2024 KTM 990 Duke Review – Track Test

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

How does the new middleweight Duke stack up on track?

Action photography by Sebas Romero. Trackside stills by Emanuel Tschann. Studio photography by VISUS STUDIOS.

After getting a taste of KTM’s new 990 Duke on the street, it was agonizing not to see how it would do on track, especially since the home base of our street ride was the Almeria circuit in Spain. I was also curious because the street ride revealed the 990 to be much more rigid in the chassis department than the 890 before it. I might be an outlier, but the 890’s chassis flex was actually one of its redeeming qualities, in my opinion, giving it character both on the street and the track.

2024 KTM 990 Duke

On the street, the 990 Duke was very different from the 890 before it. On track, that difference really comes through.


  • Comfortable on the street or track
  • The stiffer chassis was made for the track
  • Big value for the money


  • Pegs drag almost instantaneously
  • Soft suspension (for the track)
  • Would love to see what an R version is like

Luckily I didn’t have to wait long to get a taste of the 990’s track chops, as only a few weeks later I was invited to Portimao to give the 990 Duke a shot on this world famous course. I’d also be splitting my time between the 1390 Super Duke R EVO and RC8c, so while this won’t be an exhaustive track review, it’ll shine a light on what the 990 can do, the potential that lies within, and possibly give us a glimpse of what we can expect from a 990 Duke R – because you know one is coming eventually.

Street impressions are one thing. Taking the 990 to the track would reveal even more.

Like the 1390 review before, we’re going to jump straight into the riding impressions, as the technical details of the 990 Duke have already been covered in the First Ride piece. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you do.

Maintaining Perspective

Going into this test I expected the 990 to be a sportbike minus the clothes. My impressions from the street ride left me thinking the stiff chassis would make this a precise track tool and the bigger engine would offer more punch out of the corner. Riding the 990 last after the 1390 and RC8c blurred my perceptions, but the middle Duke felt like a puppy in comparison. I knew the 1390’s torque and horsepower would dwarf the 990, but I expected the Duke to be closely in line with the 890 Twin in the RC8c. The reality was much different. As it turns out, the highly modified 890 made the stock 990 engine feel slow in comparison.

Chris Fillmore, Pikes Peak champion and record holder, can hustle anything incredibly quickly, including a 990 Duke. I had to hop on a RC8c to stand a chance.

But that’s not fair to the 990. Without the benefit of titanium valves or connecting rods like the RC8c has, the bigger LC8c engine understandably doesn’t build revs as quickly. Paired with the stock exhaust and surrounded by bigger, faster, uncorked siblings, we were put in a situation where the 990’s performance would be deflated and distorted. So let me try to separate the middle Duke from the bikes I shared the track with.

My overall impression of the 990 Duke is that it would make a great street bike – which is essentially what I said during the First Ride. The ergonomics lend itself to a sporty, but relatively neutral, riding position. In fact, I’d be surprised if a GT version doesn’t hit the showrooms some day.

In the track setting my impressions about the chassis came through once again. The stiffness came through in chassis stability during all aspects of the corner – but it was especially noticeable mid-corner. Where the former 890 would flex a little, the 990 stayed solid throughout. In fact, it’s tempting to lean the 990 even more because of the confidence from the chassis, but you soon run into the biggest roadblock getting in your way – the low foot pegs. With street comfort clearly at the forefront of the ergonomic triangle, once you get on track the foot pegs touch the ground at the mere thought of lean angle. Luckily, the aftermarket can take care of that easily.

Keeping the street intentions in mind is important because the suspension is clearly tuned for street comfort. Where the 1390 and RC8c feel rigid in comparison, the 990 suspension is softly sprung and damped. It goes through plenty of its stroke quickly throughout the corner, and comes up equally as fast (but with control). Even on the straights, the damping soaks up little stutter bumps I could feel on the other bikes but didn’t notice here.

A redesigned swingarm is one of the main components bringing more rigidity to the 990’s riding dynamics.

Getting back to the engine, it’ll still pull out of a corner nicely with enough torque to command respect, but not enough to scare you. It’s the kind of power – and power delivery – that goads the rider into twisting the throttle earlier and earlier. The power builds gradually, giving you enough time to process the upcoming corner(s) ahead. Shifts are smooth in both directions with the quickshifter and autoblipper, but that’s usually the case with these systems in a track setting (street riding tests the timing of the quickshifter and autoblipper more). As expected, the 990 LC8c starts to sign off in the higher regions of the rev range. It doesn’t drop off a cliff, but more plateaus before signing off completely.

The 990 Duke might be wearing lower spec J.Juan calipers and master cylinder, but it scrubs speed with confident authority. Sure, at maximum braking you lack some feel compared to the premium Brembo components on the 1390, but you’d have to be a real stickler to be disappointed with the J.Juan pieces. Overall braking power is more than adequate for most riders, as is the feel at the lever. However, if you have to have the best, maybe a 990 Duke R is what you’re waiting for.

On paper, the delta between a 990 Duke and RC8c doesn’t seem big. In reality, the two bikes are worlds apart.

Which brings up an important point: this isn’t an R model. Despite these relative “weaknesses,” the 990 can still hold a respectable pace befitting KTM’s “Ready to Race” ethos. Hidden underneath the softly sprung suspension, quiet engine, and respectable brakes is a core motorcycle ready for modifications. Let the engine breathe like it should, damp it for better performance, and allow it to stop fiercely, and this will be a riot – much like the 890 Duke R before it.

The Dawn Of A New Era

As much as I will miss the 890 Duke, change is inevitable. Now that I have more time with it, the 990 Duke is starting to grow on me. It’s a solid platform for street riders who dabble in a little bit of track action every now and then, and at $12,500 it’s a hell of a bike for the cash. Then again, you’d have to imagine an R version will be released eventually, with more track focus without losing the street appeal.

After riding the standard Duke, it’s clear where the R model would slot in. Then again, if full fairings and a true sporting nature are your jam, there’s the upcoming 990 RCR. KTM says the RCR is not just a 990 Duke with full fairings, but in fact a different bike altogether. But that’s a story for another time.




















Editors Score: 89.0%

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Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

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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2 of 7 comments
  • Imtoomuch Imtoomuch on May 30, 2024

    How can the pegs drag so soon on a bike with such a high seat height? KTM makes no sense.

    I'll be waiting for the reliability issues to pop up. Leaks? Butter soft cams?

    And I can't believe you get J.Juan brakes at this price. Insanity.

  • IDont IDont on Jun 01, 2024

    A change no one asked for.

    Moar is better!!!!!!

    KTM, king of the spec wars.

    I think it's just an excuse to raise prices.

    The 890 was already more than enough for the class.