Ride Orange-KTM 200 DUKE

The street devil is finally let loose. It loses no time in putting an ear-to-ear grin on our face as we hop onto it. The KTM Duke 200 was spotted innumerable times on the NH 4, being tested by Bajaj Auto’s test riders. We saw its pictures too.

The specifications were out last month and they were enough to give us the goose bumps. A 200-cc liquid-cooled engine producing 25 PS of peak power and fitted on a machine that weighs just 136 kg (kerb weight, mind you, not dry) was enough to give one an idea of this machine’s prowess. This month we finally swung a leg over the KTM to figure out what it is all about.

A single look at the motorcycle is enough to give you a highly favourable first impression. The styling is very KTM-ish and the orange-black paint scheme talks proudly of its Austrian genealogy. The edges on its tank, its muscular shoulders, sharp tail and in-the-face headlight show exactly what this KTM is all about – out and out aggressive styling.

Close attention has been paid to the smallest details in the making of this bike, including the belly fairing that gels well with the motorcycle and leaves no room for any design-related complaints. Everything seems to be in the right place and in the correct proportions, making the bike look exceptionally good. The Duke 200 brings with it a motorcycle lingo that is not heard by most Indians – the kind spoken by evil urban naked motorcycles.

Swing a leg over the 200 and you discover the compactness of this machine. The handlebar is fairly wide and the saddle is high. A small, squarish instrument console sits in the front and displays an incredible amount of information, ranging from basic stuff like speed and revs per minute to fuel-efficiency and the kilometre range possible with the remaining fuel. There is also a text display (instead of only LED) for warning messages such as when the side-stand is down. All in all, the multi-info instrument console is definitely something that we haven’t seen on an Indian bike thus far. The mandatory rear wheel hugger and sari-guard are in place and don’t look too odd on this bike. The carved swing-arm with the cross pattern on it has killer looks too.

Turn the ignition key, press the starter button and the engine comes to life with a mild grunt, something much quieter than what we had expected. But this relative quiescence lasted only until the throttle was not opened.

I started from the pit lane of Bajaj Auto’s test track, taking the bike easy round the first few corners, judging its handling and grip levels before deciding to tax the engine with the throttle wide open. The first impression was that of a small, lightweight machine with a throttle that seemed to be sufficiently responsive to the twist of the wrist.

Once I got accustomed to the levers and the bike’s ergonomics in general, I decided to go for it. Boy, was I stunned by the acceleration! The Duke 200 is a serious machine and it was evident as soon as I opened the throttle. Outright acceleration is good enough to compete with higher capacity motorcycles. After all 25 PS is a lot of power. And not only is it good in outright acceleration, but also in roll-on acceleration. Thanks to the overall low gearing, the bike pulls superbly from slow speeds in higher gears too. Believe it or not, the Duke 200 doesn’t knock even at 35 km/h in the sixth gear and has a much stronger pull than even a certain higher cc motorcycle. No doubt this kind of rideability will make the Duke one of the best bikes to ride in urban traffic conditions. Just slot it into the fourth or fifth gear and you are well set to roam about the city with no hassles.

However, if this is the story of acceleration, the bike’s top speed is an aspect that did not impress us much. The speedometer showed 140 km/h in the top gear before hitting the limiter and cutting off. Even while cruising at 110 km/h the engine felt a little busy rather than smooth and easy. Nevertheless, the way the bike attains that speed is phenomenal.

The Duke 200 is built on a trellis frame and equipped with WP suspension both at the front and the rear. Upside down (USD) forks in the front and monoshock suspension at the rear have been set up well for Indian conditions – neither too soft, nor too stiff.

As mentioned earlier, we were out testing this motorcycle on the Bajaj Auto test track, which offers a lot of corners with various radii. Every time and round each corner there was enough confidence to push the bike. Though the Duke 200 is not really a supersports bike designed to attack corners, the way it tackled the bends was laudable indeed. No hint of nervousness. The rear tyre is a very wide, 150-mm section one, yet surprisingly offers good flickability, thanks to the narrow rims. MRF has done a good job on the grip front too. The Duke 200 uses Bybre brakes, which function pretty well.

With over an hour well spent astride the Duke 200, it was time to leave and there were some pleasant revelations as well as some questions yet to be answered. For sure, the Duke 200 is a well-engineered bike. It has a lot of power, nice handling, great rideability and fabulous styling. However, there are a few bits, such as its switches and levers, that do not match up to the quality of the other parts of the bike. I happened to be in Tokyo last month where I saw the Duke 200 and Duke 690 side by side and the difference in quality was evident at once.

Another important question is how this bike will be priced. The company has not disclosed anything yet, but they indicate a “competitive” price that will surprise us if we are comparing it with the Honda CBR 250R. That makes us conjecture that this KTM Duke will be priced at around Rs 1.3 lakh (ex-showroom, Pune).

If KTM are able to price the Duke well, it will indeed be the next big thing in the Indian market of performance bikes.

The Duke 200 brings with it a motorcycle lingo that is not heard by most Indians – the kind spoken by evil urban naked motorcycles

Story: Adhish Alawani
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

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