Austrian bike major KTM are the acknowledged world leaders for off-road motorcycles, and have made a habit of dominating off-road motorsports events. Indian giant Bajaj’s stake in this European firm has steadily climbed to a hefty 39 percent, which makes it high time we ride our first KTM.
The single-cylinder 125 Duke is a street bike jointly developed by KTM with Bajaj and already introduced in select European markets. It’s taken no time to charge into the lead and become a segment leader there, while Indians have patiently stood by waiting for a 200cc variant of the same bike to be specially prepared for our market. The eagerly anticipated KTM 200 Duke will be backed by the sales and service might of Bajaj Probiking. It boasts remarkably potent specifications, which is why we couldn’t wait to get behind the handlebars and tell you how it all comes together as a package.
Butch, lean and aggressive all at the same time, the striking 200 Duke proudly shows off its KTM genes. Black and trademark orange are the predominant colours, while sharp angles and steep creases define this modern naked bike. Every part is visibly pared down to the minimum, which allows the 200 to live up to KTM’s ‘Ready to Race’ tag and tip the scales at just 136kg. The front mudguard is sporty and bolted on above elegant, slim-spoke alloy wheels. A bikini fairing guards the engine sump, while the engine itself is exposed within a trellis steel frame. A stubby stainless steel exhaust box sits neatly tucked away underneath.
There’s a chin-set auxiliary light below the headlight, while a compact digital instrument cluster sits over it. Fussy at best, only speed is prominently displayed and easily read and we found ourselves struggling to view the tiny, cascading rev counter, apart from other information relayed by the dinky readout. The 200 Duke comes with Bajaj-typical illuminated switchgear – which works with crisp clicks, dimpled palm grips, a comfortable set of levers and good mirrors. The 10.5-litre fuel tank offers deeply recessed, snug thigh supports. And the riding saddle is roomy and well padded, although the same can’t be said for the compromised pillion seat. Split alloy grab bars lead to a slender tail lamp, behind which extends a lengthy mudguard and number plate holder. The rear tyre-hugger and saree guard are parts we feel the 200 Duke would look best without, but you can’t help but marvel at the sleek, clear-lens turn signal indicators on this spanking new motorcycle. A ‘stand down’ warning system is standard.
Overall quality, as well as the turnout of rubber and plastic parts is as good, as expected on the KTM 200 Duke.
You couldn’t ask for a more tech-rich engine on an Indian motorcycle. The new KTM deploys a short-stroke, four-stroke and single-cylinder, 199.5cc powerplant with 72mm bore and 49mm stroke measurements. State-of-the-art specs with no-compromise engineering ensure you receive the works; fuel injection, liquid cooling, a twin-camshaft-driven quartet of valves and a bantamweight, compact, six-speed gearbox.
The integral crankshaft rotates counterbalanced at the centre of this highly strung, high-compression engine that delivers a wide power band with excellent midrange to top end muscle.
Button-started, the KTM 200 Duke outputs a delightful, deep exhaust rumble that easily makes this India’s best sounding small-capacity motorcycle. Although throttle response is immediate and decisive, aided by a massive 38mm throttle body, we did notice the fuel injection system feels a little unsettled in a narrow range between just over idle and 3000rpm, where we had to play the throttle to keep revs up and the engine firing smoothly. No cause for concern though; this could perhaps even be a one-off case that had more to do with our test bike being pre-production and not yet ready for a complete test. Hereafter we found ourselves floored by the 200 Duke’s addictive surge of smoothly delivered power - of which it makes a prodigious 25bhp at 10000rpm - kicking in strongly from 4500rpm and shifting into manic mode over 7000rpm as it rushes to crash into its 10500/11000rpm redline.
Quick shifts up the one-down, five-up gearbox have to be decisively timed in the first two gears, as the bike revs with such gusto, it’s easy to miss the shift warning flashing on the console and smack into the rev-limiter. Time them perfectly within the 200 Duke’s sweet spot that lurks around 10000rpm however, and rpm immediately chops back into the meaty part of the next gear’s powerband – which is around 8500rpm.
The 200 Duke makes 1.94kgm of peak torque at 8000rpm. Its clutch is well weighted and progressive, and gears shift with precise action, although we need to ride the bike longer before passing final verdict on this.
The KTM 200 Duke engine amazed us with its silky power delivery, especially as all the KTM singles we have ridden earlier suffered vibe-infested power deliveries. The 200’s flowing, sweet revving capability impresses as well, and adds a lot to riding pleasure. Bajaj claims a 0-60kph time of 3.3 seconds, and 0-100kph in 9.2secs, which we can only confirm after a road test. What we did see is an indicated 136kph on the speedometer, blasting flat out down the ample back straight at Bajaj’s Chakan test track in top-gear, with nothing in reserve. Fifth was good for 122kph, while we managed an effortless 102kph in fourth, and found the 200 Duke can easily hold around 120kph. The gear ratios are close-packed, short and nicely spaced.
Summing it up, the KTM 200 Duke engine is really enthusiastic, still refined and oodles of fun.
The 200 Duke deploys a rigid, steel trellis frame and chunky 43mm-diameter front upside-down forks with 140mm of travel, developed by suspension specialist WP. There’s a cast-alloy swingarm supporting the 150mm-travel, linkage-free rear monoshock with its smart looking white spring. The 200 Duke uses single-disc brake systems By Brembo (ByBre) front (280mm) and rear (230mm), a radial-mounted, four-piston caliper biting the front, and both controlled by steel-braided hydraulic lines that contribute with a sharp, solid feel.
The riding position is upright, comfortable and good for daily use with the wide handlebars providing excellent leverage. Ride quality is good, pliant and still firm enough to enable sporty handling, but our ride was too brief and only over smooth surfaces, so a final verdict must again remain reserved for our road test. The KTM 200 Duke handles with a light, nimble feel, always steering with neutral manners and the MRF radial front and rear tyres provide terrific grip. This is a stable bike at all speeds, with superb cornering manners and brakes which always offer a powerful and reassuring bite.
We expect the KTM 200 Duke to return close to 30kpl for every litre of fuel. Bajaj will offer a variety of KTM merchandise as optional with this bike, including a pair of tasteful knuckle guards.
In conclusion, the KTM 200 Duke is a very special motorcycle, just as comfortable puttering around town as a zippy commuter bike or being thrashed while you attack your favourite section of twisty road. It marks a major milestone in
Indian biking history. Yes, KTM and Bajaj have certainly struck the bullseye, for Indians can now proudly proclaim; we jointly make what is today a world best-in-class 200cc street motorcycle.