After years of riding some of the most powerful motorcycles available, I’d really forgotten how much fun small bikes can be, especially on the street. The KTM 200 Duke had been sitting in the UM garage for a while until I rode it. Once aboard, I found that I absolutely relished riding this pint-sized Beast. It most definitely deserves its place at the KTM Duke table, sitting alongside its larger siblings with their impressive reputations.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s only so much energy a 199.5cc single can produce. Even so, the remarkable DOHC motor does come up with way more power than I was expecting, and it does it all the way through the entire rev range to the limiter. Coupled with the 200’s feather weight, the willing, fast-revving engine translates the KTM into brisk acceleration once you’re out of first gear.
The motor has minimal flywheel weight, so pulling away necessitates a decent handful of throttle to bring up the revs. Being used to bigger bikes it’s easy to be a bit lazy with that, and embarrassingly, I stalled the motor on more than one occasion. However, once off the line and out of first, the 200 Duke pulls strongly and consistently, all the way to what feels like a stratospheric rev-limit.
Sure, the 200 Duke doesn’t have the luxury of being able to twist the throttle in top gear and be able to rip away from traffic like a literbike. Yet, sixth gear produces enough useable power to pull away from cars and trucks without drama, so it excels in the city environments. The combination of snappy engine and light weight means that the Duke responds quickly, and I can easily lane-split (in California) and merge from lane to lane without cutting anyone off or holding them up. So I always feel in charge and much safer in traffic.
Ripping through the canyons obviously requires keeping your momentum up to a degree. The seat and riding position is sporting but relaxed, so it is natural and comfortable, which is a big help. I am always impressed by how torquey the motor feels pulling out of corners. It has smooth, flawless fueling that allows for maintaining accurate mid-corner speed and fast exits.
Even on the freeway, the 2020 KTM 200 Duke impresses. Downhill-with-a-following-wind, I tried—and managed—to hit the rev-limiter in sixth at an indicated 89 mph. In normal conditions, the Duke will happily cruise all day long with the traffic at an indicated 75 to 80, and should you need to get past someone, there is just enough juice in reserve to do it. Surprisingly, the speed is barely affected by either hills or headwinds. For a naked, 200cc single, that is particularly noteworthy.
The motor is also nice and smooth, making for an enjoyable ride. At 75 mph, it does feel a little buzzy through the footpegs. Still, other than with the aforementioned rev-limit tryout, I never felt like I was wringing the motor out or asking too much of it. KTM’s exceptional engineering has produced an outstanding powerplant for the 200 Duke.
The clutch bite is easy to find, so new riders will enjoy the confidence they get from the Duke 200; it’s a great learner machine. The gearbox is positive and not clunky, and the motor produces enough torque that I don’t have to constantly stir the gears. Progressing through the ’box is easy enough and, combined with the lightweight clutch action, the Duke 200’s transmission is pleasant and unintrusive. Imagine how fun this bike would be if it had a clutchless quickshifter installed!
Likewise, the chassis and suspension are truly excellent. KTM owns WP suspension, so it makes sense that the company simply isn’t capable of producing a poorly suspended bike. yet even so, I am still impressed with how well-matched the chassis and suspension is to the capability of that extraordinary motor. The fork has no adjustment at all, and the rear shock has only spring-preload adjustment. Yet, for my riding style and 6-foot/185 pounds, the suspension is perfect; I wouldn’t change the damping, even if I could.
The 2020 KTM 200 Duke’s handling is exemplary; I simply couldn’t make the bike misbehave. The suspension is sporting and firm, so there is no wiggling or headshaking at all; it absorbs all but the biggest bumps beautifully. Despite its minimal footprint, the 200 never gets bounced around or thrown off-line. It tracks accurately and smoothly through corners with zero issues at all. This bike takes the phrase “confidence-inspiring” to a whole new level.
With images of Moto3 phenom “Dive Bomb” Darryn Binder dancing in my head, I rush into corners with more speed than I’m typically comfortable with. I sorta-kinda consider braking, and then decide to give it a go anyway—heck, if anything goes wrong, I can probably sort it out anyway.
