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New! KTM Duke 200 review and test ride

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Bajaj seems to have a thing for flying colours. Fast colours in motorcycle-dom, that is. First it was Kawasaki green and, more recently, the brightest shade of orange in motorcycling in the form of KTM. With the imminent launch of the KTM Duke 200, Bajaj invited us for a special preview of the Indian-made Austrian motorcycle at the Chakan track, and boy oh boy, did we have fun! While you will have to wait till January for the official launch to get your own gloves on the little Duke, here’s a little something so you can go about your daily business for the next few weeks, dreaming of an orange world. Let’s get down to it, shall we?

IF LOOKS COULD KILL...

...the Duke 200 would be a blade-wielding assassin. No guns and curves for this Austrian, only slashes and edges that make your eyelids peel themselves back in an effort to get a better look at the bike. Never has a more dramatic-looking mini-motard seen light of day anywhere, let alone in India. With an exposed trellis frame, upside-down forks, underslung exhaust, fat tyres and KTM streetfighter bodywork, the Duke 200 is a born showstopper that also has a hint of supermoto in its silhouette.

And thanks to the superb cast aluminium alloy swingarm, the white monoshock peeking out from under the seat, the thin-spoke wheels or the neat little tail lamp, you will find many delightful little details that will keep you engrossed for hours between rides. The forged foot levers are brilliant and the bright orange ‘Racing KTM’ on either side of the engine is simply sigh-worthy.

 

The bright orange flanks scream out ‘DUKE’ at the top of their voices - the bike’s name is never going to be a mystery. The solid-looking forks and the substantial rubber play a big part in imparting a beefy air to the bike, while the traditional KTM face at the front establishes a clear link to the bigger hooligans from Austria. 

On niggles front, my personal favourite (and only) grouse are the clutch and front brake levers that look straight off a Pulsar - not happening. Brushed aluminium levers are a must, preferably in bright orange! There is also the saree guard/rear hugger unit. Deep inside Indian motorcycle companies’ headquarters, there exist top-secret Saree Guard Departments where entire platoons of designers and engineers scratch their heads in unison wondering how to put ugly metal grilles on good looking bikes. Credit to Bajaj, then, that I didn’t feel an urgent need to go looking for a spanner, though owners must remove it for purity’s sake. And in any case, the chances of a saree-clad person... er, lady finding her way onto that tiny pillion seat are slim.

And for those who’s like to stand out even further, Bajaj will offer a range of KTM Powerparts for the Duke 200 which consist of a bunch of cosmetic and performance upgrades. All with a healthy dose of orange, of course.

SINGLE AND LOVING IT! 

The engine, that is. It’s a 199.50cc lump of metal that was born for one purpose - to send waves of sheer joy to the rider each time the throttle is twisted. Featuring a double overhead camshaft layout that actuates four valves, liquid cooling and fuel injection, the Duke 200’s engine pushes out 25.48 bhp@10,000 rpm and 1.99 kgm@8000 rpm. This short stroke powerplant displays a rampant addiction to revs and loves to run headlong into the 10,000 rpm rev-limiter. 

 

JOYRIDE, ANYONE?

The Duke 200 is easily one of the most fun to ride machines to ever set rubber on Indian soil. Swinging a leg over the 810 mm high seat, you naturally settle into an aggressive but comfortable riding position. Turn the key and the comprehensive digital dash reads ‘Ready to Race’, which is enough to make the hair on the back to declare a high alert. And then it goes back down a bit when you start up the bike. It’s not as gruff sounding as you’d expect, not when standing still anyway.

However, up the revs and dump the clutch, and until around 7000 rpm, it makes a throaty roar, though it turns into a harsh scream after that till 10,000 rpm. The short stroke motor doesn’t seem to have bottom-end power - no, it’s not what you think. Combined with the ultra-low gearing (in keeping with true streetfighter tradition), it seems as if mid-range starts off right from idle - it’s that strong! Twisting the throttle in any gear at any speed sends a pleasant tug at your shoulders, the Duke hinting not so subtly that it wants to go, go, go!

You need to have a quick left foot to keep up with the motor while blasting off from standstill, and thanks to the sweet-shifting six-speed gearbox, it’s always a joy to do endless acceleration runs. And what you get for your efforts is 0-60 kph and 0-100 kph in a claimed 3.3 seconds and 9-odd seconds, and a top speed of 135 kph. But life isn’t always a straight line. And thank God for that.

 

The Duke 200, like a true streetfighter, wants to put its ear to the ground at the first sign of a corner and keep doing it over and over again until those 110/70 front and 150/60 rear tyres are frayed at the edges - this little KTM possesses poise and balance that is beyond its segment. And that is all thanks to clever packaging, light weight and other things that nerds love to read about. The Duke 200 flows through corners like water going down an amusement park slide, light and quick. It makes all kinds of corners seem as easy as straights and is more graceful than a troupe of ballerinas in the way it dances through curves.    

One of the things I like most about the Duke 200 is the radially mounted front brake calliper. The first such brake in India, the sheer braking force via the 280 mm disc is eye-popping and the Duke loves stoppies for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between. And in case you’re wondering, the Duke loves wheelies too. Not that we did either of these naughty things. Overall, the Duke 200 never wants to take it easy, forever compelling the rider to oblige by riding harder and harder. And that’s no bad thing at all. 

 

LYING IN WAIT...

Come January, India will get one of the most exciting motorcycles it’s ever seen, and going by Bajaj’s history of competitive pricing, there is no reason to suspect otherwise with the Duke 200. While we don’t have a concrete figure yet, we expect a price tag between Rs 1.2-1.4 lakh. Even without knowing the price, there were many fellow journalists at the ride who are queueing up to pick up the bike. Proof enough that the Duke 200 is a great, fun motorcycle that adds another dimension to Indian motorcycling. And that’s reason enough to paint the town orange, I’d say.

MOTODATA

KTM Duke 200

POWERTRAIN

Displacement: 199.50 cc

Max power: 25.48 bhp@10000 rpm

Max torque: 1.99 kgm@8000 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed

CHASSIS

Type: Trellis frame

Suspension: 43 mm USD forks (f), monoshock (r)

Brakes: 280 mm disc (f), 230 mm disc (r)

Tyres: 110/70 R17 (f), 150/60 R17 (r), radial tubless

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase: 1367 mm

Ground clearance: 165 mm

Kerb weight: 136 kg

Fuel tank: 11 litres

PRICE

Rs 1.2-1.4 lakh, estimated