2018 KTM 790 Duke Spy Shots

Kevin Duke
by Kevin Duke

Upcoming Katoom to join exciting crop of middleweight naked sportbikes

The mid-displacement sportbike category is hotting up, with recent introductions of Triumph’s all-new Street Triple and Yamaha’s updated FZ-09. And then there’s the 800cc Brutale from MV Agusta, too.

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KTM also wants in on the action, as evidenced by these pictures of a 790 Duke undergoing suspension testing in Spain in advance of finalizing specifications. The Austrian manufacturer teased us at the big EICMA show in Milan, Italy, last fall with a concept version of the 790 Duke. And then our adrenaline spiked from a promo video KTM produced that featured a test rider mercilessly flogging the new Duke with wheelies and burnouts.

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Now, we’ve got new photos that show the 790 Duke in what appears to be nearly in production form. These images were nabbed earlier this week in Catalunya, Spain, near KTM’s testing base, and ridden with the new 790 for comparison was a 690 Duke and Triumph’s 675cc Street Triple.

The LC8c engine looks significantly more finished than the version shown at EICMA. The inclusion of color-matched accessory components, like the skid plate and oil filler, point to this being a near-production unit.

The heart of the new Duke is its new parallel-Twin powerplant, what KTM refers to as the LC8c, the lower-case c standing for “compact.” It uses a 270-degree crank arrangement like almost every other newly introduced inline-Twin motor, and we presume it uses ride-by-wire throttle technology. One of our favorite features of the concept version was its racy underseat exhaust system, but there’s no way it could meet the latest European and American emissions regulations. Instead, we have the twin header pipes leading to an exhaust collector under swingarm, with final pipe routing running parallel to the subframe along the right side.

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Reports out of Europe suggest KTM will produce a base model and an up-spec R version. The cheaper iteration will likely be limited to less than 100 hp to qualify for European A2 licensing, while the R version will probably produce more than 110 crankshaft horsepower. This will line up nicely with the new 765cc Street Triple from Triumph.

The radial-mount J.Juan calipers and WP fork are clearly visible in the spy shots of this base model 790.

The bike in these photos is most likely the base edition, as it is fitted with J.Juan front brake calipers and not the Brembos typically used on KTMs. We’d expect Brembos on the R version. Suspension is, of course, by WP, a KTM subsidiary. Tire sizes appear to be a typical 120/70-17 up front, with a 180 at the rear.

From the cobby muffler welds to the homemade-looking brake light support, the back of the 790 doesn’t look as finished as the rest of the bike. With power delivery as raucous as we expect the 790’s to be, we wonder if the adjustable seat bolster (a.k.a. butt slide stop) will make it to the production version.

The concept version shown at EICMA was a stripped-down naked, but this production version is equipped with some of the niceties we need on our street machines. Up front is a wind-deflecting flyscreen mounted above its warrior-like bifurcated headlight. Behind the screen appears to be a set of TFT instruments – along with what looks like a cell phone or GPS mounting bracket. Whether this is something destined for the street or merely some residual development hardware, we don’t know.

From the subframe (and swingarm) forward, the concept bike and prototype appear very similar. The subframe itself is clearly different, as it needs to be able to accommodate a passenger, license-plate bracket, turn indicators, exhaust, etc.

We expect the production version of the 790 Duke to be shown at EICMA this fall, with sales beginning early in 2018. Pricing is a guess at this point, but it might be reasonable to estimate the base version might start around $10,000, near the base Street Triple’s MSRP of $9,900. The 790 Duke R, with higher levels of suspension and electronic rider aids, could approach the $12,500 price tag of the Street Triple RS.

Kevin Duke
Kevin Duke

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  • Spiff Spiff on Feb 26, 2017

    The shape of the sub frame under the seat should make a nice place to grab when putting the Adventure version on it's center stand.

  • Matt F Matt F on Feb 27, 2017

    After missing out on two exceptionally priced 690 Enduro R's for sale, I picked up a 2014 690 Duke this past weekend. I'm really happy with my decision. I don't off road anyway, I just wanted the option alongside a set of supermoto wheels. I am an all around Duke lover from 390 to SD, and the 790 is going to be sick. A great upgrade to the 690 in the future, no doubt.