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2018 KTM 790 Duke Overview

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The Scalpel

Simply put, the all-new KTM 790 Duke was designed to be one of the best street bikes you can buy. With that comes the need for precise delivery of power and torque and then feedback from the road to complement it. All of this is thanks to its lighter overall weight, all-new LC8c engine and chassis that remains balance and predictable under most riding conditions. However, as great as it seems on paper and KTM's convincing marketing material, it has yet to be proven. Thankfully 790 Dukes have been showing up at dealers in Europe for a few months, so expect owner reviews to pour in shorty.

This is our sharpest tool in the shed, developed with one task in mind: to dominate the street. A true rider knows that here, power needs precision. Feedback. Poise. That’s why KTM combined a light, state-of-the-art chassis with the new LC8c engine. The result: plenty of torque on tap, a 105 horsepower rush blasting out of corners and a huge grin on your face. And it’s available as a KTM 790 DUKE L with 70 kW and 35 kW for the A2 license. In order to slingshot this telepathic lightweight even further ahead, advanced ride by wire, integrated connectivity options and next-generation rider aids are here today. But that’s not the end of it. Imagine an up and down quickshifter that takes its name extremely seriously. Customized ride modes. Personalized traction control. And a lean, mean KISKA design that’ll make you learn to love waiting for the others as you raced ahead.


  • DESIGN: 2-cylinder, 4-stroke, parallel twin
  • DISPLACEMENT: 799 cm³
  • BORE: 88 mm
  • STROKE: 65.7 mm
  • POWER IN KW: 77 kW
  • STARTER: Electric starter
  • LUBRICATION: Forced oil lubrication with 2 oil pumps
  • TRANSMISSION: 6-speed
  • PRIMARY DRIVE: 39:75
  • COOLING: Liquid cooled
  • CLUTCH: PASC™ antihopping clutch, mechanically operated
  • EMS: Bosch EMS with RBW
  • CO2 EMISSIONS: 102.9

  • FRAME DESIGN: hromium-Molybdenum-Steel frame using the engine as stressed element, powder coated
  • FRONT SUSPENSION: WP upside-down Ø 43 mm
  • REAR SUSPENSION: WP shock absorber with preload adjuster
  • FRONT BRAKE: Four-piston radial fixed calliper
  • REAR BRAKE: Single-piston floating calliper, brake disc
  • ABS: Bosch 9MP two-channel ABS (incl. Supermoto mode, diesengageable)
  • CHAIN: 520 X-Ring
  • WHEELBASE: 1475 ± 15 mm
  • SEAT HEIGHT: 825 mm
  • DRY WEIGHT: 169 kg

Engine & Exhaust

One main area of focus of this all-new 790 Duke is its LC8c engine. Being the responsive and agile 105 horsepower and 63 lb-ft of torque engine that it is goes beyond just merely numbers, but more so its integration. KTM used the LC8c as a stressed member which contributes to its small, light and agile character. Thanks to methods like this weight was kept down to around 385 lbs, hence why KTM calls it the "Scalpel" with 'c' in LC8c representing 'compact'. Build quality and durability is still in question, in the coming months we should have a clear picture of where it stands.

Meet KTM’s first inline twin: the LC8c. That ‘c’ stands for compact, ‘LC8’ for good times ahead.

Built for torque, this liquid cooled 8 valve unit delivers 87 Nm at 8000 rpm, almost immediately followed by a roaring 105 hp finale. Meanwhile, an advanced ride-by-wire system guarantees great refinement as well as low fuel consumption and emission figures.

The 8 valve DOHC cylinder head contains twin chain-driven camshafts and one sparkplug per cylinder. The camshafts are assembled, which makes them lighter than forged camshafts. The steel valves are opened by DLC coated finger followers and the camchain is tensioned by a hydraulic chain tensioner.

Vibrations are taken care of by two balancer shafts, one in front of the crankshaft and the other in the cylinder head between the two camshafts. Smooth move.

The coated aluminium cylinders are an integral part of the sleeveless engine casing. The open deck cylinder construction allows for optimal cooling and improved production tolerances.

