What is it?
The Duke is a single cylinder road motorcycle, similar to a supermoto only with taller gearing and stiffer more road orientated suspension. This particular Duke is a late 2006 limited edition in orange and black that retailed for £5995 when new, though I brought it in early 2009 for £2800 with 1400 miles on the clock.
Why I brought it.
Well my first true motorcycle was a 1990 Honda MTX 125, which I used day-in day-out, and despite the winter salt and infrequent washes, it displayed very little rust and never broke down, so when I decided to buy a cheap/fun commuter bike, I looked in the direction of Honda and bought a FX650; however it soon became apparent that this bike didn’t possess half the build quality of the MTX, so when I came across this KTM I found myself admiring the thick painted plastics and deeply powder coated frame. In fact I’m still to find a poorly finished component on the bike. I also I found the idea of a six grand bike for £2800 hard to resist.
Handling and ride.
Firstly the handling is amazing. KTM set up the suspension for a 75kg rider, so I’ve had to beef up it up to suit my 87kg frame, but I honestly don’t know how they’ve made it handle so well; the ride is soft enough to keep the wheels in contact with the road, yet stiff enough to prevent a woolly ride. Honestly, the levels of grip are so great that you’d have to be really unlucky/daft to bin it, and although ultimately a dedicated sports bike will deal with very fast corners better, the Duke will embarrass all other categories of bikes on the potholed and diesel covered roads of the UK. Swerving maneuvers are a doddle due to the low weight and wide bars; the only downside is that the feedback received through the bars is quite subtle, because unlike a sports bike, you're not supporting your body weight with your wrists.
Well no one really knows if the Duke is a fast or a slow bike; it depends who you ask (just try reading the forums), but in my experience it’s quite exhilarating accelerating from 0 to 90 mph, and it's caught me out a few times when accelerating to 70 mph onto a fast flowing road, only to look down and realise that you're doing well over the speed limit, and the inevitable embarrassment of having to slow down to 70. I’m not sure what the top speed is because I like to keep to the speed limit (when practical ;) ), but from what I’ve been told and read, it’s about 115mph, and that sounds perfectly feasible to me. Wind blast and neck strength will ultimately be the deciding factor when it comes to cruising speed, but I find anything upto 80 comfy for about 60 miles.
The riding position is comfortable, and the saddle, although hard, is well shaped and good enough for about 100 miles. My father recently had to be airlifted to hospital in Coventry about 55 miles from his home in Northants where he remained for 8 weeks, but the trusty KTM was good enough for the 110 mile round trip every other day during his stay. It could just about travel the distance on one tank of fuel without resorting to using the reserve, and although it wasn’t designed for motorway work, it transported me in comfort and maintained a constant 70mph with plenty of power for easy overtaking.
Well it's OK but not brilliant. The fuel economy is excellent at about 55 to 65mpg, I recently rode 55 miles from Coventry to Rushden in anger (after a argument with a stereotypical public servant) along predominately fast motorway and dual carriage ways, and it still returned 49 mpg. The cost of servicing it is very reasonable, because KTM parts are cheap and the bike's simple enough to be serviced by anyone with a little common sense. Also the road tax is currently about £60, which although cheap, it’s nearly double the cost of my car’s at £35. Insuring the bike is quite cheap considering I’m aged 22 and a bloke, however running costs go up when you factor in oil and filter changes every 3100 miles, although even though there’s two oil filters, they're both cheap, as is the air filter and single sparkplug, but the oil must be 100% synthetic. The bike does eat chain’s and sprockets, but replacement is easy enough to do yourself, and a good quality X-ring chain if well lubricated/cleaned will cost £70 and last 5000 miles. Unfortunately rear tyres wear out at about the same rate, so unless you own your own wheel balancing machine, you’ll have to fork out for a garage to do the work for you.
My only criticisms is that my 19 year old 125 had a temperature gauge, but my KTM only has a warning light, which is a real shame and it takes a while (5 minutes) for the engine to reach the optimum operating temperature.
Advice for owners.
Always drain the carburettor after each wash (it‘s easy, you just need a jar and a suitable screwdriver). I thought the manual was being overcautious, but I did once find water in the fuel after only a light wash (never use a power washer).
When tensioning a chain, try to balance all your weight on the left peg by kneeling on it, and make sure you can only just get the chain to touch to top of the swing arm about a quarter of the way along.
Don’t leave the bike idling to get it up to temperature, as the vibration at idle will put unnecessary stress on the chassis. Instead, just ride the bike gently for the first few minutes.
Follow the service schedule.