KTM’s most popular models get comprehensive improvements and a Singapore debut
KTM has launched the latest, second-generation model of its entry-level naked bike, the Duke, here in Singapore.
At an event held at KF1 Karting Circuit on August 12, 2017, the Duke 125 and Duke 390 models were shown off to an attending crowd of more than 100.
The bike has been comprehensively improved in all aspects over the old one, according to KTM representatives.
Duke 390 (left) gets different graphics from 125 (right)
Most obvious is the aggressive new styling – penned by KTM’s design partner KISKA – which is modelled closely on larger siblings like the 1290 Super Duke R and Super Adventure. The new ‘predator face’ headlight includes both LED daytime running lights and mainbeams, as well as LED taillights on the rear as well, flanked by large aero fairings on the sides of the 13.4-litre fuel tank, enlarged from 11-litres previously.
The chassis sees new 43mm WP non-adjustable, upside-down forks with new cartridge internals, and a preload-adjustable WP rear shock absorber. The trellis frame and latticed aluminium swingarm are also new designs and visibly different from before, said to deliver improved torsional rigidity and weight/load bearing.
Both engines are based on the current design, but are now Euro 4 compliant. The 390 has a modest torque increase thanks to ECU tuning, a new airbox design and a new side-mount exhaust that replaces the previous underslung unit.
KTM also claims improved rider ergonomics and usability, with a new two-piece seat and manageable 830mm seat height. Also new is the new TFT full-colour display and integrated ‘My KTM’ function, where you can pair your phone and control calls or streaming audio through the handlebars. Backlit controls are also a nice touch on a beginner-friendly machine.
The good thing is that the Duke’s competitive price point hasn’t changed much – the 125 is priced at $9,800 machine, and the 390 a mere two-grand more, at $11,800 machine (without COE, road tax, insurance).
Read below for our first impressions of the KTM Duke around KF1 Kart Circuit.
The Duke was first launched in 2012 and has become a strong seller for the brand, with KTM representatives saying roughly 200,000 units or more have been sold since its debut.
The model, designed in Austria and produced with partner Bajaj in India, is also the company’s least-expensive offering. In fact the Duke model was one of the first attempts by a premium European motorcycle brand to offer a bike with at a less expensive price point, preceding bikes like the Ducati Scrambler and BMW G 310 R.
Thanks to its entry-level and less expensive offerings, KTM has expanded its sales and revenue considerably. 2016 marked another record year for the company, its sixth in a row, when it sold 203,423 motorcycles in total, and it’s set itself the ambitious aim of selling 300,000 motorcycles in 2017.
Riding the new Duke on a kart track proves its urban relevance
Riding street bikes on kart circuit isn’t exactly commonplace, but it’s not unheard of overseas. KF1 is Singapore’s longest, widest kart track so it’s the most logical place to do the thing here.
While KF1 circuit is, like most kart tracks, tight, twisty and challenging, it’s also bumpy and slippery when it’s damp, as we found out in Porsche’s damp mini-Lemans race. While the rain never materialised, it was never going to be a 10/10ths situation riding a the Duke there, although some braver, more skilled riders more than proved the machine’s speed.
Both bikes feel featherweight light, and the 390’s weight disappears thanks to its extra power. While the 125 weighs 137kg dry, and the 390 149kg dry, the 390 makes almost three times the horsepower, or 15hp compared to 44hp.
The updated chassis components dealt with the uneven tarmac – which can be punishing in a kart – impressively. From the saddle there was no harsh ride quality and the stability of the bikes was impressive, even with the wheelbase 10mm shorter than before.
As the tyres warmed up, the agility of the bikes began to show through, with their light, effortless to corner nature meaning we did many more laps and had quite an enjoyable, pain-free experience.
In fact both bikes were supremely easy to live with – footpegs, bars and seat were never uncomfortable and allowed for sporty body positioning easily, while the clutch and throttle are all light and un-intimidating.
As always, the modest 15hp was never going to set off fireworks, but crucially it’s still Class 2B legal, and does the job predictably and smoothly, with almost none of the expected vibes from a single-cylinder thumper. While we expected the 125 to be more manageable around the track, the reverse was opposite – the 390’s ride-by-wire mapping is buttery-smooth, and delivered more confidence on small throttle openings in tight corners.
The 390’s 44hp horsepower was fizzy, punchy and flexible – while the small track saw mostly second gear, with journeys into third and 70km/h on the straight, leaving it in third the whole way through saw no bogging or danger of stalling.
While a kart circuit seems a funny place for a test ride, the Duke twins proved that they are very likely to make excellent urban bikes, and probably even more in the 390’s case, thanks to KF1’s unique characteristics.