2017 KTM Duke 250 review, test ride
28th Feb 2017 5:00 pm
After much debate on whether the 250 Duke would make it to India, it’s finally here. We ride it at Bajaj’s Chakan test track.
When the KTM Duke siblings launched in India, these were no ordinary motorcycles. They were razor sharp handlers, punched out more power than their counterparts, and were priced extremely competitively. Of course, refinement levels did leave something to be desired. Now for 2017, KTM has gone and given us yet another Duke sibling, the 250 Duke. Although KTM did not initially plan to bring the 250 to India, the new 2017 390 Duke has gotten more features and become more expensive in the process. This has created a bit of a vacuum in the pricing with the 200 and the 390 Dukes. And that’s where the 250 Duke comes in.
While the sharp styling of the 250 Duke has been inspired by the 1290 Super Duke R, it shares most of its bodywork and frame with the new 2017 390. Both get the new two-part trellis frame with the exposed, bolt-on sub-frame and 13.5-litre tank. This new look for the bike appears a fair bit more aggressive than the older Duke design. And from a distance, the 390 and 250 Dukes look quite similar. What sets them apart besides the obvious numeric decals is the headlight. The 250 Duke misses out on the split LED headlight setup the 390 version gets. The 250’s headlight still retains that angular, forward jutting contour but is a single unit instead. It also gives the all-new TFT instrument console seen on the 2017 390 Duke a miss. Instead, it makes do with the same digital unit as the 200 Duke. Another point of differentiation is the blacked out wheels on the 250 Duke.
The all-new metal tank on the 250 Duke is well chiselled, and really accentuates the aggressive styling of the rest of the motorcycle with those angular tank cowls. The key-switch is positioned at the fore-part of the tank and is no longer at the base of the speedometer console. The seat design has also changed, and the new, longer seat has a decent amount of padding for the rider as well as pillion. The 250 Duke shares its two-stage, side-slung exhaust with the 390 Duke. Although it retains that typically tinny KTM soundtrack, it has a decent amount of bass in its exhaust note once the revs start to climb.
The exposed tubes of the bolt-on trellis sub-frame flow neatly into the rear side-panel and really add a kind of raw appeal to the bike. There’s another decal on the underside of this panel that denotes the 250cc of displacement. All of this culminates in a well-shaped, sharp-looking rear end that now houses a twin LED taillight.
Get astride the new 250 Duke and the seating posture is a rather familiar one; it retains the neutral posture from the older Dukes. But the new 830mm seat height, and new foot pegs that are a little further rear-set, make this new bike feel a little less cramped than the older models. Although it isn’t much, the 30mm increase in seat height may be a bit cumbersome for shorter riders.
The new, quarter-litre Duke uses a 249cc single-cylinder, liquid-cooled and fuel-injected engine which produces 30hp and 24Nm. Crank the engine up and there are a few vibrations that filter through the handle-bar at idle. But once you get to higher revs, this tends to smooth out. When initially pulling off the line in first gear, the bottom-end does feel a bit sluggish; but in a typically Duke fashion, the punch kicks in with the mid-range and the top-end feels strong.
The engine is mated to a slipper-clutch-equipped, six-speed gearbox. Shifts through the gears feel smooth and precise, with the slipper clutch kicking in rather smoothly to even out hard down-shifting. The ratios for the higher gears, however, did feel a bit confusing out on the race track; fifth gear would pull all the way to a speedo-indicated 136kph on the back-straight, and sixth gear would see an increase of just 1kph (137kph). Maybe in the real world KTM intended for the sixth gear to be more of a cruising gear, but out on the race-track it didn’t make much sense.
The 250 Duke also misses out on the ride-by-wire tech and stickier Metzelers from the 390. Instead, it's shod with MRF Revz C1 rubber, which provided decent levels of grip around the Bajaj test-track. Stopping power comes from a 300mm disc with a four-piston caliper up front, and a 230mm disc with a single-pot at the rear, which is the same setup as in the Duke 200. The front brake feels strong and has a decent amount of feedback as well. However, there's no ABS offered on the 250 Duke, even as an option.
While clocking a few laps around the curvy Bajaj test-track, the 250 Duke really felt in its element. The new chassis provides an immense amount of confidence. Changes in direction are handled with a reasonable amount of briskness and cornering stability is commendable. The bike feels planted and really encourages you to push deep into the corners.
At Rs 1.73 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the new 250 Duke not only bridges the gap between the 200 and the 390 in terms of pricing, but also in terms of power and features. It doesn’t have the kind of manic power the 390 does, but it still has enough punch to keep things interesting. Although, we still wish KTM would offer ABS as an option on this model. Overall, KTM has provided us with yet another brilliant machine, albeit at a bit of a premium cost. We can’t wait to get this motorcycle out in the real world and see how it fares.