Test ride review: KTM 125 Duke
KTM has kept Indian bikers spoilt for choice with their high performance/price ratio products. The 200 Duke and the 390 Duke are both benchmarks in their respective segments when it comes to performance. The 125 Duke too leads its class by a fair margin. But is the 125 Duke the perfect upgrade for someone who has been hopping grocery stores, shopping vegetables for their mother? Read on to find out.
The India-spec 125 Duke doesn’t get ride-by-wire, unlike the one ridden by our folks at Fast Bikes UK (sigh). We also don’t get the revised frame and design from the 2017 390 Duke. So it’s all about the engine for us. How does it fare then?
The 124.7cc engine, with a six-speed transmission to go with it, makes 14.3bhp at 9250rpm and 12Nm at 8000rpm. The engine, with its high compression ratio of 12.8:1 is properly high strung, like all KTM motors. In terms of the kit, there’s almost everything that’s already on the 200 Duke, including the 300mm-230mm disc setup, 43mm WP USD forks, 10-step adjustable monoshock and 10.2-litre fuel tank. All of this is mounted on the same Trellis frame. Even the instrument cluster and the handlebar is a straight lift.
“The high-strung motor comes alive only after around 6000rpm, but the engine hits its limiter at about 10,200rpm, akin to the 200 Duke”
The test ride for the 125 Duke was held at Bajaj’s Chakan test track, home to several fast sweeping corners. Not the perfect location, then, to showcase the 125 Duke’s capabilities. As we left the pit lane and headed to the track, the lack of power seemed pronounced. The high-strung motor comes alive only after around 6000rpm, but the engine hits its limiter at about 10,200rpm, akin to the 200 Duke. And why not, it’s the same engine, albeit bored down, with a higher compression ratio. Even the gear ratios are similar; short, with a tall-ish sixth gear, allowing for a (speedo indicated) top speed of around 115kmph. The motor struggled to keep pace at the track and I was struggling to find the correct gear, even after riding for over half an hour. You either end up hitting the redline, or struggle to get to the power band with every upshift. The story could be different when you ride it around your favourite mountain road, but in the city, the 125 Duke will demand lot of shifts.
“Unlike its elder siblings, it doesn’t want to keep you on your toes all the time”
The ride and handling, though, is sublime. The 125 Duke is a capable machine and the chassis has enough potential to manage even 50 horses. But with hardly 14 ponies to take care of, it seems somewhat underwhelming. The 125 is supremely agile and, because it doesn’t have to take care of a lot of power, feels very stable. In fact, the MRF Revz, which felt a tad underwhelming on the 200 Duke, are almost perfect for the 125, even on the race track.
Does all this mean that the product is a completely failed exercise then? Well, no. KTM is a revered brand in the country, and has an absolutely mental fan following. For a sane person, a TVS Apache RTR 200 4V or even a Yamaha FZ25 would make far more sense at this price point. But the 125 Duke is great stepping stone for someone looking to be a part of the KTM family. In fact, unlike its elder siblings, it doesn’t want to keep you on your toes all the time. Despite the frantic nature, thanks to that high-revving motor, it’s as agile as an athlete and handles like a dream, checking all the KTM tick boxes. So, dearest kids, the 125 Duke is definitely for you. It will please you and hone your skills before you move up the ladder and get yourself a 200, or even a 390. But for someone who is willing to look beyond the badge? Go ahead.