We review KTM’s more polished and functional 1290 Super Duke R from the official press introduction in Portugal.KTM AG
2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R Chassis
Since its introduction six years ago, the Super Duke R’s hyperactive handling was one of its weakest links. With a springy chassis that felt more akin to a V-twin-powered supermoto, we’re pleased to report the 2020 Super Duke R is more road-focused, and in line with the top competitors in this red-hot class.
This was especially evident around the Portimão Circuit—a hilly 2.9-mile stop-and-go-style World Superbike circuit on the southern tip of Portugal. Here the Super Duke demonstrated its newfound poise with a chassis that has enhanced balance and sportbike-like pitch control.
The redesigned rear suspension delivers a significant handling improvement for the 1290 Super Duke R. The chassis is less hyper and more planted at an elevated track pace.KTM AG
Much of the credit goes to the now linkage-equipped rear suspension and swingarm. This boosts grip off corners, maximizing the enhanced adhesion coefficient of the OE-fitted Bridgestone Battlax S22 rubber. Yet, even with the extra firmness from the suspension and tire, the Super Duke continues to deliver favorable bump absorption characteristics on public roads. As an optional accessory, the quickshifter’s auto-blip function maintains stability when downshifting at lean, plus mitigates clutch use.
KTM partnered with Bridgestone for development of the 1290 Super Duke R’s tires. It modified the construction of the rear Battlax S22 for a hint more carcass flex. The tires complement the handling manner of the Super Duke with them offering a high level of grip.KTM AG
A handy hand-adjustable and measurement-engraved preload knob allows for easy ride height changes based on preference or payload. We preferred the +15 setting as it sharpened steering without compromising grip off turns. The shock also affords compression and rebound damping adjustment, however unlike the front suspension’s handy color-coded adjustment knobs, adjustment requires a flathead screwdriver.
Another benefit is the ability to modify spring preload inside the fork. Red sliders visualize fork travel and allow you to tweak the setup accordingly, helping to ensure that you’re operating in the front suspension’s sweet spot.
The lower and more forward position of the handlebar places more weight on the Battlax front tire and affords a more sportbike-like (but still forgiving) riding position. The bend also helps position the rider’s elbows up affording a more commanding stance. In typical KTM fashion, the handlebar can be shifted and the rider footrests can shift up or down via a neat and easy-to-adjust concentric sliding hub.
The rider’s seat is more plush than we remember with plenty of room to move about the cockpit for this 6-foot rider.
2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R Engine Power And Electronics
The 2020 1290 Super Duke R with its clothes off. Note the secondary showerhead-style fuel injectors, redesigned frame and subframe, and larger-diameter header pipes. These updates net a significantly improved riding dynamic.KTM AG
KTM has been manufacturing its LC8 V-twin platform for years, and despite its age, engineers continue to breathe new life into this 1,301cc twin. Still a torque monster (to the tune of more than 60 pound-feet from as low as 2,500 revs, based on our last 2018 MY dyno test), the 75-degree twin has improved high-rpm performance—something it has historically lacked. Credit the ram-air intake which forces cool air into the airbox. It’s complemented by a set of showerhead fuel injectors. Together this gives Super Duke riders the best of both worlds.
Although dated in terms of its architecture, KTM continues to evolve its 1,301cc V-twin. With the redesigned intake and exhaust the engine gains a fair degree of top-end power.KTM AG
Short-shift and run a gear high, or pin the throttle in the lower cogs until redline. The orange bike is well-suited to either riding style. Plus the optional electronic quickshifter keeps the engine spinning in the meat of its wider powerband. The last time we dyno tested the 2018 Super Duke R, it belted out 154.7 hp. We estimate the updated mill is good for another 3–4 ponies at the top. Engine vibration is readily apparent through the controls, but it’s counteracted by the engine’s playful sound and punchy power delivery.
