THE GT moniker is one which is much abused.
Many vehicles that wear the badge hardly qualify for it, but for a few exceptions.
For the GT badge is a proud one, to be used only sparingly. It came into use in the 1930s when the European Continent was a maze of sporting roads with long distances between towns and cities.
A tourer, while slow, was comfortable, while a sports car was the exact opposite.
A GT emphasised style, elegance, luxury and gentlemanly transcontinental touring; a fast, enclosed sports car that was comfortable, had luggage capacity and could handle fast cornering in the numerous canyon roads was the ultimate.
The KTM SuperDuke R is a wild sportsbike. Fast and agile with power to spare but it wasn’t much fun on the long highway hauls.
For sure the SuperDuke R will take it in stride but the victim will ultimately be the rider. With this in mind, the SuperDuke GT was born.
In essence, the SuperDuke GT 1290 is an improved SuperDuke R. Power output from the twin cam 4-valve liquid-cooled 75 degree V-Twin is 173hp @ 9,500rpm while torque is a hefty 106.2 lb-ft @ 6,750rpm. It is in no way lacking in the numbers game and the ride-by-wire throttle and revised engine management mapping will have you snapping easily at pure sportsbikes heels.
In short, it’s a sportsbike engine. It even has a slipper clutch and MSR (Motor Slip Regulation) which monitors engine braking and adjusts the rpm to match rear wheel speed for smooth downshifts and corner entry. To prove a point further, a quick-shifter is also standard (for upshifts only).
The GT comes with 3 riding modes (Sport, Street, and Rain) and the switchable Traction Control (MTC) varies depending on which riding mode is in use.
Obviously, the modes are for providing maximum comfort and confidence so the MTC is most intrusive in Rain, and least intrusive in Sport. Braking is a combined-ABS (C-ABS), which activates the rear brake with a pull of the front brake lever.
The C-ABS too, like the MTS, is selectable and can be shut off or even put in Supermoto mode (!) for ABS up front and a lockable rear wheel. All this is controlled by the Bosch Motorcycle Stability Control (MSC) module that reads and communicates the GT’s lean angle so that these systems can perform properly from straight up to full lean.
While it means enhanced safety and a safety net under your riding, it doesn’t sense rain, so you must select rain mode intentionally. Some supersports bikes from other manufacturers don’t come standard with this items.
More electronics control a Hill Hold Control (HHC) system, which keeps the Brembo M50 monoblock brake calipers engaged for five seconds after the front brake is released (HHC must be activated), or until the machine moves forward, whichever comes first. Then there’s a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) for monitoring tyre pressure and ATIR makes the turn signals cancel after 150 metres of activation. There is also the LED cornering lights, one-handed adjustable windscreen and heated grips. Oh, and there’s Electronic cruise control as standard, too. Some high-falutin’ touring bikes from other makes don’t have this stuff. Fully loaded is the term, I think.
The icing on the cake for me is the SuperDuke GT’s suspension. In relation to the R, more travel was added to the WP semi-active suspension resulting in nearly five inches of travel for the inverted fork, and over six inches at the rear. The semi-active suspension has three modes to choose between: Comfort, Street, and Sport. The Electronic Suspension Control Unit (SCU) continuously adjusts the suspension to suit your riding style and/or the road surface.
Riding the GT is the proof in the pudding that it is truly, awesomely a Grand Tourer. This bike has your back at all times, be it chasing sportsbikes up the Genting Highlands or a fast ride up to Bangkok in the rain. The GT is so capable, it is truly difficult to conjure up a bike in my mind that is its equal. The electronic systems are so unobtrusive that you are lulled into thinking that you get away with almost anything. The ride-by-wire throttle feeds power in as smooth as a bank of old-school racing CRs (probably better). The suspension handles anything that you can throw at it, bumps, jumps, potholes or manhole covers.
In Comfort mode, it is MORE comfortable than the best touring bikes. Engage the cruise control and sit back. This is a GT that will take you further, as far as that big tank will take you. And that’s just what I did. I ran the GT from full tank to reserve without stopping (almost 450km) and I didn’t feel the stress. The seat is comfortable enough for the length of time (no officer, I will not disclose that) and the screen is good enough for the speeds. Beat your friends on the border run with tank range and speed while arriving refreshed. Nothing better than that, is there?
I imagine that a pure sportsbike will only better the GT on track. On the open road, with its myriad potholes, manholes and what have you, the GT will hand any sportsbike its own head on a platter. In Sports mode, the GT is planted and secure and with that power on tap, it is easy to just pull away with MTS blinking while the sportsbike is struggling to handle the bumps and thumps. Use the quickshifter on the straights (use it in the corners too) and the C-ABS and slipper clutch on corner entry. The GT is a bit long in the wheelbase and steers a bit slower by design, but it is not a big handicap when your suspension (and MTS) allows you to pick a perfect line OVER that manhole cover. Try that on your sportsbike. High praise indeed but I have never ridden so quickly up a foggy, rainy Genting as on the GT with drama limited to recalcitrant drivers and express buses. Usually it includes a bit of rider-induced dramatics. Just bear in mind the saddlebags and the scratches will be kept to a minimum on those car doors. Ooops.
The gauge has an analog tachometer and a digital speedo, but best of all is the large and easy to read display for modes and functions. At all times it displays five from a choice of two-dozen settings, all of which can be scrolled through with the buttons on the left controls. Clear and easy to use.
As long as you ride within the rules of physics, the GT will forgive any ham-fistedness. The rider assists are not distracting intrusions since the GT’s electronics are so smooth. Just remember that it’s the bike and not YOU. But I will forgive the GT for this because it is absolutely the best GT I have ever ridden.