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KTM Duke 200 reviewed
Driven December 2011
The deed has finally been done, Bajaj has pulled the covers off the Duke 200 at last and let us have a go at it. For a motorcycle which was developed and built at Chakan, near Pune, it’s almost ironical that we get to see the Duke 200 last. And now that I’m done complaining about that, let’s move on to the bike itself. I can’t say I was pleasantly surprised to see how KTM the Duke looks in the flesh, I’m not just talking about the orange paint job, because like everyone else I’ve followed pictures on the web and even got to see one at the recent Tokyo Motor Show. The smashed in headlamp, the short seat, the high rear fender sitting on top of a monoshock, the upside down front forks and the tank decals – they all look fantastically aggressive.
But it’s the go that had been the talking point in office ever since the specs were announced. A 200cc, liquid-cooled engine, making 25bhp and pushing around a bike weighing all of 136kg it truly staggering. The central digital console displaying all relevant information with a host of warning lamps peppered around it reads out an ominous ‘Ready to Race’ as you turn the ignition on. Unlike most bikes which have been neutered by emission norms, the Duke manages to pull of a crisp exhaust note out of the short exhaust.
Once I finally got going I was taken aback by the way the engine responded to throttle inputs. It’s sharp and there always seems to be a generous helping of power waiting, no matter what the rev counter says. Even the maneuverability of bike stands out despite carrying around a hunk of a rear tyre (150 section, that’s 10mm more than the FZ). Leaning into corners feels natural and easy and you are comfortable scraping pegs in no time. Of course, the straight tall handlebar and the forward seating position helps massively in that respect. Flat out performance is impressive with max speed rated at 134kph. The engine feels the best around 6000-7000rpm with the exhaust singing along before it gets a bit thrashy and viby toward the 10,000rpm redline.
It has a good set of discs (front and rear) to cut the momentum back down to. The only downside is the fact that even by the on-board computers estimates, the Duke 200 struggles to do 20kpl when you are taking it easy – flat out it drops to under 15kpl. For a small motorcycle that will be locking horns with the Honda CBR 250 R (our current Bike of the Year) it the Duke does everything well, but I’m not convinced it is as phenomenal as we had all expected it to be. A longer stint with the motorcycle will probably tell a different story once it is launched in January, 2012. Expect prices to undercut the Honda.