The 2020 1290 Super Duke R wears a bolder and brighter color TFT display that’s easier to read than before. The switch gear has been improved with greater tactile function, and the menu navigation is easy to understand.KTM AG
Throttle response in any of the three power maps (Rain, Street, Sport) is spot-on (a testament to KTM’s ride-by-wire setup) and the bolder and brighter color TFT display make it easy to tweak electronic settings. However, there is a fair degree of engine vibration. In addition to the three power maps/modes, the Super Duke offers Track and Performance global modes. Here you can tweak countermeasures (traction and wheelie control) as well as Motor Slip Regulation (i.e., engine-brake control) and ABS.
KTM insists the rider’s hands should always be on the controls, so in lieu of a touchscreen, it employs large and easy-to-press switch gear on the handlebar. Tactile function is vastly improved and on a level commensurate with KTM’s Bavarian-based nemesis. Menu navigation is equally slick. Another plus is the ability to adjust traction control while riding via a large paddle-style button. Street riders will also appreciate standard cruise control.
Our only gripe in the electronics department is that the default riding mode restarts every time the engine kill switch is pressed. This means you have to swipe through the menu to ensure that the settings are intact when it’s time to lift the kickstand.
2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R, Yay Or Nay
Not only is the 1290 Super Duke R more adept on track, the handling refinements pay dividends on the road with it offering superior levels of comfort than its predecessor.KTM AG
Still as rowdy as ever, the 2020 Super Duke R is also more polished in every way. From its refined handling poise—highlighted by vastly more controlled suspension action—to its elevated fit and finish, the KTM is a more comfortable and entertaining motorcycle to burn rubber with. Factor in its punchier top-end engine character and well-developed electronics package and Orange riders have a truly versatile sport-oriented motorcycle.
Able to transform from mild to wild, the 2020 Super Duke R is proof of KTM’s commitment to the sport naked bike class. Riders seeking a hardcore naked bike that is as friendly to operate as it is exhilarating to ride should take a spin on the 2020 Super Duke.
Those seeking a more forgiving sportbike-like riding experience, albeit without wind protection, will appreciate the 1290 Super Duke R’s overall package.KTM AG
2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R Price And Specifications
Leaner, meaner, and more apt to play. KTM’s 1290 Super Duke R is a gigantic step forward as compared to its last major update in 2017.KTM AG
The 2020 KTM 1290 Super Duke R wears new body panels and wheels. It offers an edgy but simple aesthetic that is unique in its class.KTM AG
The 1290 Super Duke R’s ergonomics package is more sport-focused. Yet with adjustable handlebar and footpegs it delivers a pleasing level of comfort on the road too.KTM AG
KTM strips down the sportbike riding experience with its 1290 Super Duke R, delivering a motorcycle that is functional, fast, and fun for riders seeking one sport-oriented bike that can do it all.KTM AG
Motorcycle riders looking to make a statement will appreciate the hard-edged look but softer (in a good way) performance of the 1290 Super Duke R.KTM AG
Four decades ago, Suzuki turned the motorcycle world on its head with the 1982 Katana streetbike. Featuring a smart and highly cutting-edge German-inspired design, this Japanese-built motorcycle developed a cultlike following. It also set the tempo for Suzuki sportbikes to this day. Now it’s looking to remake magic with the reintroduction of its 2020 Suzuki Katana ($13,499).
This time around Suzuki tasked Italian designer Rodolfo Frascoli to redefine the lines of Hans Muth’s original rendering. The 2020 Katana wears more curved and three-dimensional surfaces yet retains the Katana’s signature nose and neatly carved fuel tank (3.2-gallon capacity) area. Full LED lighting and a pleasing swingarm-mounted hugger-style license plate bracket make for a clean overall look.
