The mention of the 200 Duke in polite company inevitably brings up criticism about the vibrations felt while riding it and the jerky throttle response. With the 250 Duke though, KTM has ironed out the torque curve, and along with it, a few other niggles too.
It is the same recipe here too – a trellis frame with a fuel-injected, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder engine as a stressed member. However, the trellis frame has now been revised and features a bolt-on subframe. Although the 250 Duke’s engine shares its architecture with the 200 Duke, the former gets a longer stroke and higher power output – 29.6bhp at 9000rpm and 24Nm of torque at 7500rpm.
While the fuelling is still jerky below 4000rpm, the throttle response is crisp in the higher rev range. Maximum power is achieved 1000rpm earlier than 200 Duke, while peak torque flows in 500rpm sooner. The torque spread is now wide and meaty, and makes the performance progressive and accessible. However, given the way the gear ratios are configured, you need to have a quick left foot to keep pace with the rev-happy engine. The light clutch, slick gearbox and the slipper clutch compensate in this aspect.
While riding the 250 Duke, there is never a moment when you cannot feel its vibrations. However, the engine is at its smoothest between 4000rpm and 7000rpm and this is the sweet spot for highway cruising. While the power keeps building post-7000rpm right until you hit the redline at 9500rpm, you also have to put up with a nasty buzz at the handlebar and the footpegs. The 250 Duke’s throaty exhaust note from the side-slung canister complements its hooligan character although the KTM fan base hasn’t taken kindly to this new sound track.
Apart from the frame, the 250 Duke also shares the 43mm open cartridge front forks with the new 390 Duke. Also, the 250 Duke feels slightly nose heavy as compared to the 200 Duke, although this hasn’t affected its agility or its eagerness to turn in at the drop of a hat. This is one of the best city bikes in the business, and the smooth torque delivery enhances its ability to filter through traffic.
Sure, it might feel stiff while trundling around the city, but the suspension setup gets better at ironing out the bumps once you go past 60kmph. It is more forgiving than the overly stiff setup of the 200 Duke, and you no longer have to deal with the rear wheel hopping over unruly mid-corner bumps. When it comes to dropping anchor, the 250 Duke can do better, though. The 300mm disc brake up front offers a good initial bite and has enough stopping power, but lacks feel and progression. The absence of ABS is also a bummer.