RC8 and KTM Super Duke
Track Day With the KTM
RC8 and KTM 990 Super Duke
Photos: Brad Puetz
Edited by webBikeWorld.com
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Motorcycle Reviews Directory
The KTM RC8
Fastrack Riders and KTM teamed up to hold a KTM demo day
at Auto Club Speedway where KTM staff were on hand to
sign up riders who wanted to ride their impressive
line-up of motorcycles. All the goodies were
there: The KTM 1190 cc RC8; the 990 Super Duke; the 990
Super Duke R; the 690 Duke and the 690 Supermoto.
My day consisted of three on-track sessions; two on
the RC8 and one on the 990 Super Duke. First order
of duty would be a ride on the new RC8 as this was a
highly anticipated ride for me. Since viewing the
first pictures of this bike on the internet I have been
foaming at the mouth to get a ride on one.
The distinct styling of the RC8 really sets it apart
from other sportbikes on the market and it's a look that
I immediately took a liking to. If the styling of
the bike doesn't float your boat, here are a few things
that might; an 1148 cc V-twin cranking out 155 bhp at
10,000 RPM and 120 Nm of torque @ 8,000 rpm.
Suspension is provided by WP Suspension front and
rear and they also supply an adjustable steering damper
as standard equipment. Front suspension has
adjustable preload, compression and rebound damping
while the rear has preload, compression (high and low
speed) and rebound damping. Wheels are five-spoke
alloy Marchesini 3.50 x 17" and 6.00 x 17".
The RC8 also comes equipped with premium Brembo
components. On the front are 320 mm floating discs
with radially bolted, four-piston monoblock calipers
while the rear has a 220 mm disc and dual-piston fixed
Stopping power was never a question but I prefer
something with a little less initial bite. The
Brembos come on so hard initially it took me some time
to get a feel for how much pressure to put on the brake
lever. Once deep into the braking they had a more
progressive feel with ample bite.
The KTM RC8
KTM makes the RC8 frame out of chrome molybdenum
steel and it weighs less than 16.5 pounds. The
swingarm is made of anodized cast and sheet metal and
the linkage system in the rear allows for 7 mm of ride
height adjustment. The RC8 also has adjustable
foot pegs and as a whole the level of adjustability on
the RC8 is definitely greater than any current sportbike
I have ridden.
The speedo on the RC8 is down right swanky and a wide
variety of information can be accessed in either road or
racing mode via a menu button on the handlebars.
KTM has managed to throw in a clock, trip, digital tach
and speedo as well as an on board lap timer plus a few
other things too.
The KTM RC8 comes with some very unique and
brand-name components and I was curious to see if the
bike worked as a package or if it was nothing more than
a mediocre motorcycle with some high-priced goodies.
I have heard some good things about the suspension
out of the Netherlands but this was my first time riding
on WP suspension and I must say I came away impressed.
In fact, it was probably the highlight of the RC8.
The WP rear mono shock did a great job of putting the
power down. There was no squat from the rear when
accelerating out of Auto Club Speedway's many flat, hard
accelerating corners. T here was some rear-wheel spin
going on but it was mostly due to the Pirelli Dragon
Supercorsa street tires. Even when the rear was
spinning it was very controlled thanks to the good
feedback and feel; no quick step-outs or surprises here.
Turn-in on the KTM was also top notch as the bike
tipped in quickly and without too much effort.
Once it was on it's side it was very confidence
inspiring and felt extremely balanced and planted.
There are a few serious cracks in the pavement
leading onto the banking at Fontana which can upset the
bike while at full lean angle. The RC8 went over
the rough patches like they didn't exist -- I couldn't
help but thinking I wish I could get my racebike to feel
that good over the rugged pavement I could shave some
Just as the rear had good feel, the front never had
me guessing. Running on street tires, I was
pushing the front in some of Fontana's flat corners.
But the excellent feel from the WP front-end meant I was
able to ride it to the limit through typically heavy
track day traffic without the fear of causing a bowling
ball effect while making inside passes on slower riders.
The front always felt very planted and it allowed me to
charge hard on the brakes with complete confidence.
The RC8 weighs in at a competitive 440 lbs fully wet,
feels very slim and light between the legs, and was
precise and flickable while making quick transitions
coming off the banking through the switchbacks. It
was very composed through the bumpy fast chicane leading
to the back straight; a critical part of the track for a
fast lap time.
It took me a few laps to trust that I could keep the
RC8 pegged through this chicane since I have become
accustomed to my personal racebike trying to throw me
off in this very spot on many occasion.
While making passes going into the corners is good
fun, nothing beats the feeling of making a horsepower
pass down the straightaway. While you won't be
pulling ZX-10's down the straight, the RC8 has a motor
with a tractor like pull all the way to the top.
