KTM 125 Duke Review: Smallest Duke, but Duke nonetheless
What makes one edgy? Not sleeping all night knowing that if they do, they won’t be able to wake up on time. Then catching a 4:50 AM flight. 2 hours of flight time in cramped seats (at least for me). And then an hour of drive in a cramped car (again, at least for me). These things are irritating and even more so for the vertically gifted like me. Now, what is a motorcycle? Something that can bring a smile to the edgy man’s face. The edgy man is me, and the motorcycle, KTM 125 Duke.
KTM 125 Duke is a very curious motorcycle. With rather light numbers on paper, a relatively high asking price and the existence of a similar but more modernly styled product in other countries, it was asking for a lot of prejudice to be doled out of logical minds. I am also a logical person, although ever so slightly. But man, all this baby Duke asks for, is a chance. Well, apart from INR 1.18 Lakhs (Ex-Showroom) that is. We gave it a chance on Bajaj’s test track at Chakan and it talked to us! How? Read on to find out.
The baby Duke says, “Look at me!”
And we obliged. Looking at the KTM 125 Duke puts one in a state of confusion and frustration. Confusion because it looks like the 200 Duke bought a new dress and frustration because you know that the prettier sibling is there for Europe (The European 125 Duke). But once that initial negativity dies out, one says to himself, “Is it really bad? Does it even look bad? Or am I just being cranky?” And once these kind of thoughts creep in, they are done for. The KTM 125 Duke looks pretty good. It does look like the 200 Duke and there is nothing really bad about it. The graphics are different, the rear sub-frame is apparently different and the grab rails too. But apart from these little tidbits, there isn’t much that differentiates the two.
The 125 Duke and the 200 Duke have a similar wheelbase of 1366 mm, similar kerb weight with both tipping the scales at 148 Kg (Kerb), similar tyres, similar brakes etc. The overall length and width are different but then again, it is very hard to discern unless one is running around with brochures and spec sheets.
The baby Duke says, “Feel me!”
Ohkay. Before I reached this section of writing the review, I didn’t think that this particular titling scheme would end up this way and only get worse. But I am going to stay with it. Now, the fit and finish of the motorcycle is really good. No gripes here. Right from the feel of the switchgear to the fitment of the panels, it gives no quarters in this department. The instrument console is similar to the 200 Duke meaning it feels like me wearing M sized clothes i.e. too many features in a petite little orange backlit all-digital console. The switchgear is illuminated, a nice touch of course. The levers, the pegs, the buttons etc are all built well. So, in the instrumentation and build quality part there are no issues. It is very consistent, thus very boring and the reason why this section is rather small.
The baby Duke says, “Ride me!”
This gets worse with every section and I think we are losing the PG-13 Rating today. Anyway, this is the exciting part. The engine and performance of the KTM 125 Duke. So, it gets a 124.7cc, liquid-cooled, 4 Valve, Fuel injected engine which makes 14.5 PS of power at 9,250 rpm and 12 Nm of torque at 8000 rpm. The numbers may not seem outright impressive and very non KTM, but that is where the motorcycle surprises you. Keep an open mind and treat it like you’d treat any other Duke and it does not disappoint. Although, the peak power and torque arrive much higher in the rev-range, yet this particular Duke has a lot of usable power and with decent fuelling, it feels punchy from the get go. Keep the throttle pinned and the baby Duke revs quickly and even brings some of the frantic flavor of the bigger Dukes.
The point is, even with small numbers on paper, the motorcycle keeps reminding one that it may be small, but it is a Duke nonetheless. The power starts to slowly fade as you near the end of the rev-range. The rev-limiter of this one and that of the 390 Duke are like asking someone to wake-up gently and kicking them off the bed, respectively. On the straight after I was able to achieve a top speed of ~106 kmph which is pretty good considering the heft and dimensions of the rider (yours truly). Vibrations are there in the top of the rev-range but not enough to deter someone so the 125 Duke is quite a refined motorcycle.
