A sportsbike, an urban commuter, or both? Does the KTM 200 Duke have what it takes to outdo its rivals?

The 200 Duke is the first bike from the Austrian bike makers KTM to come to India and is jointly developed by Bajaj. The bike which along with its 125cc sibling is making waves in the world markets is a dream bike on paper with a formidable spec list.

KTM is a world leader in off-road motorcycles, which along with the adventurous styling of the 200 Duke is possibly why some people mistake it for an off-roader. Although predominantly a KTM in its design, some may spot traces of Bajaj in the 200 Duke. You can't miss the trademark black and orange livery or sharp angles and steep creases that make this naked motorcycle. All its parts have been trimmed to a minimum, helping to keep the bike light at an impressive 136kg. The front mudguard is short and sporty while both wheels show off slim alloy spokes. Riding at night is safe thanks to a bright headlight. The near-flat handlebar is tapered, while the instruments are a compact, digital readout that deserved to be more readable. For although speed is legibly displayed, you will find yourself struggling to read other information, especially the tiny, cascading engine rev bars.

The 200 Duke disappoints with Bajaj-typical grips that always offer good grip, but feel uncomfortably hard in gloveless palms. On the other hand, cleverly illuminated, crisp-working switches are also a la Bajaj.

The massive tank region is deeply grooved for good thigh grip, although tall riders could find their knees feeling a bit cramped if they like sitting deep into their bike. And speaking of ergonomics, we also found the rider's ankle grip panels behind the footrests located too low for viable use. The 200 Duke's engine sits handsomely exposed within a beefy trellis steel frame and it's centrally located, stainless steel exhaust box peeps out from below the gearbox. There's ample space for the rider in his seat, which is also adequately padded.

There's no dearth of technology in the alloy-cased, DOHC, button-started engine. It's a 199.5cc, four-stroke and fuel-injected powerplant with liquid cooling and a six-speed gearbox. Powerful for its class, the 200 Duke makes 25bhp at 10000rpm. On the go, the Duke exhaust sounds punchy, sporty and really healthy for a single-cylinder bike. Although throttle response is crisp higher up in the powerband, this engine does feel a tad unsettled in a narrow band between just past idle and 3000rpm where you need to play the throttle and push the revs up slightly higher. Once over this hurdle, the engine is pretty much flawless, the power building in a strong wave anywhere over 4500rpm, surging with a vibe-free nature into the meat of its powerband post 7000rpm. The clutch feels perfectly weighted, and works with positive action and just enough progression.

This is clearly an engine tuned for city riding, the six-speed 'box geared short, shifting with a light and slick feel in the one-down, five-up configuration. It's a short-stroke engine that begs for high revs before you find serious power, and when ridden like so, is addictive enough to keep you coming back for more. It's quick for a 200cc bike, doing the 0-60kph dash in 3.78 seconds, and taking an impressive 9.52sec to pass 100kph after launch. You can happily cruise at 120kph on this bike, and attain a true 130kph top speed in top gear on a level road.

The 200 Duke has a sporty riding position, with the rider footrests located far behind drawing your legs backwards below the knees, making it a notch lower than commuter perfect. The 200 Duke comes with a firm ride that helps keep the bike planted when slicing up corners. It flicks unbelievably quickly from safely upright to indecent lean angles, at which point you start to appreciate its low-profile, MRF radial front and rear tyres.

The 200 Duke loves to corner and its brilliant chassis encourages you to ride on the limit. The bike always steers exactly where you want it to, and remains stable at all speeds. The brakes are supremely powerful, although while the front brake feels just perfect all times, the rear often misbehaves with too much enthusiasm. You'd do well to take your time getting used to the razor-sharp rear brake, for it takes no more than a light tap to generate enough braking to lose grip at the rear. The only other complaint we have is the height-adjustable brake pedal feeling poorly positioned, making it tricky and unnatural to operate. All told, the 200 Duke still gets our vote for honestly trying hard and is amongst the best handling motorcycles you can own in India.

Fast it may be, but the Duke somehow isn't too unfair in the economy either. It returned 35.7kpl during its city fuel tests with us riding on crowded Indian roads, this improving to 38.2kpl when out on the highways.

Despite its flaws, the 200 Duke totals up to the best sporty 200cc streetbike money can buy in India, a lot of which has to do with Bajaj and KTM's generous, no-compromise approach to specifications that have undoubtedly gone into making this important motorcycle. This is a new breed of motorcycles to be available in India and hopefully this ushers in a new era of performance bikes in India.

Technical data

Price:

Rs 1,17,000 (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

Engine

Layout single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, four-stroke

Displacement 199.5cc

Max power 25bhp at 10000rpm

Max torque 1.94kgm at 8000rpm

Specific output 125.3bhp per litre

Power to weight 183.8bhp per tonne

Gearbox Type 6-speed, 1-down, 5-up

Wheel size (f-r) 17 inches