KTM Duke vs Honda CBR250R vs Yamaha R15
KTM Duke vs Honda CBR250R vs Yamaha R15 – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

Shootout – Yamaha R15 vs KTM Duke 200 vs Honda CBR250R

600 cc, 67 BHP and Rs. 4.2 lakhs. No, this is not one bike but three of the best performance motorcycles on sale in India today. I am talking about the Yamaha R15, KTM Duke 200 and the Honda CBR250R. When the KTM Duke 200 was launched, we did a quick comparison with its competitors (here), but little did we know that on the road everything would turn out so different. Yes, we rode the three motorcycles back to back extensively to find out which emerges as the outright winner as the best performance bike in India today. So stay glued to your chairs as this is the most interesting battle in the Indian motorcycling industry we have seen in years.

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Before we started the shootout, the three new kids on the block went to pay a visit to the motorcycle which started it all. The Bajaj Pulsar 220 has not been included in this test because the Pulsar 200 NS is coming soon and thus it wouldn’t make sense to buy a P220 at this stage. The Pulsar 220 is still massive fun though and quite fast too. The Honda CBR150R is grossly overpriced and thus has not been included in this test.

Styling – All the three motorcycles have very different styling. Based on the looks alone it will be difficult to chose one since all are very pleasing to look at. All the three bikes take inspiration from their bigger siblings, the Yamaha R15 look like a mini R1, the Duke 200 takes heavy cues from the Duke 990, while the Honda CBR250R draws styling inspiration from none other than the mighty VFR1200F. Thus all internationally acclaimed designs so you can’t go wrong with either. But which bike draws the most eye candy is the question?

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The simple answer is the Yamaha R15 Version 2.0 which is an outright sporty looking motorcycle. Inspired from the R1 and R6,  any angle you view the R15 pleases the visual senses to a great extent. Right from the twin headlights in the front to the R6 inspired tail, the R15 looks well balanced and proportionate. Infact the R15 looks so good that many end up buying it just for the way it looks.

The KTM Duke 200’s naked street-fighter styling and the bare minimum parts ensure it flexes its muscles and proudly at that. Right from the orange colour to the exposed trellis frame, the Duke has charisma to attract eye balls. Mind you, pictures just don’t do justice to the Duke 200 and one needs to see it in person to understand how hot it looks. Even though the Duke is just a 200 cc bike, it looks much bigger thanks to its beefy looks.

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The Honda CBR250R on the other end features conservative styling, which is-int a bad thing. The design is quite neutral and pleases all. Honda has not really bothered much about the styling aspects and small changes (black alloys, LED tail lights) could make the CBR250R looks so much better. The inspiration from the VFR1200F on a CBR250R is confusing though and the CBR250R does not feature cuts and creases like the other too.

Styling Verdict – Yamaha R15 V2.0, KTM Duke 200, Honda CBR250R

Instrument Cluster and Switch Gear – One of the most important parts of a motorcycle is the instrument cluster. It is your dashboard and getaway to vital information. All the three motorcycles have very good instrument clusters and deciding the best among them is not an easy task. But it’s the KTM Duke 200’s instrumentation which is the winner here. The simple, almost square cluster is light dependent and features a plethora of information, which the other two don’t even come close to. You have two trip-meters, distance to empty, average fuel consumption, average riding time, gear shift indicator and what not present on the console. An analog tachometer and slight bigger read outs could only improve the Duke’s instrument cluster.

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The Yamaha R15’s instrument cluster comes in second, thanks to the large tachometer and decently sized display for the speedometer, odometer and fuel meter. The R15 features twin trip meters and one will love the way the tachometer needle bounces around as you extract every ounce of juice from the 150 cc motor. The Honda CBR250R’s instrumentation comes in a close third and the design is simple and nothing eye catchy. The tachometer has been given the prime importance on the cluster, with a digital display right below it. If Honda has taken styling cues from the VFR, why not take the instrument cluster from the VFR too? All these motorcycles have very good switch gear quality, with the usual placement of buttons. The KTM Duke 200 is the only motorcycle which has back-lit switches, which is a cool touch.

