spicy austrian





duke 200

duke 200

KTM 200 Duke front on

unbelievable fuel economy (short trip, low speed, downhill)

KTM Duke 200



KTM 200 Duke - 2013

- the spicy Austrian

Well, I got greedy, and now I have two dukes, but they're different brands, and serve different purposes.

My commuter 250 was stolen, and riding the 848 every day was hitting my hip pocket. I thought I'd get another secondhand 250, but when I looked around, new ones weren't a whole lot more, so naturally, I decided that's what I wanted. And that's what I got. A bright orange and black 2013 KTM 200 Duke ABS.

I didn't want Kawasaki again, despite the outstanding reliability proven by the old one, simply because their 250 was old hat - hardly changed since the 90s, and their new 300 was a bit too expensive. Honda's CBR250R was nice, but, well, underwhelming, and soft to ride. Suzuki's Inazuma was well priced, but ugly as a hatful of wicked stepsisters - and heavy. I continue to say no thanks to any cruisers, so Yamaha was out, and I wanted a road bike, not a chook chaser.. In the end, the KTM won me over because:

I came back from my KTM test ride with a big grin on my face, and haven't lost it since.

I've seen plenty of reviews of the little Duke, but they've all been written overseas, and mostly in India. That's no surprise, this little Austrian has a distinctly spicy flavour, being manufactured by KTM's Indian partner, Bajaj. This particular bike has made it all the way downunder - to NSW, Australia.

The first thing that grabbed me was its size. It's small. Very small, and swinging a leg over only accentuates that it really is small. I'm 175cm (5'9"), and suspect that riders much taller than me may feel cramped.

The next thing to grab me was its looks, it might be small, but it has that full street fighter attitude - strutting about, knowing it's likely to come out on top in any brawls between its peers - and even against some of the bigger kids.

The ride
Beeeooouuuoooppp. The fuel pump fires up with a sound like an effect from an old cartoon, the speedo ticks over to a very optimistic 199 km/h and back to zero, the dash lights up, and then... "Ready to race..." appears on the display. Hit the starter, and the little Duke will quietly tick away until you're ready to ...ummm...race.

Before buying I took a test ride that involved some back roads, some traffic, some freeway, and a big climb, and came back with a big grin on my face. After living with my own for 1000 km, the grin's still there. It's surprisingly zippy as you snap through the six speed box. Even at run-in revs I could get up to just under 100 km/h. Because the Duke's happier at lower speeds than the big bike, it's more relaxing to ride, with much less need to overtake so there's open road in front.

braaap braaap braaap braaap braaap and into sixth gear and reachingfor more almost as soon as I get going, and the little Duke's quite happy to sit at the limit all through the 60 km/h zones, and accelerate without snatching once the limit increases. Of course, if you want to accelerate faster, bang it down a gear or two, and away you'll go. Which brings me to one of the bike's negatives. Banging it quickly down a couple of gears or more doesn't always work smoothly - it hits a point where tapping the lever does nothing, and you're stuck in the higher gear. To fix this, I do a full tap and full release for each gearchange. I'll fiddle with the lever height a bit more,and mention it at the service.

I find the 200 likes a short warm up before heading off, and then, unlike my big bike, the little KTM tools along on a light throttle, quite happily, no muss, no fuss, no surging (are you listening, Ducati?).

Handling's generally good, although there are times it feels a bit bouncy, and not as planted as the big bike. The suspension's very firm and quite harsh on small bumps, and a couple of bigger bumps weren't much fun at all. I'll get the dealer to back the preload off a notch at the first service - my tool won't fit in there - but I think it's more likely budget compression damping. The suspension's fairly basic, with 150 mm (six inches) available at each end. Big fat non-adjustable WP 43mm USD forks up front and a WP rear (preload adjustable). Both feet grind the deck fairly easy in the twisties, but I've still got chicken strips, and no metal has touched down.

Overtaking requires a bit more thought than for a big bike. One uphill stretch where I'll happily overtake on the big bike is a big "no way" on the KTM. That said, it does overtake, safely, and in less space than it takes a car to get past.

As always, the mirrors show a fair bit of arm and elbow, but other than that, they work well, and you can see what's coming up behind quite clearly.


KTM 200 Duke - overlooking the Grose Valley

A massive 200cc single, pumping out a learner legal 19KW (25hp) - oddly, this is 1hp down on the claimed output of the 2012 model. Riders used to considerably more power might scoff, but it's plenty to propel the little KTM along at legal speeds anywhere in NSW, with some in reserve. Overseas reviews claim top speeds of 138 km/h before the rev limiter kicks in, so that's the legal limit anywhere in Australia covered. Torque is adequate, but it's more revvy than torquey. And rev it does, with the first shift light coming on at 10500 rpm, and the second (and limiter) at 11000 rpm. I seem to remember my old 250 trailbikes redlining at 6500-7500 rpm!

