21 January 2013 - 08:40
Bike of the Year: KTM Duke 200
Didn’t get the intro? Well, allow me to explain. The KTM Duke 200 arrived into the Indian motorcycling fraternity amid a lot of buzz. It was going to be the best thing ever, they said. It would raise the fun-bar for Indian motorcycling, they said. And even sire the next-generation of Pulsars. And it duly did. As surely as a Swiss watch measures time. And punctuality is, as they say, a mark of greatness.
At the risk of repeating myself, the Duke 200 is a genuine classic, a milestone in Indian motorcycling. There’s no way anyone’s ever going to ignore it. It might displace only 200cc, but it displaces them in a manner that its bigger Austrian brothers are proud of. For a start, the Duke’s unmistakeably KTM, brash and orange. There seems to be nothing on it except wheels, a motor, a bit of orange and a whole lot of attitude. An attitude that grabs attention wherever it goes.
The Duke is more hardcore than any 200cc motorcycle has a right to be, and that’s purely its KTM DNA coming through. Dynamically, it’s probably the best motorcycle made in India – ever. In terms of the motor, it doesn’t feel like all the single-cylinders that we’ve been force-fed so far. It feels raw, like a race-only motor – perhaps that’s why the first thing the Duke says when you wake it up is ‘Ready to Race’ on its digital display. And race it does.
The Duke races ahead of every single motorcycle in its class today when it comes to pure motorcycling fun. It’s a great tool for a rider to cultivate a feel for going relatively fast in complete safety, thanks to its excellent cycle parts. It’s a bike that eggs the rider on and on, and informs him about everything that’s going on under and around him. It takes a special motorcycle to carry out detailed conversations with its rider. So now, the Duke’s got the go to back the show. But mind, it won’t stop talking. And you won’t stop going faster.
In Europe, it’s a motorcycle for learners and is a bestseller (well, the 125, but so what!) too. In India, it’s got veterans going gaga over it. So, somehow, it’s got all bases covered. Strange, but that’s what happens in fun-starved India. So I’d say the most important thing is that it’s made right here in India. It’s proof that great bikes need not cost the earth. What the Duke also is, is the end of all the excuses that manufacturers lob at Indian motorcycling enthusiasts. And that’s why the Duke reigns over Indian motorcycling in 2012.