We have mixed feelings about KTM nixing the 890 Duke R in favor of the all-new 990 Duke (and bringing back the 790 Duke). Sure, the bigger Duke is bound to be a ton of fun, but the 890 hit that sweet spot where power, handling, and fun collide. And the price has always been right, too. It was a winner in more ways than one, as evidenced by the many comparison tests we’ve put it in – and where it usually won. The 890 Duke R earned our admiration over the years, and as much as he didn’t want to admit it, our beloved Evans Brasfield secretly yearned for one… after he’d already modified his 790 Duke to compete.
Every year, we are faced with the task of choosing Motorcycle.com’s Motorcycle of the Year (MOTY), and typically, the debate is heated – and lengthy. This year, we reached agreement remarkably quickly – a rarity with any decision made by this crew of misfits. As we say each year, however, the MOTY is not about choosing the best motorcycle of 2020. While the choice needs to be one of the best by winning one of our MO Best Of categories (MOBO), the bike needs to be something more; it needs to say something about or do something for motorcycling. Looking back at the last five years, you’ll see that we’ve spread the MO love around, choosing an adventure bike, a sportbike, a sport-touring bike, an entire motorcycle platform, and a cruiser. Each choice has been an exemplary motorcycle, but each has expanded the way we think about motorcycling. The KTM 890 Duke R, MO’s Motorcycle of the Year 2020, is a great example of this characteristic.
We generally associate value with cheap when, in reality, this isn’t (necessarily) the case. The KTM 890 Duke R is a perfect example. For under $12,000 you get a motorcycle packed with performance KTM could charge 15-large for, and you still wouldn’t feel ripped off.
By now, my ongoing relationship with my 2019 KTM 790 Duke is possibly one of the most documented motorcycle love affairs of recent history. That’s okay. I can live with the ribbing from my coworkers. If that’s all they can think of to tease me about, I’m coming out way ahead in the game. Still, they have a point. I bought my 790 fully expecting that there would be a Duke R in the upcoming model year or two. I just didn’t expect it to have an 890 in front of it.
As of 2015, the sport of boxing has a total of 17 different weight classes. For a while before that there were only eight, and during the sport’s early days there was only one – heavyweight. These two machines certainly aren’t heavyweights, and as I looked down the weight categories, cruiserweight sounded more apt for a future test of American iron, and light heavyweight is an oxymoron. After that, there’s super middleweight, a class slightly heavier than your regular middleweights. Perfect.
Are you sick of us talking about KTM Dukes yet? And by “us” I primarily mean Evans. Anyone who’s followed this space knows he bought a 790 Duke and has modified it to his version of what an R model should be. The list is relatively short and sweet, and covers the primary weaknesses of the 790. So let’s go down the list:
By all accounts, the KTM 790 Duke is a great little motorcycle. Light, nimble, and with a healthy amount of middleweight power, when MO was given a 790 Duke to test, it was so much fun our own Evans Brasfield bought the damn press bike. He then proceeded to turn the bike into his version of what a 790 Duke R should be (you can read about his exploits elsewhere on this site). Little did he know KTM was doing the same halfway across the globe in Austria.
What happens when you take the already potent KTM 790 Duke, bump its displacement to 890cc, add in fully-adjustable suspension components, and add top-notch brakes? You get the KTM 890Duke R! First the bad news, though: The KTM 890 Duke R will not come to the United States until the fall of 2020 as a 2021 model. Deal with it. Now, onto the cool stuff.