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KTM is to off-road motorcycles what Maruti is to cars in India - it’s a name you cannot miss. The Austrian bike major entered India by forming an alliance with two-wheeler giant Bajaj initially with its Duke range of naked motorcycles.
Not only did the motorcycles set a new benchmark here for performance, their relatively affordable prices meant that these feisty bikes were accessible to a broad range of bike enthusiasts. As a result, KTM took very little time to sell its bikes in large numbers here. It’s entry-level offering, the Duke 200 particularly sells like hot cakes, and boasts of remarkably potent numbers on paper. But is it all show and no go?
In the flesh
If you like minimalism, look no further, because few bikes can be more stripped down than the Duke 200. It looks lean, aggressive, muscular and functional, all at the same time, just like KTMs do. The exposed trellis frame just adds to the bikes raw, bare looks. Black and trademark orange are the predominant colours used on the bike and, with the recent update, there’s a good dose of white thrown into the mix too. The slim-spoke alloy orange wheels, fat tyres, the neat underbelly exhaust and the small front mudguard keep with the bike’s small and compact design, and it’s not just the looks. This bike only weighs 136kg, which is light for its class.
The Duke 200 comes with a nifty little digital instrument cluster that’s a bit fussy to look at; only speed is easy to read, while the cascading rev-counter can be a bit tricky to keep track of. Like Bajaj bikes, the switchgear is illuminated, all buttons work in a crisp manner, the controls are nice and easy to use, and overall quality of materials on the bike is quite good. The fuel tank, though only a 10.5-litre unit, offers deeply recessed, snug thigh support, and the seat is quite nicely padded. The pillion seat, however, is a bit cumbersome. What looks out of place on this bike are the rear tyre hugger and the saree guard.
From the saddle
The highlight of this bike is, of course, its short-stroke, single-cylinder, 199.5cc engine that’s packed with tech like fuel injection, liquid cooling, a twin-camshaft-driven quartet of valves. The engine is mated to a six-speed gearbox.
Push the starter button and the motor emanates a deep exhaust rumble that easily makes this India’s best sounding small-capacity motorcycle. Although the engine is super-responsive to throttle inputs, it feels a bit strained between just over idle and 3000rpm. However, rev a little and the motor’s 26hp clearly makes itself felt. It especially feels manic when you push it past 7000rpm, and stays that way till it rushes to its 11000rpm redline.
The motor gathers revs so quickly in early gears that you have to time your upshifts for the first two gears; it’s easy to miss the shift warning flashing on the console. Get the shifts right however, and you’ll land smack in the meat of the engine’s powerband. Shifting gears is quite easy too, as the clutch is well weighted, and the shifts feel quite precise.
What further adds to the riding experience is that the engine delivers power in a very smooth manner, and that’s necessary - this is one quick bike. Bajaj claims a 0-60kph time of 3.3 seconds, and 0-100kph in 9.2secs, while the speedometer indicated a top-speed of 136kph. The KTM 200 Duke’s engine will certainly thrill enthusiasts – it’s refined and oodles of fun.
The Duke 200’s rigid, steel trellis frame is suspended on chunky 43mm-diameter front upside-down forks and a cast-alloy swingarm-mounted rear monoshock. Braking duties are handled by a 280mm disc clamped down by a four-piston calliper up front, while at the rear, there’s a 230mm disc with a radial-mounted calliper. Both work in tandem to offer ample amount of stopping power for this bantamweight bike.
You sit nice and upright on the saddle, and the wide handlebars further make the riding position comfortable. Ride, as expected, is sporty, but is pliant enough to handle our broken roads. The low ground clearance, however, means that you need to be careful when going over bumpers and potholes. Handling, however, is light and nimble, the bike feels superb around corners - there’s plenty of grip from the MRF tyres. The Duke’s stability at high speeds too is really impressive.
This, however, isn’t a bike for those who are looking for fuel efficiency; expect it to deliver about 30kpl.
Is it worth the money?
All in all, the KTM Duke 200 is a special bike. It’s useable for puttering around every day; while it also punches way above its category when it comes to performance; you can really thrash it around on your favourite open road. In short, this bike sets the benchmark in the 200cc segment, even five years after its launch. Priced at Rs 1.43 lakh, it’s clearly at a premium when compared to rivals like the Bajaj Pulsar NS200, the TVS Apache RTR 200 and even bigger displacement bikes like the recently launched Yamaha FZ25. However, given the number of them you see on our roads, it’s clear that Indians are finally willing to pay more for a bike that offers that something extra. And in case of the Duke 200, it’s worth it.
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