It is not often for a manufacturer to deviate dramatically from their preferred motor design. Ducati makes L-twins, Triumph produces parallel twins and triples, and KTM produces singles and V-twins. When they decide to get out of that box, the results can go either way.
When Triumph introduced an inline four to its midsize Daytona in the early 2000s, it was greeted with little fanfare and dropped shortly after. When BMW first launched its four-cylinder in its K-line, society dubbed it “The Flying Brick,” and twin boxer traditionalists were skeptical. But it eventually caught on, and later the S 1000 RR, S 1000 R and S 1000 XR ushered in a completely new generation of four-cylinder for the Bavarian manufacturer. So when KTM announced that it would debut with a new parallel twin engine, I was immediately interested to see which side of the line it would fall on.
2019 KTM 790 Duke First Ride Review
The first bike to receive the new KTM p-twin is the new KTM 790 Duke, a naked midweight sports bike that sits between the single cylinder 690 Duke and the flagship of the Duke line, the 1290 Super Duke R. Ha There has been a lot of buzz around the 790 and I was excited to get a chance to live with this bike for a few days to find out how good it really is.
Meet the 790 Duke
The Dukes are a family of naked sports bikes living within the KTM lineup. From the entry-level 390 Duke to the incredibly powerful 1290 SDR, these motorcycles offer a fun and energetic ride, with enough built-in comfort to get you (and your lower back) through a full day of riding. Naked sport bikes are one of the few growing motorcycle segments in the United States and have been huge overseas for years. This is evident from the fact that the European market gets a version of the 790 Duke that restricts power output to meet A2 license restrictions.
Here in America, however, we get the full flavored version. The liquid-cooled 799cc parallel twin claims 105 horsepower at 9,000 rpm and 64 pound-feet of torque at 8,000 rpm. For reference, it is on par with Yamaha’s FZ-09, which claims 65 foot-pounds of torque with the help of an additional cylinder. (Triumph’s Street Triple RS claims 57 pound-feet.)
Even with the addition of dual counterweights, the engine spins blazingly fast. It can easily slip away from you if you are not paying attention. This engine is definitely not aimed at new drivers. Rather, I see this as a second or third step for most riders moving through the line of travel.
The motor is a member under stress in the tubular steel frame. Its power is kept in check by a sophisticated set of electronic components comparable to what can be found in the larger Super Duke R. At the heart of the system are four different pilot modes, which can be selected via the full color TFT dash.
The layout is super intuitive and easy to navigate. Using the control panel on the left hand grip, riders can select between Rain, Street, Sport or Track. Each mode offers different levels of throttle response, traction control, power output, and anti-wheelie control. When you enter Track mode, you can dial nine different levels of turn adjustment on the traction control and you can disable wheelie control.
Both traction control and ABS (standard) are lean angle sensitive, thanks to an IMU. That means the system will trigger differently when you are on a shift, based on how inclined you are. The ABS can also be put into Supermoto mode, which disables the safety function on the rear wheel. You also have the option to turn everything off, if you wish.
The 790 Duke has …