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2021 KTM 125 Duke: First Ride Review

10 March 2021, 06:00 PM Neil Nair

Introduction

Right Side View

This is the KTM 125 Duke, the most affordable offering in the brand's global line-up. Launched in late-2018, the 125 Duke went on to become one of the highest-selling motorcycles for KTM.  And now, two years later, it has received a major cosmetic makeover to keep things fresh. So we spent a good number of hours in the 125 Duke's saddle to find out what kind of experience it delivers. Were we impressed? Read on to find out!

The Visuals

Left Side View

The 125 Duke might be the smallest in the family but it's not 'small' per se. As a matter of fact, with the new styling it now only looks eerily similar to the 200 Duke, it also has the same dimensions as the rest of the range.   

Head Light

It gets these muscular tank shrouds and a stubby rear section. Up front there is a sharp-looking headlamp unit that comes with an LED DRL. And there's full the LED tail lamp and full-LED turn indicators too. Lest I forget the partially exposed sub-frame that in my opinion adds a touch of raw streetfighter appeal the Duke’s styling.

Right Side View
KTM 125 Duke

KTM 125 Duke

  • Displacement124.71 cc
  • Mileage - Owner Reported40 kmpl
  • Max Power(bhp)14.3 bhp
  • Kerb Weight159 kg
  • ;

Avg. Ex-showroom price

₹ 1,59,241

Thankfully though, it ships with two different dual-tone colour schemes and a different paint combination for the trellis frame that sets it apart. It also has the ‘125’ stickering which is helpful for passers-by wondering which one of the Dukes it is.   

switches

Now, the overall build quality of the 125 Duke is decent and feels sturdy. The paint and plastic are well finished and look like they could endure a good number of years. However, the feel of the switchgear could be more tactile. Stepping closer, we also found some inconsistency in fitment-like the plastic around the keyhole and the panel gaps in the tank shrouds.   

The Package

Instrument Cluster

For a 125cc motorcycle, the KTM 125 Duke is heavily packed. There is WP-sourced upside down forks and orange-backlit LCD instrument cluster that displays essential info like service-due indication, average, and current fuel economy as well as clock along with the obvious speedo, odometer, and tachometer. 

Tail Light

You also get LED lighting for the most part save the headlamp as well as a single-channel ABS as standard.  However, for a motorcycle that demands Rs 1.51 lakh, the KTM 125 Duke does feel under-equipped. 

The Ride

Right Side View

Get astride the 125 Duke and you know compact is the theme KTM was going with here. You’d be sitting slightly bent forward and with the pegs rear-set, the ergonomics are mildly aggressive, in true streetfighter fashion. Unlike the previous model, there is good support for the thighs and ample of room to move around courtesy of this spacious seat. Speaking of which, we rode the 125 Duke for a good 150km at a stretch and the seat felt comfortable all the way.  

Left Rear Three Quarter

Complimenting the cushioning of the seat is the ride quality. Now, the setup which consists of 43mm USD forks at the front and a preload-adjustable monoshock at the rear is not entirely plush but does a commendable job at absorbing small bumps and undulations at slow speeds. Although as speeds increase, the ride tends to feel a bit stiff but not cumbersome. 

Right Side View

Having said that, riding with a pillion makes the setup more pliant and manageable overall.  Now with a kerb weight of 159kg, the KTM 125 Duke is comparatively heavier than its rival- the Yamaha MT-15. However, the KTM is well-balanced making it easy not only to manoeuvre in traffic but also in parking. 

Underneath its all-new bodywork and split-trellis frame, the 2021 KTM 125 Duke is essentially the same as the previous model using a 124cc, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled engine. This engine churns out 14.3bhp of power and 12Nm of torque that is delivered in a composed manner. 

Left Side View

There is no hooliganism lower down the rev range like its older siblings and that is solely to make the 125 Duke accessible to new riders. Instead, most of its performance is focused in the mid range from 6500rpm. Coax the throttle some more and the 125 Duke will redline at 9500rpm, hitting a top-speed of around 112kmph in sixth gear. 

While the engine doesn’t mind being revved hard, it’s at its best behaviour when ridden sanely. It feels extremely smooth and refined, with only a negligible buzz on the pegs at higher revs. Moreover, the engine is also extremely tractable and can pace ahead from speeds as low as 25kmph in its highest gear without complaint. 

Left Side View

Adding to its credentials is a slick-shifting six-speed transmission accompanied by a light clutch lever pull. Even the brakes which have been borrowed directly from the 200 Duke feel crisp. The setup works wonderfully at both ends providing good feedback and a strong bite. Meanwhile, the single-channel ABS it comes with is one of the least intrusive out there.

That said, the previous 125 Duke was an agile motorcycle, but the new one feels even more precise in its handling. It is almost telepathic and effortless tipping it into corners, quickly switching sides on chicanes or while clearing your way through traffic. 

Conclusion

front view

Just like the Kardashians, there isn’t much visual difference between the siblings in the KTM family now. While this is good from a manufacturer’s point of view, you know with lesser costs of production, it also works in favour of the 125 Duke which now has the styling of a much more premium product like the 390 Duke, for half the price.  Now the sole purpose of the 125 Duke is to cater to new riders and serve as a fast commuter. And in that sense, it is a great motorcycle. It has welcoming and easy-going power delivery, good braking power, a butter smooth gearbox and manageable weight. Lest I forget, it also handles beautifully.   

Left Rear Three Quarter

While all of this is undoubtedly more than what a regular 125cc motorcycle can offer, is it worth spending Rs 1.51 lakh on the 125 Duke? We think not. For nearly Rs 10,000 lesser, there is the Yamaha MT-15 that offers better performance and similar features. Or you could even opt for the TVS Apache RTR 200 4V that costs nearly Rs 23,000 lesser yet offers more power and much more features than the KTM. And if you absolutely need a KTM, there always is the option of the 200 Duke that offers much more value for money at Rs 1.81 lakh. 

Photos by Kaustubh Gandhi

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