KTM 250 Duke First Ride Review

08 April 2017, 04:55 PMRanjan R. Bhat

What is it?

The KTM Duke range has always been a hacksaw in a world of kitchen knives. The 200 Duke and the 390 Duke redefined our perception of performance and lightness. They stood apart from the herd of commuter bikes, and ushered in a new reality for enthusiasts. However, while a hacksaw would get the job done in a jiffy, it also means one would have to put up with its raw character. It has been four years since the 200 Duke came out, and KTM has been busy, in the meantime, trying to add finesse to the hacksaw. And here is the result - the new KTM 250 Duke.

The 250 Duke was initially conceived for select south-east Asian markets to take advantage of their tax regulations - sort of like the sub-four metre rule for cars in India. Now with the new 390 Duke stepping into a higher price bracket, the 250 Duke has been introduced here to fill the void between the flagship bike and the 200 Duke. 

The 250 Duke gets KTM’s new-age styling with an edgy headlamp and LED DRLs, a more powerful engine and friendlier ergonomics compared to the 200 Duke. On the other hand, it saves costs by carrying over the cycle parts, instrument cluster and a few other bits. On paper, KTM has managed to attain the perfect middle ground - the 250 Duke is more powerful and fancier than the 200 Duke, but not enough to confuse the prospective 390 Duke buyers. But how does that translate in the real world?

How does it ride?

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.

Anything else I should know?

Minor revisions to the ergonomics have made the KTM 250 Duke a more comfortable bike to sit on, even for six-foot plus giants. However, while the thicker and wider seat might be marginally more comfortable as far as KTM seats go, it still leaves a lot to be desired. It also gets a bigger 13.5-litre metal fuel tank, which means that using magnetic tank bags is no longer an issue. The MRF Revz tyres on the 250 Duke are ‘H’ rated, and the rubber is a softer compound as compared to the 200 Duke.

Overheating has always been the Duke range’s Achilles heel, and things aren’t any different with the 250 Duke. While negotiating city traffic, you can constantly hear the loud radiator fan working overtime to prevent the engine from overheating. This can pose a problem if you plan to use the bike for commuting in heavy traffic.

 

Why should I buy it?

The 250 Duke is still a hacksaw, no doubt about it. But KTM has now given the hacksaw an ivory handle and its blade a mirror finish to make it look more sophisticated. The 250 Duke is perfect for someone looking for a loud street bike, but thinks that the 200 Duke has become too common. Sure, it also gets a few other bells and whistles, but the conspicuous styling is the most remarkable thing about the 250 Duke. With the revision in torque delivery, the 250 Duke is also a lot more accessible. Considering that the 250 Duke is priced over Rs 33,000 higher than the 200 Duke, exclusivity is a given.

Where does it fit it?

Retailing at Rs 2.01 lakh (on-road, Mumbai), the KTM 250 Duke is a direct rival to the Benelli TNT 25. While it does cost you an extra Rs 20,000, the TNT 25 has more exotic appeal than the 250 Duke, thanks to its Italian lineage. The Honda CBR250R and the Mahindra Mojo priced at Rs 1.93 lakh and Rs 2.05 lakh respectively (both on-road, Mumbai) also share the same market space. Apart from being a fully-faired motorcycle, the CBR250R also gets a Combined ABS system as an optional extra. The Mojo, on the other hand, has one of the most refined powertrains in the segment and is an adept touring motorcycle.

 

Gear Check

 

1. Icon Airmada helmet – 

Comfortable, aerodynamic, lightweight and a well-ventilated helmet with a wide peripheral vision. Oval headform fit might not suit everyone though. Price - Rs 15,000.

2. Joe Rocket Alter Ego 3.0 jacket – 

An extremely versatile all-weather jacket. In this guise, it is being used as a ventilated mesh jacket, though it ships with two more liners - waterproof and thermal. Price – Rs 20,000.

3. Ixon Moto HP gloves – 

High quality full gauntlet leather gloves suited for city riding, touring and track use. Offers good ventilation and a high level of protection. Expensive though. Price - Rs 9,500

4. AGV Sport Airtex pants – 

Riding pants with mesh in the crotch, calf, back of legs and thigh areas which is a real boon in our hot weather. Price -Rs 6,500.

5. Sidi B2 boots – 

All-round street and sportbike riding shoes also suitable for track days. Not ventilated, which can make it uncomfortable for everyday use. Price - Rs 17,000

Photography by Kapil Angane

Click here to read 2017 KTM 390 Duke Track Ride Review

Click here to read 2017 KTM 250 Duke Track Ride Review

Click here to read 2017 KTM 200 Duke Track Ride Review

 

Ex-showroom, Mumbai

 1,74,586

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