2023 KTM 890 Duke R: 5 Things You Need To Know
We say goodbye to an instant classic with five things we love about it
It’s hard to say goodbye to the ones you love, but that’s exactly what we have to do with the KTM 890 Duke R. One of our favorite bikes since its introduction, the 890 Duke R is leaving the KTM lineup to make way for the incoming 990 Duke (and the re-introduced 790 Duke). But before we bid it farewell, we put it up against some of its European contemporaries in a good old fashioned MO shootout. And guess what – it won. Just like it usually does.
It’s hard to find new words to explain what’s so good about the 890 Duke R, but nonetheless, here are five reasons why we love it so much.
Powerful and Usable Mid-Range Engine
Described as a "Tasmanian devil incarnate," by our newest guest tester Joe Jackson, himself a former 790 Duke owner, the KTM 890 Duke R boasts a glorious engine with a focus on usable mid-range power. The engine's "gut punch of power" below 8500 rpm had former MO staffer, now MO guest tester Tom Roderick particularly impressed, and it’s a feeling the rest of us can’t shake. A good engine is a solid base for winning a comparison test, and in this case it’s a clear standout.
Chassis and Handling
Having the least overall weight among the four bikes certainly helps when it comes to handling, and the 890 Duke R is praised by all of us for its light and agile chassis. This despite having the longest wheelbase in our recent test. This just goes to show that proper geometry combined with appropriate chassis flex and good suspension components can work wonders. KTM's "Ready to Race" mantra mixes a punchy engine with a nice handling chassis for what’s ultimately a winning combination.
Suspension and Bump Absorption
Remember what we just said about good suspension and chassis flex? The WP suspension on the KTM 890 Duke R soaks up bumps, both in straight-up riding and when leaned over. The backbone frame design, though not typically considered a performance feature, is commended for its flexibility, handling bumps at lean angles effectively. When a motorcycle does that, confidence ensues. And when you’re confident on the bike, the experience just gets better and better.
Engines may get all the glory, and it certainly does in this case, but a great engine is kinda pointless without good brakes. Thankfully, stopping is something the KTM 890 Duke R does better than arguably anything else in the class. Its Brembo Stylema calipers, 320mm rotors, stainless lines, and Brembo MCS master cylinder are all top-notch, but the aggressive brake pads fitted to our most recent test bike provide an intense initial bite and significant stopping power. All four test riders loved how strong the bike could shed speed, praising its combination of monstrous initial bite and precise feedback.
Versatility and Performance on the Track
The underrated value of the KTM 890 Duke R is its versatility as a bike that excels both in everyday commuting and on the track. Despite some gearbox issues on our test bike, we have enough experience with the 890 Duke to know this one-off shouldn’t dampen our spirits. Even still, the 890 Duke was able to reel off the fastest lap time among the four bikes we tested. Then, once away from the track, the bike's upright and comfortable riding position, nicely-spaced bars, and fairly relaxed knee bend made for a nice ride. Then when we needed it, the powerful engine and agile chassis provided quick passing power and ease of maneuverability in various riding conditions.
We know this is supposed to be five things, but this bonus feature is too good to ignore. For $13,000 you can buy an 890 Duke R and still have a couple bucks leftover for lunch. That’s a ton of performance crammed into a very affordable package. And who knows, if there’s a dealer near you looking to offload an 890 to make room for a 990, you might be able to get an even better deal.
Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at Motorcycle.com in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.
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