KTM 790 Duke

RiDE (UK) - - Long Term Test -

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

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