Instrument Cluster Verdict – KTM Duke 200, Yamaha R15 V2.0, Honda CBR250R

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Performance and Gearbox – I am sure this is the most important parameter which most look at when buying any of these motorcycles. All the three bikes are powered by single-cylinder, 4-stroke, 4-valve, liquid cooled engines but that is where the similarities end. The smallest engined and the least powerful bike here is the Yamaha R15 Version 2.0, which is powered by a 149.8 cc engine. The R15’s motor produces 16.76 BHP (17 PS) of peak power at 8500 RPM and 15 Nm of peak torque at 7500 RPM. With a weight of 136 kgs, the Yamaha R15 has a power to weight ratio of 123 BHP / ton. This gives the Yamaha a 0 – 100 km/h time of 12.78 seconds and a top speed of 130 km/hr.

The most powerful motorcycle here is the Honda CBR250R, which is armed with a 249.6 cc, DOHC engine, producing 25 BHP of peak power at 8500 RPM and 23 Nm of peak torque at 7000 RPM. The CBR250R is the heaviest here, weighing in at 167 kgs. This gives the CBR250R a power to weight ratio of 150 BHP/ton. Twist the throttle of the CBR250R with full force and it will reach 100 km/hr in less than 9 seconds. Keep going further and the CBR250R will gladly nudge past 150 km/hr, thereby claiming the highest top speed of the trio.

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The KTM Duke 200 also produces 25 BHP of peak power but at a higher 10,000 RPM. Powered by a 199.5 cc, short stroke motor, the Duke 200 produces 19.2 Nm of peak torque at 8000 RPM. The Duke weighs the same as the R15, which at 136 kgs gives it insane power to weight ratio of 184 BHP / ton. The Duke 200 reaches 100 km/h in 9.4 seconds and hits a top speed of 138 km/h. All the three motorcycles have very different engines, with the power output concentrated in different bands. The KTM Duke 200 has good low and mid-range punch, the Yamaha R15 and Honda CBR250R have good mid and high end grunt. None of these bikes will disappoint you though and you can have as much fun on either of these.

On paper the Duke looks like the most powerful machine, thanks to its low weight while the Yamaha R15 feels the slowest due to the less power it produces. But on the road, this could change. So without much ado, lets talk which is faster. Simply put, even with a 30 kgs disadvantage, it is the Honda CBR250R which is the faster machine here. The Duke 200 might out run it in in gear acceleration timings but the CBR250R makes up for it in out right acceleration. The tall geared Honda still has some steam left when the Duke 200’s revv limiter kicks in at 10,500 RPM.

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In a quarter mile drag race (video can be viewed here, shows actual experience and yes the riders above are lining up for one), the Honda CBR250R just edges out in front and that is all thanks to the shorter gearing of the Duke 200. Initially the Duke 200 nudges forward but as speeds built up, the KTM rider has to keep up-shifting, causing crucial loss of time. At the end of the 400-meters, the Duke 200 hits 126 km/h in sixth gear, while the Honda will still be pulling strong at 128 km/h in fourth gear with two gears to go! The top-end of the CBR250R is truly amazing and the Honda engine needs special mention for the top levels of refinement, which the other two don’t even come close to matching.

The real problem with the KTM Duke 200 lies in its short gearing, which isn’t a problem if you don’t compare it to the Honda CBR250R. The red-line comes very quickly and one can’t really shift at the right time due to the speed at which the revvs climb in the Duke 200. The Duke doesn’t feel out of steam near its red-line and the deliberate limiting at 10,500 RPM has been done for reliability. The Honda CBR250R’s tall gearing gives the rider plenty of time to plan up-shifts, ensuring right shifts and optimum use of power.

