Chinmay has submitted this review in our Ownership Review Contest No 13, ensuring himself an assured prize. The contest also offers a chance to win Riding Jacket, Helmet and more.. You can submit your review to us as well. Here are all the details.
Let me start by thanking BikeAdvice for giving all bike enthusiasts this platform where we can rant about things we love the most. I would also like to thank all the people who read my last review and sent me appreciation emails and queries. Hope I could be of some help to you in making the right decision.
Since you are reading this, I am assuming you are well aware of the various terms used. But in case I am wrong pls refer to ‘You tube’ or ‘Wikipedia’
For all my new readers, let me introduce myself. My name is Chinmay Modi; I am 37 years of age, married and I have a son who is now 10 yrs old.
Duke 200 is my 6th bike in the past 17 yrs. Bajaj Chetak was first forced on me by my dad. I then bought the only so called sports bike available then in India; Hero Honda Sleek, then came the Pulsar 150 (bad decision) , then the Avenger 180 (bad decision), then the Yamaha FZS which I customized and then the Duke 200.
People wondering why I call the Pulsar and the Avenger a bad decision, please check my previous review on the FZS here. Again this is my and my opinion only. If you feel otherwise, I am happy for you.
I am also a part of this motorcycling group called the Highway Hounds and we do a lot of rides across the state. Well that’s about me.
Why the Duke and not the R15 or any other bike?
Well here I am again even more confused than I was the last time I penned down a review for the Yamaha FZS. I know a lot of people who read the review and liked it will be upset with me that I am now writing a review on the KTM Duke 200 and not the R15 as promised, but call it destiny or the way the KTM wooed me, R15 got off the radar. I believe it is simply the aggressive looks and performance of the Duke that forced me to go for it and not the R15.
Most of you here will know what KTM is – it is the name of a manufacturer based in the Austrian town of Mattighofen, near Salzburg in Europe. KTM is an acronym for Kraftfahrzeuge Trunkenpolz Mattighofen. Kraftfahrzeuge means ‘motor vehicles’. Trunkenpolz comes from its founder Hans Trunkenpolz who founded it in the town of Mattighofen in 1934.
It started out as a metal working shop and was named Kraftfahrzeug Trunkenpolz Mattighofen.
Why the name “Duke”?
The first KTM sports bike was launched in 1994 without a name. 20 different names were shortlisted and Sales and Marketing Boss Mr. Calman Cseh stopped at “DUKE” and said: “This one I like!” That’s how the name Duke came to be.
Relation between KTM and Bajaj:
Bajaj has a ~47% stake in KTM and the Duke 125 and 200 both are manufactured in the Chakan plant in Pune.
Why should I buy the Duke? My inspiration
I think after 17 yrs of riding and 5 bikes, I now look more for performance in a bike than looks and that’s the thought I had about the R15. Performance and looks both are fantastic with the R15. But the day Bajaj launched the Duke 200; R15 got washed out from my thoughts. Inspite of being so performance oriented, believe me when I saw the Duke 200 I fell in love with the aggressive styling and looks and wanted to buy it.
Performance was the last thing on my mind. Another thing that builds up my confidence is that this is a KTM, known all around the world for their high performance engines.
The CBR 250 too crossed my mind but when comparing the naked styling of the Duke and the handsome looks of the CBR, I chose to go for the Duke. Power wise both are 25 BHP but the raw burst of power that the Duke generates in the initial and mid range, is a farfetched dream on the CBR. Being a 250 CC it gives a better top end but gradually and is not as spontaneous as the Duke which is perfect for the kind of riding I like. Also after riding the Yamaha for 4 long yrs, I didn’t want to try another Japanese engine.
The Test Ride:
The first time I went for a test ride on the Duke 200 the showroom chap told me to be careful and whether this was my first bike. Guess what, I put my head down and laughed. 17 yrs of riding and this guy here asks me such a question. So here I am all ready and kicked about the ride not because it’s a KTM but I had a point to prove to this chap. I mount the bike, switch on the engine and this guy hops on pillion. I can feel the tension building up on this chap and I am wondering why???
