The Quarter Meister: KTM 250 Duke Ridden
Soon after the Yamaha FZ 25 laid down the gauntlet in January this year, KTM have taken up the quarter litre challenge wholeheartedly with the new 250 Duke. The model is new to India only, as it has been selling in many Southeast Asian countries where the 390 could not be sold. In those markets this bike is the flagship product for the company. In India though we get the 2017 triad of motorcycles, the 390, 250 and 200 Dukes.
At the Chakan track we got a taste of the 250, with the 200 being the side salad! And as any foodie will testify, when you have a delicious main course, the salads and soups get side-lined! Fork and knife ready, let’s dig into the 250.
The new bike is quite the lean, mean, ‘been on a diet’ kind of a motorcycle. It’s angular and sculpted looks grab you by the (eye)balls and irrespective of whether you like it or not, you surely can’t ignore it. The headlight design is somewhere between the 200 and 390. LEDs as pilot lamps, while the main bulb is a traditional halogen, unlike the new 390 with its split LED headlamp. The console isn’t a TFT like the elder sibling, instead you get the regular console with additional information like live fuel efficiency. The same as what we saw on the RC390. In the 250, the kill switch doesn’t kill the display unlike the 200. The tank is redesigned with a larger 13.5 litre capacity, and it is steel. Tank bag lovers, go celebrate!
The seats are wider and made of a new material. The saddle is firm and gives your posterior ample support. One of the better saddles I have seen on Indian motorcycles.
The chassis is a two piece trellis unit and to ensure that you notice this detail, it is painted two different colours, front black and rear orange! The rear frame can be seen going below the pillion seat and the way the mechanicals are flaunted, makes it exceptionally attractive. That’s how a naked bike should be. In your face! Tyres on the bike are from the same manufacturer and tread pattern, though of a slightly softer compound as compared to the 200. Consequently expect a shorter lifespan for this rubber. The exhaust now has a side-slung end can, while the muffler is still housed in the belly, keeping the weight low and centred, helping maintain a favourable CoG. And I mustn’t forget to mention that the bike sounds lovely now, much like the revised RC 390.
Other useful features have been carried over from the RC twins we rode last month, like the plastic shrouds for the forks and rear suspension. The forks also get improved seals to keep the dirt out. The open cartridge type forks can also be adjusted by 7-8mm, and expect an adjustment knob on the WP forks in the future. Higher up, the RVMs are now wider than earlier, so expect to see more than just your bulging biceps in the mirrors! This is apparently across the KTM range in India.
The only section of the motorcycle not pleasing to the eye is probably the tail. The tail light, number plate holder and seat, all appear to be going on a different trip. That sense of flow and cohesion doesn’t come across.
Where the 250 gets short changed over the 390 is in the RBW, tyres, headlamps, ABS and front disc brake size. The last being the only inclusion I would want to see trickle down to the 250.
And that’s all you need to know about the motorcycle before you throw a leg over it. And once you do, you realize you don’t know the motorcycle at all from the spec sheet. If you are expecting it to be a 200 + 50, it isn’t. The ergonomics itself ensure that. The 200 seems a bit laid back in comparison! On the 250, you feel as if you are sitting on the front wheel, and the steering is completely ‘within’ your control. Before you have thought it, the bike has done it. The only thing that the rider needs to do is grab it by the scruff of its neck and throw it around like a rag doll, without any fear of getting ejected! The 9mm shorter wheelbase as compared to the 200 shows up in the flickability of the bike, easily hiding the extra 13 kg of wet weight that the 250 has. The increased weight is neutralised by the 5 Ps and 5 Nm of increased power and torque. The power to weight ratio increases marginally in the 250 as compared to the 200. But what is worth noting though, is that peak power comes in at 1000 rpm lower and peak torque at 500 rpm lower, making it that much easier to ride in urban traffic.
The clutch is light, and easily workable with gloves on a track. Though only in stop and go urban traffic can we know for sure how user friendly it is. Gear shifts were super smooth, though finding neutral was a bit of a task. This could possibly be because of the bikes being brand new and having been properly thrashed around the Chakan track. The slipper clutch on the 250, is as smooth and helpful in mid-corner downshifts as we found on the RC 390 last month.
The bike wants to pop the wheelie question in the first couple of gears and being over enthusiastic with the throttle might spell trouble for a less experienced rider. Braking is good; it would have been great with the use of the larger disc from the 390. Some of our media brethren did complain about a not so responsive rear brake, a problem I didn’t face, since I make minimal use of it.
The top speed I hit on the 1.2 km main straight was around 130 kmph, fully tucked in behind the 4 inch console! Others reported a top whack of 136-138 kmph. While sitting completely upright, the bike managed 118 kmph. The MRF tyres have a speed rating of around 170 kmph we were told, well above the speeds this bike will manage.
With the 250, what you see is what you get. A purpose built motorcycle which is a perfect stepping-stone from a 150cc commuter. Though initially it would be prudent to keep your head firmly screwed onto your shoulders as you get used to the razor sharp handling and crisp throttle response. A motorcycle which can be very rewarding for the rider looking to improve his skillset, yet deadly for those who don’t take it seriously.
Let’s get back to the forgotten hero, the 200. A motorcycle which opened up a whole new level of biking for the Indian junta. The 2017 200 Duke just like the RC 200 doesn’t get much. New paint and graphics, a BS IV engine, wider mirrors and Automatic Headlamp On (AHO) feature. Though we aren’t complaining, since the 200 is going to be sold at the exact same price as earlier. Every other motorcycle upgraded to BS IV has seen a price hike of 1000-2000. Though we would have been happier if the fork and suspension shrouds had been provided on the 200 as well.
So which of the two should you buy? If you already have the Duke 200 (or any similar capacity motorcycle), the 250 will not be an upgrade. If you are looking to upgrade from a 150cc motorcycle, then we suggest you pony up the extra monies for the 250, you won’t be disappointed. The quarter is here to help you master the streets, at least until the competitors bring in a sizzler!
Photos: Arjun Dhavale