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Digital Subscriptions > Fast Bikes > 339 > KTM 790 DUKE: MIDDLEWEIGHT MURDERER


Back in 2015 KTM teased us with the drop dead gorgeous 790 Duke Prototype. Three years later it’s finally here – but is the ‘Scalpel’ sharp enough to cut down its naked middleweight rivals?


Pretty Boy aka Frodo Stevens still can’t touch the floor properly…

It’s been a long time coming, but KTM have been pretty busy bunnies since they whetted our taste buds with the prospect of a class defining mid-capacity hooligan. Building ground up bikes always takes a good chunk of time, and thanks to KTM’s methodical approach – that’s seen the 790 kitted with more new features than a plastic surgeon’s plaything – it’s easy to see where the time’s gone. In essence, the whole bike’s new, and the same goes for the engine.

Ditching the single cylinder notion of old, the Austrian marque’s whacked another chamber into the Duke’s mix and introduced a whole host of new qualities with its parallel universe. Thanks to a succinct design and some snazzy components such as forged pistons, dual balancer shafts, a painstakingly honed cylinder head and precise valve timing, the compact and lightweight twin-pot’s delivery dwarfs the (still available) 690’s output with a claimed 105bhp and impressive 86Nm of tractor-pulling torque.

That’s good news for all. Even if you’re one of those die-hard KTM single-cylinder fans and are struggling to digest this change in persuasion, you’ll hopefully be able to take comfort in knowing the brand’s worked its derriere off to maintain that raucous deep Barry White-esque tone that we’ve come to love and expect from Dukes. This is thanks to a 75º crank offset and 435º firing order, mimicking the bark and brilliance of the big bad 1290 Duke. And to make sure your eardrums get the full whammy from this loud-mouthed marvel, KTM’s even gone to the extent of angling the exhaust system to deliver the engine note to your ear with more vigour than a ghetto blaster. While we’re on the subject of exhausts, I know a lot of people are disappointed with the pipe and its location (the prototype had a naughty MotoGP under-seat jobby). I get that, I was too, but while the production-approved can on the 790 doesn’t match up to the prototype’s sexualness, it does permit space under the seat for the bike’s all important electronic nerve centre, and equally essential airbox. Everything about the Katoom is built with purpose at heart, from the way it’s styled to the way it handles, the way it makes its power to the way it makes you want to wind its throttle to the limiter and rejoice in its aural goodness.

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About Fast Bikes

In this month's issue of Fast Bikes ... - Top 10 UK Blasts 11 pages of listed mapped & rated rides - BSB preview the teams, the bkes, the drama - Ducati V4 First UK road test - Hone your riding senses - Buy a used CBR600F sport - Making sense of fork legs - Master Oulton park - Middleweight Maestros KTM 790 Duke and Yamaha Mt-07 - Win helmet & gloves