All doubts were cleared when I squeezed the clutch, put the bike in the 1st gear and released it. The first word out of my mouth was f#@k. I am not sure what the guy behind me said. All the time while I was test riding the beast, I was laughing and the guy behind me was counting his days. I even felt like swinging my arm over my head and screaming Yee haw! Nowadays this happens to most of the people who ride pillion with me. Be responsible guys. With great power comes great responsibility.
I bought the Duke:
Money, money, money, always a challenge. At 1.17 lacs it was still a bit overpriced for me and did not fit in my budget so I continued with the FZS. I felt like a boy outside a candy store with no money in his pocket. All he can do is look and drool. So I waited for 2 long yrs till people wanted to sell their bike for 2nd hand. I bought my candy from a contact on OLX for 88K in Aug.
The bike was 13,000 kms run and was in a great condition (Parsi owned). Need I say more? I have already done 10,000 kms on the bike since I bought it. Again I have Bajaj to thank for launching the Duke 390 due to which people started selling off the Duke 200. I still feel like the boy outside the candy store. Now I want a bigger candy. Stop thinking dirty!
So here I am with the Duke 200, already done 10,000 kms after I bought it.
Aggressive and Stylish are two words, I like to use generously for the Duke. A naked bike normally does not go down well with the everyday Indian user but not the Duke. The nakedness is what makes it look so aggressive and stylish. It looks more like a predator ready to pounce. Looks like a wild horse daring you to ride it. Asking you, do you have what it takes to ride this beast and not get thrown off the saddle.
The overall arrangement is so beautiful; it looks like a statue sculpted from single piece of rock. I still remember when I went to see the Duke with a friend of mine, he told me, you know what, the silencer is missing and I almost fell off the chair. The exhaust is so neatly placed underbelly that you hardly miss the extension. This gives some phenomenal center of gravity and that’s what enhances the stability of the bike.
Superb LED lights you just can’t miss seeing them. Hydroformed Handle bar, LED switches which look amazing during the night and the LED tail light, so prominent.
Lot of riders will not be very comfortable with the seating. The seats are thin and a bit on the stiffer side.
The foot pegs are placed a bit to the rear compared to the regular motorcycles. It takes a bit of getting used to. This placement of the foot pegs helps to place your knees in the gap in the tank and help you maneuver the bike with confidence around corners. The knee placement helps you glide the bike and get it in the right position, balancing your weight to move in and out of corners at the desired speed and angle.
The view in the front is absolutely clear and the rear view mirrors are placed so beautifully that there is absolutely no shoulder interference in the rear view.
I have been riding the FZS for the past 4 yrs so the confidence level I had in the FZ was bound to be more than the Duke which was absolutely new to me especially in Ghats and highways. I managed doing knee downs with absolutely no issues on the FZ. I still remember my first long ride on the Duke to Nilshi (Kamshet, Pune) and when we passed Khopoli and entered the Khandala twisties, knee downs came so naturally, I hardly felt I was doing it for the first time on the Duke. The adaptability of the bike is simply out of the world. It’s like she knows what you plan to do even before you’ve approached the corner. MRF Revz contributes really well to the overall experience.
It’s like handling a sharp knife and there is nothing dull about it. Right from the word ‘go’, it’s urgent and electric. The short gear ratio feels like it wants to cross the red line every time. Quick gear shifts really help achieve high speeds in minimal time. It does 0 to 60 in 3.5 secs and 0 to 100 in 9.5 secs. Absolutely crazy.
Never experienced such a thing with any other motorcycle I have ridden. Gets a bit wobbly at high speeds and small visor at a 45 degree angle would help improve the aerodynamics. The bike can surely do more than 10,500 RPM but the RPM limiter just wouldn’t let it go.
