Naked and Famous – Aprilia Tuono 1100 V4 vs. KTM Super Duke 1290

To me, the KTM Superduke 1290 and Tuono 1100 are without doubt some of the best bikes you can buy today. Sure, they cost a pretty penny, but they are amazing motorcycles and worth every cent.

IMO, the only thing a full on sports bike has over a naked bike on the road, is looks. It’s hard to beat the sex appeal of a fully faired bike. But even then, the Super Duke and Tuono are easy on the eye, plus they look tough. They are everything a sports bike is, but more comfortable. And with added comfort comes greater versatility. Longer rides now seem like a great idea and light touring isn’t out of the question either.

So, why haven’t I included the BMW S1000R to make this couples retreat a 3 way? 1. I haven’t ridden one and 2. It doesn’t interest me. I like my naked bikes to be slightly abrasive, to turn heads as fast as they go. This isn’t because I’m a vain, attention seeking kind of guy (far from it), but because the sound and feel of a motorcycle stirs my soul like few things can. The S1000R is by all accounts a great bike, but it sounds like a Singer sewing machine and is as appealing as a beer that’s been sitting in the sun all day. Sure, it’s still beer, but why have a hot, disgusting beverage when I can have a delicious cold one straight from the fridge.

So, why not make this a bike orgy and include the jap bike competition? To put it simply, they aren’t as good. The MT-10 may have something to say when it arrives, but on paper I can’t see it dethroning these bikes.

First Impressions…

Both bikes certainly stand out. The Duke looks great in black or orange.

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Photo courtesy of KTM.

The Kato looks ‘new’ and fresh. I love the trellis frame too. In contrast, the Tuono has a stunning polished frame and swing arm, beautiful. The new model also has a RSV4-like front end that softens the look of the bike, making it more appealing to the mass market. I think Aprilia could have done more with the colours though. The standard RR only comes in silver or blue. While they are nice, it would have been great to see some brighter colours.

The Donnington blue or grey colours are nice. But another bright colour would be appreciated. Photo courtesy of Aprilia.

Sitting on the Duke, it is spacious and provides plenty of leg room. The seat isn’t too bad either. It’s quite comfortable and would certainly suit taller riders. The bars and controls are in neutral, easy to use positions.

The Tuono’s seating position is slightly sportier. The rear sets are that tiny bit higher, but not in an uncomfortable way. The bars are well positioned and I like the high quality instruments they have used. The seat is great and wayyyy better than the old model’s seat. Then again, that seat

The Tuono dash. Still a good dash, but due for an update. Photo courtesy of Aprilia. 

was more akin to being slogged in the ass with a massive wooden paddle. If you’re into that kind of thing, cool. But most people aren’t.

Both bikes feature LCD dashes that are easy to use. I’d say the KTM’s screen pips the Aprilia’s. It is slightly more modern and the Aprilia also has a slight delay when flicking between options. Using the 8 way traction control on the Tuono is a piece of piss though. It features 2 toggles (+ and -) that fall perfectly to your thumb and pointer. Plus it can be done on the fly – while you’re flying around

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The Superduke dash. Modern with a dual LCD display. It is the pick of the two dashes here. Photo courtesy of KTM.

corners, that is.

One bug bear I have with the KTM is that the traction control turns itself back on every time you start the bike. While not the end of the world, the traction control and wheelie control are intertwined. So if you want to pop some wheelies it’s a pain. I think this is certainly something KTM should rectify when they update the bike.
The Aprilia’s wheelie control and launch control are independent of each other and therefore have no such issues.

Motor City

These two bikes have amazing motors and I can’t separate the pair.

The 1290 is an absolute grunt machine. You cannot help but twist the throttle and have a shit eating grin on your face. It is an absolute laugh. The 1100 has slightly less grunt, but a monster midrange and keeps on pulling up top. Plus, it is accompanied by the best sound in production motorcycling.

When the 1290 came out it blew all other naked bikes away. Now that the 2016 Tuono has 1077cc, the added grunt and mid-range makes it every bit as fast in a straight line. As a sheer power machine, I’d say the 1290 still has that wow factor over the 1100 though.

One thing that is missing from the Duke that I consider to be a massive oversight is the lack of a quick shifter. The Tuono has one and it works brilliantly. The way you can just hold the throttle flat and bang through the gears is intoxicating. Plus it is smooth as silk. And the accompanying exhaust pop…hnnggg. I believe KTM had planned to release the 1290 with a quick shifter, but ran into some issues at the factory.

The Duke is very smooth but can chug in the lower rpms. This is where the V4 shines, it remains smooth throughout the rev range but still retains that irrepressible V character.

The Tuono 1100 has improved the gearing of the old model. Where the old 1000 had a tall first gear and really came to life with a smaller front sprocket, the 1100 doesn’t need it. The v-twin KTM doesn’t have any issues with gearing and pulls hard off the bottom with the stock gearing.

Both bikes have great throttle response and there are no complaints from me.

Turning and Stuff

This may sound stupid, but the Tuono feels like it is more of a sport bike and the Superduke is more a…naked bike. This makes more sense when you consider the 1000 Tuono was basically an unchanged RSV4 chassis whereas the 1290 has been designed from the ground up. The 1100 has evolved over the old 1000 and provides a more refined ride and feel.

The Tuono is the naked class handling king. The Aprilia’s handling is razor sharp, but remains stable and holds its line like a proper sports bike. In comparison, the KTM steering is slightly slower yet still manages to change direction easily and track true. The Tuono is definitely sharper and tighter. I believe it has a higher performance ceiling than the Duke.

Realistically, the Duke is priced against the Tuono Factory. The White Power suspension has an edge over the Sachs and is probably more comparable to the Ohlin’s on the 1100 Factory (which I haven’t ridden yet). It takes small bumps in the road that tiny bit better.

The KTM also has an edge in the braking. The Tuono’s front brakes are really good, but the Dukes are great! This is due to the master cylinder on the Tuono. Change it to a radial set up and it’s brilliant. Aprilia should really use the same radial master cylinder as the RSV4.

Now, which bike is better? I said after I test rode the Tuono 1100, that it was probably the best bike I have ever ridden, and I stand by that. Sure it’s not perfect, but it’s oh so close and ticks all my boxes; V4 sound, scalpel handling, great motor and good suspension to match (even better on the Factory). On top of that, it’s relatively comfortable now. Pop a $500 Brembo master cylinder on it and it will be bloody close to perfect.

The KTM has a monster motor, great brakes, suspension and comfort but is let down by a lack of quick shifter and fiddly electronics. Fix those little issues and I’d be hard pressed choosing between the pair. But as it stands, give me the Aprilia. Better yet, make it a Tuono Factory.

Tuono 1100 Factory. Photo courtesy of Aprilia Australia.

For now, keep it OnTheBackWheel, and keep an eye out for my next Vlog on YouTube next week!




  1. Excellent review of these 2 high performance machines! Interested to see your review of the updated versions of these 2 for 2017.


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