Used 2020 Model?

  • By: Emily
  • Date: 08/05/2022
  • Time to read: 16 min.

The KTM 1290 Super Duke R was released in 2014. It was explosive in its entry to the Hyper Naked class and then in 2020 it received a major overhaul which again put it back to the top of the pile. It is widely agreed that the 2020 revision of the Super Duke R improved on what was already a solid foundation, making everything riders loved about the Super Duke even better. 

We are going to take a look at the 1290 Super Duke R in detail from 2020 and see whether the overhaul really made the bike the best it could be; we are also going to look at the 2022 Evo version and see if it is worth opting for the new model or whether you should seriously consider opting for the 2020 version and saving yourself some dollar. 

Before we get into a review of the 2020 Super Duke R, let’s just recap the model from its origins back in 2014.

KTM 1290 Super Duke R Timeline 2014 – Present

KTM Duke 1290 R Timeline
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The Beast

In 2014 KTM announced the ‘Birth of the Beast’ , their fourth Super Duke model since the first in 2005. The ‘Beast’ was to supersede all that came before and would stand alone as a bigger, meaner, faster, and overall improved machine. 

Powering the all new Super Duke R was the new 1,301cc v-twin engine that could deliver 180 horsepower and 143 Nm of torque. It could go from 0-124mph in just 7.2 seconds. 

Here is a quick run down of the 2014 models specs. 

Specifications

Engine and Transmission

  • Engine – Four-stroke, 75 degree, V Twin cylinder, DOHC, 4 Valves per cylinder
  • Capacity – 1301cc
  • Bore x Stroke – 108 x 71mm
  • Compression Ratio –  13.2:1
  • Cooling System – Liquid-Cooled
  • Starting – Electric
  • Induction – Keihin EMS with DBW
  • Transmission – 6 Speed
  • Final Drive – Chain
  • Max Power – 180 horsepower at 9,500rpm
  • Max Torque – 140 Nm at 8,000rpm

Chassis and Dimensions

  • Frame – CrMo-steel trellis frame, subframe is a cast aluminium composite
  • Front Suspension – 48mm WP APEX, upside down forks
  • Rear Suspension – WP Apex shock
  • Front Brakes – 2 x 320mm Brembo discs, 4 piston caliper
  • Rear Brakes – Single 240mm Brembo disc, 2 piston caliper
  • Wheels – Cast Aluminium
  • Steering Angle – 65.1 degrees
  • Trail – 102mm
  • Seat Height – 835mm
  • Ground Clearance – 140mm
  • Dry Weight – 189kg
  • Wheelbase – 1482mm
  • Fuel Capacity – 18L


The engine was a monster, with anti wheelie functions off controlling front wheel lift was near impossible. 

It was however smooth, sounded amazing and riders could make use of a broad RPM range in any gear, staying above 4,000 rpm is where you wanted to be though.  KTM also threw a lot of electronic rider aids at the bike with ABS and Traction Control being the two most important and useful features. 

No expense was spared to ensure that the new bike was the best of the best, and it certainly got a good reception, with praise heaped on the overall fit and finish.  It was an insanely powerful street bike that was perfectly usable and not just a gimmick. 

The model received its first update in 2017, with on paper a lower powered engine. The reality though was that it was quicker than the original. Other updates included:

  • Updates to the WP suspension
  • LED lights added
  • TFT dash and instrument panel restyle
  • Keyless ignition
  • Updated electronics
  • Cruise control as standard
  • Autoblipper, heated grips, and extra power modes became available as optional extras. 

In 2019 the model was again tweaked but nothing extraordinary to make it stand out compared to the models prior. 

Then in 2020 the Super Duke R received its major overhaul and came back stronger than ever. 

Since then very little has changed with the exception that for 2022 there is now a 1290 Super Duke R Evo, while the UK has kept both a base Super Duke R and the Evo; only the Evo model is available in the US for 2022. 

We will take a look at the Evo a little later, first let’s get down and dirty with the 2020 model year 1290 Super Duke R. 

