First Look: 2019 KTM 790 Duke

Evans Brasfield
by Evans Brasfield

They say that good things come to those who wait

First the good news: KTM confirmed what we already knew, thanks to spy photos: The 2018 KTM 790 Duke was going to be a production model. The bad news: It will arrive in the United States as the 2019 KTM 790 Duke – meaning we’ve got to wait a bit longer, though hopefully not until the calendar clicks over to 2019. What we’re jonesing for is one of the most anticipated middleweight motorcycles to enter the naked/streetfighter class in years.

2018 KTM 790 Duke Spy Shots

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The Duke’s heart comes in the form of the LC8c parallel twin displacing 799cc. DOHC operate eight valves via DLC-coated finger followers. Two balancer shafts will keep the vibes at bay, and given our experience of KTM Duke Singles, we expect them to do a good job at this task. The internals are kept slippery and cool via semi dry-sump and oil cooler that runs through a heat-exchanger within the liquid-cooling system. The 6-speed transmission delivers power to the rear wheel through a PASCTM slipper clutch. KTM claims an output of 77 kW (105 hp) at 9,000 rpm and 86 Nm (63 lb-ft) at 8,000 rpm.

Engage supermoto-mode!

The LC8c is controlled by a raft of electronics which include lean-angle sensing traction control, quickshifter+ for up and down shifting, and launch control. The Ride-by-Wire throttle means that multiple ride modes are available plus a customizable track mode for fine-tuning the 790 to each rider’s preferences. Naturally, a bike with this much technology has cornering ABS. Receiving those ABS inputs are a pair of four-piston, radial-mounted calipers on 300mm discs in the front. Out back a 240mm disc squeezed by a two-piston caliper takes care of the job. For those who like their corner entries sideways, the cornering ABS has a supermoto mode!

Using the engine as a stressed member, the chrome-molybdenum steel frame mates with an aluminum rear subframe. The swingarm is a die-cast aluminum piece. All of this adds up to a claimed dry weight of 372 lb. which is kept in contact with the ground through the liberal application of WP Suspension components. The fork is a 43 mm split open-cartridge upside-down unit fitted with progressive springs while the gas-assisted rear shock also utilizes a progressive spring. Cast aluminum wheels sport 120/70 ZR 17 front and 180/55 ZR 17 rear rubber in the form of Maxxis Supermaxx ST tires.

Beautiful and mean at the same time.

As with most all KTM models, a color TFT screen serves as instrumentation in all its multifunctional glory. KTM My Ride technology is an option which will allow riders to link their smartphone to the 790 Duke via Bluetooth. Lighting is taken care of by LEDs all around.

We’ve been (not so) patiently waiting since last year’s EICMA reveal of the prototype. So, saying we are beyond bummed that we have to wait even longer for the KTM 790 Duke to come over as a 2019 model still doesn’t capture the nature of our desire. Please, KTM, make this a really, really early release 2019 model. OK?

Follow the rest of our 2017 EICMA show coverage

Evans Brasfield
Evans Brasfield

Like most of the best happenings in his life, Evans stumbled into his motojournalism career. While on his way to a planned life in academia, he applied for a job at a motorcycle magazine, thinking he’d get the opportunity to write some freelance articles. Instead, he was offered a full-time job in which he discovered he could actually get paid to ride other people’s motorcycles – and he’s never looked back. Over the 25 years he’s been in the motorcycle industry, Evans has written two books, 101 Sportbike Performance Projects and How to Modify Your Metric Cruiser, and has ridden just about every production motorcycle manufactured. Evans has a deep love of motorcycles and believes they are a force for good in the world.

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5 of 67 comments
  • Lennon2017 Lennon2017 on Nov 07, 2017

    I’m sure it’ll be expensive, probably making Ducati’s latest pricing schemes seem less wild, but more so I find myself in the strange position of already feeling fatigue with their design philosophy. Does everything have to look like a papercut waiting to happen? Such things are so susceptible to aging poorly. Round headlights are perennial faves for a reason. Not that they should go that route,’s like looking at Audis these days, only in more extreme form. Even Harleys aren’t so set lately.

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    • Alaskan18724 Alaskan18724 on Nov 09, 2017

      “Paper cut waiting to happen.” Nicely done.

  • Alaskan18724 Alaskan18724 on Nov 09, 2017

    Interesting. Ain’t gonna be in my garage, though.