Text: Chandan B Mallik; Photographs: Nabeel Ferzan
Bike tested: 2011 KTM Duke 125
The KTM Duke 125 might not make it to India any time soon but the next generation Bajaj Pulsar will definitely borrow heavily from the Duke 125. Bajaj Auto might even use the 125cc motor from the Duke 125 on the Pulsar 125 and Pulsar 150 (using the same block). KTM is famous for making off-road racing and street bikes, but does the Duke 125 live up to the KTM name? It’s time for a road test to find out how the KTM Duke 125 fares and whether the next generation Pulsar borrowing KTM parts is any good news.
Styling – Motorcycles are being downsized nowadays but its quite the opposite with the Duke 125. The bike looks larger than it actually is. The bold stickers, corporate orange colours, striking alloys sporting particularly wide tyres are the highlights of the KTM Duke 125. But KTM engineers have not spared anything and there is some bling too with LED indicators, tail lamp and license plate.
There’s a bit of bling tailored in to the package such as LED indicators and tail lamp and licence plate. The mid mounted, under belly stainless steel exhaust is note worthy and is placed right between the swingarm and the engine. KTM has even patented this unique exhaust system, which has a unique three chamber with a catalytic converter. The bike weighs just 118 kgs (unladen) but looks much heavier thanks to the beefy looks..
Instrument Cluster and Switch Gear – Knowing your talking about a KTM bike, there can be nothing wrong with the switch gear quality and the Duke 125 lives upto that statement. The instrument cluster is one of the best in terms of functions and information. The fully digital unit showcases a plethora of details including speed, tachometer, time, two trip meters, fuel gaude, fuel efficiency, journey time, total kilometers travelled, distance to empty and service interval time. The display falls right in view of the rider but can be little difficult to read on the move.
Performance and Gearbox – The Duke 125 is powered by a 125cc, 4-valve, liquid-cooled engine with two overhead cams. A balancer shaft along with Bosch fuel injection are part of this small motor, helping it to produce 15 HP of peak power at 10500 RPM and 12 Nm of peak torque at 8000 RPM. The final drive is chain and the reason for the small engine is due to strict EU norms for beginners. One needs to revv the engine hard and keep it above 7000 RPM to get the best out of it. The bike starts feeling breathless at 90 kmph and reaches a top speed of 110 kmph before the engine runs out of steam. One can’t really blame the engine but the small displacement for this sort of performance.
The engine is mated to a 6-speed manual gearbox, which is a joy to operate. The gearbox is extremely smooth both ways and there are no false engagements at all. Clutch modulation is smooth and very light to operate. This is an extremely good thing as one needs to constantly move through the gears to make decent progress. Yes, the Duke 125 is slow but as the old saying goes, there is no replacement for displacement. As a commuter bike though, the Duke 125 is smooth and decently powered but tends to get noisy at speed.
Ride, Handling and Braking – Sit on the Duke 125 and you don’t feel your sitting on a small entry level bike. This motorcycle produces a large bike feel and unless you are riding it, you feel your on a much bigger machine. The flat seats and deeply sculpted tank ensure a comfortable riding seat, while the 750 mm wide handlebars ensure an upright position which is good for long rides. The Trellis and forged oval steel tube chassis is very light, yet extremely strong. The inverted cartridge used for the front suspension is very rate for a 125cc bike. The overall design suggests mass concentration and the short wheel base just confirms the same. KTM has designed the Duke 125 for beginners and ride stability is evidently a priority. Disc brakes are from Bybre to achieve cost reduction.
The KTM 125 feels extremely well balanced and feels surefooted. Handling is simply outstanding and the bike responds very well to the rider’s weight shifting. The brakes use 280 mm discs at the front and 230 mm discs at the rar and are very good. The wide 110 section tyres at the front and 150 section tyres at the rear offer plenty of grip and help in quickly stopping the Duke. Overall, if there is anything which really stands out on the KTM 125 is its excellent handling and braking.
Conclusion – With great power comes great responsibility but just because the KTM 125 lacks in the former doesn’t mean it has any less of the latter. The Duke 125 might be an entry level bike but looks and rides like a much bigger machine. Built entirely at Chakan and exported globally, the Duke 125 is well worth the premium it commands in global markets. Even though you don’t feel any faster than any other commuter bike, it is the big bike feel that the KTM Duke 125 offers, which makes it such a worthy machine. The next generation Pulsar does not need the Duke 125’s engine but its chassis!
* Stunning looks
* Multi-info display
Whats Not So Cool
* Mediocre engine performance
* Instrument cluster difficult to read on the move