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The Yamaha R15 Version 2.0 is no match for the other two here and simply doesn’t have the hardware to keep up with them on flat out acceleration. The highly aerodynamic nature also means that one has to lean forward aggressively to boost top speed. At around 118 km/h, the R15 starts struggling and the wind resistance is too much to overcome at times. Reaching 130 km/h takes a very long time, while the other two are very quick in zooming past 130 km/h thanks to the strong power and torque they produce.

The Yamaha R15’s engine sounds sporty as revvs build up. The Honda engine sounds refined and soft all throughout the power band and never does it feel stressed or uneasy, no matter how much you thrash it. The Duke 200 on the other end is vocal from the word go. The sound from the engine is present right from idle to the red-line and the Duke 200 sounds like a 2-stroke motor. The Duke’s under seat exhaust gets really loud and boomy around 6000 RPM and the revvs build up very quickly, unlike its Japanese rivals whose revvs don’t build up near as quick.

If one wants to ride on the track, the Honda motor is very well suited for on the limit throttle. For the city, the Duke 200’s powerplant feels extremely good and upto the job and the torque curve is insane. So good is the torque band that one can simply put the KTM in 6th gear at 30 km/h without a single hesitation from the powerplant. In-gear acceleration is easily the best and the Duke 200’s throttle is very crisp and eager. All the three bikes have a 6-speed manual gearbox, with light and precise shift action. There is very little to differentiate between the clutch and gearbox of these performance machines. The mileage is more or less the same too with the bikes stretching every litre of petrol to 35 km/l.

Performance Verdict – Honda CBR250R, KTM Duke 200, Yamaha R15 V2.0

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Ride, Handling and Braking – No prizes for guessing which motorcycle can teach the others a thing or two about handling. Armed with the famous Deltabox frame, which was developed based on Yamaha’s experience in Moto GP, the R15 rides like a train on rails. This bike will make you test your mental limit and once you start riding the R15 you will soon start exploring the Rossi within you. The R15 is point and shoot and very accurate at that, because its razor sharp handling gives it such immense flick-ability, that you feel every turn on the road is a corner on the track. Grip levels are stupendous and sometimes you would feel you are glued to the road.

The KTM Duke 200 is a very good handler too but not close to the R15 in terms of sharpness. You can point and shoot the Duke 200 and it obeys. The KTM is very flickable, and being a street-fighter it doesn’t have to be as track focused as the R15. The wide rubber gives the Duke very good grip and the light steering gives the rider ample feedback. The Honda CBR250R though is not as sharp or nimble as the other too and the extra 30 kgs are quite evident. The Honda is more suited towards comfort and cruising then putting your knee down. The R15’s sporty seating position makes the rider feel at home when you put your knee down.

The Duke’s seating is upright which doesn’t give the sense of sportyness. This actually goes in the Duke 200’s favour as for long distance riding, the Duke feels extremely comfortable, while the R15 feels too sporty and aggressive. The Honda CBR250R’s seating is right between the Duke 200 and the R15 as its not too sporty nor too upright and is a balance of both. While the Honda does handle well, it doesn’t come close to the nimble, flickable and razor sharp behaviour of the R15 and Duke 200. But all this changes as speeds build up and once past 120 km/h, the Duke 200 doesn’t feel as stable as the CBR250R. The R15’s wind tunnel tested shape gives it insanely good stability at high speeds but none beat the CBR250R in this regard.

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The extra 30 kgs of weight give the Honda a massive advantage at high speeds. You never feel your going fast enough, because the CBR250R stays glued to the road, even at 140 km/h. At such speeds, the CBR250R is still very sharp and one can do quick flicks from one lane to another, without any twitch whatsoever. The R15 and Duke 200 feel as good a handler in the hands of a beginner but one really needs to be decently experienced to extract the best out of the CBR250R. All the three bikes have very good weight distribution. If you are planing to ride on the track often, you should get the Yamaha R15, there is no two ways about it. But if you ride at very high speeds frequently, then the CBR250R is your best bet. For a mix of both track and highways, the KTM Duke 200 fits the bill perfectly.

