KTM 790 Duke test


A remarkable entry for KTM in the most profitable segment of the market

Inline twin, 799 cc, 105 hp at 9000 rpm, 87 Nm at 8000 rpm, 169 kilos, from ¤ 9,690

Be careful, take out the fanfare and sound the bugles! Because this time, KTM enters the most profitable segment of the motorcycle market, that of sporty roadsters with an “average” displacement, that is to say between more than 700 and a little more than 900, whose definition could be: "machines that are rewarding and efficient around 9000 and a few euros". It makes a lot of people: Suzuki GSX-S 750, Kawasaki Z 900, Yamaha MT-09, Ducati Monster 821, Triumph Street Triple 675, we will notice with attention that the world’s leading manufacturer is abandoning this niche. Curious.

It does not prevent: if we have always praised the creativity of the duo Ernst Kronreif & Hans Trunpenkpolf, located in the small charming town of Mattighofen, in Austria (seen as зa, it is already less glamorous, KTM, but we are console by thinking that the Mercos AMG, we owe them to Messrs Aufrecht and Melcher alive in Grossaspach, Germany!), as well as their high level sporting results, we also know that KTM made excellent road bikes, but not necessarily super big public: such is the case of the range of 690 single cylinders, it is cleaving, the single cylinder, or overpowered 1290, in Superduke R roadster or Super Adventure trail, not within the reach of all budgets or all levels. However, after the remarkable arrivals of the Duke 390 for the A2 licenses, the offensive is completed by this 790 Duke, which will also be bridle A2. There, KTM comes out of the doghouse and just bought the kennel !

Suddenly, here is KTM able to attract young people allowed as young bikers out of their A2 experience. How does this 790 Duke approach its conquest of the market? With a series of interesting arguments and without departing from the KTM philosophy.

KTM 790 Duke review


Ah, how delicious and rare are the moments when you discover an entirely new motorcycle. The senses in turmoil, dilated pupils and excited taste buds, we approach the machine to capture all the substance. Admittedly, the LED headlight looks like it did on the 1290 Super Duke R, but for the rest it’s brand new..

The LED headlight is reminiscent of the 1290 Super Duke R

What is already striking is the narrowness and compactness of the machine. Its proportions are intended to be aggressive: the sketches of designers present it as all tilted on the front, while in the end, it is rather flat, almost high on legs. Then we notice the great compactness of the engine, the good integration of the exhaust catalyst, the smoothness at the level of the junction of the saddle and the tank..

The 790 is compact

The 790 Duke is a modern motorcycle: color TFT dashboard, stems with control pad on the left: two of its Japanese rivals can already take the seed. On the other hand, certain finishing details show that KTM was obliged to keep the prices: this is the case, for example, of the fixing of the trim which connects the side scoops and the base of the tank, fixed by two screws and letting appear an important day. Ditto for the radiator, little protected.

The side scoops of the Duke

We also note that already, an A2 version is available on the basis of a machine whose power will be reduced to 95 horses. Two colors are available: a gray and the essential KTM orange, the one that led my dear and esteemed colleagues (#balancetesamis) to titrate a KTM test out of three "Clockwork Orange!" ". Lucky for you, dear readers: there are no titles of articles on Le Repaire, just subtitles and technical information.

Two colors are available

Last detail, on the action photos of this test, we are with a slightly accessorized machine, the KTM PowerParts catalog being quite rich: lever guards, seat backrest, Akrapovic exhaust, all this not being standard.

Many accessories are already available in the catalog

The only real option on this machine: the Bluetooth connection to have access to some features, such as being able to listen to music from your smartphone in your headset and scroll through the songs on the control unit, for example … is it really essential ?

In the saddle

KTM wants to cast a wide net with this bike and you can already feel it by this crucial index that is the seat height: it is located at 825 mm, closer to a trail than a roadster usually around 780mm, but fortunately the machine is extremely thin. A low seat is optional at 805 mm, as is a lowering kit at 785 mm. Thus, gnafrons, look-alikes of David Pujadas and other former television speakers will be able to feel perfectly at ease on his handlebars..

