2012 KTM 200 Duke Review

The smallest Duke is ready to take entry-level riding to a new level

Austrian company KTM is an acknowledged champion when talking off-road motorcycles, as the Austrian firm has made it a habit of dominating off-road motorsports events. The KTM 200 Duke is the first streetbike to be jointly developed between them and Indian motorcycle maker Bajaj Auto, whose stake in the European firm has now crossed 39%.

The single-cylinder 125 Duke was introduced about a year ago in select European markets, where it’s charged into the lead and become a segment leader, which makes it no surprise the 200cc variant has been so eagerly anticipated.

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Butch, lean and aggressive all at once, the striking 200 Duke proudly shows off its KTM genes. Black and trademark orange are the predominant colors, while sharp angles and steep creases define this modern naked bike. Every part has been visibly pared down to a minimum, which allows the 200 to live up to KTM’s ‘ready to race’ tag and tip the scales at just 300 claimed pounds.

2012 KTM 200 Duke Front Right

The front mudguard is sporty, bolted on above elegant, slim-spoke alloy wheels. A bikini fairing guards the sump, while the engine itself is exposed between the motorcycle’s steel-trellis frame. A stubby exhaust box sits neatly tucked away underneath.

2012 KTM 200 Duke Info Display

There’s a chin-set auxiliary light below the headlight, while a compact digital instrument cluster sits over this. We found ourselves struggling to view the tiny, cascading rev counter and other info relayed by the dinky readout. Only speed is prominently displayed and easily legible.

The 200 Duke comes with illuminated switchgear that works with crisp clicks, plus a comfortable set of levers and functional mirrors. The 10.5-liter (2.8 gallon) fuel-tank offers deeply recessed, snug thigh support, and the saddle is roomy and well padded, although the same can’t be said for the compromised pillion seat. Split alloy grab bars lead to a slender tail lamp, behind which extends a lengthy mudguard and number plate holder. The rear tire hugger looks a little awkward, but we like the sleek, clear-lens turn signal indicators. Overall quality, including rubber and plastic parts, is good.  

2012 KTM 200 Duke Engine

The KTM Duke 200 is powered by a single-cylinder 199.5cc four-stroke engine, an oversquare arrangement with a 72mm bore and 49mm stroke. It’s a fully modern design, with fuel-injection, liquid-cooling, and a pair of cams driving a quartet of valves. Drive goes through a compact six-speed gearbox then a chain.

The KTM Duke fires up and emits an enjoyable, deep exhaust rumble. Its clutch is well weighted and progressive, and gears shift with precise action. Throttle response is immediate and decisive from its large 38mm throttle body, although we did notice the fueling feeling unsettled between a narrow range just over idle to 3000 rpm, where we had to play the throttle to keep revs up and the engine firing smoothly.

Revved higher, the mill delivers a wide powerband with excellent midrange and top end muscle. The 200 Duke has an addictive surge of smoothly delivered power, kicking in strongly from 4500-7000 rpm before transforming into manic mode as it rushes to crash into a 11,000 rpm redline. KTM claims a peak of 25 horsepower at 10,000 rpm.

2012 KTM 200 Duke Action Front Right

The Duke revs with such gusto, it’s easy to miss the flashing shift warning light and smack into the rev-limiter, especially in the first two gears. A rider can keep in the meaty part of the powerband by upshifting around 10,000 rpm, with revs dropping to around 8500 in the next gear. Claimed peak torque of 14.0 ft-lb arrives at 8000 rpm.

All the KTM Singles we’ve previously ridden suffered vibe-infested power deliveries, but the counterbalanced 200 Duke engine amazed us with its silky power delivery. The 200’s sweet-revving capability impresses, so we believe Bajaj’s claim of a 3.3-second 0-60 kph (36 mph) time. Zero to 100 kph (62.5 mph) is said to take 9.2 seconds.

2012 KTM 200 Duke Action Right

Blasting flat-out in a crouch down the level back straight at Bajaj’s Chakan test track in top gear, we saw an indicated 136 kph (84.5 mph) on the speedometer, nothing in reserve. Summing it up, the KTM 200 Duke engine is enthusiastic, refined and more fun than you’d expect.

2012 KTM 200 Duke Front Wheel

The KTM 200 Duke deploys a chunky 43mm WP inverted fork with 140mm travel. A cast alloy swingarm supports a linkage-free monoshock with 150mm travel. Solid braking performance is provided by a ByBre system, with calipers engineered by Brembo in Italy but built in India for its domestic market. A four-piston radially mounted front caliper bites a 280mm disc, and both it and the rear caliper (which clamps on a 230mm rotor) are controlled by steel-braided lines that deliver a sharp, reassuring feel.

The Duke’s riding position is upright, comfortable and good for everyday use, with a wide handlebar providing excellent leverage. Ride quality is pliant yet firm enough to enable sporty handling. The KTM 200 Duke handles with a light, nimble feel, always steering with neutral manners, while Indian-made MRF radial front and rear tires provide ample grip. This is a stable bike at all speeds, with superb cornering manners and the brakes always offering a powerful, reassuring bite.

In conclusion, the KTM 200 Duke is a special motorcycle, just as comfortable puttering around town as a zippy commuter bike or being thrashed while you attack your favorite section of twisty tarmac. KTM and Bajaj have certainly found a sweet spot, as the Indo-Austrian KTM 200 Duke has all the trappings of quickly becoming a best-in-class 200cc street motorcycle.

2012 KTM 200 Duke Action Rear

KTM expects to sell 25,000 to 30,000 Duke 200s in India during the first year of its launch, according to KTM Chief Executive Officer Stefan Pierer. Sadly, KTM North America currently has no plans to bring it to our shores. Perhaps the 350cc version scheduled to arrive late in 2012 will be more palatable to KTM N.A. and American riders. 

KTM 200 Duke Specs
Price (Estimated) 130,000- 150,000 Rupees (US$2443 to US$2819)
L/W/H 2002/873/1274 mm (78.8/34.3/50.1 in.)
Wheelbase 1367mm (53.8 in.)
Curb Weight 136 kg (300 lbs)
Engine Layout Single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, four-stroke
Displacement 199.5cc
Power 25 bhp at 10,000 rpm
Torque 1.94 kgm (14 ft. lbs) at 8000 rpm
Gearbox 6-speed
Fuel Economy (estimated) 30kpl (70.5 mpg)
Front Suspension WP inverted fork
Rear Suspension Monoshock, alloy swingarm
Front Brake 280mm disc
Rear Brake 230mm disc
Tire Size (front/rear) 110/70-17; 150/60-17

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