Motorcycles evoke an innate sense of emotion be it love, hate, want or awe. Love or hate comes after swinging a leg and so does awe but want comes straight up when you look at it or hear it. Enter the KTM 790 Duke.
But looks can be deceiving and the Austrian does it really well. The sharp cuts and compact proportions hide it’s bulk while the orange-grey scheme highlights it’s angles. Only when you start mounting it is when you realise its size. At 825mm seat height it is tall but when you are astride, the excellent seating triangle shrinks it beneath you.
You hardly feel any weight on the handlebar and the knees recess into the sculpted tank. The rear set foot pegs give it a sense of go with the only thing left to do is pop the clutch and hit the road. And that is just the beginning of how well the 790 is engineered. It looks like a middleweight motorcycle, feels like one too. But, does it ride like one?
KTM 790 Duke engine and transmission
Hell no. Because under that simple design is a motor that could least be called a powerplant. The 799cc twin has enough displacement to stand amongst the biggies but the way it generates and lays down that power and torque makes it a potential giant-killer.
The 105PS of power and 86Nm of torque aren’t top-of-the-table stuff, but when you open the gas, it shoots off earnestly leaving that front wheel gasping for traction and the rear tyre praying for some relief. The twin-cylinder motor unleashes the torque right from the mid-range with the power taking over even before the torque begins to taper. And this continues through the six-speed transmission. It quick-shifts both upwards and downwards with every shift clicking positively at your toe. Managing the revs becomes cakewalk making it even more easier to handle. It also makes it very easy to get carried away.
That is when the engineering comes to the fore. The 300mm twin-discs in the front and 240mm disc in the back help you drop anchor while the balance and ABS gives you stability. The WP forks in the front and preload-adjustable shock in the back aren’t really a lot, but complement the 790 in every possible way. The cycle parts are sturdy and robust and with that ground clearance, this could very well be a cool tourer when you slap a windscreen on. The only thing that you will notice while touring is the heat it generates when you enter city traffic.
If you want, you could also slog it out on the track and the KTM 790 Duke won’t feel out of place. The geometry is spot on for you to lean into corners and it being a little on the softer side is confidence-inspiring even for noobs. It’s intuitive to counter-steer and the wide seat allows you to move around and hang off. The brakes bite well and the quick-shifting gearbox becomes your wingman. If you really want to drown in adrenaline, it has the Track mode where you can turn the Wheelie-control off and you will have a monster under you waiting for the rodeo.
So, to sum it up, the Duke 790 kind of excels at being a middleweight motorcycle. It is faster than it looks, easily manageable both on the highway as well as on the track and give you a rodeo whenever you want. And all of it for just over Rs 10 lakhs on road in Mumbai.
In its competition, you have the Triumph Street Triple, also a brilliant motorcycle, and the Kawasaki Z900 an old-school streetfighter. Their biggest advantage is the exhaust note and bulky stature. Both the bikes do arrive in style definitely making you want them.
But only when you ride the 790 properly and experience it’s ability to multitask with panache is when you will realise that it is the underdog that you want!
Also watch: KTM 790 Duke road test review | India | mileage | traffic conditions