THE SPORTY ROADSTER
KTM 790 Duke
HAVING DEVOURED EVERY launch report and Youtube vlog about it, the 790 Duke is finally in my grasp. For years KTM has built some of the most entertaining large-capacity and small-cc naked roadsters, but it’s never built a middleweight twin like this before. Seeing ‘The Scalpel’ — what KTM calls it — up close for the first time, it’s clear that the styling has softened from the original prototype revealed at the 2016 Milan show but it’s very much a lean and strong-looking machine.
Enough of the walk around; time to put on some miles. I expected the 790 would have a tight, light and precise chassis, while the motor would be a typical parallel twin with nice, predictable pulses but a fairly flat delivery.
Well, I was half right. The motor is a mini-beast, packing masses of punching power. The LC8C engine drives rapidly out of second- and third-gear B-road bends with enough of a bang for me to turn around at more than a few junctions and replay the road again. The soundtrack is a real surprise too, more V-twin than parallel twin and fruity with it. Impressive really, though a new exhaust could really open up the Austrian’s vocal chords even further.
The Duke’s electronics are proper big-boy spec too, with four riding modes, a two-way quickshifter and launch control, which will be activated after its first service.
The standard Maxxis tyres feel okay on first impression, but they’re the first bullet point on my list of things to change. No major slips or skids, just a lack of bite and feel.
A trackday or two is on the horizon but I’m also keen to take the Duke out of its comfort zone to see what it’s capable of — I’m thinking bigger tours and camping. Believe it or not, I’m also excited to see how economical it is — so far the dash claims it’s running at 64mpg! But for now, let’s get back to carving up those local twisties… JIMMY DOHERTY
SPEC KTM 790 DUKE £8499 • 799cc parallel twin, l/c • 103bhp • 187kg • 14-litre tank • 825mm seat • Average economy: 64.3mpg • Miles so far: 245
Engine note is more V-twin than parallel Launch control will be activated when run-in After weeks of anticipation, Jimmy finally gets to meet the Scalpel In its element — slicing through the twisties