The Prototype: Super compact parallel twin KTM Duke 790 looks very close to production
Another surprise from KTM at this year's EICMA expo in Milan: "The Prototype." Featuring an all-new 790cc parallel twin, the compact, lightweight Duke 790 seems set to fill the space between the single cylinder Duke 690 and the fire-breathing 1290 Super Duke R.
One thing you can say about KTM motorcycles: you're never going to mistake them for something else. It's not just the signature flash of orange paint, the Austrians really have an angular, futuristic design aesthetic all of their own, and I love it.
EICMA Milan this year is really all about the Duke family for KTM; there's upgrades to the 125, 250, 390, 690 and of course, the wild "Beast 2.0" 1290 Super Duke R that's still causing me great existential pain. But the jump from the humble single-cylinder 690 to the class-demolishing big twin 1290 is a massive one, and it seems KTM feels it's missing something in the middle.
Enter the Duke 790.
At this stage it's just known as "The Prototype" and as such it's best treated as a concept bike. But it showcases an entirely new ultra-compact LC8c 790cc parallel twin engine and a platform that focuses on extreme lightness and responsiveness, as opposed to the sheer, brutal power of the 1290.
The design lines of the thing are super shouldery, a little like the discontinued Husqvarna Nuda 900, perhaps. The look is super clean – too clean to be a production bike by a mile. There's no mirrors, license plate holder or even a dash from what I can see. The exhaust pokes rudely and fatly out from straight under the seat, and in its current form looks like it would make a hell of a juicy racket.
But in other ways, it doesn't look far off; it wears the same barely-there, evil looking new headlight as the rest of the updated Duke range, and the bodywork looks great, including a coquettish little gap in the subframe that'd be great for storing a wallet in, given two strips of gaffa tape.
A super-nimble Duke 790 would make a great addition to a hot midrange nakedbike category that now includes the Yamaha MT-09, Kawasaki Z800, MV Agusta Brutale 800 and arguably Triumph's super-successful Street Triple 675.
Here's hoping it's not far off! In the meanwhile, keep tabs on our EICMA coverage to see what other surprises are happening this week.