Indisputably Intuitive

Story by Alan Cathcart// Photos by Sebas Romero and Marco Campelli
May 9 2018

An important bike for KTM in a highly competitive middleweight market

KTM has made a key roll of the dice with the introduction of the 790 Duke, its first-ever parallel-twin powered by the all-new LC8c (liquid-cooled, eight-valve compact) engine.

Previously, KTM had only its 690 Duke single-cylinder niche model to compete in the significant segment that is the middleweight marketplace. Now, with the 790 Duke twin – aka “the Scalpel,” on account of its focused design and pared-to-the-minimum weight and bulk – KTM has a mainstream contender for marketplace supremacy, making this a vastly important bike for the company that’s both competitively priced and highly distinctive. What’s more, in transferring production of this and all other future middleweight KTM – and Husqvarna – models powered by the LC8c engine to China in 2020, KTM president Stefan Pierer will ensure that the 790 Duke, its forthcoming 790 Adventure due in a year’s time, and other later models will all be even more affordable.

Riding the 2018 KTM 790 Duke

With its typically sharp-edged styling by Kiska Design, the 790 Duke fills the gap between the 690 Duke single and 1290 Super Duke V-twins in the Austrian firm’s streetbike range, and in doing so brings an entirely new level of electronic sophistication to the middleweight sector, with features that some Japanese one-litre sport bikes don’t even have. Delivering a maximum power of 105 hp at 9,000 rpm with a dry weight of just 169 kg, it’s a typical KTM in terms of adding performance via reduced kilos. And in addition to a comprehensive and easily readable TFT dash and two-way quick shifter as standard, it features electronics previously seen only on bigger bikes, including inertial measuring unit-controlled traction control and cornering ABS.

A Serious Investment

Company engineers began creating the LC8c motor back in 2012; since then, the 250 people engaged with the project in research and development invested more than 111,000 man-hours (okay, several woman-hours, too), with 60 of them working full time on it, covering 604,800 km of intensive dyno testing and over 900,000 km on the open road. KTM doesn’t do things by halves, but even so, the fact that they invested so much time and money in getting this platform right indicates how important the project is to the company’s future growth strategy.

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