If you're looking for a bike with adequate power and torque from the mid-to-top range, with the sort of drivetrain and overall package that complements it, then journalists suggest the Duke 790 is for you. Making the 790 worthy of that praise are features like instant power from under 4,000 rpm that stays smooth till near redline, clutchless quickshifting, well tuned gear ratios, Power Assisted Slipper oil-bath clutch, the compact engine design and more.
- CycleNews.comThe LC8c is tuned as much for midrange torque as top-end power, peaking with 86Nm at a relatively high 8000 rpm for a parallel-twin, but there’s a broad spread throughout the rev range, with more than 80Nm available at 6000 rpm. There’s chain drive to the cams offset to the right of the cylinders, while the six-speed gearbox allows clutchless quickshifting both up and down the well-chosen ratios, and is matched to a PASC/Power Assisted Slipper oil-bath clutch which is cable-operated for ease of maintenance, and to save weight. The entire very compact engine weighs just 110 pounds without throttle bodies or oil (116 pounds with those included), says Torsten Gaul, compared to 88.2 for the 690 Duke’s single-cylinder motor on the same basis.
That’s pretty amazing for an 800cc twin-cylinder engine, and you definitely feel the result when riding the bike. After being honored with a brief getting-to-know-you ride last September on the prototype 790 Duke, the chance to spend a whole day on the grippy roads of Gran Canaria, including a couple of hours riding the island’s Maspalomas circuit allowed a more intensive evaluation. Just as first time around, though, the 790 Duke feels small, slim, short and sporty, with a close-coupled riding stance that has your chin seemingly over the front wheel. It’s a responsive, eager-revving bike that’s not only thoroughly practical but also hugely entertaining, and totally intuitive to ride. It’s one of those bikes where you feel a part of it from the very moment you hop aboard—this could make riding to work a lot of fun, though maybe not half as much as taking the long way home on it.
- CycleWorld.comIt was no surprise to find the 790 feeling quick and instantly entertaining on the roads of Gran Canaria. Sure enough, it ripped to well over 100 mph with minimal encouragement, on the way to a top speed of about 140 mph. It pulled sweetly from 4,000 rpm or below, and was sufficiently smooth up near the 9,500-rpm redline that vibration was never an issue. A pleasant surprise was the slightly lumpy character and the off-beat exhaust note from the high-level pipe, both of which added to the entertainment.
The Duke 790 does well at accommodating a wide range or riders from those over six-feet to shorter riders that can do away with the standard 825mm seat for a setup that's nearly 50mm lower. Once on, keeping yourself comfortable and planted is easy thanks to an impressively adjustable handlebar, different clamping positions, adequate room to move around, adjustable mirrors, levers and more.
- CycleNews.comThe 790 Duke’s steering geometry is pretty steep, with 24° of rake and 3.9 inches of trail, delivering a 58-inch wheelbase and that’s probably the reason for KTM to fit a non-adjustable WP steering damper behind the lower triple clamp. But the Duke’s agile, super-responsive handling is the payoff for that, coupled with total stability on fast third or fourth-gear turns—it feels planted to the tarmac, yet the great leverage from the wide, taper-section 30-inch aluminum handlebar lets you carve corners and especially switch direction in fast chicanes like the one at Maspalomas really easily. Like I said, it’s intuitive. That handlebar can be adjusted almost infinitely in search of your preferred riding position—in addition to four different clamping positions offered by the upper triple clamp’s design, you can also rotate the ’bar through three different angles to get comfortable with it. Then as well as the stock 32.5-inch seat height, there’s also a lower 31.7-inch seat option available for the extensive KTM aftermarket catalogue, or you can reduce it still further to 30.7 inches via a lowering kit.
- CycleWorld.comThe handlebar can also be adjusted, by reversing the mounts. Despite being tall I found the bike fairly roomy by middleweight standards. It’s also pretty well specified, with LED lights, useful mirrors, adjustable levers, and an illuminated menu switch, though not self-canceling blinkers. I should point out, the fact that I’m resorting to criticizing a naked middleweight for those things emphasises how thoughtfully detailed it is.
- MotorcycleNews.comWith its narrow hips, small riders will find the KTM easy to get on and plant feet down, even with a 825mm high seat (there’s also a 805mm accessory seat and 780mm lowering kit). There’s loads of legroom for six-footers, too. The bar position is natural in its standard position and its bath time-comfy, even after a day’s riding. But as you’d expect from such an unashamed, exposed naked, wind protection is non-existent and your neck feels every mile an hour.