Forged pistons with three piston rings in a plain conrod bearing, combined with a DLC (Diamond Like Coating) coated piston pin allow for lighter pistons. This minimizes reciprocating weight, which reduces rotating masses, improving the handling and maximizing the rev-happy nature of the engine.

The horizontally split crankcases (a first for KTM) are an aluminium high pressure cast, which allows for reduced wall thickness and, again, less weight.

Not only does this pressure lubricated slipper clutch open when the engine back-torque becomes too high, it also assists when you open up the throttle. The former prevents destabilizing rear wheel chatter when braking sharply or decelerating; the latter reduces the hand force required for changing gear, allowing the clutch to be controlled with one trigger happy finger.

The engine employs a compact, semi-dry sump system. Oil is actively pumped out of the crank case, clutch housing, and gearbox. This ensures that it does not unnecessarily flow through the engine, reducing power loss through friction. To cool down the oil, the engine is equipped with an oil cooler similar to the larger LC8 engines.

Instead of the electronic injection system's throttle valves being controlled by cables, ride by wire generally processes throttle twist grip movements with the help of electronic sensors and activates the throttle valves accordingly using servo motors. However, our ride by wire on the KTM 790 DUKE goes the extra mile: It electronically translates the throttle commands of the rider into the best throttle valve positions for the current riding situation. Choking, jolting and involuntary wheelies are a thing of the past. Voluntary ones, however, could easily be a thing of your future.

A stainless steel thing of beauty. The middle damper centralizes mass and allows for a relatively small muffler that plays a dramatic soundtrack to possibly huge lean angles. Hundreds of test bench runs and complex simulations ensured that this exhaust system contributes decisively to the tractable torque curve and excellent emission values.

The airbox sits snugly inside the subframe, with the air intake on the sides, allowing the bike to keep things cool while you gun it.


Chassis being another key component that uses the engine as a load bearing member brings into question of what else is at play. KTM pulled out all the stops on this vital product by developing a chassis with features that will stand the test of time. These include starting with a laser-cut, robot welded chrome-molybdenum tubular frame, an aluminum subframe cast in one single piece, a die-cast open-lattice swingarm, light-alloy wheels and 43mm open cartridge upside-down fork from WP Suspension. Weight was cut in numerous areas, even right down to minimize the unsprung masses.

Purity is the focus here. All components have been reduced to the bare essentials. There are no unnecessary parts or covers. The engine, for example, doubles as a load bearing element, the frame is made of extra strong CroMo steel so less material is needed, and components were developed to combine functions wherever possible.

When designers and engineers can start from a blank canvas, beauty meets performance. Take this chrome-molybdenum tubular frame, which makes a major contribution to the bike’s excellent chassis geometry, for example. It’s a laser-cut, robot-welded thing of beauty with a glorious surface finish. And it can count on the engine as a load bearing element, so there’s much less material needed for it to be strong and stiff. This lean machine will flick into corners at the blink of an eye, extracting every possible smile out of every possible mile.

The subframe is cast aluminum and houses the airbox. No plastic covers, no additional brackets - everything is cast in one single piece to reduce complexity and weight. The triangular shapes in the subframe were inspired by KTM’s trellis subframes, as this allows for a strong and simple construction.

The die-cast, open-lattice swingarm is meticulously manufactured and has been optimized for stiffness and stability while still offering excellent flex characteristics. By using a direct link for the rear shock, complexity and parts are reduced.

The tubeless sport tires are fitted on extremely lightweight, light-alloy wheels manufactured in a low-pressure die casting process. Not only do the lightweight wheels make the bike lighter overall, they also minimize the unsprung masses and moment of inertia, with a positive impact on the handling and ride dynamics.

The 790 DUKE is fitted with Maxxis Supermaxx ST tires in a special compound developed specifically for the bike. The tires are grippy in both wet and dry conditions and strike a balance between sportiness and everyday rideability. The sporty character of these tires fits the 790 DUKE, while offering the rider a stable ride and excellent tire wear.

