The KTM 200 Duke shows enough promise to be the best-in-class street motorcycle

The single-cylinder 125 Duke is a street bike jointly developed by KTM with Bajaj and already introduced in select European markets. It's taken no time to charge into the lead and become a segment leader there, while Indians have patiently stood by waiting for a 200cc variant of the same bike to be specially prepared for our market. The eagerly anticipated KTM 200 Duke will be backed by the sales and service might of Bajaj Probiking. It boasts remarkably potent specifications, which is why we couldn't wait to get behind the handlebars and tell you how it all comes together as a package.

Butch, lean and aggressive all at the same time, the striking 200 Duke proudly shows off its KTM genes. Black and trademark orange are the predominant colours, while sharp angles and steep creases define this modern naked bike. Every part is visibly pared down to the minimum, which allows the 200 to live up to KTM's ‘Ready to Race' tag and tip the scales at just 136kg. The front mudguard is sporty and bolted on above elegant, slim-spoke alloy wheels. A bikini fairing guards the engine sump, while the engine itself is exposed within a trellis steel frame. A stubby stainless steel exhaust box sits neatly tucked away underneath.

There's a chin-set auxiliary light below the headlight, while a compact digital instrument cluster sits over it. Fussy at best, only speed is prominently displayed and easily read and we found ourselves struggling to view the tiny, cascading rev counter, apart from other information relayed by the dinky readout. The 200 Duke comes with Bajaj-typical illuminated switchgear — which works with crisp clicks, dimpled palm grips, a comfortable set of levers and good mirrors. The 10.5-litre fuel tank offers deeply recessed, snug thigh supports. And the riding saddle is roomy and well-padded, although the same can't be said for the compromised pillion seat.

Overall quality, as well as the turnout of rubber and plastic parts is as good, as expected on the KTM 200 Duke. You couldn't ask for a more tech-rich engine on an Indian motorcycle. The new KTM deploys a short-stroke, four-stroke and single-cylinder, 199.5cc powerplant with 72mm bore and 49mm stroke measurements. State-of-the-art specs with no-compromise engineering ensure you receive the works; fuel injection, liquid cooling, a twin-camshaft-driven quartet of valves and a bantamweight, compact, six-speed gearbox.

The integral crankshaft rotates counter-balanced at the centre of this highly strung, high-compression engine that delivers a wide power band with excellent midrange to top end muscle.

Button-started, the KTM 200 Duke outputs a delightful, deep exhaust rumble that easily makes this India's best sounding small-capacity motorcycle. Quick shifts up the one-down, five-up gearbox have to be decisively timed in the first two gears, as the bike revs with such gusto, it's easy to miss the shift warning flashing on the console and smack into the rev-limiter.

The KTM 200 Duke engine amazed us with its silky power delivery. The 200's flowing, sweet revving capability impresses as well, and adds a lot to riding pleasure. Bajaj claims a 0-60kph time of 3.3 seconds, and 0-100kph in 9.2secs, which we can only confirm after a road test.

The riding position is upright, comfortable and good for daily use with the wide handlebars providing excellent leverage. Ride quality is good, pliant and still firm enough to enable sporty handling, but our ride was too brief and only over smooth surfaces. The KTM 200 Duke handles with a light, nimble feel, always steering with neutral manners and the MRF radial front and rear tyres provide terrific grip. This is a stable bike at all speeds, with superb cornering manners and brakes which always offer a powerful and reassuring bite.

We expect the KTM 200 Duke to return close to 30kpl for every litre of fuel. Bajaj will offer a variety of KTM merchandise as optional with this bike, including a pair of tasteful knuckle guards.

There is no two ways about it, the KTM 200 Duke is a very special motorcycle.

Keywords: KTM 200 Duke