KTM 1290 Super Duke R 2020 Review

So for 2020 KTM decided to essentially take apart the 1290 Super Duke R and review everything from the ground up, improving on an already winning combination of street rideability and performance.  The result was impressive and certainly did the trick for renewing public interest in their flagship Hyper Naked bike.

1290 Super Duke R 2020 Performance

KTM Super Duke 1290 R engine was updated in 2020 to be lighter and more powerful
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KTM Super Duke 1290 R engine was completely overhauled in 2020

Starting with the legendary engine, KTM went to work to make it lighter and smoother in its delivery and more usable than ever before. Although there were no major changes, the small revisions had a big impact, as with any performance bike the small details are the ones that make the world of difference. 

Thinner engine casings, revised water/oil cooler mounts and engine/linkage mounts resulted in a 0.8kg weight reduction.  The oil line was switched out for an aluminium oil line that decreased weight but also increased oil delivery efficiency and removed the need for a double wall system.

Other engine changes included:

  • New top-feeder injectors and bigger 56mm throttle bodies resulting in better fuel efficiency and torque across the rev range.
  • Shorter shift action and lighter lever modulation was created on the gearbox to improve gear shifting
  • Shifting was overall smoother and quicker, KTM’s reasoning for this revision was quicker the shifts the quicker the acceleration
  • A new twin spark ignition system was implemented with two spark plugs in each cylinder head – this optimized the firing sequence, power, control, fuel consumption and emissions
  • New ram-air intake was placed behind the headlight – this increased and maximizes air flow
  • New air-filter box, designed to be easier to access for servicing
  • Updated functions in all ride modes
  • Titanium inlet valves with a chromium nitride PVD coating as opposed to steel inlet valves on the predecessor. This simple change was not only weight reducing but when paired with a smaller combustion chamber, ultimately led to more power overall
  • CO2 emissions were supposedly reduced by 10% thanks to all the work done on the engine 
  • PASC slipper clutch assists with light clutch modulation when accelerating. When slowing down quickly with aggressive downshifting the clutch opens up which prevents the rear wheel locking, the rider has full control and hits the right speed at the right time every time. 
  • Ride-by-wire system ensures the best throttle response for the riding situation and helps to eliminate choking, jolts and wheelies (unless deliberate, but that is another matter).

Overall when it came to the engine, every single component was looked at, and the idea was to create not only a powerful engine but a lasting one. 

Using Formula-1 technology and knowledge, KTM managed to forge a motor that would now have an extended life thanks to upgraded materials and build quality. 

2020 Chassis/Suspension Improvements

Of course none of that work on the engine would mean anything if it wasn’t held in a quality chassis capable of containing the ‘Beast’. 

For 2020 the model received an all new frame that had three times the torsional rigidity of the predecessors.  Alongside this the bike gained better tires, upgraded WP suspension, and a new aluminium and carbon subframe. 

The key to the new frames enhanced rigidity was to use the engine as a way to increase its stiffness. 

The absolute focus of revising the chassis was to increase agility and stiffness for overall improved stability; riders would also have an increased ability to adjust as necessary for the perfect riding position. 

One of the most interesting and clever ways KTM achieved their goal of an improved frame was to use pipes with a larger outside diameter but which had thinner walls. This would aid strength without adding excess weight, in fact it saved 2kg over the previous model. 

The new lighter subframe also reduced weight significantly and the additional items like the passenger seat, license plate holder, tail lights etc. bolted directly to the subframe with no extra brackets or mounts needed. 

An all new longer single sided swingarm was implemented and placed nearer the output sprocket, so the rider ultimately has more control when unleashing power. This arrangement also led to excellent anti-squat properties, the pivot point was also moved as a result which improved the overall geometry of the bike. 

The WP front forks divide the compression and rebound workload with one tube handling one and the other tube the other,  with the preload and other adjustments divided between them equally.  As for the WP monoshock, adjustability is its purpose, with a hand-adjustable preload setting and high or low-speed damping adjustments available.