Braking performance of all the three motorcycles is very strong. All of them feature disc brakes all around with grippy and wide rubber. Honda offers C-ABS as an option, which makes the CBR250R’s brakes easily the best of the trio. But when you consider the non-ABS version of the CBR250R, it is the Yamaha R15 which easily outshines the others in braking performance, offering stupendous stopping power. The R15’s brakes are so good that if you brake hard from three digit speeds, it doesn’t twitch or slide and stops dead in its tracks. The KTM Duke 200 also has extremely good brakes, slightly better than the CBR250R (non-ABS). You can’t go wrong with either of these machines though, as all offer extremely good pedal feel and brake bite.

The ride quality of all these motorcycles is aided by monoshock suspension at the rear, while the front is telescopic forks in the CBR250R and the R15, while the Duke 200 has upside-down forks made by WP. The Honda feels the most comfortable of the three, absorbing bumps and offering a very compliant ride. The Duke 200 and R15 are a close second with slightly stiffer settings, giving the rider some feel of terrible roads. The pillion seat of the Yamaha R15 Version 2.0 is quite un-useable due to high rear seat and lack of grab rails.

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The KTM Duke deserves a special mention for its stunt-ability. Yes the baby Duke is very easy to stunt on (Rok Bagoros proved that already!). The light weight, torquey engine and sharp brakes ensure that you can do stoppies effortlessly.

Dynamics Verdict – Very difficult to chose one as all three motorcycles offer the very best in ride, handling, braking and high speed stability. If I had to chose one though, I would pick the Duke 200 as I don’t ride on the track and there are not many roads where you can do speeds which the Honda CBR250R is capable off!

Conclusion – After riding three of the most powerful made in India bikes, I am still in a loom of confusion as to which is the best. The problem is that all three offer so much, yet differ drastically in every aspect. The Yamaha R15 is less powerful and if it came with a 250 cc engine, it would easily out run the other two, but sadly it doesn’t and hence comes number three in this shootout. This makes it a close battle between the Honda CBR250R and KTM Duke 200, both of which are very powerful machines with excellent dynamics. The Honda CBR250R is a motorcycle you can tame, delivering power in a sane and refined manner. The Duke 200 on the other hand is all out bonkers, wanting to just gallop away with so much eagerness all thorough out the power band.

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The Honda CBR250R Standard is priced at Rs. 1.65 lakhs, the KTM Duke 200 is priced at Rs. 1.32 lakhs and the Yamaha R15 Version 2.0 is priced at Rs.1.21 lakhs (all prices on-road, Mumbai). At these prices, the KTM Duke 200 looks the most tempting of the three offering the highest power per Rupee and the most fun, making it our choice. But at the end of day, you can’t go wrong with either and it all boils down to personal preference. Doing this exhaustive comparison only gave me a sense of satisfaction, that we the bikers are not starved of good motorcycles anymore. So are you Ready To Race? I sure am!

Trivia – In a poll conducted on MotorBeam (Which is your performance motorcycle?), 46% selected the Duke 200, 24% selected the Honda CBR250R and 20% selected the Yamaha R15 (the rest 10% selected the Karizma ZMR).

Why Pick Up The Yamaha R15 Over The KTM Duke 200 and Honda CBR250R?

  • Sporty Looks
  • Razor Sharp Handling
  • Excellent Brakes

Why Pick Up The KTM Duke 200 Over The Yamaha R15 and Honda CBR250R?

  • Insane Power and Torque Spread
  • Exhaust That Creates A Racket
  • Beefy Looks
  • 30 day delivery

Why Pick Up The Honda CBR250R Over The KTM Duke 200 and Yamaha R15?

  • Engine Refinement and Performance
  • High Speed Stability
  • Ride Quality

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Riders – Deepak Dongre, Hanoz Patel, Mohit Soni ; Photography – Dr. Javeid A Khan

Links To Individual Reviews Of These Bikes

Honda CBR250R Test Ride Review

Yamaha R15 Version 2.0 Test Ride Review

KTM Duke 200 Test Ride Review