KTM 200 Duke: What it really means
Is it justified that we are so excited about the KTM 200 Duke? Sure, it’s quick, nimble, stable, looks good and if all goes well, it should be here at an attractive price point. Marks of a product destined for success, but then there is a lot about this bike that goes beyond its gorgeous trellis frame, through boardrooms and company strategies, into the hearts and minds of riders before it promises to percolate ultimately into the very fabric of our bikes-are-fun community, untapped and splitting at the seams with anticipation. Here’s what the bike means, to the parties involved.
For the rider:
The KTM brand in general is known for its focused nature. Doing away with everything on the bike apart from the bare minimum, deriving impressive power to weight ratios in the process, yet creating its own distinctive design which is far from no-frills. The exact same values of brand recreate themselves in the small (by KTM standards) but impressive 200 Duke. Quite frankly, it is an all-new philosophy of bike making that the 200 Duke will present to the budding Indian sport rider. Look at the options until now - accessible performance at the cost of maintenance issues, small-displacement yet track-oriented machines misfitting the streets, and soft sport-tourers disguised as full-faired cornering devils.
The 200 Duke offers a fresher, funner, and more honest option. Above all, it remains a motorcycle strictly about the ride and the attitude – two of the most critical aspects that define any good sportbike. It doesn't do anything to please everybody, and by doing this it stands to do exactly that – please every riding enthusiast. Despite a valid temptation, calling the bike “formative” may be slightly disrespectful and preachy towards the market and our nascent but thriving riding culture. Let’s put it this way – this is the sort of a bike that we personally would wish for budding motorcyclists to ride and explore, if they want to suck everything out of this lifelong obsession called sport riding.
For Bajaj Auto:
Watching Joseph Abraham, Chief Technology Officer and R&D boss at Bajaj Auto bat out vital facts about the 200 Duke was a revelation in itself. This is a product made for the world, under the badge of a different brand, yet apparently almost as thrilling and fulfilling for the brain behind the Pulsar as the Pulsar itself may have been – the spark in his eyes spoke with the passion that would have appealed instantly to any biker. At some level, the 200 Duke is the motorcycle that justifies Bajaj Auto’s interest and consequent stake in KTM, and almost proves that it is indeed one of the best matches made in the global motorcycle industry yet.
Created and built from the ground up in Bajaj Auto’s Chakan plant, the 200 Duke is as much a KTM in spirit as any of its big-displacement products – and we say this confidently after having experienced the Big Orange in its home environment in Austria. Just imagine what this one bike has given Bajaj Auto in terms of techno-sweat harnessed towards performance – from the finger followers on the 200 Duke’s DOHC engine, the steel-tube trellis frame, principles of mass-centralization, through to getting its own vendor base set up in order to live up to exacting international standards. The fruits shall be seen as much in the next-gen flagship Pulsar as in the 200 Duke itself. Bajaj Blue melts into KTM Orange so seamlessly that it almost seems meant-to-be.