Suzuki brings back a blast from its past with the 2020 Katana, a remake of the legendary 1982 Suzuki Katana.Suzuki Motor of America
Swing a leg over the new Katana and you’ll be greeted by a friendly upright cockpit design that is neither too sport nor too relaxed. The monochrome LCD instrument panel is a tad small, but replete with information, and features the original Katana’s signature J-hook-style swept tachometer. The position of the handlebar puts the rider in a commanding, but not overly so stance. The seat junction is slim so it will be easy for most riders to stand flat-footed at a standstill. We also appreciate the plushness of the rider and passenger seats.
Considering its dated underpinnings, the Katana takes a few more miles compared to more contemporary designs to break in. Once worn in, the powertrain offers typical Suzuki responsiveness. This is defined by responsive clutch action and excellent throttle response, despite not incorporating ride-by-wire throttle setup, like its 2017–2020 Suzuki GSX-R1000/R sportbike.
The 2020 Katana tastefully pays homage to Hans Muth’s original rendering, however it incorporates more three-dimensional surfaces.Suzuki Motor of America
Hard on the throttle and this 999cc K5-spec GSX-R1000 engine (2005–2008) delivers a pleasing GSX-R-like induction growl with plenty of vehicle-passing torque. Engine vibration is minimal and it’s amazing how well this engine performs overall, despite being 15 years old—a testament to Suzuki’s original engineering effort.
Horsepower-wise the engine is good for nearly 140 ponies at the 190-series Dunlop Sportmax Roadsport 2 tire. There’s no quickshifter, so gear exchanges are made the old-fashioned way, however, the gearbox has a solid and precise feel, once broken in. The Katana comes outfitted with Suzuki’s older-style (non-IMU powered) three-way-adjustable traction control which helps prevent rear wheel instability over slick surfaces.
The 2020 Suzuki Katana is available in two colorways: Metallic Mystic Silver or Solid Black (pictured).Suzuki Motor of America
The KYB suspension components provide a nice balance between sporty road holding in the twisties and everyday comfort over bumpy surfaces. The Katana also feels more lithe in motion than its 474-pound curb weight implies. Triple hydraulic disc brakes keep speed in check and fixed always-on ABS ensures tire lockup during brake application a thing of the past. Our only gripe is that you can’t manually disable ABS, say if you want to lay skids or ride a nose wheelie.
Limited fuel capacity and its relatively dim LED headlamp compromise everyday usability on the road, however, there are few retro-style motorcycles that look as authentic as this Katana. While we appreciate its trendy-again look and polished overall character, its $13,499 MSRP is hefty considering its older underpinnings. But if you want a slice of motorcycle history, without any oil stains on the garage floor, the 2020 Katana fits the bill.
Want a piece of motorcycling history, without the oil stains on the garage floor? Suzuki’s 2020 Katana will let you take a ride down memory lane…Suzuki Motor of America
2020 Suzuki Katana Price And Technical Specifications
999cc, DOHC, liquid-cooled inline-four; 16-valve
BORE x STROKE
73.4 x 59.0mm
Fuel injection w/ SDTV
Wet multiplate slipper clutch; cable actuation
43mm inverted KYB fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 4.7-in. travel
KYB shock adjustable for spring preload, rebound damping; N/A travel
Along the familiar curves of Angeles Crest Highway, the CRF manages competence, but not necessarily breakneck speeds, extreme lean angles, or neck-bending acceleration. This is, after all, a dirt-focused motorcycle that happens to be street legal, not the other way around. But veering off the beaten path and exploring a fire trail opens up a whole new world, especially in the vastness of some 700,000 acres of wilderness. Suddenly the suspension, which seemed a bit soft on the road, is plush enough to soak up giant ruts and cracks in the earth. The engine, which felt somewhat anemic on pavement, now shreds the trail and shoots you forward as fast as you feel comfortable going—and sometimes, even faster. It’s dramatic, this shift from tarmac to trail, and exactly the kind of escape that shows you the transformative power motorcycling can hold.