That’s a very risky mental state of mind for the street and, as an old fart, I should know better. Regardless, I don’t feel that it’s my fault. With its amazing capability, the 200 Duke sucks me into believing.
Yes, I am exaggerating a little, but nevertheless, my point is that the super-light weight of the 200 made for convincing entrance speed into corners, with amazingly capable and sure-footed turn-in.
The single 300mm front disc brake with its ABS-equipped Bybre caliper is intuitive to use, so there is no harsh grab on the initial squeeze of the lever. I prefer that feeling in my brakes, and newbies will especially appreciate it. yet despite the soft initial application, the brakes are more than powerful enough to bring the 330-pound Duke down quickly from any speed. There is enough feel that I can also brush off a little bit of speed if necessary, without sacrificing any of that precious momentum.
Build quality is consistent with its much larger siblings. The quality of the 200 fits perfectly into the KTM family, even though it is built by Bajaj Autos in India. An encouraging $3999 price tag makes this bike a reasonable proposition as entry-level—yet it’s a real motorcycle, that looks like a real motorcycle with a strong road-presence. Many experienced moto-people remark to me how “full-size” it looks, and that they were surprised that it was “only” a 200.
Despite the inexpensive price-tag, the KTM exudes quality; the 200 Duke simply doesn’t look or feel cheap. Details such as levers, footpegs, switchgear, paint finish, and even the lovely tapered handlebars, all make the bike worthy of being called a KTM. Some functions on the plain-Jane LCD instrument panel are a little hard to read, however, the main functions of speed, RPMs, gear position, and fuel gauge are all easily spotted with a glance. I suppose a glorious full-color TFT display is too much to ask for at the Duke’s listed $3999.
I am pretty much blown away with the KTM Duke 200. I was expecting a bit of a cheap-feeling, slow little bike that got bounced around on our poor-quality SoCal roads. I could not have been more wrong. This motorcycle is absolutely amazing, both to look at, and to ride. I am a very experienced rider, and I have been fortunate to ride some of the world’s best moto-machinery. Yet, I had as much fun on this machine as I’ve had on much larger, much more expensive motorcycles. Kudos to KTM for producing such an incredible motorcycle; I’m thinking seriously about buying one.
Photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: Arai Corsair-X
- Jacket: Dainese Tuono D-Air
- Gloves: Dainese X-Run
- Pants: Dainese Denim Regular Tex
- Boots: Sidi Doha
2020 KTM 200 Duke Specifications
- Type: Single cylinder
- Displacement: 200cc
- Bore x stroke: 72 x 49mm
- Compression ratio: 11.5:1
- Valvetrain: DOHC; 4 valves
- Fueling: Bosch EFI w/ 38mm throttle body
- Lubrication: Wet sump
- Engine management: Bosch EMS
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Clutch: Wet multidisc, mechanically actuated
- Final drive: Chain
- Frame: Powdercoated steel trellis w/ bolt-on rear subframe
- Handlebars: Tapered aluminum, 26-22mm
- Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable 43mm inverted WP Apex fork; 4.6 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-free, spring-preload adjustable WP Apex shock w/ progressive damping; 5.0 inches
- Wheels: Cast aluminum
- Front: 17 x 3.00
- Rear: 17 x 4.00
- Tires: Metzeler Sportec M5 Interact
- Front: 110/70 x 17
- Rear: 150/60 x 17
- Front brake: 300mm disc w/ radially mounted Bybre 4-piston caliper
- Rear brake: 230mm disc w/ floating Bybre caliper
- ABS: Bosch 10 MB two-channel w/ Supermoto mode
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 53.4 inches
- Rake: 25 degrees
- Trail: 3.7 inches
- Seat height: 31.6 inches
- Fuel capacity: 3.5 gallons
- Curb weight: 330 pounds
- Colors: Orange; White
2020 KTM 200 Duke Price: $3999 MSRP