The motorcycle is accessible to many sizes

We talked about finesse: we are not going to say that on board, our knees are touching (it would be factually inaccurate, moreover), but it is almost that. The KTM is such a thin motorbike that it is easily squeezed and whether at the level of the frame and the tank, we are not used to this level of narrowness, even with a twin cylinder. The width of the tank of an MT-09 is then remembered, not to mention that of a Z900. There is no doubt that this factor helps a good grip.

The ergonomics of the 790 are well calculated

Note also that, even if the bike is thin and fairly compact, its ergonomics are well calculated: thus, the saddle is long enough, you can step back if necessary and even large riders like me do not have the legs too folded up. and can fit well on the motorcycle, on the highway and on the track.

Then, we discover soft controls and a TFT color dashboard with easy-to-understand ergonomics, which already allows easy navigation in the driving modes (Rain, Street, Sport, as well as a Track mode), even refine the settings. The instrument panel is complete with fuel gauge, gear indicator engaged, exterior temperature, remaining range, average fuel consumption indication, etc. Not bad at all for a mid-capacity roadster !

There is a TFT edge screen

With a little pressure on the starter, the new vertical twin comes to life…

Engine and transmission

And it sounds, not with a staccato effect like some architectures of the genre (we think of the Laverda 750 of the mid-90s or the first Kawasaki ER-6), but on the contrary, it almost has metallic accents that make you think one block 990 LC8 from Adventure! It is because KTM inclined the crankshaft pins of 75 ° and stalled an ignition every 435 °: it sounds like a V-twin.

Twin cylinder almost sounds like a V-Twin

This engine, therefore, is entirely new: it required 3 years of research & development, involved 60 people who worked 111,000 hours, spent 604,800 "kilometers" having their face tortured on a dyno and 900,000 kilometers in to be tested extensively on the road. It develops 105 horsepower at 9,000 and 87 Nm at 8,000 rpm: values ​​which are not necessarily the most impressive on the market (but also obtained by competitors with larger displacement), but which are to be related to the compactness of the motorcycle and also to its weight: 169 kilos dry, not bad at all (it will be recalled, however, that a Triumph 765 Street Triple R is 166 kilos: war is declared!).

This engine has another advantage: it sounds good (note that in static, the optional Akrapovic exhaust is a little more serious), but in action, the original exhaust turns out to be nicer, more metallic and more present. in the towers! In addition, it is rather flexible for a twin, at low revs, is well endowed in torque (we always have more than 72 Nm above 5000 r / min) and is relatively quick to hit the red zone. In fact, the acceleration is pleasant, with a third which climbs to 150 km / h (we have done the circuit, so that the zealots of road safety give us a little beard with these values ​​not very citizen), the fourth and more of 180, the fifth at more than 210 km / h and the sixth sets a good 235 km / h chrono at the edge of 9000 rpm. All this makes me say that the 790 Duke would benefit from having a tooth removed (because like many Euro 4 twins, the standards are tough …) not at the dentist, but out of the box to earn a little more. more joy of living.

The original silencer of the 790 Duke

Another reason to have the joy of living: the up & down shifter delivered as standard. That’s a good thing and besides it works very well, since during our test carried out intensively on the road and then on the circuit, we never had the opportunity to complain about it. This definitely contributes to the pleasure of driving and when we see that other sporty roadsters, like Triumph Speed ​​Triple RS, only offer it as an option, we say to ourselves that KTM has played well….

In the city

Lots of good news here: the turning radius is good, the reduced weight and the nice compactness help an immediate and efficient handling and the twin will accept to cruiser at a small 2500 rpm in fourth on the boulevards without panicking the traffic. automatic flashes or you take off your fillings. Nothing to say about the smoothness of the controls, which will help you pass the exercise with flying colors. For the transport of an anti-theft device, on the other hand, it is less obvious, the space under the saddle being particularly limited….