Various Avatars of the Duke
Tourer: Done a 1000 km ride to Ganpatiphule and back. NO discomfort what so ever. A few bungee cords to tie the haversack on the back seat and leave for la la land. Be it a highway or bumpy roads she meets them head on with the same vigour and agility. Be it manoeuvring or straight riding she handles all in a stride only known to a Duke.
City Commuter: Now this one is where you may face a little challenge. Nah! Don’t mean she is not good in the city but the envy of other bikers when you’re at the signal. Especially the 200CC+ bikes that try to challenge you to a quick drag. Pls ignore them for they know not what they mess with. City commuting is a joy on this bike. The flickable nature and high torque producing strength of the Duke makes it really easy to ride in the city and take off at signals. Say good bye to the blurring images in the rear view mirrors.
Off roader: Not much of an off roader with the hard suspensions especially designed to handle the smooth European terrain. Off roading can get a bit of a pain in the back side. I tried it on my ride to Ganpatiphule and Nilshi and the Duke managed each twist and turn like a pro but the suspensions made it a bit difficult for me to sit and ride. I had to stand most of the time to ensure I don’t have to courier my back to Mumbai.
There was a lot of anticipation around the launch of the Duke 200 and I have to say it has lived up to its expectations.
What I like about the Duke:
Now when people ask me what I like about the Duke, I wonder what I should say and what should I not say. So let me take you a bit more into detail on the various aspects of this wonderful machine.
- Engine: Compared to the Duke 125, the 200 has 60% more power and the engine has been modified significantly. New camshafts, bigger piston and new exhaust layout. The new design ensures that you get optimum output at 25 BHP and an awesome torque even at low revs.
- Kerb weight of the Duke is 136 kgs, 25 BHP which includes the 10.5 ltrs fuel, 1.5 ltrs engine oil and coolant. The CBR250R with a Kerb weight of 167 kg, 25 BHP whereas for the R15 V 2.0 it is again 136 kg, 17 BHP but it is a 150 CC. This results in high performance when it comes to top end speeds for the Duke. Power to weight ratio, perfectly balanced.
- Suspension: The 43 mm front reverse telescopic suspensions are solidly built and can withstand the highest of impacts. The reverse adjustment ensures that the jerks are reduced to a minimum without damaging the fork alignment. It also provides a high level of stability and precision.
- Seating: Perfectly designed for the rider. The height of the bike enhances the seating even more and gives you the perfect off roader feeling even on straight stretches.
- Swing arm: Light weight alloy material designed in line with the Duke 690. The swing arm with the mono shock arrangement provides outstanding stability when at high speeds and especially when attacking corners.
- Tyres: 17’ alloys with a 110 mm tyre at the front and 150 mm at the rear provides great grip both in wet and dry conditions. MRF Revz does an impressive job here. I have used the tyres in both these conditions so I can say that with a lot of confidence.
- Brakes: Powerful Bybre disc brakes at the front (280 mm) provide amazing stopping capability at high speeds. Ensure you pump the brakes and not jam them to avoid tyre locking and skidding as a net result. Rear disc brake (230 mm) equally contributes in the braking mechanism.
- Console: The display is like an onboard minicomputer. It is so compact and beautifully placed and looks just apt for the Duke 200.
- Digital Speedo/Odo/Gear indicator
- Two Trip meters.
- ‘Side Stand on’ alert.
- Fuel Level indicator.
- Low fuel level indicator.
- Distance to next service.
- Distance to empty fuel.
- Average speed during trip.
- Average fuel consumption.
- Shift RPM indicator for rider.
- Digital watch.
- Engine Temp.
- Turn signal.
- Neutral light
- High Beam
- Exhaust: Now you wonder why not a conventional exhaust assembly? Actually the underbelly exhaust plays a pivotal role in the Duke being able to generate high torque even at low RPMs reason being the short exhaust outlet. There is absolutely no stalling issue due to water entering the exhaust in knee deep water. Also the aggressive scrambler sound is thanks to the underbelly exhaust.
