You've already read all about the riding impressions and had a look at the smoking hot streetfighter from the House of Orange. But the KTM 200 Duke is more than just a motorcycle. Here's why it also represents a quantum leap in many directions, for many different people
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.
For KTM internationally:
The 200 Duke is an orange-liveried KTM product after all, despite Bajaj Auto’s heavy involvement in its development. It is also an all-new sort of product for the Austrian brand however, and has the mark of a smart-steering act by Bajaj Auto’s 39-percent stake in the company. For the sake of convenience, let’s consider the 200 Duke and its smaller cousin, the 125 Duke, as a singular line of thought for KTM. Internationally, the decision to launch a fun, entry-level streetnaked in the form of the 125 Duke has already begun to pay off for KTM – the bike has cornered the largest chunk of this segment internationally within six months of launch. Inexpensive production cost owing to Bajaj Auto’s expansive manufacturing base in India has made KTM’s Ready to Race lifestyle more accessible to international buyers than it ever was.
The introduction of a larger, funner sibling promises to expand this reach further, into the 25PS single-cylinder bike segment which almost every major international player now wants a part of. The increased interest in the brand has been marked by a jump in sales for KTM merchandise around the world. More people are loving the brand, showing off this love, and consequently making for a wider spread of the Orange tinge around the world.
For KTM in India:
When it comes to India however, we’re talking of a whole new game. While there was talk of a top-down approach for the brand when it came to India, much like other big players in the game, the alliance did well to hold this urge off. Coming in via the CBU route with the likes of the SuperDuke, the 990 Adventure and the RC8 trackster would have been too much of a me-too act for KTM for a market that did not yet know the brand’s tradition or image. Response would have been lukewarm, at best, and propelled mostly by distinctive styling. Starting small with the 200 Duke and going bottom-up means that KTM will come in as a relevant bike maker for the sporting masses, not just some exotic marque. It stands to contribute in a more wholesome manner to a homegrown sportriding culture.
And this in turn ensures a warm welcome for the brand into the Rs 1 lakh-plus motorcycle segment, worth a chunky 4000-bikes a month. Even single digit numbers a month in CBU sales would now only be incidental, and not hurtful for the brand. And did we mention that the 200 Duke will be sold through Probiking outlets, ready to shed their Bajaj branding and be labeled as proper KTM dealerships decked in orange? This is Bajaj Auto treating KTM as its own brand – an evolved, independent and international extension of an Indian company that looks intent on taking on the world.