It is a scalpel on two wheels, KTM says about its new mid-range bike 890 Duke R. Hm. Do you want to sit on a scalpel? We did it anyway and clarified in the test what she really can do.
To start with, not everyone will like the design of the new Duke. In the comments on our test videos, the KTM models are more often rejected than other brands. Now it is not a bad thing if you do not want to or can't please everyone. And even if you don't like the styling, even the most critical viewer has to admit that the 890 fits seamlessly into the family resemblance.
This applies to the design and especially to the bold colours, even if the choice of the 890 Duke R is rather small – it is only available in white. White it is, Yoda would say, but it would not be a real KTM if massive orange was not used in exposed places like the rims. The eye-catching lettering does the rest to complete the obviously sought-after aggro look.
On the other hand, who classifies the new 890 as the successor of the 790 is making a mistake. The 790 still exists, and that is a good thing. Because the 890 sare is something like the sharpened version of a Naked Bike. The data already suggests that it does not really fit into this category. The short wheelbase of 1480 millimeters and the very low weight of only 189 kilos ready to ride rather indicate that not other Naked bikes like the performance-appropriate Kawasaki Z 900 are their competitors. Rather, the KTM 890 Duke R targets exotics such as the Ducati Hyperstrada / Hypermotard. These are bikes inspired by the Super Moto racing series, which, in addition to massive performance, must have an enormous agility.
The in-line twin of the KTM 890 Duke R produces 121 hp, which in combination with the low weight should provide quite enjoyable test drives. But before looking at the performance data, the view goes to the sky to check the situation and ask for help: Will it rain? This is important in that on the 890 not only the ground clearance was increased by two centimetres for higher inclinations compared to the 790, no to further improve the adhesion in corners Michelin Power Cup 2 was raised. These are semislicks that offer the best grip on the race track as well as on the country road – but can be enjoyed with caution on wet pistes.
The seat height is not too high with 840 millimeters on the rather hard seat, even not so long-legged drivers come down safely with their feet. What is noticeable before take-off: The front part of the bench and its connection to the tank are extremely narrow. The knee closure with the tank works so well.
But let's go now.
Yes, it is a stair joke: in fact, the Austrian with 96 db is so loud that she is not allowed to be driven in all parts of Austria, but falls under the driving ban under the new rules of our southern neighbours. In doing so, it is by no means subjectively particularly eager to communication. When starting nicely bassy, discreet in the middle, but audible, it only becomes more aggressive in tone and volume at the top.
Now we are not in Austria, but in northern Germany, and here the world is (still) fine. A glance at the clearly drawn and clear display clarifies the question of the selected driving mode (you can choose from Sport, Street, Rain and optional Track), the ABS also works in curves, and if you want, you can adjust the traction control in no less than eight levels.
Such a fine gradation may seem exaggerated, but there is no doubt about the usefulness of traction control itself after the first gas blast. My goodness, the KTM storms ahead without delay, powerful from below, from 6,000 tours it burns off a real fireworks. The forward-facing seat position ensures that a lot of weight comes on to the front wheel – nevertheless, the KTM still lifts the front wheel in the third gear when you put it on it. A (switchable) wheelie control is also on board, this should not be concealed.
The 890 Duke R is also ideally equipped for the opposite case: the high-quality Brembo Stylema system provides excellent deceleration values, good dosing capability (and together with all other high-quality components for the price of no less than 11,693 euros).
If the engine is animating, this is especially true for the tight chassis. Anyway, if you don't want to drive stubbornly straight, but turn from short to bend. The immediate, best-dosed curve willingness of the KTM is its most outstanding character trait. It is fitting that the (surcharge-based) lightning-fast-reacting Quickshifter always provides the right gear, the driver just has to want.
At the end of the day it is clear that the KTM 890 Duke R is the most sporty model on offer of the Austrians, only the 1290 Super Duke R can compete. But even this model, which is superior in performance, has to be plugged in when it comes to pure curveability.
The new one is thus clearly positioned: If you want to drive corners, then drive corners and plan to push a bend later, there is hardly anything better. For anyone who is looking for a more versatile model, which should be more suitable for touring, for example, the 790 remains the first choice. It's not a scalpel from a marketing point of view, but it doesn't bother.
The test bike was provided to us by Bergmann and Söhne in Hamburg-Harburg.