I ride one of the most exotic and enjoyable motorcycle to have hit India till date..
"Brutal, brash, in your face with a heavy dose of attitude and with a good amount of substance to back it up"
That’s the KTM 200 Duke for you, a purpose built street scorcher that is blissfully unapologetic about its single minded focus to provide a kind of motorcycling thrill that was last seen during the 2 stroke era of the RD350’s and RX100’s.
Pre Ride Emotions: "O boy, I will ride a KTM today.. yes a KTM.. phew a KTM..!!". That’s exactly were my emotions on my way for the test ride of the KTM 200 Duke.
For a biker next door like me, it was almost like butterflies in the stomach feeling. And for good reason as well, since a couple of years back it would have been wishful thinking of ever getting to ride a bike with the hallowed KTM badge. But thanks to the economic resurgence of the Indian economy and the good fortune of "Hamara" Bajaj co-developing and manufacturing the 200 Duke in India (for KTM), the dream has now turned into a real possibility of owning one before my hair turns gray completely.
Looks/Styling: "A Street Fighter with KTM (off road) genes"
The 200 Duke looks more impressive in the flesh than in photos. In photos the bike looks small but the 200 Duke has a longer wheelbase than the Pulsar 220 and Karizma. The bike is actually big but has a compact and tightly packed lean body.
The styling of the 200 Duke is very unique. The 200 Duke does not tow the line of conventional street bike styling. KTM has made sure that the 200 Duke inherits it’s off road genes in its styling as well. The result is a unique and stunning blend of a Street bike with athletic off road lines.
[+] Unique styling stands out in the crowd
[+] Long wheelbase with minimalistic bodywork
The 200 Duke gives new meaning to the term “Naked”. A sight of the 200 Duke is enough to give a hot blooded bike enthusiast a “biking hard on”. The 200 Duke is like an unabashed flasher with its mechanical details on full public display. One can spend hours ogling at the exposed engine block, the innovative and beautifully executed underbelly silencer, the exotic trellis frame, the 43 mm fat upside down front forks, the detailed aluminum foot peg sub frame, the chunky aluminum swing arm with it’s exposed mechanical criss-cross webbing, the white colored monoshock, the healthy 150 mm wide rear radial tyre, the strong looking 10 spoke pattern alloy wheels.. I can go on and on with the list.
The tastefully done "saree guard + rear hugger" deserves special mention here as it adds a visual weight to the otherwise bare looking rear.
The 200 Duke can’t be called as a Supermoto as it does not have a slim and flat tank like a Supermoto bike neither is the suspension as long/tall like a Supermoto. The unique styling of the 200 Duke can best be described as a Street Fighter with KTM’s off road genes.
Quality, Fit & Finish: "Best seen on any India made bike till date"
A premium product not just has to look good from far but also has to look and feel premium to touch and feel. Nothing could be more turn off than poor fit & finish and tacky metal & plastic parts on a so called “Premium” bike.
[+] Benchmark in quality among made in India bikes
[+] Impressive attention to detail
[+] Assurance that money has been well spent
The 200 Duke now becomes the new benchmark for made in India bikes when it comes to the quality of material used and attention to details by in the way the bike has been put together. Just a look and touch of the seat cover shows the kind of attention that was showered while sourcing material for the 200 Duke. Everything from the quality of paint, the weld finish on the frame, the touch and feel of the plastic and rubber parts, the quality of nuts and bolts on the bike gives a reassurance of money wisely spent.
The 200 Duke also gets LED backlit switches like the ones found on the Pulsars which might not be functional one the rider gets used to the placement of the switches but nevertheless enhances the cool quotient of the 200 Duke. The switches also give back a positive and tactile feel in its operation.
Riding Stance: "Comfortable yet aggressive/commanding"
When it comes to riding position, Comfortable and Sporty usually don’t go together, that’s what I used to believe till I swung my legs over the 200 Duke. The footpegs on the 200 Duke are quite rearset which instantly puts the rider with an involved-with the bike type of sporty stance. The handlebar on the other hand is a wide single piece of hydro-formed metal placed at a comfortable reach (neither too high and definitely not low).
