KTM Delivers Another Cool Bike I’ll Probably Never Ride

890 Duke R delivers a claimed 121 hp and 99 Nm of torque

The Austrian company that everyone forgets about when listing street bikes has produced another impressive-looking motorcycle that most people will never consider buying. The new KTM 890 Duke R was unveiled last week in a media presentation on YouTube.

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The sporty naked replaces the outgoing 790 Duke R, which KTM only brought to market in 2018. That bike received rave reviews from test riders but you’ll find it difficult to spot one on the streets because KTM dealerships are sparse, its bikes are generally more expensive than the competition, and… ah… some of us aren’t convinced that the company really has resolved its famous build issues. Moto-journalists will tell me that the company has sorted things out, but then they’ll also concede that a press bike they’ve ridden for just three months is showing signs of rust and has bits falling off. 

Nonetheless, the new 890 Duke R looks pretty spiffy. Powered by an 889cc parallel twin the new (or, perhaps it’s better to say “updated”) KTM promises peak power output of 121 hp and 99 Nm of torque. That is a lot of go for a sub-liter bike – more power than the outgoing 790, as well as quite a lot of other middleweights. Certainly it’s more than the 105 hp claimed by the BMW F 900 R, though it’s even with the 121.3 hp claimed by the Triumph Street Triple RS.

“The KTM 890 Duke R is the sportiest bike in the midrange segment and will give bigger bikes a run for the money,” claims a promotional video.

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In addition to delivering more power KTM says the changes it’s made in creating the 890 Duke R have also resulted in more stability – both in straight-line riding and cornering. This, it says, is down to the bike carrying 20 percent more rotational mass.

Suspension and braking have been tweaked oh-so-slightly, with things largely remaining as they were on the lauded 790 set-up. Ergonomics have also been tweaked to put the rider into a “more attacking position” according to KTM. That means the rider is teency bit higher in the saddle and further forward. I have to admit that in looking at rider photos the thing looks pretty uncomfortable.

2020 KTM 890 Duke R
2020 KTM 890 Duke R

Meanwhile KTM didn’t go into this side of things in its media presentation, but it’s fair to assume the new 890 Duke R will have the same level of technowhizzbangery as the outgoing 790. That bike had numerous rider modes, multi-level traction control, cornering ABS, and a quickshifter. We know that last feature is part of the new package because KTM says it’s now better. Of course, you’d expect it to say that, wouldn’t you? Imagine a manufacturer coming out and saying: “We changed this feature and, well, to be honest, we kinda shit the bed on that one. But you can get used to it.”

It all sounds pretty intriguing but, as I say, I’ll probably never ride one. Partially because I’m not won over by the styling. I mean, does it have to be offered in only that color scheme? What’s wrong with painting things blue or red, KTM? Also, in the UK, the bike has a starting price of £10,399, which sure feels like a lot of money to me. Pit against the aforementioned Street Triple RS (starting price £10,300) or, I don’t know, the similarly powerful but bigger displacement Indian FTR 1200 S (£12,999), it isn’t actually outrageously priced but those bikes have a better fit and finish – they don’t seem as plasticky in person.

I don’t know. Am I being too critical? If you own a KTM, please jump into the comments and tell me how I’m wrong.

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