KTM teased us with a video of the prototype Duke 790, codenamed the "Scalpel", being hooned around a racetrack in late 2016. Now the production model has been unveiled at EICMA 2017 and we are pleased to report that the bike retains much of the prototype's aggressive styling. With a punchy parallel twin engine and a host of other features, the Duke 790 looks to be a serious contender in the middleweight segment.
KTM's first parallel twin engine
The Duke 790 is powered by KTM's first parallel twin engine, the LC8c (c for "compact"), and the Austrian manufacturer has really gone to town. Displacing 799 cc, it features an 8-valve head, twin balancer shafts, dry sump lubrication, forged pistons, an aluminum crankcase to keep the weight down, and twin chain driven camshafts. The parallel twin also has an uneven firing order to give it a throaty V-Twin-like roar.
Drive is provided by a six-speed transmission with a standard fitment slipper clutch that delivers lighter clutch pull as well as reduced rear wheel chatter under aggressive downshifts. The gearbox can also be optioned with a quick shifter that is designed to provide lightning fast clutch-less upshifts and downshifts. The engine pushes out 105 hp (79 kW) and 64 ft-lb (86 Nm) of torque and if the figures are enough to go by, this could be a serious performer.
Sharp as a scalpel
The styling of the new Duke shares much of its DNA with the current KTM model line-up such as the angular front LED headlamps, TFT display, swooping rear end and side fairings on the fuel tank. The design focus for KTM was mass centralization, and as a result the 790 has an all new chrome-molybdenum frame that uses the compact engine as a stressed member to increase rigidity. It's not as flashy as the exposed trellis frame on the 1290 Superduke, but KTM seems to be putting function ahead of form here. The new bike also has a cast aluminum rear subframe and the signature lattice patterned machined swingarm, while the exhaust is tucked neatly behind the pillion pegs to follow the lines of the bike.
Braking performance is provided by 300 mm twin floating discs with radially mounted four piston calipers on the front, and a single disc with a two-piston caliper on the rear. Maxxis Supermaxx ST's with a special compound developed specifically for the bike are the factory fitted tires. Suspension is fully adjustable: WP 43 mm inverted forks with adjustable compression and rebound damping in separate fork legs on the front, and a WP rear shock with rebound damping adjustment.
To ensure that the bike doesn't try to throw you off like a bucking bronco when you land that wheelie, a WP steering dampener has been fitted and the triple clamps have been tuned to suit the flex of the forks, as well as allowing the rider to change between four different handlebar positions.
Getting to grips
There are a host of electronic aids to allow the rider to setup the bike to suit their personal preference. Riding modes include, Rain, Street, Sport and Track. Rain mode is the tamest setting, with the lean sensitive ABS and traction control intervening early. On the other end of the scale, track mode has a host of features that include launch control and the ability to turn the anti-wheelie and traction control off.
The Duke also has adjustable engine braking that works with the slipper clutch and is designed to maximize grip under aggressive riding. If you ever want to back it in like a MotoGP racer, there is also a Supermoto mode for controlled rear wheel slides. The front wheel ABS still remains active though, so hopefully you don't get into too much trouble.
There is no word from KTM as to whether the Duke 790 will replace the Duke 690. We expect pricing to be between the 690 and the Superduke at around US$10-12k. It will land sometime in 2018.
Check out the new Duke being put through its paces on the track.
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