Many have wondered why KTM didn’t introduce the 250 in India earlier, and the answer has taken shape quite well now. The quarter-litre Duke would’ve brushed its shoulders in the tight price gap between the 200 and the 390 if it was introduced earlier, but now, as the platter of technology and features on the 390 grew out of its original price point, there was a lot of room left in between, especially in a segment which was not vacant like it was a year or so ago – the 1.5-2 lakhs segment.
This is a brilliant strategy that we perceive – creating a space before sneaking a pie in. We can’t help but wonder what strategy would be played to debut the Duke 125 here, if and when the time comes.
Back to the business of the given title, we took our opportunity to understand the 2017 KTM Duke 250 at Bajaj’s in-house test track in their plant in Chakan (near Pune), and left the place quite smitten. Well, we all know how capable KTM has proved to be in smiting riders, this was no different.
Starting with the design, the KTM Duke 250 is a street-fighter by soul dressed in a super-sport inspired attire. To be crisp, it surely is an upgrade to the sub-250 cc motorcycles available here currently, and a lot may agree that it is to the 250-300 cc bikes as well – courtesy of some of the features and chiefly the power-to-weight ratio.
The first thing one would notice on the Duke 250 is the proportion of snob value to its price which is undoubtedly a head turner in any continent. The fact that the Duke 250 gets 390-based styling for a little premium over the Duke 200 is an inspired business decision. And the 390 owners still have just enough exclusivity (flaunt-worthy features) to themselves like the TFT instrument console, larger brakes, Ride-by-Wire Throttle, and ABS without a choice, to not feel stepped over by the Duke 250 owners. But one won’t be able to help the fact that Duke 200 owners might keep a long face if they’re unable to get the Duke 250.
After seeing the Duke 250 in person, we can confirm that the panels are neatly done, and are convincing of a better quality appeal than before. Although it sports the highly-acquainted speedo console, the same doesn’t look out of place for the new bodywork. The wider mirrors are a welcomed tweak given the bike would be used also as a tourer in India. The RHS switchgear console misses out on an on/off switch consequential to the auto headlamp feature. The fuel tank remains to be on the smaller side for touring purposes with just 13.5 litres of capacity, but hey, you get a much better seat now. The embossed KTM insignia on the upholstery is a nice touch. Complementing the better seat for the rider, the pillion gets a more functional pair of grab-rails.
The side-slung exhaust can is something that Duke enthusiasts would need to get used to here-on, but the tail pipe is as tidy as it can get for this looker of a bike. It seems KTM has left no stone unturned to make this new-generation Duke look sportier than its predecessor; we say this because even the alloy wheels are energised with KTM decals on the circumference, compensating for the fact that it is not orange.
The powerhouse within the black trellis frame is a single-cylinder 249 cc DOHC liquid-cooled unit that India hasn’t hit the Indian streets before. It packs 30 PS of peak power at 9,000 rpm and 24 Nm of peak torque at 7,500 rpm, unleashed to a 6-speed gearbox via a slipper clutch (PASC – Power Assist Slipper Clutch / Anti-Hopping Clutch) that is mechanically operated by a Bosch EMS. This would really be of great help while down-shifting in a panic situation, especially while entering a corner at a high speed. The larger rear sprocket (compared to the other two Dukes) seemed to be giving a rushing throw of torque that helped exiting the corners. Hitting 135 kmph on the speedo on the straights was easier and quicker than we had anticipated.
The rear part of the steel trellis is a bolt-on sub-frame that is powder coated in orange. The entire setup is suspended by the well-acquainted 43 mm WP USD fork at the front whose travel is 142 mm, and the WP monoshock at the rear which has a stroke of 150 mm. During our intense test ride, the bike seemed just as sharp in handling as it is in providing comfort on undulated roads. The flick-ability of the 161 kg bike is not compromised at all for the good damping that it has for gliding on bad roads; no doubt better than the Duke 200. The handling at corners was so inviting that it inspired us to get closer and closer to the ground on every subsequent turn.
The MRFs seemed like a bummer on paper when we had our hopes for the Metzelers, but the RevZ C1 was not so much of an inverted smile while depending on them at tight manoeuvres. They are of the same sizes as on the Duke 390 – 110/70-R17 at the front and 150/60-R17 at the rear. The tyres also aid in appreciable braking performance emerging from the 300 mm front disc with four-piston radial caliper, and the 230 mm rear rotor with a single-piston floating caliper.
In a last note of the Duke 250, that is the exhaust note, was surprisingly calm and not noisy, but it was just as peppy and spirited as the rest of the bike.
As I was saying before, the KTM Duke 250 is just as good of an upgrade to the existing 250 cc segment motorcycles as it is to the sub-250 cc category, but some downsides associated with the brand continue such as having to live with the radiating-hot engine, and the lack of ABS even as an option (not that KTM is known to be providing options at all). But you know what they say, everything has something good in it that makes it suitable for you, and do not worry about all else. If any of those worries does manage to creep in to your thoughts, think of the snob value you’re getting and tell yourself, ‘totally worth it.’
I’d like to add one more statement; I believe the Duke 250 as a well-rounded package, will console the customers from feeling inadequate for not taking the Duke 390 which is priced substantially far away.