I was somewhat stunned when I heard that KTM was bringing the Duke 200 to the US. Even though I’ve spent my own money on the even-tinier Honda Monkey, I was confused about who the target market was for the baby Duke.
What I don’t like:
VerdictAn over-achieving puppy of a motorcycle, the KTM Duke 200 is the best $4,000 and/or <250cc street bike you can buy. Unfortunately for KTM, that's not a popular category in the US. It's a capable in-town runabout that you can legally take on the freeway if needed - you can even cruise at 87 miles per hour if you like hanging out at redline. A small niche of little bike enthusiasts will consider this a revelation, but the average motorcyclist will be better served saving a few bucks and "splurging" on the KTM Duke 390/Husqvarna 401 or competitors.
Bike Review – 2020 KTM Duke 200
Photos by Nathan May.
History LessonFrom a global perspective, the Duke 200 dates back to 2012 and it hasn’t changed a whole lot over the last eight years: there’s a 199.5cc liquid-cooled four stroke engine, 6-speed transmission, steel trellis frame, WP suspension, and BYBRE brakes.
But in the US, it’s all-new for 2020! Let me start by pointing out that this bike, like the Royal Enfield Himalayan, was not designed for the US market. That’s not automatically a dealbreaker – hell, the BMW R18 was specifically designed for the US and I still don’t understand it – but it’s important to remember that as we take a look at the littlest Duke. I should start calling it the KTM Baron.
The Duke 200 is built in several countries – India, Colombia, Argentina, and the Philippines. My test unit was assembled in India and from a spec standpoint it’s best suited for the type of riding you find in Southeast Asia. Put yourself in KTM’s shoes for a moment: seeing as you’ve already spent the development money to create this bike, is there a business case to bring it to America? They apparently thought so, because the big draw here is the price of $3,999 (plus $300 freight = $4,299 before taxes). For comparison, here are the other street options you have at that price point:
1.) Honda Monkey: $3,999 MSRP + $200 for ABS + $190 freight = $4,389 before taxes.
That’s it. You could also make an argument for the Honda Trail 125: $3,899 (ABS included) + $190 freight = $4,089 before taxes. I just reviewed it (and I like it), but there’s really no comparison between this/the Monkey and the Duke as a street bike.
Expand a few hundred bucks in either direction and you’ve got:
Kymco Spade 150: $3,399 + freight
Suzuki VanVan: $4,649 + freight.
Yamaha MT-03: $4,699 + freight
Yamaha TW200: $4,699 + freight
Honda CB300R: $4,949 + freight
Royal Enfield Himalayan: $4,999 + freight
Kawasaki Z400: $4,999 + freight
So the Duke 200 is a potential bargain, and it doesn’t have a direct competitor. But is it cheap in the good way, or in the bad way?
When “Cheap” Is A Good ThingLet’s start with some positives, because there’s a lot to like about the baby Duke. Most surprising to me was the quality of components. Considering the dollars and the displacement, I was expecting to see budget pieces throughout, but the only obvious examples of cost cutting are in the dash, lighting, and the exhaust (and I think it’s all totally excusable at $4,000).
For a bike this affordable, the suspension, tires, and brakes are unreasonably good. Hell, even the tool kit is much more comprehensive than what you find on most bikes that cost 3 times as much nowadays.
One thing that’s unexpected on a bike this cheap? KTM requires 91 octane.
Suspension duties are relegated to KTM’s in-house brand, WP. They supply non-adjustable Apex 43 forks and a preload-adjustable Apex shock. There might not be much adjustability, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well the suspension handled my 200 pounds (quarantine has not been kind to me) of weight on track. To be clear – I don’t think I was ever above 60 miles per hour through any of the corners at Horse Thief, but having spent plenty of time with the Duke in a variety of situations, I feel confident that the suspension can easily cope with abuse from a full-size adult at decent speeds. Consider me very impressed.
I was also stunned to see Michelin Road 5 tires (which in this case are made in Thailand), as this is a quality tire which is OEM equipment on much more expensive motorcycles such as the Kawasaki Z900. The quality of the tires was emphasized for me as Nathan’s tires on the MT-03 (Dunlop Sportmax GPR-300 tires) had clearly been working hard through the track day considering the relatively low speeds. The Road 5s on the KTM looked like they had thousands more miles of Horse Thief left in them.
ByBre is short for ByBrembo – it’s the company’s Indian subsidiary that makes brake systems for scooters and small-displacement bikes. The brakes aren’t as impressive as the suspension, but they’re still better than you’d expect for four grand (and you really don’t need top-notch stuff to slow down a 330 pound [dry] bike that can’t top 90 miles per hour). Lever feel is good, however the rear wheel ABS takes longer than I’d expect to kick in – you can sometimes get the Duke to lock up the rear wheel for a brief moment before the ECU intervenes. It never feels out of control, but I expected more intervention for a beginner bike.