[+] Commanding and comfortable riding stance
[+] Slightly high seating but still manageable for a short guy
[+] Firm seat for comfortable hours on the saddle
Grabbing the bars with both hands gives you an upright and proud/wide chested ( Khali/WWE wrestler like) stance which coupled with the rear set foot pegs is aggressive and comfortable at the same time..!! The riding stance is perfect for riding in traffic infested streets and also for long hours on the saddle. Speaking of the saddle, i have to mention firm and supportive padding used for the seat. The seat is on the firmer side which is a very good thing for anyone who plans to spend long hours on the saddle.
At 810 mm, the seat height of the 200 Duke is taller than majority of other Indian bikes. And at 5.4-5.5 ft height, I predictably was not able to place both my feet flat on the ground. But to my relief I found that the seat tapers towards the front which allows for someone like me to slide one of my butt cheeks to one side and reach the ground comfortably with at least one foot. A light kerb weight of 136 kgs also makes it easier to maneuver the bike at slow speeds despite the slightly tall seat height for someone of my height.
Astride the 200 Duke one does get the feeling of riding a tall bike. The 165 mm of ground clearance and 150 mm of travel on both the front and rear suspension contributing to this slightly tall off road like sitting stance.
Engine Performance: "A brutal short stroke + short geared powerhouse"
The engine cranks into life with a single throttle (thanks to the Fi). One is greeted with a lively exhaust note that is a far cry than the characterless “whirr” of a few desi bikes around. Blip the throttle and the exhaust note turns into a full blooded scream. The bike sounds more like it’s running on an after market performance air filter + and an after market exhaust can. Lovely..!!
I pull in the clutch and tap the first gear, the road ahead of me was empty and therefore I give a free twist of the right wrist and let off the clutch. I rarely swear in daily life but after letting go of the clutch I instantly uttered “WHAT THE #*@%..!!” inside my full face helmet.
[+] #@%*!$^ AWESOME
[+] Déjà vu of the good old 2 stroke days
[+] Intoxicating exhaust note
[+] Excellent in gear-roll on characteristics
[-] Slight loss of smoothness post 7000 rpm
[-] I prefer the traditional analog type tachometer instead of the digital one
In all bikes that I have ridden in my life, the first gear has always been short geared which means the speed is low in first gear but the nudge is positive. One has to quickly shift up to higher gears which becomes tall in gearing with the top gear normally in overdrive (for relaxed riding).
KTM seems to like to turn everything upside down. The first gear is geared comparatively tall which with the liquid cooled, short stroke, fast spinning engine with 25 horses coupled with a light weight body propels you like a bat out of hell, cheerfully uttering expletives all the way inside your helmet.
More than the expected firm nudge, the first gear felt like a solid punch. The subsequent gears were like jabs in quick succession from a professional boxer. Short geared, they make you shift up pretty early. Even before I knew I was in 6’th gear. The thick surge of torque in every twist of the throttle certainly did not feel like I was in 6’th (normally overdrive) gear. Another positive of this short top gearing is that one can virtually potter around town in 5’th or 6’th without the need to downshift. The 200 Duke picks up cleanly from as low as 30 kmph without any snatching. The in gear roll on the 200 Duke is the best that I have ridden so far on any bike.
On the move the 200 Duke feels fast and weightless and the brutal short stroke with its unique gearing makes the ride experience a Déjà vu of the good old 2 stroke days. The 200 Duke breaks the 100 Kmph mark at 7,000 rpm in 6’th gear. Till 7,000 rpm the engine is ultra smooth but post that the engine kind of changes it character and takes on an angry demeanor. The engine still spins eagerly till 10,000 rpm but you also get a buzz from the engine at above 7,000 rpm. It is not something worth losing sleep over; after all it’s a KTM and not a Japanese smoothie.
The 200 Duke reaches 130 Kmph in as quick a time as the Ninja 250R (judging by the distance it took me to reach the same speed on the Ninja 250R) but (like the CBR250R) at speeds in excess of 120 kmph, the bike does not feel as planted in the way the Ninja 250R does (on which you hardly feel the speed); nothing to be scared about, but just to put things into perspective.
During the initial first ride reviews, the journalists quoted the top speed of the 200 Duke at around the 135 kmph mark but then those bikes had a rev limiter at 10,000 rpm. Now the actual production bikes have been recalibrated to a higher cut off at 11,000 rpm (the light starts blinking at 10,500 and cuts off at 11,000). This means that the top speed should now be around 140 kmph. I did manage to see 138 Kmph on the speedo with the engine still having little bit of more juice left in it. But then as any bike capable of comfortably doing 120-130 kmph at the drop of a hat is fast enough for India.