Ducati’s Monster motorcycle jump-started the naked bike segment (and the Italian company’s balance sheet) when introduced in 1993. Fast-forward 27 years and the 2020 Monster 1200 S ($17,695) is the tip of the spear in Ducati’s sport naked bike lineup. Last updated in 2017, today’s Monster is slimmer and more in line with the original Miguel Galluzzi-drafted design, pairing clean, muscular lines with modern Italian tech.
For 2020 Ducati’s Monster 1200 S wears special gloss black on matte black livery.Ducati Motor Holding
The Monster 1200 is powered by Ducati’s legendary 1,198cc Testastretta 11 degree DS L-twin. Born from superbike competition, this liquid-cooled eight-valve torque monster has been steadily refined over the last decade. Dual-spark ignition and valve overlap techniques boost torque delivery while elevating fuel efficiency and overall engine smoothness.
Full of plastic and peculiar-looking plumbing, the Monster 1200 appears cluttered when viewed from the left side.Ducati Motor Holding
Maintenance intervals have been stretched too, with suggested oil service every 8,000 miles (following the 600-mile break-in service). Recommended valve adjustment is listed at 19,000 miles.
Conversely, the right side of the motorcycle is more tidy. We appreciate the Monster 1200 R-sourced tail and exhaust.Ducati Motor Holding
How Does The Monster 1200 S Perform On A Commute?
The Monster 1200 S get 10 mm-larger-diameter brake disks (versus the standard Monster 1200) pinched by heavy-duty M50 calipers from Brembo. Cornering ABS functionally helps mitigate skids during braking, even at lean.Ducati Motor Holding
Ducati’s contemporary electronics suite allows the rider to tune the powerband from mild to wild. Of the three combined engine/throttle maps, we prefered the “high” power setting, though throttle response remains overly sensitive—especially during more dedicated throttle application (i.e., wheelies). Adjustable wheelie and traction control help less experienced riders remain in control, however we preferred riding with these countermeasures disabled.
The Monster 1200 S get 10 mm-larger-diameter brake disks (versus the standard Monster 1200) pinched by heavy-duty M50 calipers from Brembo. Cornering ABS functionally helps mitigate skids during braking, even at lean.Ducati Motor Holding
Although the exhaust note sounds tinny at idle, with speed it delivers a rhythmic thump—that makes riding motorcycles pleasurable. Ample torque, in excess of 60 pound-feet above 2,700 revs equate to a fun sporting character that is classic Ducati. If you enjoy riding high on waves of Pirelli tire smearing torque, then this powerband will suit you well.
Taller folks will appreciate the added room between the handlebar and the seat.Ducati Motor Holding
Yet, this twin is just as ready to play at higher rpm belting out just over 129 hp at 9,250 rpm. A color TFT display keeps tabs on the engine’s vitals and is loaded with trip information. However, it could be larger in size. The handlebar-mounted switch gear and menu system could be slicker and we wonder why Ducati doesn’t opt for a touchscreen like some of its competitors?
The Monster 1200 S adds Y-spoke alloy wheels versus the standard model’s 10-spoke rims.Ducati Motor Holding
Handling-wise, the S model’s premium Öhlins suspension strikes optimum balance between sport road holding and around-town comfort on rough stretches of pavement—a pleasant surprise based on past experiences with older Monster 1200 iterations. Both suspension components offer full suspension adjustment and we value the twist-knob-style compression and rebound adjusters on the gold shock body.
Monster fans will appreciate the return of the ski-buckle-style latch at the forward portion of the 4.4-gallon fuel tank.Ducati Motor Holding
More nimble than we remember, the 2020 version is more apt to play yet retains steadfast stability. The cockpit, below the waist, remains tight for taller than average riders, however the seat height can be raised or lowered, in nearly an inch increment. Conversely the space between the seat and handlebar is more spread out—a boon for taller riders. Bold LED lighting helps riders stand out and the headlamp illuminates the road superbly during night rides.