- Mileage: With the kind of acceleration this bike does, I think 35 to 40 km/l is fantastic. Especially on the highway cruising at 100 km/hr you can expect a good mileage. In the early days when Bajaj launched the Duke in India there was a lot of skepticism regarding the mileage (Indians after all we are. Lol…). I have heard ridiculous figures like 15 and 20 kms/ ltrs. Time has put dirt in their mouths to shut them up. If you’re not getting that mileage you’re doing something wrong. Get to the service center quickly.
- Safety start system: This feature prevents you from riding the bike with the stand down. With the side stand down, there is a fair risk of an accident as the stand could lead to the bike skidding and falling, especially while turning the bike. The MID shows a “SIDE STAND DOWN” warning but, in case the rider ignores this warning and forgets to lift the stand the bike will start but, will stall as soon as the first gear is engaged. So you can never ride the bike with the stand down.
- Motion-sensing headlight: This feature, as the name suggests works only when the bike is in motion and if for some reason the rider stalls it; the headlight will remain on till the bike is stationary. For this the headlight switch has to be on. This feature is there in case the rider is riding the bike at night or low light conditions. If the bike stalls, the headlight will still remain on for the rider to see where he is headed. Also the headlight comes on after about a second of cranking the bike to prevent the headlight from conking off due to irregular voltage at start-ups and to save battery.
- Auto adjusting backlight on the display: The display on the Duke 200 is backlit with an orange light. There is a light sensor which automatically adjusts the brightness of the backlight according to the light condition outside. Again this is helpful in conditions where there is fluctuation in the natural light. You don’t have to strain your eyes to read the display.
- Rear number plate light: Yes, all vehicles are mandated by law to have their rear number plate illuminated but the Duke’s white LED light is bright enough to illuminate its immediate surroundings. This not only increases the bike’s night visibility but can also come in handy while backing the bike up at night.
- Trip F: The MID on the Duke 200 does show distance to empty but ‘Trip F’ is activated as soon as the fuel level touches reserve. The MID will switch to “TRIP F” and start from 0.0 and show the kilometers travelled in reserve mode. This is quite helpful in traffic conditions and you don’t need to keep toggling between different readings.
- RPM shift: You can set the RPM limit on each gear as per your requirement to ensure you do not rev the bike too much in a particular gear and the indicator will light up immediately once you hit the RPM limit in that gear.
There are quite a few other sensors too-
- Speed sensor: Keeps a track of your speed, in the front wheel.
- Ignition pickup sensor: Makes sure the air fuel mixture is ignited at the right time
- Gear Position sensor: Tells the ECU what gear the bike is in.
- Throttle position sensor: Tells the ECU how much throttle has been opened by you.
- Lambda sensors: These are air content monitors, are used to monitor the quality of air (intake and exhaust), Duke has an open loop system so I think the exhaust sensor is absent.
- Pressure sensors: To monitor the oil pressure and fuel pump pressure.
- Temperature sensor: Monitors engine temperature.
- Fuel level Sensor: Gives you an indication of how much fuel is present in the tank.
- Brake sensors/switch: Activates the brake lights when you use the brakes.
What I don’t like about the Duke?
Now that’s a difficult question to answer. When people ask me what I don’t like about the Duke, I look at them like I’m a retard and you asked me the smartest question on earth. But unfortunately like any other bike this one too has some drawbacks.
- Fiber fuel tank. Highly prone to punctures and fuel leaks. I experienced it and had to get the tank changed. Cost me 1700/-.
- Tyres: Again these are MRF low profile, soft compound tyres. Prone to punctures and they wear off quite fast. I would say the tyre life is only 10,000 Kms depending on your riding style and terrain.
- Aerodynamic: Could have been more aerodynamic. The wind blast is right in the face and you will experience vibrations and a little bit of wobble at high speeds. I believe the bike can do the same speed with much smoothness then it does currently had it been more aerodynamic in the front.