The engine's ultra smooth in sixth up to 100 km/h, then starts to tingle at higher speeds, reminding you that you are, in fact, riding a small single, albeit a modern counterbalanced single.

Not a lot. One reason KTM has been able to extract such zippy performance is light weight. Without fuel, KTM claim the Duke weighs in at 129.5 kg, up from 125 kg in 2012. Most of that increase will be the ABS system, standard in 2013.

The tank looks big, but KTM only claim it holds 11 litres, up 0.5l from the 2012 model. Not a lot, but my first fill to fill tank carried me for 359 kilometres, for 10.04 litres. The low fuel light had come on at 300 km. That's just over 35.7 km/l, 100 Imp mpg, 84 US mpg, or 2.8 l/100km. I was still running the bike in, but not taking it particularly easy. The best dashboard trip average has been a totally amazing 53 km/l, coming back down the Blue Mountains from Leura, ticking along gently at the speed limit on 50 km/h roads. Typically the dash shows about 40 km/l average for the trip down the hill to work, and about 32 km/l for the climb back up. This is a 40 km (each way) mix of 80 km/h highway and main roads, and 60 km/h major suburban roads. Lots of it is rural. There are only six traffic lights, and they're usually green.

KTM recommend a minimum octane rating of 95 RON, and if you can find E10 with that octane, that'll be fine. Most E10 I've seen in Australia has only been 91 octane, but I have seen 95 and 100 at United.

One ByBre 4 pot caliper up front, one pot at the rear. Both ends have switchable Bosch ABS (it switches back on next time you restart), which I think is the way of the future. ByBre you say? ByBre is short for "By Brembo", and is Brembo's Indian arm. Quite good in the dry, but I've noticed a delayed reaction in the wet. Gave me a fright the first time, but just means you need to be aware of it and brake earlier in the rain. ABS is still there if I suddenly have to grab a big handful.

The OEM hoops are MRF, an Indian brand, with a strangely flared rear profile. They haven't given me cause for concern, but after the sticky hoops on my big bike, they don't give me any cause for confidence, either. I'm getting the chicken strips down, but the tyres are hard, still covered in moulding knobs and show no signs of getting sticky or balling. I expect they'll last forever. I had my heart in my mouth during a recent wet ride, but again, no cause for alarm, just a case of riding sensibly.

There's a rider's perch and a separate stepped pillion seat. I find the rider's seat gets painful all too quickly - long before you need to refuel. The pad's about the same size and thickness as my big bike's, which is much more comfy. I think the difference is down to the riding position, with the more upright KTM shifting my weight from my thighs to my bum. There's also not a lot of room for me to move before I bump into the pillion pad.

Cut price?
It's a commuter/entry level bike selling at a bargain price. There's bound to be some cost cutting. The handgrips are cheap, and not a lot's been spent on the levers. Tyres aren't name brand, and although the suspension may be race bred, it needs a lot of hard work and training before it will approach race levels of performance.

For what I wanted - a cheap to run, fun commuter - the 200 Duke is brilliant. But it's more than that. It makes me want to get on and go for a quick blat, and gives me a lot of that feeling I had way back when I was 18 and bought my first new bike. You just can't buy that! It's no raging beast, but still gets going faster than most traffic, and happily sits at 110 km/h on the motorway.

My longest ride so far has been 220km, and included the famed Bells Line of Road and two trips over the Blue Mountains. I chuffed along at the speed limits, keeping up with quicker traffic, and passing slower traffic, all the way from Richmond to Bell and then down to Lithgow. Despite run in limitations preventing full power, the bike handled the ride easily, and I didn't have to worry about the temptation to travel at licence losing speeds! That ride took me from the Mt Wilson turn off to Mt Victoria via Lithgow, with the low fuel light on the whole way, and "kms to empty" suddenly dropping from 27 to zero in Lithgow! I wonder how the spicy Duke would handle a longer trip? Maybe a sheepskin, backpack, and credit card weekend? Track day?

The only negatives relate to the economies all manufacturers make at the commuter end of their line ups - inflexible suspension, no name tyres, and a firm seat. Meh. If KTM had included top of the range suspension, no one would want to pay for it, including me. Tyres can be replaced with something stickier if I want, and I'm sure I've still got a sheepskin packed away somewhere from my touring days.

...and if the 200's this good, I reckon that new 390 could be the funnest LAMs bike ever!


keep on truckin'

The author has owned a long line of bikes over the past 40 years, from mini bikes to hard core sports bikes, and most stops in between. He considers himself lucky to have avoided owning a cruiser. All his previous Dukes have been of the Italian variety.

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4.5 fat hippies, only because it’s not perfect.