 The new cast wheels were stronger and lighter than before and the Bridgestone S22 hoops were specifically designed for the KTM, not just specifically for the model but also to handle all weather environments.  

Brakes

Top of the line Brembo’s were equipped to provide the stopping power and Cornering ABS was supplied as stock along with Supermoto mode for the ABS. Supermoto mode disables the ABS at the rear wheel, anti rear wheel lift, and cornering ABS so that on the track riders can undertake controlled slides etc. 

Comfort

The designers didn’t overlook rider comfort in the redesign with touches like a restyled tank, lower handlebars, adjustable pegs all there to provide an enhanced experience. 

The riding position is very natural and comfortable, there are 4 positions of adjustability and the bars are adjustable too, so all sizes of riders can find the optimal position or adapt their position to be sportier on the track and more relaxed on the street. 

New hydraulic clutch and brake levers were equipped for easy one-finger operation and both are fully adjustable for bigger or smaller hands. 

There was an all new TFT display fitted and the functionality of which was improved. You can now save your favorite riding modes for easy quick access and the display can be controlled by paddle buttons on the switchgear in optional Track Mode. 

Styling

The bodywork of the 1290 Super Duke R was reviewed for 2020 and this review pretty much consisted of the designers stripping the bike bare, allowing the engine and new chassis to be on view as much as possible.

The bodywork that does remain for aerodynamics is sharp, aggressive, poignantly making a threatening display of itself.  A new LED headlight was fitted with the ram-air intake fitted between the two and behind the unit. This multi-purpose unit is compact and functional keeping all the lines clean and mean. 

The new subframe having features like the license plate holder etc. bolted directly to it allowed for a super clean rear end that is just as sharp as the front with nothing there that doesn’t serve a function. 

The biggest change to the Super Duke R styling was in the form of the tank, which was designed to be bulkier, improve the riders ability to grip on and add some muscle to the bikes design; which it does very well.

Rideability

With a complete overhaul then, is the Super Duke R really that much better than its predecessors?

Yes. 

I could end the review just there and hope you believe me, but I shall expand a little. 

The 2020 Super Duke R engine boasts more usable power. It has been redefined so that the low and mid-range is smoother, easier to access, and the top comes in a rushing wave for you to accelerate as quickly as you can think about doing so and equally slow back down as quickly too. 

Since the model’s inception the idea was to mix comfort with track-level handling and KTM did that pretty successfully, the 2020 edition simply expands on this further. The bike feels flickable, its agility unparalleled for a bike of this capacity when it comes to riding around town. 

The usability of the low end torque combined with this easy going chassis makes it a perfect all round motorcycle capable of city errands.  Then when you want to switch things up a gear the mid-range will take you round the back roads with ease, hitting the twisty corners until your heart’s content. 

After that point you can hit hooligan mode and unleash the raging top end which is explosive. The Super Duke R is simply magnificent in that regard, with track level supersport performance available at the twist of the throttle. 

The light chassis and all those updates have bred a new way of riding the Super Duke. The weight reductions all round have improved the handling tenfold. 

Most notable is the increased rigidity of the chassis at speed, take the 2014 and 2020 model side by side to the track and you will really notice the difference in handling. 

The increased tech package thrown at the 2020 model is impressive and makes riding the thing a breeze, with the ride modes putting you in complete control and command of everything at all times.  You can be as safe and cautious as you need to be, or let it rip at a track day. 

Ergonomically the bike is surprisingly friendly, something that you don’t really hear about sportsbikes over a certain capacity.  Lets face it, it is a huge motorcycle and the max power numbers give you cause to shudder; however, the seating position will have you full of confidence. 

Even being able to place one foot on the floor won’t set your nerves on edge as the bike is so light, paddling it around is no issue, all fear dissipates when you get going anyway.  The only riders that might struggle are the shortest among us as it is quite a tall bike, this for most will be countered by the low weight but not for everyone. 

The position is comfortable for long distances but still sporty enough for aggressive riding to throw into the corners.  Where the model is really at its best over and above the previous bikes is on the track, that is where the new chassis, suspension and small details all come together for enhanced performance.