The 790 Duke offers a good turning radius

In complex weather conditions and slippery pavements, the “rain” mode reduces the injection flow to 75% of its potential with a smoother response to the grip. And there is of course the traction control to save your life on the white stripes…

On motorways and main roads

A very small 5500 rpm at 130 km / h, there is room. Wind protection, we suspect, is zero: on the other hand, the saddle allows you to move back easily and suddenly, to tilt the bust a little forward. Suddenly, the kilometers pass without it being torture. We note, a little in the towers, some vibrations at the level of the knees, but it is a twin, it lives! On the other hand, the saddle should turn out to be a firm hair in the long run….

Stability is not compromised at high speed

At 130 km / h in the last gear, the pick-ups are efficient without being transcendent: it’s a safe bet that the Z 900 and MT-09 will do better. Now and the example is only valid as a demonstration: let’s imagine that you are in Germany. Welding the gas at 150/160 km / h (ie above 6000 rpm) already makes you smile more. To think again, as we wrote above, that this engine would deserve one tooth less in the gearbox output pinion, there is only one (new) no.

On the other hand, even at high speeds, no problem of stability to blame..

On departmental

169 kilos, little gasoline (14 liters), a slim and compact motorcycle, natural ergonomics, a torquey twin: don’t have all the data of an equation dedicated to motorcycling pleasure? Well, in this market segment, the answer is yes. Because during our test carried out intensively on very winding roads (in the mountains, in Gran Canaria), where we are most of the time going from pif to paf in second or third, the KTM 790 Duke was delivered to a recital. In this price range, no roadster offers such agility to jump from one bend to another or to tighten a path at the last moment between two cyclists and a motorhome. There, it is sure that a Z would have been more physical and less efficient, that an MT-09 would also have required more skill, because more mechanically violent.

The Duke demonstrates its agility on small roads

On the Duke, the twin picks up with consistency and a bit of force once in the turns, but the whole thing is such a no-brainer that the bike becomes just an extension of you. We don’t ask ourselves any questions, we roll, we wind, we attack a little: it’s easy, healthy, fun. If necessary, traction control and ABS Corner are there to watch over you and the shifter is effective in all circumstances. Anyway, it’s funny. Not perfect (we’ll talk about it again in the two paragraphs below), but funny, certainly. And get off your bike with a smile under the helmet, that’s a very KTM value, зa … Otherwise, on a pure ride, you are at 3500 rpm in 6th at 90, quiet.

The 790 can be summed up quite easily: easy, healthy and fun

On circuit

Although the 790 Duke cannot claim to be an outright tracker, we still had the opportunity to ride with it for two sessions on the Gran Canaria circuit..

We also tested the roadster on the track

Pushed a little further, the qualities already glimpsed are confirmed: super agility, good forward precision, the shifter always ensures and the motor pedals anyway, although on this small circuit we only drive between the second and fourth reports. Other good news: a very good level of ground clearance for a roadster and a certain ease to move on the bike in the pif-paf or on changes of downforce..

The Duke also has good ground clearance

We are therefore going to say that for an initiation to the circuit, it will already be very good. An optional "track" mode allows you to have a more refined choice, among 9 levels of traction control, a much more direct response to the grip, as well as the possibility of disconnecting the ABS or having it in "Supermoto" mode. , with belts and suspenders at the front and possible drifts at the rear…

KTM 790 Duke test drive on the track


Here, too, KTM has created something entirely new for its 790 Duke. Completely new, the frame is tubular steel (not a trellis like on other models). A central beam is extended by two side arms, the engine having a semi-load-bearing function. The airbox is housed under the saddle and once again, praise the compactness of the whole set..

The cycle part is completely new

On the other hand, a KTM, normally, is "ready to race". Well, there we are less in agreement. At the same time, we know that to offer high quality components at more or less 9000 ¤, it is almost impossible mission and all the competitors who want to play the performance are obliged to go through versions "SP" (Yamaha) or RS. (Triumph) which are worth 2 а 3000 ¤ more than the base models. That is to say that there is therefore room in the KTM catalog for a 790 Duke R and knowing the philosophy of the brand, I put a few euros in the bet.

