KTM 790 Duke Review, First Ride

By Jared Solomon | on October 10, 2019

For the first time ever, KTM has opted for a parallel-twin configuration for their latest bike – the 790 Duke. But the engine isn’t the only highlight of this motorcycle, as Jared finds out… 

In 2012, KTM stepped into the Indian market with the locally produced 390 Duke. This motorcycle revolutionised the very idea of performance bikes in the country. With an affordable price tag, it allowed the masses to enjoy the experience of owning a high-performance machine. Fitted with a small 375cc single-cylinder engine, packed with explosive power, the Duke was welcomed by the enthusiasts with open arms. And soon, KTM had a cult following in India. 

Over the years, KTM brought in various iterations of the bike, but none of them exceeded the 390 in terms of power and size. But things are all set to change, as KTM has now brought in a bigger and more powerful Duke – the 790. The 790 Duke is set to enter the middle-weight segment that already has spectacular motorcycles, like the Z900, Street Triple, and the Monster. 

So, we couldn’t help but ask the big question – will there be enough space for this new Duke? And to answer the question, we got our hands on the bike for a short track experience at Bajaj’s test facility in Chakan – and here’s what we discovered about the flagship from KTM.

SimpliCity in motion 
If I’m honest, when the bike was launched globally, I didn’t find it very appealing. And when I saw it again – this time in the flesh – I still wasn’t exactly smitten by its design. The thing is that it doesn’t demand your attention like, say, an Italian would, and its road presence isn’t the best. And yet, its simplicity is what makes it nice and pleasing. 

The headlight still has that sharp diamond design, just like other Dukes. And the body is super slim and narrow, with a fuel tank that looks small. The overall quality levels aren’t that great, as is evident in the switchgear. However, it does have some very nice elements, like the wheels and frame. 

The instrument cluster is cool – something that’s not available on most other bikes in the segment. When you sit on the bike, though, all your reservations begin to disappear. It has significantly more legroom compared to the 390, which put a smile on my face. As great a machine as the 390 is, I could never enjoy riding it because of the cramped space. The 790 is a breath of fresh air in terms of ergonomics and riding posture, especially for tall riders.

Packed with tech
Turning heads is not what this bike has been designed for – it’s meant to be a true riding machine. And, for that, it comes packed with all sorts of high-tech wizardry to ensure that you’re comfortable and confident all the time. It comes with ABS, cornering ABS, different levels of traction control, wheelie control, launch control, a slipper clutch, and a quick shifter. 

‘Ready to Race’ has always been KTM’s tag line, and that’s exactly what this is eager for all the time. It has four different riding modes, which allows you to adjust ABS, traction, throttle, and power to your liking. You can also connect your phone to the bike – a welcome feature in the world of connectivity. In terms of technology, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to claim that no other bike in this segment comes with such a wide range of enhanced hi-tech features. 

Light & Quick
The 799cc engine gets a parallel-twin setup for the first time ever in a KTM motorcycle. This engine produces 105bhp and 87Nm of torque, which is really great once you consider that the bike has a dry weight of only 168kgs. The engine is very refined for a parallel-twin, and what’s really impressive is the way the power is delivered. 

The engine is mated to a 6-speed transmission, with pretty short ratios. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t hold gears. Low-end power is fantastic, especially in Track and Sport mode. The mid-range is very enjoyable, for the engine revs up very fast. The throttle response is deceptively quick, making the bike wickedly fast. 

However, I think that this engine is not aimed towards rookie riders – which means that the 390 continues to be the bridge that connects newbies to high performance.

Scalpel-like precision
KTM has labelled the 790 Duke the ‘Scalpel’ because of its razor-sharp handling. As mentioned earlier, the bike is very narrow, which allows you to grip it tightly. And its light weight means that you can manage the motorcycle with extreme ease. It also gets nice steering damping, making the front-end feel smooth – allowing for effortless turning. 

What further adds to the riding experience and makes it even more enjoyable is the 43mm WP front forks – the same as that of the 390. At the rear, it has a WP shock, which can only be adjusted for pre-load. The sporty steering geometry combined with the low weight of the bike makes it a super fun motorcycle to ride. 

You can ride it every day in the city and through traffic and always have fun with it. On the track, I was simply blown away by the precision of its handling and the effortlessness with which it changes direction. All I had to do was to look in the direction I wanted to go, and the bike just followed.

Buy it?
Before answering that question, let’s put things into perspective by looking at the competition. The GSX-S750 from Suzuki is by far the most affordable in the segment. It’s a wonderful bike with a super smooth engine, great road presence, and exceptional handling. But it gets no tech whatsoever. Next up the ladder, in terms of price, is the Z900, which, in my opinion, gives you the best value for money, because it has the best engine in the segment, great handling, and offers incredible comfort, but, again, it lacks tech. 

Now, the KTM 790 Duke is priced at ₹8.7 lakh (ex-showroom), which is just above the Z900. Moving higher in terms of price, you get the Street Triple S. And this machine is perhaps one of the best all-rounders in the segment. And if you wish to spice things up further, then the RS version is one of the best motorcycles on the planet, period. 

At the top-end of the price band, we have the Italians, such as the Monster and the Brutale – both are beautiful and offer incredibly awesome performance. The advantage that KTM has over all of these bikes is its technology. Yes, its engine is super mighty and the handling is at the top of the segment, but it’s the tech on this bike that stands out. 

Its price tag, therefore, is very competitive – and if you’re a KTM fan this motorcycle will certainly not disappoint you one bit. If you’re not a KTM fan, let me tell you this – the 790 is one of the most fun motorcycles you can own in the segment. 

  • KTM 790 Duke

Engine: 799cc / Parallel-Twin / Liquid-cooled

Transmission: 6-Speed

Power: 105bhp @ 9,000rpm

Torque: 84Nm @ 8,000rpm

Price: ₹ 8.7 lakh (ex-showroom)

X-factor: Affordable, full of the latest tech, incredibly powerful, and with precise handling – all rolled into one perfect package.

Pros           
• Best tech
• Brilliant engine
• Handling
Cons
• Understated design and quality

Also Read:

Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 vs KTM 390 Duke: Comparison

KTM 390 Duke vs Honda CB300R vs BMW G 310 R HP Style - Photos

Tags: KTM duke 790 790 duke KTM 790 Duke

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KTM 790 Duke Model Image
Last Recorded Price ₹ 8.64 Lakh Ex Showroom Price (New Delhi)

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