The previous model worked okay but was held back by all that rear suspension travel, tending to squat under power and feel a bit loose and wobbly….

One lap of Portimao was all it took to confirm that this latest Super Duke has no such issues. Entering turns, and when braking with the full force of Brembo’s potent Stylema calipers, its chassis felt subtly more controlled, aided by that stiffer frame and probably also by the revised geometry and the WP forks’ revised cartridge design.”

Visordown

When it comes to being for the riders who don’t do the track, it is just as brilliant. 

 As a rider who typically only sees racetracks on TV, the KTM 1290 Super Duke R makes way more power than I would ever need… it’s hard to ignore the 1290’s combination of comfort, convenience and breathtaking performance, all of which there is more of for 2020.

Rider Magazine

MCN says the 2020 model 1290 Super Duke R is one of the best Naked motorcycles of all time and I am inclined to agree. Yes it might be slightly overkill, but there is no doubt about the fact that the 2020 Super Duke R is phenomenal. 

Specifications

Engine and Transmission

  • Engine – Four-stroke, 75 degree, V Twin cylinder, DOHC, 4 Valves per cylinder
  • Capacity – 1301cc
  • Bore x Stroke – 108 x 71mm
  • Compression Ratio –  13.5:1
  • Cooling System – Liquid-Cooled
  • Starting – Electric
  • Induction – Keihin EFI, 56mm Throttle Body
  • Transmission – 6 Speed
  • Final Drive – Chain
  • Max Power – 180 horsepower at 9,500rpm
  • Max Torque – 140 Nm at 8,000rpm

Chassis and Dimensions

  • Frame – CrMo-steel trellis frame, subframe is a cast aluminium composite
  • Front Suspension – 48mm WP APEX, upside down forks
  • Rear Suspension – WP Apex shock
  • Front Brakes – 2 x 320mm discs, Brembo Stylema four-piston radial mount caliper
  • Rear Brakes – Single 240mm disc, Brembo 2 piston fixed caliper
  • Wheels – Cast Aluminium
  • Steering Angle – 64.8 degrees
  • Trail – 108mm
  • Seat Height – 835mm
  • Ground Clearance – 169mm
  • Dry Weight – 189kg
  • Wheelbase – 1479mm
  • Fuel Capacity – 16L

How much is a used 2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R?

In the UK prices seem to vary for a 2020 model and range from £10,000-£14,000 depending on mileage, aftermarket accessories and whether the bike is for sale through a dealer or private sale.  Some current dealer adverts can be seen below:

  • MCN – Premier Bikes, 5,607 miles, £11,495
  • MCN – Superbike Factory, 1,491 miles £12,391
  • MCN – Fowlers, 4,866 miles, £13,294

At the time of writing there is a very clean private sale 2020 model on Autotrader for £12,500 with just 3,000 miles on the clock. 

In the US prices start from $16,500 and go up to $20,000 at the highest. Again the variation in price seems to be down to dealer or private sale, mileage and accessories included. 

This model advertised in Florida has an asking price of $18,495 with just over 4,000 miles on it. 

Whereas this private sale in Saint Charles, MO, is priced at $16,750 with just shy of 1,500 miles on the clock. 

What is the top speed of a 2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R?


The top speed of the 2020 1290 Super Duke R is estimated to be around 180mph.

Super Duke R 2020 Vs 2022 Model – What are the main differences?

So with all that said about the 2020 model, surely the 2022 version has to be even better right. Well, no, there just isn’t that much difference between them. 

The 2020 model underwent a serious overhaul that saw pretty much everything on the bike reviewed and many things revised, just two years later there has been no cause to do another major review. 

The one big change for 2022 is that in the US only the 1290 Super Duke R Evo is available, whereas in the UK there is a base model and the Evo version available. 