The power is transmitted to the rear wheel via a 6-speed transmission which is as slick as they come. It shifts into the gears very positively and I really liked the gearbox on the KTM 125 Duke. Progress through the gears as you whack the bejesus out of the motorcycle and it will sure take the edge off of you regardless of whatever you may or may not have done the last night. The clutch is also light so the jaunts through the city traffic are not really going to pose any problem. The 6th gear on this motorcycle though is like Ant Man in Avengers Infinity War. It is there, one knows of its existence but it is of no use. That was a bit exaggerated and the 6th gear isn’t useless, but it is there for cruising only and there’s virtually nothing exciting there. Shift into the 6th gear, cruise around 70-80 kmph all day and the Duke will do that without straining the petite engine too much.
The fuel-efficiency? There aren’t any claimed numbers but we expect 40+ kmpl easily and with a tank of 10.2 L, it shall give one a range of over 400 kilometers which by any means isn’t bad.
The baby Duke says, “Push me!”
……. This is the most exciting part of the review (pun not intended) – the ride and handling of the KTM 125 Duke because this is where it is all Duke-ish, this is where it unleashes all its Duke-ness. But this was rather predictable. With the 125 Duke sharing most of its underpinnings with 200 Duke, it wasn’t hard to guess that it handled like a dream. So firstly, the trellis frame. It is just wonderful. The chassis is beautiful it lets you push this small motorcycle as much as one would like and more. Its limits exceeded mine and as much as I could push it, the motorcycle was still left wanting as it could do much more. The short-ish wheelbase and aggressive geometry, make for a motorcycle that is quick on its feet. Directional changes are quick and confident which makes the 125 Duke a heck of a lot of fun to ride around the track. It is a very nimble, a very confident and a very planted motorcycle around the corners which inspires boatloads of confidence and eggs you to push it more.
The suspensions are a fair setup for track riding and even though the rear is 10-step adjustable, I felt comfortable on it right out of the box. It handled the mild undulations well and I am quite sure that it’d perform well on the roads as well but I’ll reserve the judgment for after the full blown road test. The brakes too are really good, predictably. The initial bite is confidence inspiring and the progression is really positive as well. The existence of ABS on the front wheel (it has single channel ABS) is also a confidence booster. Interestingly, it has the sensor rings on the rear disc as well but that’s just for RLP (rear-wheel liftoff protection), for now.
The ergonomics shout Duke in your face. A comfortable upright position with slightly rear-set foot-pegs make for a wonderful blend of comfortable yet subtly committed riding position. A confidently commanding position makes for a fun ride around the track. But being a naked motorcycle, the wind protection it offers is non-existent of course. But I do believe that scraping the foot-pegs on this one is going to be a rather easy affair. Also, the seat is roomy (both rider and pillion) and all, but I still felt a bit cramped with my knees not being able to utilize the recesses on the tank to grip the motorcycle properly. But then again, 6’3s like me should be in WWE and not molesting little 125cc motorcycles!
The baby Duke says, “Judge me?”
The verdict is going to be tricky one. But I’ll try my best to be unbiased after having so much fun on the baby Duke. So, does the KTM 125 Duke justify the asking price of INR 1.18 Lakhs (Ex-Showroom)? With the single-channel ABS, old styling (unlike the European version), and a tag of being a ‘125cc’ motorcycle, many people might feel that it does not. And they may be right in their own right. But 125cc, single-channel ABS and stuff aside, it is a Duke nonetheless.
For anyone who is new to motorcycling, it is a near perfect beginner motorcycle. It offers the handling package that comes with being a Duke with manageable power, in a way that it seems like a motorcycle so friendly that one can even cuddle with it. And then the people who’d like a KTM but the other offerings are out of reach, it offers all that KTM is at a friendly price-tag and nothing like your average 125s. So, I’d say that the decision to buy it is more subjective than even the looks but still, ride it once and it will make you fall in love with it.