2019 KTM Duke 790

New year, and a new ‘Scalpel’…


KTM has been known to make excellent single cylinder and V-twin layout engines over the years that end up powering some of the most popular, respected and fun motorcycles in whatever segment they are in, take for example the 1290 Super Duke R, or the small 390 Duke and the Adventure line-up and its really hard to find a KTM motorcycle that you wouldn’t like. However, this time around, KTM wanted to do something new and they set off to build a parallel twin motor and the bike they decided they would put this in would be the new Duke 790, that sits as the brand’s new middleweight entrant and will slot itself between the 690 Duke and the bigger 1290 Super Duke R. Now its not uncommon for manufacturers to go out of the line and build entirely new layout engines than what they’re traditionally known for and while some of them are successful, its more often that people simply don’t like them even if they’re great because they’re used to something very specific from brands. And with the 790, I think KTM has succeeded. Now before we go on around with the specs of the motorcycle, there’s 2 of these, one that comes with a power restriction and is sold primarily in
Europe and some Asian countries, and the other that comes without any restrictions and is sold Stateside.

The bike gets a 799cc parallel twin motor with liquid cooling which is counterbalanced that pushes out a wild 105 horses and a peak torque of almost 87Nm of torque which makes this engine quite powerful and very very punchy with the high torque figure which puts it in a territory of bikes from a segment above. And its incredibly fast, thanks to the counterbalancing it work, it’ll get up to speed in no time which makes it slightly hostile for new riders and that is something that should be noted, this isn’t a bike for new riders, and it won’t be easy to live with if you get it anyway. For the enthusiasts, this just might the middleweight you’ve always been looking for.


The bike gets a full hoard of electronics to keep you safe and have fun and is carried down from the bigger Super Duke R ranging from cornering ABS, switchable ABS, Traction Control, Wheelie Control, Rider Modes. The bike gets 4 riding modes — Track, Sport, Street and Rain. Every mode on this bike, transforms it into a completely different animal which brings a lot of appreciation for the character and dynamics of the engine and how it’s ready to play any game. In Track mode, the rider gets to turn off everything or adjust to their liking, the Wheelie control can be turned off or on, the throttle response can be changed and there is 9 levels of traction control to choose from which makes the bike very customizable and open to the way you want it to be. Come down to Sport mode and while the engine is still blazing and popping, the electronics become more aware but still not intrusive and the throttle response is set to the more aggressive side to keep the excitement up. Come down another mode, which is in which most people will keep it for regular usage and you’ll find yourself in the Street Mode. All the electronics are fully aware and set on the maximum setting, and while they’re not intrusive, you’ll notice how easy and tame the bike has become and the throttle response also gets more relaxed and not razor sharp as in the other two.

The Rain mode is like what it sounds, the power is restricted and so is the throttle with the electronics in full alert. The equipment on hand is also very premium and works fantastically well. The both way quick shifter works perfectly and makes the ride easier and better for those who’ll use it. For the traditionalists, the KTM Duke 790 is equipped with a slipper clutch that is aided with KTM’s Motor Slip Regulation system that comes into play while aggressively downshifting by acting as an auto blipper for matching the engine speed which brings another level of smoothness to the entire experience and make your ride better.


However the clutch isn’t a hydraulic one like on other high end motorcycles of the segment and is a cable one. While it’s adjustable it’s still not the best thing out there which is a low. The brakes on the bike are a 4 piston caliper set with dual radially mounted calipers by KTM. The brakes are strong and progressive however the initial bite isn’t as responsive as you’d expect.

The suspension setup on the bike is fixed 43mm upside down forks on the front and a preload adjustable mono shock on the rear. While the setup doesn’t give much room to alter compared to some other options, entire systems can be replaced and upgraded if you’re into that. On the stock setting, the setup is on the stiffer side which makes the ride committed and fun to ride, but it’s not very hard either to make it uncomfortable for regular usage which adds to the versatility of the motorcycle. The bike is quick and while the relaxed ergonomics of the bike might make you come under the impression that its all about the figures and looks, the bike is wicked fast and the suspension helps keep it all in shape while you push it through its paces. However, the lack of adjustability is a handicap that the 790 Duke has to live with for now.

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The 790 got its name ‘The Scalpel’ for being exceptionally light and razor sharp handling, which it all stays true to. The Duke 790 has a dry weight of only 169 kilos which makes it super light and with that powerhouse of an engine, the bike is ready to fly only tamed by its electronics which make a lot of sense for this bike. All in all, the KTM Duke 790 is a complete powerhouse and potent bike with more than enough capability. Apart from the certain weird design choices, like the exhaust layout and
the almost non adjustable suspension setup, the bike is all in for itself. What might discourage you however is the price tag which makes it much more expensive than its Japanese rivals but only slightly below the Triumph Street Triple RS

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