Indian roads aren’t really ideal for supersport motorcycles, which prioritize performance over everything else like comfort, practicality and everyday usability. Performance naked bikes, on the other hand, offer supersport-level dynamics, while being comfortable enough for everyday riding. You can take KTM’s Duke range to the track, commute on them and also explore the countryside over the weekend. Since they’re manufactured by Bajaj, the brand has managed to keep the costs quite competitive. With the recent launch of the 125 Duke, there are now four bikes in the Duke family - 125, 200, 250 and 390. We explain what they’re all about:
The recently launched 125 Duke is KTM’s most affordable motorcycle in the country. Despite being an ‘entry-level’ offering, the Austrian manufacturer has not compromised on equipment. It gets a 124.7cc liquid-cooled DOHC single-cylinder engine which churns out 14.5PS at 9250rpm and 12Nm at 8000rpm. The motor works in conjunction with a 6-speed transmission. In the Indian market, the 125 Duke is the only motorcycle in its segment with a liquid-cooled engine as well as a 6-speed transmission. It makes 3.5PS and 1Nm more than the next most powerful 125 in India, the Discover 125.
The 125, 200 and the 250 Duke share the same underpinnings and trellis frame. So, you get a pair of inverted front forks and rear monoshock, both from WP. Braking components include a 300mm front and a 230mm rear disc, with single-channel ABS. This motorcycle is ideal for young enthusiasts who want a fully loaded beginner’s bike with performance that can match up with some of the 160cc nakeds. But, at Rs 1.18 lakh (ex-Delhi), it commands a considerable premium over the sub-Rs 1 lakh 160cc bikes, thanks to its features and equipment on offer.
The 200 Duke is the one which put KTM in limelight in India. The motorcycle is relevant even today, as it serves as the perfect stepping stone between 200cc nakeds and 300cc performance bikes. Powering this Duke is a 199.5cc single-cylinder liquid-cooled engine which makes 25PS and 19.2Nm. Its quick-revving nature eggs you to keep the throttle pinned, even at slower speeds. The power delivery is also evenly distributed all the way till the redline. Recently, KTM launched the single-channel ABS variant of the 200 Duke at Rs 1.6 lakh (ex-Delhi), but the Austrian brand still continues to sell the non-ABS version for around Rs 8,200 less. It manages to be the most powerful among its rivals, which include the TVS Apache RTR 200 and Bajaj Pulsar NS200.
The KTM 250 Duke is by far one of the best quarter-litre motorcycles in the Indian market. It also looks stunning, thanks to the fact that it shares the bodywork with the 390 Duke. With 30PS and 24Nm on tap, its immediate rival, the Honda CBR 250R is less powerful and feels dated. Apart from the Honda, the Yamaha FZ25 is the only other rival, and that too is underpowered and less equipped compared to the KTM. Just like the other Dukes, this one too features a trellis frame and shares underpinnings with the smaller siblings. Despite making 5PS and 5Nm more than the 200 Duke, this one’s a bit more civilised. However, the 250 Duke is yet to be offered with ABS. The motorcycle is perfect for those who want a properly capable quarter-litre motorcycle that’s easier to live with, and also doesn’t cost as much as the top-of-the-line 390 Duke.
The 390 Duke is packed to the brim with performance, advanced equipment like all-LED lighting, multifunctional TFT screen with smartphone pairing capability, and even ABS with Supermoto mode. In this mode, the rear ABS is deactivated, allowing the rider to have some sideways fun. The motorcycle’s 373.2cc liquid-cooled engine develops a massive 43.5PS and 37Nm. With these numbers, the motorcycle’s dynamics are properly hair-raising and is more than enough for Indian roads. Plus, you have a smooth-shifting 6-speed gearbox with slipper clutch, and sophisticated WP open cartridge front forks and WP rear monoshock.
It is also much more powerful and offers a lot more features than its German rival, the BMW G 310 R. However, the real icing on the cake is that, at Rs 2.43 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), it costs around Rs 56,000 less than the baby Beemer. If you want to learn the nuances of proper motorcycle riding, and if you’re looking to improve your riding skills without spending a bomb on other premium performance motorcycles, nothing comes as close to the KTM 390 Duke. The bike offers the experience of riding a 600cc motorcycle without burning a hole in your pocket.