Notwithstanding, the 790 Duke comes with a non-adjustable fork and rear shock that is adjustable only for preload, as well as a pair of Maxxis Supermaxx ST tires. For the tires, the initial few doubts were removed on the road: it’s not that the feedback is extraordinary, but the grip and precision are there, more than on other models from more famous brands and sometimes ( even: often) mounted on entry or mid-range roadsters. On the racetrack, the front Maxxis will continue to be trouble-free entering corners and to remain precise in rapid angle changes, but the rear quickly showed traction problems when accelerating on the angle, but with progressive drifts and traction control, on nine levels, which can always take care of the grain. But there, we start to go beyond the normal framework of use of this motorcycle by the target clientele….

Maxxis Supermaxx ST tires do the essentials

Side suspensions, in spite of the almost absence of adjustment, it does it too, because the chassis is healthy (and a shock absorber of direction, of series, takes care of the grain). But, at the attack, the fork is a little soft and we can also put the rear shock absorber close to its limits. In short, it can move a bit, but it remains healthy and rather funny. And remember that buyers of ¤ 9000 roadsters are often not yet at a stage where they are the most demanding bikers in terms of chassis..

The suspensions show their limits when we attack


KTM has created specifications and entrusted the development of its brakes to J. Juan, a well-known Spanish pharmacy who generally does a good job (they equip the official WSBK Kawasaki, for example). I rode three different bikes on this test day and the first had little bite, the other two were more efficient. Suddenly, we will say that the braking is good, again given the reduced weight of the machine, the engine brake of the twin, the right mix of controls and the presence of an ABS Corner as standard..

No surprises in terms of braking

Comfort and duo

As has been said, the ergonomics are very good for a wide range of riders and the suspensions are rather flexible, without however swinging the racket on the bumps. The saddle, on the other hand, turns out to be quite hard after a little while on the road..

Passenger side, the Austrian Geraldine gives, traditionally in two distinct genres. There’s the Sissy Empress side, a little fragile, but distinguished, drinking her schnapps from porcelain cups and, on the other, the brave country girl with hips as solid as side cases from Honda Deauville. The presence of a seat backrest on our test motorcycle did not allow us to carry out the anthropological experiment any further, but despite the compactness of the motorcycle, the passenger seat has nothing of the postage stamp, the feet are not too high and the rear shock absorber should take the load with some flexibility.

Ergonomics are good, but the saddle is a bit hard

Consumption & autonomy

The 14-liter tank seems a little tight in capacity, but over a fairly sustained day on the road, the on-board computer showed an average consumption of 5.6 l / 100, which is little and leaves more than 200 kilometers of autonomy. The dashboard displaying a large fuel gauge and an indicator of remaining range, it should allow you to cut the road without stress..

The 14-liter tank allows for 200 km of autonomy


"Yep, big, the new roadsters, it’s violence, it walks seriously and it brakes seriously too, it’s too good." We see hordes of videos arriving on Youtube where everyone delivers their vision of new motorcycles, generally in the lexical register expressed above. It’s informative and entertaining and it also reminds how much, in the choice of this category of motorcycles, there are also criteria which enter into this famous stouquette competition about which the great contemporary philosopher, KPOK, wrote some of its most beautiful texts and which explains, in large part, the success of the Kawasaki Z line. The KTM 790 Duke is not going to play on this niche: thin, compact, it is neither the biggest, nor the most powerful, nor the fastest.

How does she make up for it, then? It’s simple: it is aimed at bikers who have already understood that the pleasure, the real thing, on a motorcycle, is the state of symbiosis that one feels with his motorcycle, it is finesse, it is lightness, it is efficiency. KTM has staked a lot on these values ​​for its 790 Duke by providing it with two other strong arguments: a complete electronic package, for efficiency and safety (traction control and ABS Corner, we are far from having that on all its competitors), with the icing on the cake, an excellent serial shifter. In other words, we do not spontaneously see the established values ​​(Z 900, MT-09) in direct competition with the Duke, the Japanese women betting on the “big bike” side, the power and the recognition which are attached to it. . The confrontation with the Street Triple 765 should be interesting, although the S is a little bare at 9000 ¤, but its basic suspensions are comparable to those of the KTM and that it will be necessary to go type the R (10 300 ¤) to have the color TFT dashboard, even if we get Brembo brakes and adjustable suspensions, but still no shifter. In short, without a doubt, the KTM 790 Duke remains well placed in the price / technology / lightness / driving pleasure equation..

