2015 KTM Super Duke 1290 R Week 1

It was a pretty nerve-wracking week, because the KTM dealer had a bad reputation, but it was the only official dealer in the Taipei/New Taipei City area, so I had done business with them. It was only months later that people were telling me that they were terrible. I’ll file that away for future reference. I was picking it up after work, and my neighbor came with me. He had also purchased a Super Duke, but paid a lot less since he had gotten a license to sell KTMs, again months after I had ordered mine. I was mainly going with him because he had offered me free underground parking for my motorcycle, and in Taipei, that’s not something you can refuse. For some reason my boss and colleague decided to tag along, even after I had told them not to come. It added even more stress to a stressful situation.

Thankfully, it all went pretty well. I picked it up and rode it home. I had a passenger on my first ride, so I smartly put the SDR into Rain mode, cutting the power to 100 hp, and maxing the ABS and traction control. The next day was spent in a sort of coma. The rain didn’t help matters, but I made plans to go on a ride with my neighbor and his Taiwan Moto Tour crew. They do motorcycle rentals, sell some bikes and parts.

The first ride went to Pingxi, then over the mountains to Yilan, and then back to Xindian. The riding was fine, but there was a time-constraint that I wasn’t aware of. The coffee break at 10AM was 1h long. The lunch break was 90 minutes long. Naturally, by this time it had started raining. Pouring. Torrential downpour. It’s what the local call “plum rain”, and it can get pretty crazy because places get flooded pretty quickly.

Needless to say, that at noon, I was anxiously looking at the forecast and almost mentioned that we should leave. Naturally we didn’t. The meal wasn’t my cup of tea. Lots of sea food, and not the kind I liked. Thankfully, unlike most of the other motorcycle riders, I had brought my rain gear. It worked, but there was a lot of rain. Riding onto the mountain road from Yilan to Xindian was difficult. The first half went well, and I was very surprised at how steady the SDR was. It didn’t wobble once, and always stayed on its line. That’s impressive considering the weather conditions. The group stopped midway through, and I had had enough of the breaks and went on by myself. Naturally, the lull in the rain didn’t last, and the torrential downpour started once again. It was so bad that my glasses and visor fogged up, and eventually, water was dripping in the helmet. I couldn’t really see, so I stopped passing cars and followed the car right in front of me. I made it home 3h before the other group.

I took a night ride to Danshui Monday night and we discovered a radiator leak from a loosened hose. We quickly fixed it, but it was a bit of a slow ride for my taste. The next day, I brought the SDR to get serviced. They looked at the radiator, tightened everything back up after adding some more water. My guess is that the hose wasn’t tightened enough after the inspection. All bikes need to be inspected because they come from overseas.

I had planned another ride on Thursday to Sanxia and to try out route Tai 7, but I was just too tired and skipped that. However, I did sign up for this Sunday’s ride to the Mingde Reservoir in Miaoli County, about 100 km through expressways and mountain roads.

The ride started quickly. I didn’t even have time to get coffee. We left at 8:30AM sharp. I wasn’t aware that we were meeting another bigger group in Bali, after having taken the 64 and the 65 expressways at speeds up to 160kph. The fun thing about group rides is that the organizers know the placement of all speedcams, and let everyone know in advance where they are. I like to ride at the front, after the first few leaders. Usually, the maxi scooters stay packed together towards the back of the pack. They just don’t have the acceleration or the maneuverability of the big bikes.

Once again, the break was relatively short. I had time to eat a breakfast burger, a juice box of milk tea, and off we went onto the 61 South. This took us passed Taoyuan and Hsinchu. The ride was fast, and since we were next to the ocean, we were buffeted by winds, slowing down my pace to about 160-165 at the max. I like that the SDR doesn’t have fairings. It means that riding very fast gets uncomfortable very quickly. The great thing about expressways and highways is that there are no small scooters allowed. Most inner city roads are filled up to the brim with scooters, and any progress is slowed down fairly quickly. That’s not the case on expressways, as only cars and 550cc motorcycles are allowed on them. The laws have recently changed. Any yellow-plated bike or scooter, 250cc and more, is allowed onto the expressways.

After we took a short break from the intense riding, it was about 5-7 minutes, we were off again on route 15 to Xinfeng. This was an alternate route to the 68, which is an expressway, but has lots of construction, slowing down progress. This led us to the mountains. We rode through some small towns, and at around Emei/Sanwan, the inevitable happened. The pace was quick, and I think that it was too quick for novice riders, especially ones on maxi scooters. We were lane-splitting, and keeping up with the leaders. One of the guys on a Kymco Xciting 400 split lanes, and was knocked over by a minivan. The bike toppled, at low speed, and he got up quite quickly, but he had injured his leg. It was about 11AM. I felt that this was the opportune moment to go back to Taipei. I didn’t want to get caught in the rain again. So I went back the way that I came. It was pretty straightforward, and once I was on the 68, I took the 61 North, followed by the 65, and then the 64 to Banciao where I got off. I ended up following a few Harley riders, who were riding along at 150-160. I had said hello at a light, and they passed me quickly enough, but I sped after them, seeking the safety of riding in a small group.

Riding on the expressways is great. There are no small scooters, you can go pretty fast, and the traffic is light if you choose the right time. The road indications could be better. This week, I missed three exits in total because they were on the left side. I was expecting them to be on the right side.

The SDR is a powerful machine, with laser-like maneuverability, the ability to be flicked around easily, and filled with technology to help out riders. I do plan on modifying it, bit by bit. Since there are no quickshifters that work well with this engine, it simplifies matters. I also need to upgrade my gear. I need more armor, riding pants, new jackets, and a new helmet.

Total kilometers: 500km

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ranjitwithkinginbehand.jpgI'm Range, your host. On the menu, photos, art, stories, entertainment and reviews. Links, maths, education and social issues. I'm in Quebec (Canada) or Taiwan (R.O.C.). Follow me on Twitter.

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