Clutch + Gearshift: "A quick shifting sweet box"
I did not face any issues with either the clutch or the gearbox. The shift among the gears is actually quite short and takes a fraction of a second to shift. In terms of feel the gears felt in the same league of the CBR250R.
Ride Quality: "Perfectly Firm: Neither too soft, nor too hard"
Despite the slightly long 150 mm suspension travel, 165 mm ground clearance, a 810 mm seat height the suspension has not been overtly set as soft. The ride is not too firm as a track bike and not too soft like an off roader but has just the right amount of firmness.
The large 280 mm disc up front and the rear 230 mm disc does a remarkable job of cutting down the speed. There is absolutely no issue with them.
Handling & Stability: "Amazingly light & flickable around corners and stable in a straight line at high speeds"
The KTM 200 Duke has been designed as a different kind of motorcycle i.e a Street bike with off road influences like the slightly tall seat and tall suspension, upright riding stance. Hence to expect the 200 Duke to handle similar to a Super Sports type bike with a crouching stance (like the R15) would be unrealistic and pretty naive.
[+] Changes direction effortlessly
[+] Holds its line at high speeds
[+] Both “Knee Down” and “Leg Forward” kind of cornering possible
The handling on the KTM 200 Duke is also unique like everything else on the bike. The bike is extremely light on the move. It feels virtually weightless in the way it changes direction. Despite its light weight body the long wheelbase and the trellis frame holds the 200 Duke with impressive stability even at speeds in excess of 135 Kmph.
The slightly tall seat + upright stance is not exactly tailor made for getting one’s knee down “MotoGP style”, but on a sweeping corner even that is not impossible, though not exactly natural for this supermoto inspired motorcycle. I even tried the “leg forward” type of cornering on the 200 Duke and even though it was totally new to me, I found the “leg forward” cornering experience quite interesting.
At the end of the ride, the unique and interesting handling experience left a smile in my face.
The 200 Duke is the most unique motorcycle that I have ridden in my life so far. A commanding + comfortable stance, fast spinning motor, light weight body all translates into a bike that is all out "FUN"; all in bold, quotations, caps and underlined.
Obviously not a road racing Super Sports replica model, but the 200 Duke could still be an interesting ride for those looking for a drift/slide "Supermoto style" riding around the race track. Also the upright and comfortable riding posture should be easy on the rider’s spine who might want to venture out on long trips lasting for weeks/months.
Most importantly riding the KTM 200 Duke makes me feel 15 years younger. Mid-life crisis? Bring it on, I am loving it. With an attractive price tag of Rs. 1.17 lakhs (Ex-Showroom), very soon "Agent Orange" should be in my arsenal.
Photos: KTM 200 Duke [Size: 1280 x 800]
KTM 200 Duke (India): Official Specifications
Type: Single-cylinder, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled
Valve Train: 4 valves per cylinder, DOHC
Displacement: 200 cc
Maximum Power: 25 hp @ 10,000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 19.2 Nm @ 8,000 rpm
Compression ration: 11.5:1
Bore x Stroke: 72 mm x 49 mm
Fuel System: Fuel Injection
Front Suspension: (WP) Telescopic Upside Down Forks
Rear Suspension: (WP) monoshock
Suspension travel Front: 150 mm
Suspension travel Rear: 150 mm
Tyres (front/rear): 110/70 x 17(tubeless radial)/ 150/60 x 17(tubeless radial)
Front Brake: 280 mm Disc brake
Rear Brake: 230 mm Rear Disc
Steering head angle 65°
Wheel base: 1,367 mm
Ground clearance: 165 mm
Seat height: 810 mm
Total fuel tank capacity: 10.5 litres
Dry/Kerb Weight: 125/136 kgs
- KTM 200 Duke: Intial Media reviews [Dec 2011]
- Not KTM Bike is an Off Roader [May 2011]
- International Motorcycle Categories: Explained [Jul 2010]
- Why does a Dirt Biker stick his leg out while cornering? [Oct 2011]
This is to remind that the Views or Opinions in the blog are entirely mine unless explicitly stated. The Views and Opinions published in this blog should in no way be related to any other person or organization associated -- directly or indirectly -- with me.