- Rear mud flap does not help much and god help the rider behind you (not the pillion). Too many riders have actually complained about additional sprays while I am out in the rains.
- Parts could have been a bit cheaper and easily available. Most of the time the parts are out of stock.
- Seats could have been softer but they can always be customized.
- The kind of acceleration it has, NO ABS.
- Fuel tank capacity could have been better. Long rides and only 10.5 ltrs?
- Not very happy riding at low speeds (why would I ride her at low speeds) or in traffic (Mumbai….), engine will heat quite a bit due to the fast revving motor and once the fan switches on, you will feel the heat coming up to you.
- Orange frame and white wheels would have looked great.
- Reverse telescopic suspension whilst much better with the handling, can be pain in case of oil seal damage. The spillage will be much higher compared to the conventional shocks, thanks to the law of gravity. What goes up comes down.
- Practically no storage under the seat.
Specifications in a nut shell:
- Performance: Max power 25 Brake horse power (BHP)@10,000 RPM and 19.2 Newton Meters torque @8000 RPM.
- Chassis frame made from steel tubes, powder-coated called the Trellis.
- Engine Displacement: 200 cc (199.5), Single-cylinder, 4-stroke.
- Top speed: 137KM/hr.
- Gear shift pattern: 1 down, 5 up.
- Rear mono shock: WP suspension 4618.
- Front Suspension: Inverted telescope, WP Suspension 4357.
- Aluminum swing arm: Light weight and helps improve stability and cornering.
- Front and Rear Disc Brake by Bybre.
- 4 pistons/caliper, 1 piston/caliper.
- 2 pads/ wheel.
- Diameter: 280 ± 0.3, 230 ± 0.3
- Fuel Injection system by KEIHIN.
- Liquid cooled engine.
- Compression ratio: 11:3:1.
1) Mileage is low: If someone tell you the mileage on the Duke 200 is low, they either have never owned one or they are just spreading rumours. I have owned the bike for good 5 months now and I can vouch by the mileage of 35 to 40 KMs/ltr.
2) Engine heating: Engine heats up too much. Whilst this stands true in traffic conditions, there is absolutely no need to worry since the engine heat sensors ensure that it does not over heat. Over heating will happen only when your radiator is clogged, the hose is malfunctioning or low coolant level.
3) Too expensive: Not quite. But when you look at features and performance the machine provides it is absolute value for money product. For more you need to shell out more.
4) Skidding problem: Which bike does not skid? In this case I can vouch that the bike’s design is simply not responsible for skidding. If the bike skids there are some basic checks that you need to perform.
- Check the wear and tear of the tyre (too many cracks, treads are practically invisible or tread depth is less than recommended). Time to change the tyres.
- Swing arm bearing is faulty. Wobbly feeling after a particular speed or when the throttle is released.
- Place the bike on a paddock stand and try and move the tyre. If there is play then the rear tyre bearing could be spoiled.
- Poor braking technique. Jamming the brakes and not pumping them.
Sum it up:
Overall the bike is suitable for all masses, amateurs or experienced. Amateurs need to be a bit more careful with the kind of acceleration and pick up. Experienced, you can take it to the next level with the kind of confidence this bike will give you. Especially the ones who always wanted to attack corners with their knees down. U won’t feel left out amongst a group of super bikes around you since you will be a class apart. I think the term ‘Racing in its DNA’ is more suited to the Duke than any other in its league.
Reviewer’s Note: This is only an attempt to highlight what the Duke is and there is no intention to criticize any other motorcycle. The insights I have provided are not only from my experience but I also have to thank all the excerpts that I read online to make this review even more elaborate and readable. I would not be doing justice to the readers if I only projected my thoughts and experience. But I have verified details and facts and only once I was satisfied with the logic have I dared to pen it down. Again this is not a compilation of information gathered online.
Hope I have been able to do justice and you like the review. Will come back when I buy the Duke 390. You can reach out to me at ‘email@example.com’.
That’s all for now. Thanks and safe riding to all.