You’re probably wondering which type of twins I’m referring to here - human twins or twin cylinder internal combustion engines. No, not wondering? Well then you’re obviously not a motorcyclist and probably won't appreciate the rest of this article. But hey, stick around and buy some t-shirts or something. Prices are negotiable so send me a PM if you want a better deal on anything you want to buy from my online store.
What? You can’t find the online store? Well that’s because there is no online store on the website and the fact that you went looking for one is creeping me out. Why the hell would you want to buy HarryD branded merchandise? Get off my website NOW, creepy stalker!
Anyway, Totally destroyed my chain of thought there. Where were we?
Yeah Twins! Human twins are a funny concept. Now you’re probably confused about what kind of funny I’m referring to here – Funny haha or Funny hmmm interesting. No, not confused? Oh c'mon man, don't stuff my shit up. Just go with the program OK?
So yeah Funny as in hmm..interesting.
Let me start again and spell this out clearly for you. Human twins are an interesting concept. Starting out with the same genetic raw material, twins can turn out radically different or exactly the same. The magic is all in the hand that mixes the chemicals.
And so it is with the subjects of my focus today. The KTM SuperDuke 990 and the Aprilia Tuono 1000R are twin brothers (albeit, born of different mothers) that were conceived with the same ingredients– Big V-Twin motor, Upright stance, Short wheelbase, Sharp Chassis, quality components and dollops of Hooligan genes.
Mama Italia, on the other hand, has made sure her pride and joy is fed a protein rich diet, received a good education, worked out at a gym, learned martial arts and become a well-rounded individual. But she also infused in him just enough of her racy Italian heritage to give him an edgy personality and engaging character. His biceps are actually bigger than KTM boy’s but he doesn’t roam around in a singlet checking them out in every shop window.
Let’s have a closer look at the bikes now.
Both these bikes are striking to look at. Neither of them is conventionally pretty in an MV Agusta kind of way. While the Tuono’s sleek back end is still one of the sexiest in motorcycling, the KTM’s sharp angles and stubby, muscular look give it a unique personality. The SuperDuke’s styling has a bold but coherent theme thoughout while the Tuono, at first glance looks like bits have been thrown together randomly. The closer you look though, the more you appreciate the Tuono’s beauty. From the exquisitely sculpted and polished frame to the banana swingarm to the magnesium clutch cover, the attention to detail is impressive.
So how do these bikes compare while riding in the real world? I’ve been fascinated by the SuperDuke for a long time so back in 2011, when I was looking for a new bike, I went and test rode one. Coming off a 170HP Yamaha R1, I wasn’t expecting a 120HP naked bike to scare the shit out of me, but it DID. It bloody scared me enough to not think about one for the next 3 years! It was so flighty, the throttle so light and the torque so immediate and overwhelming that I could see myself flying over a cliff very easily on it.
I bought a BMW K1200R instead.
3 years and 2 bikes later, the bug bit again and I plucked up the courage to ride my mate Dean’s race prepped SuperDuke R around eastern creek. It was surprisingly underwhelming and finicky. The power band was too short and I was constantly hitting the rev limiter. The suspension was way too hard and the amount of feedback coming through the forks was like a stream of binary you’d see on a supercomputer crunching numbers for the national budget. Every little undulation in the surface was magnified. I so wanted to love it but the fact is I didn't enjoy it much.
Jumping on the KTM straight off the Tuono, 3 things are immediately apparent
1. You sit higher on the KTM and closer to the front wheel
2. The KTM feels lighter
3. The footpegs on the KTM are lower and more comfortable
Taking off, the throttle on the KTM is light and the response is immediate. There are no power bands, just linear and abundant torque propelling you forward with urgency. The Tuono on the other hand, has a distinct power band that kicks in around 6K RPM. Below this, the KTM feels faster. Above this, the Aprilia leaves it for dust. The Tuono also revs longer till 11K while the SuperDuke runs out of puff around 9.5K and a harsh rev limiter kicks you in the guts. Overall, the Tuono definitely feels faster in a straight line, probably not by much though. All feel, no science!
You sit very close to the front wheel on the KTM and the suspension is HARD. All 3 SuperDukes I’ve ridden have been like this so it’s not the individual bike. The amount of feedback coming through the forks borders on overwhelming and the front end is very umm…lively. Every little undulation in the surface is felt and if you’re riding hard, it gives you great confidence in exactly where your front wheel is in relation to the road surface. The bike is very sensitive to bar inputs and it’s ridiculously easy to throw it onto its side or change direction mid corner. All of this adds up to a very exciting and satisfying ride when you’re really on it. However, it can get annoying if you just want to smoothly string together a few bends without thinking too hard.
The Aprilia has an unusually long tank, as a result of which, you sit further back in the bike than the KTM. The very intimate connection that the KTM has to the front wheel, is somewhat lacking on the Tuono. Starting it up, the heartbeat of the Aprilia is racy without being angry and it’s eager to be let off the leash. It is very easy to loft the front wheel on the Tuono but the throttle response is spot on, which makes it easy to control the launch and bring the front wheel down gently (or keep it up if that’s what you want to do!). One of the few annoyances on the Tuono is a surprising power dip between 4-5.5K RPM. Traditionally, big V-twins are known for their strong mid-range but Aprilia (Rotax really) have tuned this engine for higher top end power, which betrays its sportsbike roots. As you wind on the throttle rapidly, the engine spools up quickly, then seems to struggle momentarily before entering warp mode above 6K RPM. But It is wonderfully satisfying to keep the revs above 6K and play with the torque and engine braking.
So that’s the important stuff done really. I’ve compared these bikes on the 3 critical factors I judge a motorcycle on - Engine, Suspension and Brakes. The rest is either subjective or fluff. Despite being very similar on paper, these 2 bikes are far from twins. I mean, of course, they are twins but you know what I mean. They’re both outstanding hooligan bikes yet so different. The KTM is from the dirtbike mould while the Aprilia is from the sportsbike genre. The KTM is the more exciting bike and if you primarily do short, sharp and hard riding through tight bends, the KTM will be a barrel of laughs. If you do a greater mix of riding with longer days at higher speeds, you will come to appreciate the Aprilia’s versatility while still enjoying its aggressive character.
So is there a winner? Well it always depends on what kind of riding you do and what sort of person you are but I’ll answer this by saying I’m very glad I bought the Aprilia and I crave the SuperDuke no more.