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Superbike Schmackdown Round II – KTM Super Duke versus Kenner SSP

January 6, 2010

Here we go again. My last review of the Harley Davidson XR1200 caused quite a ruckus on an assortment of my favorite websites. The attacks were ruthless and savage to the point of name calling and “Your momma rides a scooter with wobbly wheels” type insults. People carry very sharp axes when they feel their brand is being assaulted and tend to stop reading, slam their minds shut, and immediately begin to sputter forth with insults, threats, and gibberish. Let’s clear the air about a few things. I write my blog because I was inspired to do so by writers like Bamarider (that guy is my hero), a legion of folks on ADV Rider, Sport Touring Net, Pashnit and others. I’m not selling anything and I’m not promoting anything (it slaps, it chops, it….). What I am is HONEST about my experiences and open about it. I guess that somehow puts me in the Howard Stern category and if that’s where I fit then fine.

In the Harley post not a single person had anything to say about how GOOD I thought Harley dealers are. Not one person said anything about how dedicated Harley riders are and how they are riders who, like Eddie Aikau, “would go” Ask anyone who has actually thrown a leg over BOTH an old Honda Nighthawk S AND the Harley Davidson XR1200 – I think you will find that those two bikes are more similar than different.

Now, ROUND TWO. When is a motorcycle like a beloved kid’s toy? More often than not I think. I love going to Laconia in New Hampshire every year to test ride motorcycles. The crowd is so Harley focused that it’s always easy to score a ride on other manufacturers demo bikes. The bike in this review is the KTM Super Duke. This bike, like the Aprilia Tuono will get you into trouble quickly. The first thing the group leader said to us was “No wheelies, no stoppies, and NO burnouts” Ok then. Of course when we left as a pack the first thing the KTM ride leader did was a stand up wheelie. Yeehaw!

This bike absolutely cooks. It’s mental. It’s meant to be ridden from place to place as fast as possible at the ragged edge of your limits, before it runs out of gas. This of course brings up the natural comparison to the lauded Kenner SSP (SSP = Speed, Stick, Performance) line of cars. These were also the most mental and insane toys you could get your little hands on at the time. This, my friends, is where we will separate age groups with a cleaver. There will be those who REMEMBER this toy and those who don’t have the slightest idea what I’m talking about. If you don’t, those of us who do feel sorry for you.

 Let me explain. This toy was usually either a futuristic rocket car or a hot rod car of the 60’s or 70’s. While the car may have had four wheels there was only one wheel that mattered and that was in the center of the car. This wheel was essentially a heavily weighted flywheel/wheel that had a toothed gear on the side. You slid the “stick” (the T handled thing in the picture) into the slot and yanked the shit out of it. The next step was to set it down and let that sucker fly. I recall burning skid marks into ancient Persian rugs and wooden floors. These things would take off like they were rocket propelled. So you see there is a direct and very real correlation between this old kid’s toy and the KTM.

Clear, concise, accurate. What else can I say? I’m getting better at this blogging stuff.

During the test ride of the eight or so riders in the group, FOUR dropped their Super Dukes. This almost always occurred when we were stopped as a group and needing to merge with traffic or turn from a stop while avoiding traffic. The throttle on the KTM was like an on and off switch. From the moment I first pulled away I realized I had to seriously slip the clutch to keep from rocketing into the rider in front of me. Taking off from a stop was very difficult as the bike absolutely wants to wheelie, and having so little throttle modulation meant slipping the clutch just so you could pull away smoothly. Once you were riding everything fell into place.

The moment the group stopped the mayhem began. This being bike week meant that there was serious traffic about. So getting away from a stop and not getting T-boned was on everyone’s mind. I’m sure the “wanting to look good” thing also had something to do with it. The most common Duke launching was when a rider would grab too much throttle and dump the clutch and spin the bike out. The rest of the dropsies were variations on the same theme – way too much nervous throttle and not enough clutch slippage. Thankfully no one was maimed or killed and we all made it back to the KTM tent as a group. Everyone in the group had goofy g-force induced smiles. I’ve spoken to Super Duke riders who say the throttle “thing” was an early issue and has been addressed by KTM. I’m not sure if I would rather have a stack of clutch kits or a “fixed” Duke – methinks the clutches.

The Kenner SSP, unlike the Duke, suffers from a serious design flaw. Users would naturally want to stretch the envelope of his or her SSP. The best place to use your SSP was somewhere with a loooooong smooth hallway and let it rip. This always ended up with a horrific sounding crash into the wall at the other end of the room. These toys could stand up to the most violent high speed crashes you can imagine.. The SSP might have a few scuff marks but it was almost always ready for more. The problem is that an SSP driver with time, and the particular engineering genius of a ten year old will ponder – if the SSP is fast, how far will it fly?

This my friends is where most SSP’s met their tragic end. Most of the really spectacular flights I recall involved a long hallway ending with a staircase and soaring high velocity flight and eventual atmospheric reentry. The SSP’s design flaw was the area where the flywheel axle mounted to the car body. It simply could not handle “flight” related impacts and just about always ended with the flywheel being broken loose from its mounting. Ask anyone who had one a broken SSP lost 100% of its playability immediately.

So there you have it.  Two different but really quite similar products, both designed to deliver absolutely stunning performance and both have interesting but small quirks that only add to the attraction.

All things being equal I’ll take the KTM Super Duke with a tank bag stuffed full of vintage Kenner SSP’s.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Phil Boncer permalink
    January 7, 2010 4:40 pm


    If you got banned somewhere for this, someone is a moron.

  2. January 7, 2010 6:40 pm

    Hi Phil,

    You are right about that. Thanks for your support!


  3. sirepair permalink
    January 8, 2010 1:16 pm

    Bamarider is quite the character! Put him together with “Uncle Phil” and things can get REAL interesting…..

    Me thinks Guy would be pleased with your comparison!

    BTW, did you have an Evil Kinevil Stunt Cycle? “Up and over that 4′ ditch!”

    Almost as much fun as playin with roller bearings and the air compressor….

    • January 8, 2010 6:33 pm

      I think everyone had one of those Evil Snake River Canyon SSP’s! A few years back I managed to buy a NOS SSP on e-bay. I think it lasted about 12 hours before we broke it – just like we used to twenty years ago! That just proves you don’t grow up you just acquire better toys!

      Glad you liked the article! I hope to someday be half as good a writer as Bama!


  4. January 8, 2010 10:59 pm

    Now take all that manic fun, raise the seat to about 34″ and add knobby tires……welcome to REAL fun!


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