And all this already gives us two certainties: this efficient engine should be a good traveling companion in the next 790 Adventure that KTM is cooking up for us. As for the 790 Duke, it will appeal to those who have understood the true values ​​of motorcycle pleasure, while at the same time calling for a Duke R version with sharper suspensions and tires a little more capable on the track….

The 790 Duke is above all fun to drive

Strong points

  • Compactness
  • Reduced weight
  • Agility
  • Complete electronic package
  • Very good standard shifter
  • Efficient motor
  • A2 license possible
  • Turning radius
  • Nice sound of the twin even in original pots

Weak points

  • Finishing details
  • Slightly adjustable suspensions
  • Deserves a PSB -1
  • Some vibrations in the towers
  • Firm saddle

The technical sheet of the KTM 790 Duke

Test conditions

  • Itinerary: 200 kilometers in a test day, mainly on the small mountainous roads of Gran Canaria (Spain), with two sessions on the local circuit
  • Motorcycle mileage: 1000 km
  • Problem encountered: doing the circuit in jeans (even reinforced, even: thanks to Stef from Moto & Motards for the loan of adaptable sliders), it made a funny impression when you jump on your first vibrator…

Competition: Aprilia 900 Shiver, Ducati 821 Monster, Kawasaki Z900, Suzuki GSX-S 750, Triumph Street Triple 765, Yamaha MT-09

Video test of the KTM 790 Duke

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14 thoughts on “KTM 790 Duke test

  1. I really like the pot which, in case of rain, serves as a float scoop.

    And on this same pot which will lovingly burn the soles of the feet of any passenger.

  2. Nice look, interesting niche but still a cool motorcycle for little bikers! For other guaranteed cramps.

    When will the comments be made for bikers> 1.80 m (current average for young people) who often ride bent in 4 with their knees under their chin?

  3. I received mine (Classic) the day before yesterday and have been using it for a hundred kiosks since then. What can I say except that this is the bike I have been dreaming of since Yamaha ceased production of the XT 500? a 21st century XT that pushes well, brakes and doesn’t wiggle around corners. In short, a priori, it is the beginning of a great love between her and me …

  4. I thought you were talking about the new kid on the block, the 400, which also has a good head. Afterwards, at nearly 8000 € the beast, you have to see… hum

  5. I have had the Full Throttle version for a few months now. It’s a bike that gives me a lot of pleasure every time I ride it. And the Termignoni exhaust has a very nice sound.

  6. "We can confirm that the Supersport takes 245 km / h at the limit of the switch in 6th gear.".

    However, you did not test the supersport on the track (only the S), I wonder how you did it 🙂

    Thank you for the feedback.

  7. Let me keep a few little secrets, but when we test, we really test !

    thank you for following us,


  8. 30 kg less than a VFR while being less easy to drive … they are strong at Ducati.

    If I had to choose I’d take VFR, at least we know where it’s going.

  9. No, the engine is not hollow, it is even quite full everywhere and is lively from 6000 rpm. I tend to think that one tooth less in the gearbox output pinion would give it more pep even if I understand the KTM homologation constraints

    thank you for following us to smile


  10. Indeed, I confirm that the Supersport is super easy to drive and much more agile than a VFR…


  11. Here, I ask myself a question: what about the character of this engine ?

    I have read elsewhere that the Hypermotard, equipped more or less with the same block, had a relatively sanitized character compared to the usual Ducati engines..

    What about the Supersport 939?

  12. Well the character remains quite linear, even if more vigorous in the second half of the tachometer, but the power remains largely controllable by all, which is the objective of this bike. We console ourselves with the vibrations at low revs, the few backfiring of the exhaust when the gas is cut off. And in absolute terms, the performance is largely satisfactory and sufficient to have fun.


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