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2009 KTM 990 Super Duke Review


by Marc Cantin ,

Bad to the Bone Attitude!

After Ducati launched the high performance standard class with the various Monster models, virtually all the manufacturers sensed an real opportunity and joined in the fun with powerful naked bikes, dubbed Streetfighters and delivering sport bike level performance and road holding in a more comfortable standard bike package.

The SD is a high precision device that will grudgingly putter around town.

While the Japanese manufacturers stuck to their in-line four layouts, KTM jumped at the opportunity to slip their excellent fuel-injected LC8 990cc V-Twin (118 hp at 9,000 rpm, 74 lb.-ft. at 7,000 rpm) into a light, simple multi-tube frame that gives the machine a distinctive look and sound. They did not stop there, piling on adjustable WP suspensions front and rear, top quality Brembo brakes and master cylinders, sticky track-capable tires, and a tapered bar to dampen vibrations.

With a distinctive orange and black paint job on the small and angular pieces of bodywork, the Super Duke project a unique, instantly recognisable look, as well as that familiar twin sound muffled by the efficient standard exhaust system. Happily, the bike I tested in Daytona did not use the great looking but way-too-loud Akrapovic slip-ons.

Make no mistake, the SD is a high precision device that will grudgingly putter around town, but is clearly happiest in the upper rpm registers and squealing tires under braking going into a corner near the limit on a track. And yes, you can lift the front easily under power to impress the gallery, but find a suitable piece of tarmac, and the Super Duke will take you to places most of us have not been before. With power, responsiveness and handling on a par with the best sportbikes on the market, barring the latest Öhlins-equipped Ducati 1198 and KTM RC8 models, or the latest litre sport bikes from Japan, you just know this will be fun, as well as put your permit in jeopardy.

I rode the SD one day after the H-D XR1200, another standard bike with a V-Twin engine, but less of a street-fighter than the SD. While the XR1200 was more than competent, the SD delivered performance on another level, with sharper reactions to every command and a rougher, more track-ready suspension set up and brakes, as well as an extra 30hp over the American machine.

The Super Duke offers sharp reactions to every command.
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