1290 Super Duke R: Jeremy McWilliams’ role in the bike

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You know Jeremy McWilliams, do you? Irishman, former MotoGP-racer, GP winner, Pole setter, great guy who has raced almost everything on two wheels – Aprilia, Yamaha, ROC, Harris, Honda, Proton, Harley, Ilmor, Buell and a couple more – plus some KTMs in between. Remember the Akrapovic RC8 R Superbike in two German IDM Superbike races in 2009? Or setting up the 690 EJC Cup racer in 2012? Or riding ‘The Beast’ at Goodwood Speed Festival a few weeks ago? Jeremy also enjoys riding on the road and is using all his experience to work together with companies for development of their products. Here is what he had to say about his input into the evolution of the KTM 1290 Super Duke R:

“I ride motorcycles on the street. I have always done so, even before I became a racer. When you get older and have more experience, you build up knowledge: why a bike is like this or handles like that, why I am sitting in this position, why a bike steers so well – or not. This is why I am able to give input during development. Racers tend to be very critical of bikes and we get ‘down to it’ quickly, which helps in saving a lot of time sorting out the right stuff.”

“With KTM it was like they gave me a clean sheet of paper and said: “Make it as you’d like it.” Of course it had to fit all kinds of R&D testers and there are a lot of them. Just take a look at Hermann Sporn, the project leader, who is quite a tall man and heavier. So I really had to think of something for everybody.”

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“When we started, they asked questions like “What do you think of the handlebar position? The footpeg position? The shape of the levers? Do you like where the mirrors are? Is the dashboard in the right place? When you sit on the bike, are you comfortable with the position for the knees?” All things you might never imagine. It was all part of producing a good package and why Hermann asked me to come and work with them.”

“On the very first prototype bike, I did not like the riding position. It was too sporty. The KTM guys looked at me: “What?! But you are a racer!“ I said, “if I am on a street bike I do not want a race position, I want to get comfortable.” At that time, about a year and a half ago, it was just a very basic model, it did not look like it does now, the plastics were not complete. It was far from being the finished version.”

“Overall it was an easy project to work on because we were able to change whatever we wanted. The first bike was already using an advanced engine and chassis; all we had to do was correct the geometry, the ergonomics, the suspension settings for very bad roads and for smooth roads and the racetrack. So I got to test it quite often on all kind of surfaces as much as I did on the track. When I ride on the street I ride like normal. And when I’m on the track, I’m like a racer. So step-by-step we worked forward. It was not so difficult, because it was a very good starting point.”

“The fun part also was working with Bosch on the electronics. They are a clever company. I am always pushing the gap a little bit more on the traction control and they were very helpful. The bike now functions as a complete package. When you ride on the street you wont feel any interruption on the traction control as you do when using sport mode. And then we found a rain mode, riding on very wet test tracks. This was new to me because I never have done this on road tyres.”

“The Super Duke R is a naked bike so it has to work everywhere. We were given a long list of requirements the bike had to meet. Of course it had to be fast but it also had to be the right bike to go down to the shops or whatever. To be fluid across a fast mountain section or fulfil a lot of expectations on the track. My impression at the launch in Spain was that most of the testers enjoyed the bike, which was nice to see. Some journalists expected it would rip their arms off, which surprised me.”

“If I was asked ‘what would be your ideal bike?’ I’d have to say the Super Duke. I’m not saying this because I’m involved in this project but because I have been riding so many bikes that take a lot of effort to turn or to stop. This one feels light and not like having 1300cc beneath you. You get on and you ride it. It does not feel like such a big bike. But if you really want ‘to go’ it’s there.”