The 43mm open cartridge upside-down fork from WP Suspension provides you with a suspension set-up that’s unseen in this segment. The fork uses split function technology, which means that compression and rebound damping take place in separate fork legs, allowing for better tuning of the fork behaviour. The fork springs are progressive, ensuring a smooth operation throughout the fork stroke; soft for the initial stroke and harder further down the stroke to prevent bottoming out.


No bike built for the street is complete without sound ergonomics that instills confidence and makes it clear as to what the bikes character is all about. The compactness found at its core where the engine and frame meet follows right into ergonomics. Feeding into rider confidence is an adjustable (in 4 positions) 760 mm wide handlebar setup, a footrest setup that contributes to comfortable riding, and seats that accommodate a wide range or riders from short to tall. In addition, maximum ground clearance was achieved to allow for a high lean angle.

The bike has been made to feel as compact as possible while accommodating a wide range of riders. The goal? Confidence.

A tapered aluminium, 760 mm wide handlebar puts you in full control. It’s adjustable in 4 positions on the triple clamp and can be rotated in three further positions.

The cast aluminium footrests cater to a comfortable riding position, while still creating maximum ground clearance to allow for a high lean angle. Reverse (race) shifting is possible without any additional parts. Adjustable footrests are available as a POWERPARTS option for those who would like go all out.

At 825 mm, both shorter and taller riders can enjoy the bike at full tilt, without losing sight of the daily usability. The seat cover is grippy but still allows the rider to move around the bike easily. It has been developed to work with textile and leather, in keeping with the wide range of riders and riding styles. The pillion seat cover uses the same material and combines sharp looks with passenger comfort. 805 mm is possible with the lower POWERPARTS seat.


KTM almost always aims to simplify design right from a bikes core that stems out to what we see through body work. It's a core brand value. Combining functions is a large part of it, much like the engine and frame example mentioned previously. Here however that was done with the tank spoiler that serves as a real spoiler and contributes to ergonomics, among other areas. Other key elements include the multicolor TFT dashboard that like the rest of the bike has been simplified and refined, you won't find any clutter here. LED lighting was also include to create an impressive headlight and and taillight.

Purity is one of KTM’s brand values, and in a design context it means not using unnecessary design elements when a simpler option is possible. Or when you can combine multiple functions in one part. Take the tank spoiler, which combines the functions of spoiler and ergonomic surface, for example. Or the taillight that’s been mounted on the license plate holder, so it can be easily removed for a day at the track. This is a bike that looks and feels as compact as possible. You’ll find no round shapes, but straight lines, clarity and the promise of a radically thrilling ride.

A multicolor combination of relevant information, presented in an uncluttered way. As you rev the engine, the display bars change color, either spurring you on or warning you that the engine’s still cold. The display also automatically adapts its illumination to the ambient light and gets racy when TRACK mode is selected.

Form and function are seamlessly integrated in the 790 DUKE. Take the LED headlight for example, a highlight in this bike’s design and a clear referral to the 1290 SUPER DUKE R. It combines optimal illumination of the near field with maximum light output. And the daytime running lights on both sides ensure that the motorcycle is perceived better and is more differentiated by other traffic users, thus offering massive safety benefits. The LED taillight is mounted on the license plate holder to make it easy to remove for trackday use or customization.
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Love everything I see here and will need to see reviews to gain greater perspective. I'm hoping it will come off as a bike with some aggressive edge. If not, I won't mind waiting for an RC version.
At the top of this thread it says "Thankfully 790 Dukes have been showing up at dealers in the U.S. for a few months, so expect owner reviews to pour in shorty." Is that a typo or are there actually 790s in the U.S? Only asking because I have been checking and haven't seen any.

At the top of this thread it says "Thankfully 790 Dukes have been showing up at dealers in the U.S. for a few months, so expect owner reviews to pour in shorty." Is that a typo or are there actually 790s in the U.S? Only asking because I have been checking and haven't seen any.

Typo, meant to say Europe.

The correction has been made now, thanks!
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