Monday, March 19, 2012

KTM 200 Duke: “Why? Because it is intense…”

KTM 200 Duke KTM 200 Duke
KTM 200 Duke KTM 200 Duke
The lean, mean, KTM 200 Duke likes to rev hard and fast...

In January this year, KTM launched the 200 Duke in India, the world’s second largest market for motorcycles. Developed in collaboration with Indian company Bajaj Auto – which holds a 40% stake in KTM – the 200 Duke is part of KTM’s new global strategy and will be available in all countries where KTM motorcycles are sold.

The KTM 200 Duke is a refreshingly new take on the quarter-litre class, which has small-bore sportsbikes like the Kawasaki Ninja 250R, Honda CBR250R and Hyosung GT250R, and regular, commuter-spec machines like the Yamaha Fazer 250 and Suzuki Inazuma 250. Of course, the 200 Duke has a slightly smaller engine than the aforementioned bikes, but in terms of real-world performance, it just might be on top.

The 200 Duke is powered by a single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 200cc engine that produces 25 horsepower. The bike has a light, stiff, tubular steel space frame, USD fork and monoshock from WP, single 300mm brake disc at the front with two-piston caliper, 230mm disc at the back, six-speed gearbox and a 10.5-litre fuel tank. Dry weight is about 125kg.

We think the 200 Duke is a pretty interesting bike, not just in the context of the Indian market but also in terms of its prospects worldwide. It’s small, stylish, edgy and funky – should be quite a tool in the city. Our friend rearset, a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast who also writes about bikes, recently bought one of these little orange wonders, and we thought his take on the 200 Duke sums the bike up very well indeed. So, here’s what rearset has to say about the 200 Duke:

So the track bug has bitten. Hard. And also biting is the missing end of my motorcycle immersion – ownership. I don't own a motorcycle today. I've owned a few before but had to sell them since my day job gives me many, many new motorcycles and I have to ride them, allowing me little time to have my own. But now that I've ridden the KTM Duke 200, I want one.

Why? Because it is intense.

On the face of it, it's a solid motorcycle. 200cc, 25PS, 125kg dry is a potent sounding combination. But there is more to it than that. There is the stuff spec sheets cannot capture. And perhaps, it is right that they cannot. For the intangible is a powerful thing.

Let me describe a quick short ride to you. Get on the bike. It's freaking skinny in feel. The tank feels so thin, but not too thin. Pegs are back, handlebar is weirdly wide and upright. I think I'll want a fist fight about now, it seems to suggest just by the riding position. Start the engine up. It settles into a blatty, gruff idle. Blip the throttle. Revs rise incredibly fast and fall just as quickly. Gulp.

Click into first, roll on a bit of gas, let the clutch out. The KTM shoots forward with a strong sense of purpose. It forces a quick reset of your performance threshold right there. And then it bounces harshly, unceremoniously off the redline. Already? The damn redline is at 10,000rpm! How the hell did it get there? Snick into second, the digital tacho flashes across the width of the screen and bam, you're back on the redline. This is really getting annoying now. Snick up four more gears and it's the same story, until you see 140km/h on the speedo, bash into the redline once more and drop to 136. Holy cow.

The exhaust note, had it been louder would make this whole drama feel more real, but there is no getting away from it. A short geared set of ratios, a weightless crankshaft and a fast, effortless engine is a breathtaking combination. I'll have another helping of that, please. This time your left foot is a blur, up shifting just in the time, making the blat go louder and more urgent. This is lovely and super aggressive. Again, please?

Then comes a corner. Slide bum off to the inside a bit, hook up the outside knee securely in that extremely well-designed recess, find it awkward to hook up the ankle, but feel solidly hooked up anyway. And countersteer. Oh crap, I'm going to go off the track. On the freaking inside! Where is the 136kg kerb weight? Where the hell did they hide it? The motorcycle is without weight or inertia. It tips smartly, eagerly into the corner with almost no effort. The tyres give a great sense of hooking up and driving forward, the chassis is just so, the feedback you receive is excellent and there is no gap between you thinking of changing direction and the motorcycle responding. A chicane is dispatched with the same effort as you would use to bat an eyelid. And just that quickly. Oh my freaking god. I'm in love. For now. Until the 350 comes out...

Meanwhile back in the present... I have to get myself one.

I'm going to make a few mods though. There has got to be a louder exhaust on it. I need to fashion and mount a set of heel plates. And I need to figure out what all I can remove or replace to lose as much weight as possible for the inevitable track days it will have to attend with me. I always thought my next motorcycle would be a big one. A supersport class machine. But hey, looks like the future's orange.

Most of what rearset writes about motorcycles is insightful, interesting and entertaining. Do visit his blog here

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