But…is it a beginner bike? I had originally assumed so due to the displacement, but I was wrong. I think some of my surprise comes from perspective – typically bikes sold in America at this engine size/cost are exercises in cost cutting, but the Duke 200 turns out to be a decent bit of kit that just happens to have a tiny motor and price tag.
In addition, if you see “200” and you assume this is sized for short riders, think again. I’m 6’2″ and I’m shockingly comfortable on this bike, though I could use a little more room from seat to pegs and I know I make it look tiny. Due to the ergonomics, the width of the bars, and the shape of the tank, it’s roomier and more comfortable than any of the traditional beginner naked bikes (Yamaha MT-03, Honda CB300R, Kawasaki Z400, etc). Off the top of my head it’s almost got ergonomics like a 900cc naked, though the 31.6″ seat height is taller than the aforementioned Kawasaki Z900. Hell, it’s just 0.1″ shorter than the standard seat on the BMW R1250RT! So, here’s your reminder that this was built for full-size adults in markets like southeast Asia.
Because of that, the Duke 200 is actually comfortable enough that you could spend all day on it. You could even do so on the highway, as (at least in California) a motorcycle must displace at least 150cc to be highway legal. My typical commute requires a 20 minute trip on the 405, so I occasionally put the diminutive KTM through that routine…and that’s where some of the negatives start to come through.
When “Cheap” Is A Bad ThingWhile there are some excellent individual components on the Duke 200, there are also some places where costs were cut. My biggest concern is with the cooling system, as (especially back when we were seeing 90+ degree temps here in Southern California) the coolant temperature got a little too close to the top of the gauge for my liking after just 3-4 miles of cruising at 70. This bike obviously isn’t built to cruise the American interstate system in the fast lane, so as long as you’re only using it for a couple of exits at a time every once in a while, you’ll be fine.
On the opposite end of the speed spectrum, the fueling right off idle could be a little bit more consistent. Combine that clutch feel that isn’t amazing and you get a recipe for the occasional stall when leaving from a stop, especially when the motor is cold. That can be solved by feeding in more throttle than necessary, but you definitely feel (and sound) like an amateur when you leave a stop light with the revs too high. Working up through the gears, there’s a feel to the shifter lever like it’s being held back with a rubber band. There’s also a general dull vibration that pervades throughout, but none of these issues seem unreasonable considering the price.
One thing to note was a brief Check Engine light that I got while doing 70 mph on the freeway. I didn’t have time to see what the message was, and before I was able to pull over from the carpool lane the light went away, never to come back again.
Still, it’s a minor distraction from what is a pretty compelling aesthetic package. Hope you like orange
StylingI actually think this looks better than the rest of KTM’s naked bike lineup as it maintains the striking colors and trellis frame but the use of a cheaper incandescent bulb seems to have forced the designers to use one big headlight instead of the crazy robot alien split faces on the 390/790/890/1290. Listing out the rest of the Dukes does beg the question: why did KTM name this the Duke 200 and not the Duke 190?
Amusingly, there are KTM logos all over the place. I counted 17 logos (and I’m sure I missed some) – that doesn’t even include 4 on each of the grips.
What do you think – is this a good looking bike? Let me know in the comments.
ConclusionFor most riders, the Duke 200 isn’t going to be enough as spending extended time at 70+ is probably too much of an ask. But for the segment of motorcyclists who’s spending most of their time in town and only needs to hop on the freeway for an exit or two at a time, this is a huge leap forward compared to anything else they’d be shopping for in the ~200cc category.
If that sounds like you, just remember that even though the displacement is small, the bike is relatively spacious with the above average seat height and ample room from an ergonomic standpoint. Shorter riders may be disappointed, though it’s definitely worth a test ride as the low weight keeps it easy to manage even if you can only get one foot down at a stop.
Lastly – when a bike costs this little and doesn’t have anything (technology-wise) that can’t be found on bikes 3-5 years old, it’s easy to say that one should take their ~$4,000 and head to the used market. But some people just want a new bike, especially beginners who may not feel comfortable evaluating the mechanical condition of a previously-owned motorcycle. I really think the Austrians have something appealing here, I just think it’s to a small group of buyers. Seeing as the R&D to create this bike was already spent for other markets, it may still financially work out for KTM, but I’m going to be very interested to see how this does sales-wise in the next year or two.
Do you own one already? I’d love to hear what you think!
Check out the 2020 KTM Duke 200!