The Evo Super Duke differs as follows:

  • Akrapovic ‘slip on frame’ exhaust system, Titanium with Carbon Fiber cap
  • WP Gen 2 semi-active suspension
  • Steering Angle – 64.6 degrees
  • Dry Weight – 180kg

Prices for the Evo in the US start from $19,599 and £17,899 in the UK.  The base model in the UK starts from £16,349. 

What is the Super Duke Evo all about?

The Evo is the next step in the models evolution and it will come as no surprise to see the Evo knock the standard Super Duke R out of the lineup altogether.

It claims an extra 3 horsepower and gets semi-active WP suspension which is said to make riding on any road surface much better.  The suspension allows the rider to find their ideal set up at the click of a button rather than having to wrench on the bike each time you plan on trying something new.

There are 3 modes as standard but more available (at an extra cost), and an auto-setting that adjusts damping depending on your inputs.  The Evo also comes with a quicker throttle action, the faster throttle allows for even quicker acceleration, as clearly that was where the bike was lacking… or not. 

Aside from those few alterations however, the Evo is not all that different from the base model and therefore in turn not all that different from the 2020 upgraded edition. 

So, why would you opt for the latest 1290 Super Duke R?

The suspension is a nice touch, if you are often using the bike at the track as well as on the street then this is definitely the way to go as it saves time wrenching on the bike to get the perfect setup. 

The Akrapovic exhaust again is a nice touch. The most common modification many riders make to their bikes is switching exhaust to something better from stock; in the case of the Evo this is already done for you.  It is also lighter weight, as with any motorcycle any weight reduction has to be a bonus.

Ultimately some people just want the latest and greatest bike out and that is okay, but for those who fancy a Super Duke R, there are significant savings to be made by opting for a 2020 model and you won’t be missing out on much at all in terms of quality or rideability. 

CycleWorld had an interesting point on the Evo

But perhaps the biggest gripe with the KTM is a matter of being careful what you wish for. There is a lot to love about the 1290 Super Duke R Evo’s performance, but the continuing pursuit of those higher levels of performance has inevitably tilted the chassis into the racetrack realm.

Source: CycleWorld

Striving for greatness has led the Evo to be that bit more tilted for track based performance and it is losing some of its street sensibility. The bars are a bit more forward, the stance more aggressive than ever. 

The beauty of the 1290 Super Duke R has always been its street bike abilities combined with exceptional performance. It may now be at a point where the performance is more prominent and luxuries like riding comfort are taking a backseat. 

That really is going to be something determined by individual riders however and there will be some who want the ultimate track weapon and there will be some who want a street bike that can turn up the power as and when they wish. 

From my perspective I’d save myself some money and go for a slightly older 2020 version, and have one of the best naked bikes around, that will take me into town, on the back roads and down the motorway, all in a day’s work. 

If I wanted something more track based, I’m not sure how much I’d opt for a Hyper Naked style bike over and above a traditional sportsbike with full fairings etc.

What is a Hyper Naked motorcycle?

A hyper naked is a stripped back high performance sports bike. Where a traditional sportsbike tends to have a full fairing and plenty of bodywork a hyper naked bike does not and the riding position tends to be more upright and commanding than a hunched over, legs back sportsbike. 

You will often find both a naked and sports version of the same bike sharing the same engine and basic chassis in a manufacturers’ line up.  Hyper Naked’s have come about as a result of supersports being turned into street bikes, so there are bikes like the Yamaha MT10, Kawasaki Z H2 and of course the 1290 Super Duke R. 

Hyper Naked bikes just take everything to the next level, starting with the engine, often using the top of the line sports performance engine. 

They are the biggest, meanest, fastest street bikes on the road and the KTM is high up the list in terms of competing for the ‘King of the Hyper Naked’ title. 

Verdict

There you have it, all you need to know about the 1290 Super Duke R and why the 2020 model was so significant in the models history.

The 2022 Evo is an interesting step forward for KTM and I am intrigued to see what comes next for the big Super Duke. 

It seems a war is raging between the street and the track, so all we can do is see which comes out on top for the next design; I’d personally like KTM to go back to the fundamentals of the 1290 Super Duke R and carefully weave the two together.

KTM Evo details

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