KTM 790 Duke, Suzuki SV650X and Zero DSR pile on the miles

1500 miles with KTM’S 790 twin re­veal the Duke’s im­me­di­ate hits and misses

Motorcycle News (UK) - - CONTENTS -

It must have been ten laps into the track­day when I re­alised some­thing a bit spe­cial was hap­pen­ing. And that was that, de­spite rid­ing a rel­a­tively hum­ble par­al­lel twin with only half the power of a mod­ern su­per­bike, I was hav­ing a ball: more fu­ri­ous fun than I man­aged at the same cir­cuit on a Honda Fire­blade SP just a few months be­fore.

It’s true. The 790 Duke can change di­rec­tion faster, brake later and, on a pair of sticky Met­zeler Racetec K3s, lean fur­ther than any other bike you can ride out of a show­room, cer­tainly that I can think of.

What it lacks in brute force it makes up for with an easy-go­ing light­ness and a con­ta­gious sense of fun. It takes noth­ing, least of all rid­ing round as fast as you can in cir­cles, too se­ri­ously and us­ing its blis­ter­ing corner speed cheek­ily places it­self in the way of more se­ri­ous bikes for as long as it can. There’s just enough damp­ing, im­mense feel and a neat pack­age of elec­tron­ics to help you max­imise brak­ing, lean, brav­ery… ev­ery­thing.

I don’t want to get car­ried away here. It would be swamped by the Blade and its big­ger boy chums away from the tor­tur­ous in­field at Rock­ing­ham, whose hair­pins and sec­ond gear corners are made for a light and torquey mid­dleweight, but the 790 had made its point.

All this was on day two of my ten­ure of the KTM, and early im­pres­sions are that it’s a ruth­less com­muter, too. It’s ul­tra-slim like a sin­gle, so you ride with your knees all but touch­ing, tucked in tight, and feel happy to point it at gaps so nar­row you in­stinc­tively breathe in. Then it digs into round­abouts and clears off sharpish.

There are a cou­ple of early misses too. The fu­elling is abrupt and spiky at low rpm, mak­ing it hard to be smooth on a con­stant or off-to-on throt­tle, while my bike’s ex­haust is al­ready as orange as the tank, some­thing I would be point­ing out to my dealer were it mine.

Tak­ing a rest from bait­ing su­per­bikes

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