The 2020 Monster 1200 S borrows the outgoing Monster 1200 R’s svelte tailsection.Ducati Motor Holding
The contrast between gloss and matte black finishes adds a degree of class to the 1200, not to mention a visual slimming effect. The sleeker 1200 R-sourced tail and Y-spoke alloy wheels are other nice styling touches. Keen eyes will note the signature Monster ski buckle allowing the 4.4-gallon fuel tank to be lifted for service needs.
2020 Ducati Monster 1200 S Commute Review Verdict
Leaner and certainly meaner, the 2020 Monster 1200 S is more adept at putting smiles on naked bike riders’ faces than it has been since fully moving to a water-cooled platform. Yes, it’s fast, yes it’s fun, but the hefty MSRP makes it less palatable when measured against the excitement it delivers behind the handlebar.
2020 Ducati Monster 1200 S Price And Technical Specifications
In terms of raw performance, this Indian delivers. Its engine is fast, fun, and powerful, and the well-sorted chassis is equally apt to play. However, considering its rich history, the Challenger is missing the type of fit and finish we expect, especially considering its price tag. Still, if outright performance is the end game, for a bagger-style bike the Challenger gets it done.
Poised at a red light, the GS stands tall and imposing, especially if it happens to be casually splattered with mud from, say, a weekend of trail riding. Don’t wash it down too soon after your excursion, as the muck only adds street cred… but leave it too long, and you become in danger of being a poseur. Choose wisely, the balance is delicate. When the light turns green, the clutch engages easily and the GS lurches forward urgently with quick twist of the throttle. There’s a lot of power on tap—not quite as much as Ducati’s superbike-sourced 158 hp mill and less power-to-weight ratio than the KTM, which is not aided by the BMW’s incremental weight gain with this iteration. But there’s also enough low and midrange grunt to easily lift the front wheel when accelerating hard with the electronics disabled. There’s a dizzying suite of assistance systems at play in the new GS, especially when equipped with the optional Ride Modes Pro package which adds a dynamic traction control system, lean-sensitive ABS, and hill start control pro, which enables personalized settings for how and when the parking brake engages.
When it comes to motorcycle sport-touring no other bike brand offers the wide array of motorcycling options as Kawasaki. And for those seeking an upright sport-touring rig that strikes an optimum balance between the two segments look no further than Kawasaki’s 2020 Versys 1000 SE LT+ ($17,999).
Last updated for the 2019 model year, the Versys 1000 SE LT wears more edgy-looking bodywork that’s slathered in a newly developed and scratch-resistant paint. Sophisticated LED lighting package with cornering headlamps brighten dark, moonless roads. More creature comforts come in the form of heated handgrips and a manually, tool-less adjustable windscreen. The plush, well-supportive saddle for rider and passenger and upright handlebar makes it easy to drain the 5.5-gallon fuel tank.
A set of well-engineered easy-to-put-on, easy-to-take-off color-matched hard cases are capable of swallowing nearly 15 gallons of cargo. We loaded them with a 100 or so Matchbox toy cars that we dropped off at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County. The Southern California hospital specializes in pediatric care, and treats more than 100,000 sick kiddos each year.
Its tried-and-true 1,043cc inline-four has been retro-fitted with ride-by-wire throttle connectivity that facilitates selectable engine/throttle response maps (Rain, Road, Sport, and a customizable Rider setting). The setup also allows for ultra-precise cruise control. An up-and-downshift-compatible electronic quickshifter makes for fast gearshifts, and is especially helpful when downshifting at lean.
These improvements go a long way to making this engine feel more modern than it is (remember, its architecture is based off the old Ninja ZX-9R). Still, with around 105 hp the Versys 1000 likes to boogie and delivers an especially raucous engine/airbox note inside the cockpit. As always, this powertrain can feel buzzy at higher rpm, but it’s easy to overlook considering how playful the engine is with especially well-sorted throttle response.
