If you happened to be of the mind that the KTM 390 Duke was too much bike or possibly didn’t offer enough bang for your hard-earned buck, then you’re in luck. The 200 Duke may be diminutive in displacement and price, but it is big on value. After it was announced in August that the KTM 200 Duke would be coming to North America, we managed to get our hands on one for a week. Originally unveiled in 2012 and now in its second generation, it has been sold in other markets around the globe where 200 ccs of displacement is considered not only adequate but perhaps even on the large side.
KTM decided that it was time to see if such a motorcycle would catch on here in North America. The sale of new and used small displacement motorcycles has seen an influx this year due to COVID-19. Given the skyrocketing cost of insurance and recent pandemic challenges that are making people avoid public transportation and ride sharing, now may be its time to shine.
Offering a lower entry point into the lineup below the 390 Duke, the 200 Duke follows the same Praying Mantis design language as the rest of the Duke family. Colour options are the traditional black and orange or black and white. Both come equipped with orange 17-inch wheels.
It may only pack a 199cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder good for 26hp and 13 lb-ft of torque, but it is an aggressively styled naked bike that’s boatloads of fun for only $4,599. Its closest competitors are likely to be the larger displacement Honda CB300R or Yamaha MT-03. Both are better equipped and more powerful, but also come with a higher price tag of $5,699 and $5,899 respectively. On the lower side, you’ll pay $3,699 for a Honda Grom or $3,599 for a Kawasaki Z125 but I personally don’t think either one is suitable for anything other than pit bike duty. Other parts of the world have the option of a Yamaha MT-125 featuring a 124.7cc single, but it currently isn’t available in North America. That may change if the 200 Duke does well here.
Prior to getting on the new entry-level to the Duke family, I was expecting to feel like a bear riding a tricycle. Thankfully for me and my badly beaten runner’s knees, this was not the case. At 183 cm (6 ft) tall, my knees were bent up but not uncomfortably so. The riding position is upright and neutral. While the 810mm (31.6-in) seat height is only marginally higher than say the Kawi Z125’s, the KTM offers more displacement, higher quality components, more comfortable ergonomics and two extra gears for the extra grand price tag. The seat wasn’t any less comfortable than other Duke models. My rides during my time with the 200 were kept local and short, so I can’t speak to the long-term impact of the saddle.
Proportions aside, the 200 Duke provides a decent amount of value for that money. Case in point – as I mentioned in my recent review of the 2020 BMW R 18 First Edition, the $23,945 MSRP of the BMW doesn’t get you a fuel gauge but the 200 Duke has one. In fact, the simple digital LCD display features a temperature gauge, gear indicator, tachometer, speedometer, clock, side stand alert and service update prompts too. Given the price tag and the fact that the 200 doesn’t have the additional features of the bigger bikes, I think not sharing their larger, more comprehensive colour display is perfectly acceptable. Another way KTM kept the cost down was by installing a halogen headlight rather than LED. It’s more than adequate for how and where the 200 is likely to be ridden most.
It also has programmable shift light, WP Apex 43mm USD forks, a WP Apex shock and Bosch two-channel ABS complete with supermoto mode, which allows you to disengage the system for rear-wheel slides. It also features a 300 mm front disc, and four-piston radially mounted front brake caliper from Brembo’s Indian subsidiary, Bybre which is more than capable of ratcheting down the bikes 154 kg (340 lbs) worth of mass from speed. Materials feel high in quality and it doesn’t feel like corners were cut to get the 200 down to its attainable purchase price. The less sophisticated digital dash, smaller engine and brakes, halogen headlight, mechanically operated clutch and a mechanical throttle (rather than ride-by-wire) are where the efficiencies were found. Suspension feels sporty and planted in turns, but perhaps on the firm side for the harsher bumps and larger potholes. That’s more of a grievance regarding the state of Toronto’s streets than it is the quality of the 200 Duke’s dampening abilities.
Rather than feeling like a miniature pit bike, the 200 Duke actually provides the sensation that you’re riding a real motorcycle. Granted, it won’t set the world on fire, but its light steering and agility make it an absolute blast to rip around the city. Acceleration is predictably not as robust as experienced riders may prefer, but beginners will enjoy being able to learn how to ride without scaring the bejesus out of themselves. Getting up to speed requires an enthusiastic right hand that left me wanting a bit more juice before having to shift, but thankfully there are six gears to go through.
Given the paltry amount of torque provided, executing a smooth departure from a standstill requires adding more throttle than I’m normally accustomed. I didn’t make use of the pillion seat to ride two-up, but I imagine that would change the riding behavior and handling dynamics significantly. People in other parts of the world manage just fine though, so there’s no reason why we can’t adapt.
The 200 Duke’s claimed top speed is 140 km/h but given my experience that seems somewhat optimistic. Nevertheless, high-speed runs and highway riding are possible but not exactly in the 200’s wheelhouse. Narrow, light and nimble, it is most at home ripping around the city. Fun to ride and easy to manoeuvre, it can also stretch 300 km or more from its 13.4 L tank. Whether you’re new to riding on the street or the track, the KTM 200 Duke offers an inexpensive, accessible and unintimidating entry into the Duke lineup.