‘I WAS SWEARING AS IT GRIPPED AND FLIPPED ME OVER THE TOP’

'I WAS SWEARING AS IT GRIPPED AND FLIPPED ME OVER THE TOP’

by Practical Sportsbikes team |
'I WAS SWEARING AS IT GRIPPED AND FLIPPED ME OVER THE TOP’

Testing all month with KTM on new projects has been as exciting as always – we’ve been working on the next revisions for the Super Duke 1290R, GT and 790 mostly. Then I had a stark reminder of what the reality of being a test rider and a little complacency can result in. I managed to fling myself up the road at about 120mph after running on to a damp kerb early one morning on the test track. It’s actually my first test crash after thousands of kilometres. It wasn’t the perfect start to the day as the test had to be completed by the afternoon, and we only had one bike fitted with the new Bosch test electronics and data storage, laptops, etc, all onboard. I was thinking to myself, ‘I’ve got this, I might just get away with it...’ I held it on the lock-stop for what seemed like an eternity and I was still yelling and swearing at myself as it gripped on a dry patch and I went over the top into the gravel. It was one of those ragdoll, triple-somersault affairs. I destroyed my Shark lid, my leathers were very secondhand, and I was battered and bruised with a dead leg. I jumped up and tried to run to the bike before anyone noticed what had happened, but I was hopping more than running; I felt like a right tool! Luckily the bike slid for about 200 metres without major damage. The team had it back together in 45 minutes – we continued like nothing had happened and managed to get the new mapping settings pretty much perfect by 5pm, thankfully.

'I WAS SWEARING AS IT GRIPPED AND FLIPPED ME OVER THE TOP’

I got a nice break between R&D tests to attend the 790 Duke launch in Gran Canaria. I like how KTM conduct a launch, and I’ve been on various bike/tyre launches in my time. This time, we came up with a Moto Gymkhana-type course in the shape of the 790 logo, for a bit of fun. We nicknamed the 790 ‘The Scalpel’ as it’s so precise, so we wanted to see how agile the bike was around obstacles against the stopwatch. And, to be honest, we just love to see the journalists competing against each other as they are almost as competitive as racers.

'I WAS SWEARING AS IT GRIPPED AND FLIPPED ME OVER THE TOP’

Skids and low-speed spills are all well and good, but when it’s a 120mph highside, McWilliams is really earning his money

We drew the logo to scale on the start/finish straight and set cones out to make it as difficult as possible. I’ve never ridden one of these courses but it was so much fun that it became addictive, an obsession to be honest, and the 790 worked so well that all the KTM staff (me included) had to keep doing it over and over trying to set a faster lap. There were a couple of really fast times set by the journalists, but the KTM staff were even quicker; they’re mostly ex-racers from various disciplines – even champions – and still very fast, so they’re a competitive bunch! I did manage to overdo it and fall over backing it in, supermoto-style, around a cone – but it’s all part of the fun. The team have had so much positive feedback that, if I get my way, this discipline will be a feature in the future.

'I WAS SWEARING AS IT GRIPPED AND FLIPPED ME OVER THE TOP’

I wasn’t expecting so much from a mid-range motorcycle – how much fun can a 104bhp bike really give? But it’s got a lot of torque for such a small bike, and it responds so effortlessly to your input – it certainly doesn’t need a lot of bossing around. The firing order is the same as the 1290 I spend most of my time working on, so it has the same sort of sound. It’s sharp, and although the suspension isn’t adjustable I didn’t have many complaints. It’s has a lot of features for a bike that’s only eight and a half grand in the UK – traction control, cornering ABS, quickshifter/autoblipper, TFT screen with Bluetooth connectivity...

It’s a lot of bike, and I reckon it’ll surprise people with its ability. Not that you’ll believe me – after all, my pay cheques do come in an orange envelope with an Austrian postmark...Go and test ride one at your nearest dealer and then let me know what you think – I’ll tell the R&D team if you think I’m bullshitting you! Anyway, the holiday is over for me: I’m back on the test track at 9am tomorrow, grinding out more laps for the data acquisition equipment. I’ll be staying away from dew-covered kerbs this time, though...

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