Once ergonomics are dialed in and you're ready to hit the road, putting the 790 through its paces on challenging roads reveal a number of strengths. Aside from a non-adjustable suspension setup from KTM's very own WP, its generous front suspension travel with adjustable pre-load on rear shocks make up for this. In addition we get high-level traction control, independent anti-wheelie, cornering ABS braking (standard) and four riding modes.
- CycleNews.comEven though KTM has obviously aimed to keep costs down with the non-adjustable WP suspension, the generous travel is well controlled in everyday use, and after a day spent trying my best to fault their choices, I must admit that KTM’s development team got their settings for it just right. I’d never ridden on Maxxis tires before I tried out the 790 prototype, but the Taiwanese manufacturer whose products equip most of KTM’s off-road range has done a good job here with their Supermaxx SP street rubber especially designed to equip the 790 Duke equipping the lightweight 17-inch cast aluminum wheels. The 180/55ZR17 Maxxis rear tire will be another factor in the nimble handling, too.
The engine’s two balance shafts allow it to be employed as a stressed member of the frame, which in KTM tradition is made from tubular steel. An aluminium rear subframe encloses the airbox, whose intakes are below the seat on either side. The WP suspension specification is basic, with non-adjustable 43mm fork and a rear shock with adjustable preload (using a C-spanner rather than remote knob).
- CycleWorld.comThe Duke follows KTM’s big V-twins in using a five-axis IMU to provide high-level traction control, plus independent anti-wheelie and cornering ABS braking as standard, along with four riding modes. It also has a neat TFT display, operated by an updated and easier-to-use version of KTM’s familiar four-button switchgear on the left handlebar.
Cornering ABS has its flaws, one being a lack of initial feel. Fortunately it turns on when absolutely required without feeling too much like a nanny, as some first rides report. Owners that find it too intrusive can switch ABS off via Track mode. Once used under the right conditions cornering ABS with the sticky Supermaxx ST tires, responsive four-piston brakes, balanced chassis and more can create an ideal riding experience.
- CycleNews.comEven braking hard at the end of the Maspalomas main straight after enjoying the extra performance of the street-legal Akrapovič silencer available as an option fitted to the bike I was riding there, the 790 Duke remained stable and well-controlled, and the Maxxis front tire was hard to fault. The Bosch 9.1MP ABS did activate occasionally, but after proving to myself that it did cut in, though not too intrusively, I switched it off as you can do in Track mode only. The non-adjustable suspension didn’t misbehave too much, and you have plenty of warning when the tires started to approach their limits.
- CycleWorld.comThe Maxxis Supermaxx ST tires gripped very well for sport-touring rubber too. I also thought the front stopper’s blend of 300mm discs and four-piston radial calipers from J.Juan gave excellent power and feel, though one rider (who brakes with only two fingers) reckoned the lever required too firm a squeeze.
Already making waves in part of Europe (and soon in the U.S.) the Duke 790 might soon prove to be an ideal rival to bikes like the Triumph Street Triple and Ducati Monster 821. Is the first of many from KTM and if the rest are like this to a similar effect with respect to their unique segments, KTM's future here looks bright. Future improvements could mean a production version of the Adventure R concept.
- CycleNews.comThe 790 Duke is a very good motorcycle that sets the bar higher for its rivals in that crowded middleweight category, and it’s in every way a true KTM, replete with the brand’s core values. This is a very impressive real-world ride. CN
The 799cc naked parallel twin is not merely a new model but the first of a family of bikes in the big-selling middleweight sector. With its typically sharp-edged lines, the 790 fills the large gap between the 690 Duke single and 1290 Super Duke V-twin in the Austrian firm’s streetbike range. It will be the starting point for other KTMs (including a 790 Adventure, due in a year’s time) as well as models from sister brand Husqvarna.
- CycleWorld.comUS pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but this KTM is set to make waves with its price when it goes on sale in Europe, costing less than Ducati’s Monster 821 and Triumph’s Street Triple R despite its high specification. Those bikes face a formidable rival in the 790 Duke, which has the performance, style, character, ease of us, and quality to be a contender. It seems KTM’s attack on the middleweight division is off to a flying start.
- MotorcycleNews.comKTM have got it so right with its new 790 Duke. Just like the cream of the middleweight naked crop it combines calm practicality with playful excitement. It can be a track tool one day and a commuter the next. Its new LC8c engine is a peach, the chassis predictably balanced and it’s all topped off with superbike-spec electronics. After 24 years of the KTM, why they didn’t think of this before?