I was surprised to feel the strong surge of power
high up in the revs on the RC8. As the old folks
would say, it's a real kick in the pants. While
the impressive power at high revs may have been a
pleasant surprise the place the KTM motor really shines
is in the long sweeping corner exits where you can just
roll on the power.
Unfortunately, for me, Fontana doesn't have an
abundance of these corners. I can imagine,
however, the fun to be had laying nasty black marks on
corner exits at tracks like Laguna or Miller which have
a better flow. The motor was a little reminiscent
of when I first rode the Ducati 1098 in the way you
could rev it out a little more like an inline four.
The fuel injection and throttle response were a big
letdown on the RC8. Mid-corner at around 4,500 RPM
the bike would stumble badly and the on/off throttle
response was terrible. The jerkiness was bad
enough to upset the bike in a few of Fontana's corners
to the point where it could put you on the ground if you
Gear selection was very important in the slower
corners to try to keep the RC8 running smoothly.
Shift action on the transmission was positive and smooth
with good engagement and no sign of clunkiness. My
only other real complaint of the RC8 would be a healthy
dose of vibration at the bars.
In my short time with the new RC8 I came to
appreciate what an impressive job KTM has done in
creating and bringing their first dedicated sportbike to
market. Having ridden KTM's main competition in
the standard Ducati 1098 and Buell 1125R, I would have
to say the RC8 falls somewhere right in between.
While I felt the motor and handling of the RC8 surpassed
the Buell 1125R it is still a bit shy of being a Ducati
Seeing as how this was KTM's first shot at a
hard-core sportbike the RC8 is pretty impressive.
Beautiful styling, strong motor, stable chassis and
top-notch components make this a sportbike with a big
KTM 990 Super Duke
With most of my time being spent on the RC8 I
only managed one session on the KTM Super Duke, so here
are my initial impressions.
The KTM Super Duke is a total riot on the track.
Fun factor is always huge on a bike like this since you
are not going to break any track records and that is
where this motorcycle comes up huge.
I have to admit I used to watch riders on track with
these type of hybrid bikes and wonder why they would
choose to ride them on the track instead of a purpose
Well the Super Duke gave me the simple answer . . .
because they are a blast!
The Super Duke benefits from a very short feel and I
was really able to get over the front of the bike and
flick it at will into the corners.
The bike transitioned effortlessly and was beautiful
on turn in. Dry weight on the Super Duke is a nice trim
410 pounds and wheelbase is set at 57.1 inches.
The only thing that really felt odd was the bar.
While they did give good leverage there was an awkward
bend at the bar ends which turns your wrists up and out.
This felt slightly uncomfortable and I found myself
having to reposition my hands in the tight corners to
get the feel right.
Trying to tuck in on the Super Duke
is a also a bit of a challenge with no fairing or
windscreen. You are almost totally exposed to the wind
so you really have to try to keep the body as tight to
the tank and frame as possible.
KTM installed super sticky Dunlop DOT
race rubber which was huge in giving me the confidence I
needed to ride the KTM hard.
While the Superduke
responded well, at an accelerated pace the front fork
started to feel slightly soft and mushy. This is to be
expected however as the Superduke was never intended to
be a hardcore sportbike.
The rear shock stood up to the
punishment quite well and I had no complaints from the
fully adjustable WP shock.
The tubular chrome-moly chassis stayed composed under
hard thrashing. There was no head-shake under hard
acceleration or over Fontana's bumpy patches.
was also good on the brakes and the Brembo 4-piston
fixed caliper brakes with 305mm discs up front provided
ample stopping power, but like the RC8 could have
benefitted from slightly less of an abruptness on
initial lever pull to help smooth out the braking.
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Shifting of the 6-speed transmission was smooth with
an even slightly more positive feel and action than the
RC8. Unlike the RC8, vibration at the bars was not an
issue and you should not find your hands going numb
after a day in the saddle.
The Super Duke features a versatile 999cc
liquid-cooled, 75-degree, dual-cam V-twin motor. The
motor produces 118BHP and was extremely easy to use.
Like most v-twins it produces a pulsating grunty power
that gives you a healthy pull out of the corners.
The Super Duke does suffer from spotty fuel injection
down low in the RPM's however. Negotiating through
slower corners is a little tougher work as you are
having to correct the stumbles the fuel injection is
transferring through the bike.
I like both the radical looks of the Super Duke and
the ergonomics, which are quite good.
As excited as I was to ride the RC8 I am surprised to
say that the Super Duke may have just won me over for
the day. No longer will I question why track day junkies
all over the country are buying bikes like the KTM Super
While it may not be the sharpest scalpel on the
track, the Super Duke has the field covered in character
and the ever so important fun factor.
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