★★★★★ | KTM 790 Duke
What Have We Got
KTM has a rich and successful motorcycle pedigree. Countless world championships across a wide range of disciplines from Motocross to Endurance to Moto3 and much more. They have become one of the most successful motorcycle brands in history. KTM has been one of the world’s fastest-growing motorcycle manufacturers for some time now. 2016 was the company’s sixth consecutive record year and in 2018, they unleashed this 790 Duke on the world.
Small, light and fast, the KTM 790 Duke is powered by the brand new LC8c parallel twin engine kicking out 105 hp.
When you first swing your leg over, the Duke feels small, like a 250, narrow and short. It’s purposeful and uncomplicated. Press the starter and it barks into life. The parallel twin sounds just like a V twin with a powerful and potent rumble.
When you increase the pace, the 790 really starts to make sense.
It’s great at commuting, it’s noisy, torquey and very easy to manoeuvre, making light work of slicing through town. As you leave the 30mph confines and the road starts to open up and the pace increases, the KTM loves it. The harder you push, the better it gets, It really is a little hooligan.
It’s fitted with a quickshifter as standard so going up and down through the 6-speed box is effortless, helped by a slipper clutch (PASC™). I found a couple of false neutrals on the way up through the ‘box but put it down to the bike having been a press bike that’s probably seen it’s fair share of abuse.
There’s a funky ultra lightweight chrome-molybdenum steel trellis frame with bolt-on aluminium rear subframe and very cool looking die-cast aluminium open lattice swingarm and at the sharp end, you’ll find 43mm upside-down WP suspension forks fitted with progressive springs.
Outback is a WP suspension, gas-assisted, directly linked rear shock, also with progressive spring and 12-stage adjustable preload.
Front brakes are KTM branded, radial 4-piston callipers with a radial front brake master cylinder working on twin 300 mm front brake discs. I thought the whole lot was excellent, needing little more than 2 fingers.
KTM’s 790 Duke has ride mode technology with customizable track mode as standard. This wild child is among the best equipped bikes in this arena, with ride mode technology with customizable track mode as standard. It Boasts an array of tech usually seen on bikes costing twice as much; Cornering ABS including Supermoto mode (for backing it in), lean-angle sensitive motorcycle traction control (MTC), motor slip regulation (MSR), Quickshifter+, and even launch control work seamlessly to make this a very serious weapon.
The compact and neat TFT dashboard works with KTM MY RIDE which is a smartphone app that is an awesome tool, click the link to see what it can do.
Living with it
KTM have fitted Maxxis Superamaxx ST tyres which on my test ride on dry, warm roads, were great. It had a brand new rear tyre so I took a few miles to wear it in but they felt very stable, loads of grip, easily able to get a knee down without feeling it was anywhere near the limit of grip.
KTM says the goal with the 790 Duke was to create the ultimate street weapon. Ultimate is a big boast but it is really, really good.
In my opinion, it was all the bike you’ll ever need. You can jump on it and pop to the shops or head off to a track day, it will easily do everything and do it bloody well.
My one complaint was the complete lack of protection. It’s a naked bike so no fairing, not even a fly screen. The 790 is fast, so you’re at mad speeds most of the time. On dual carriageways and motorway, it’s tiring but, don’t go on them!
Brilliant, fast, light and more fun than any bike has a right to be. That’s how I’d sum the KTM 790 Duke. Accelerating hard, throwing gears at it with the quickshifter doing its job, cutting through the countryside at daft speeds. Looking for trouble, adrenaline pumping, the parallel twin barking and shouting “is that all you’ve got”.
Riding the 790 Duke was a pure, visceral experience. I keep catching myself daydreaming about it now, imagining gunning it out of a corner or flicking from side to side through a roundabout.
1 Fast! It’s really fast
2 Handling. It’s outrageous
1 No wind protection
2 Heat, it got pretty hot
3 Gearbox. I got a few false neutrals
Bike – KTM 790 Duke
Price – £8499
MPG – 48 mpg
0-62 – 3.1s
Power – 105 bhp / 86 Nm torque
Top Speed – 151 mph
Co2 – 102.9 (g/km)