KTM 790 Duke: Naked Bike With A Unique Selling Point

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KTM 790 Duke: Naked Bike With A Unique Selling Point
KTM 790 Duke: Naked Bike With A Unique Selling Point

Just muscles and tendons. The KTM 790 Duke, the first naked mid-range machine from the Austrian motorcycle manufacturer, is presented for its premiere on the Canary Island of Gran Canaria.

The KTM 790 Duke weighs 189 kilograms when fully fueled. To do this, it delivers a newly designed two-cylinder in-line engine with a displacement of 799 cubic centimeters and a maximum output of 105 hp. In addition, there is a clever chassis and electronic equipment that no one in this price range of just under 10,000 euros has yet achieved.


The equipment includes a multi-adjustable dynamic traction control, several driving modes, a comprehensive chassis control system with cornering ABS, plus engine drag torque control, LED light, TFT color display and much more. As a bonus, there is a naked bike that is equally foolproof and comfortable to ride, which in our opinion currently has a unique position on the market.

67 years of work for the KTM 790 Duke

It took four years to develop the mid-range Naked from scratch. The 250-strong team around Gerald Matschl needed 111,000 man-hours, equivalent to around 67 working years, to put the 790 Duke on its light cast aluminum wheels. 900,000 test kilometers were driven, plus 605,000 kilometers on various test stands, 48 engines were used until they were no longer possible.

The reward for the effort? A bright future, we say after the first one-day test. The combination of very precise driving behavior, easy accessibility, high performance, very good equipment and good driving comfort should secure the KTM 790 Duke one of the top places in the new registration statistics in various European markets, not just in its premiere year.

Row twin convinces

KTM 790 Duke. Photo: KTM
KTM 790 Duke. Photo: KTM

The slightest surprise of the 790 Duke is its engine: we know from KTM that they have mastered the art of performance and lightweight construction in conjunction with good reliability. The in-line twin is KTM's debut in this cylinder configuration and appears to be a success straight away. It is equally easy to turn and powerful, depends - depending on the selected driving mode - excellently on the gas and also displays sufficiently restrained drinking habits.

We did not come close to the stated average consumption of 4.4 liters per 100 kilometers, but the additional liter consumption is due to our often very forward driving behavior on the extremely winding roads of Gran Canaria. Of course, it helps when storming forward in twisting curves, always above 6,000 rpm. to stop, but even up a gear it is hardly less brisk. The desired V2 feeling is achieved thanks to the 75 degree crank pin offset. Because, thanks to two balance shafts, no undue vibrations are noticeable, we give the KTM twin excellent testimony: It is an important factor in the great driving pleasure that the 790 Duke exudes.

Numerous electronic helpers

This also applies to the chassis. With non-adjustable spring elements from KTM subsidiary WP at the front and rear, it appears to be very economical at first glance, but impresses both on mountain and country roads and shows itself to be completely up to a detour on a mini racetrack. The Midsize-Duke turns easily and stays precisely on course regardless of the selected lean angle. The Taiwanese Maxxis tire of the type Supermaxx ST is convincing across the board: both handling and grip are beyond any doubt.

The KTM deserves a unique position in the market in the area of electronic assistance systems. The equipment ranges from the multi-adjustable traction control to the ABS suitable for sloping positions. The adjustable motor slip control also provides excellent service; when braking and downshifting, it cuts the engine braking force by opening the throttle valve slightly, which keeps the Duke rigid when cornering.

Shift assistants on board

KTM 790 Duke. Photo: KTM
KTM 790 Duke. Photo: KTM

The next surprise is that KTM also provides a standard gearshift assistant that works excellently in both directions for clutchless gear changes. All-round LED lighting and an easy-to-read TFT display can also be rated positively in view of the price of 9,790 euros. On the other hand, in view of the electronics hype, it seems incomprehensible that the 790 Duke has been deprived of a hazard warning flasher and automatic flasher reset.

Where does the mid-size Duke stand in relation to the competition? Triumph has just reissued its successful Street Triple and with the R version (118 hp, from 10,300 euros), thanks to a dozen more horsepower, is holding against it. Yamaha also recently updated its successful MT-09 model (115 PS, as SP version from 10,195 euros) and is pursuing a dual strategy with the basic version for almost 9,000 euros and the refined SP version.

Now also the KTM 790 Duke, made easier in terms of chassis, but not necessarily inferior. It gets exciting in the segment of powerful motorized naked bikes between 750 and 850 cubic meters. In any case, the extremely active Austrian driver has very good cards to position herself far ahead. It deserves the success that is already emerging, although delivery is only just beginning. (SP-X)