The Versys 1000 SE LT+ now includes semi-active suspension that automatically adjusts damping settings based on road conditions and rider control input. The damping settings are linked to each riding mode. Furthermore, the rider can further tune the suspension to their liking via the Rider map. Handlebar-mounted switch gear offers great tactile function and the color display offers crisp fonts with a logical menu layout.
With nearly 6 inches of suspension travel fore and aft, the Versys 1000 glides over the rough tarmac yet offers a pleasing degree of road holding during more spirited riding maneuvers. Triple-disc hydraulic brakes with cornering ABS functionality keep speed in check and helps mitigate loss of control when riding through turns. Lean-angle-sensitive and three-way-adjustable traction control helps ensure the Bridgestone Battlax T31 sport-touring rubber doesn’t excessively slip.
With an MSRP that’s nearly $5,000 more than the old Versys 1000, this 2020 SE LT+ edition certainly can’t be deemed cheap. However, for a rider seeking a regal touring experience that skates the fine line between sport and touring duties, the Versys 1000 SE LT+ delivers.
2020 Kawasaki Versys 1000 SE LT+ Price and Technical Specifications
1,043cc, liquid-cooled inline 4-cylinder
75.2 lb.-ft. @ 7,500 rpm
Showa 43mm inverted fork adjustable for KECS-controlled rebound and compression damping, manual preload; 5.9-in. travel
Showa piggyback reservoir shock adjustable for KECS-controlled rebound and compression damping, electronic preload; 5.9-in. travel
If shifting gears the conventional way is ingrained in your DNA, it might take a few electric miles to become accustomed to this setup. Brakes are in the usual place on the right grip and foot pedal, but there’s no clutch lever to speak of—the instinct to grab the clutch lever is strong, but you’ll be reaching for air. However, with no gears to select there’s a refreshingly linear, continuous transfer of power from the motor to the rear wheel, and here’s where it gets interesting. Rather than thinking of horsepower as a commodity that gets segmented by six gears, the flow is simply constant until it tapers off at the 110 mph top speed. Braking also becomes one with the acceleration mindset; when the SR/F is dialed in for aggressive regeneration (either via the 5-inch TFT panel or the cellphone app), you don’t grab the brake lever to slow down, you simply ease off the throttle to reduce the rate of acceleration until you’re scrubbing off speed. Not to get too cerebral, but an electric bike’s entire longitudinal axis becomes one fluid continuum, which has a way of fundamentally shifting the way you think about things like corner entry speeds, weight transfer, even racing line.
It eats blacktop via a 69ci (1,133cc) liquid-cooled V-twin that puts nearly 85 hp and 64 pound-feet of torque to the chunky Pirelli MT 60 tire. The engine feels especially punchy compared to its competition and it sounds just as tasty as it looks hung inside a meaty alloy frame. But don’t just take our word for it, watch the Indian Scout Bobber Twenty in action in this MC Commute installment.
Keen to get a piece of the action in the always popular liter-sized naked bike scene, Honda debuted an all-new entry in the class with its 2018 CB1000R ($12,999). The CB slots in Big Red’s newly coined Neo Sports segments, which infuses classic styling elements with modern proportions—exuding a true sport appeal.
You won’t hear us dispute the merits of this concept, as both the CB1000R and its affordable little brother, the CB300R are some of the most attractive streetbikes we’ve seen roll out from a Honda showroom. The CB1000R stands out with its liberal use of metal (as opposed to plastic with the 300R) and the exquisite level of fit and finish.
Loaded with all the bells and whistles, the ride-by-wire-equipped Honda employs traction control and adjustable engine power modes that are tweaked through a tasteful-looking digital display and logically designed switch gear. This allows riders to tune the 2006–2007-generation CBR1000RR inline-four engine making it more friendly to wield on the road.
In this week’s MC Commute review, we dive into the positioning of this model and discuss the features and overall riding dynamic of the 2018 CB1000R as we commute to the Motorcyclist magazine office in Southern California. Click the “play” button and see for yourself what it’s like to ride.