KTM RC 200 Review
I was left awestruck the day the images of the KTM RC200 surfaced on the web. I saw the pictures of the RC 390 but they were not as bewitching and enchanting as the ones of the RC200. The high resolution images not only became the wallpaper on my laptop and cell phone, but they left a big imprint in my minda as well. The impatient soul within me felt tranquil while I marvelled at the beauty of the RC 200. I only came to my senses when I was told that I was going to review one of the RC motorcycles. All the drooling, dreaming and waiting for one of the most anticipated bikes of 2014 was going to get over for me. Lost in the gawking, I don't even remember how fast the day dawned and we were at Bajaj's private test track at Chakan to see what it's all about.
I was left awestruck the day the images of the KTM RC200 surfaced on the web. I saw the pictures of the RC 390 but they were not as bewitching and enchanting as the ones of the RC200. The high resolution images not only became the wallpaper on my laptop and cell phone, but they left a big imprint in my minda as well.
The impatient soul within me felt tranquil while I marvelled at the beauty of the RC 200. I only came to my senses when I was told that I was going to review one of the RC motorcycles. All the drooling, dreaming and waiting for one of the most anticipated bikes of 2014 was going to get over for me. Lost in the gawking, I don't even remember how fast the day dawned and we were at Bajaj's private test track at Chakan to see what it's all about.
Although I am not even remotely close to feeling satisfied with the amount of time I spent (I want more track time with RC!), a couple of drags down the main straight, few minutes tackling the corners and 15 minutes doing flying laps were sufficient to give me a fair idea about the entry-level ‘sports bike’ from KTM. While we all know it is supposed to be a racier version of the Duke 200, let us find out if it is just a sportier looking motorcycle or the real deal.
Beautiful! One word is enough to describe the bike in terms of styling. I kept looking at the bike like a teenager staring at a poster of Scarlett Johansson. But a 200cc 'sports bike'? Even though some might laugh thinking how a 200cc motorcyle can be a sports bike, the RC200 looks like one as its gets the same treatment as the RC 390. While the design and fairing size on the bikes is same, the decals are different. But the RC200 still looks more appealing than the elder sibling and the black colour scheme looks superb. The black colour actually makes it look compact, but I'm sure RC390 owners would envy the colour scheme.
The twin projector headlamp setup might be a little controversial, as some people haven't liked it while some like me are fond of it. Further down on the chin are the boomerang-shaped DRLs, with white light give it a good appeal. On top of the front fairing is the clear windscreen backed by a black layer underneath it. The cool innovative touches done to the fairing with the stickering job lend the fully-faired bike a sharp and menacing look. When you look further down, you can notice that the fairing over the engine overlaps the belly pan fairing. The gaps between the fairing might be something that many will complain about, but I will give it some leeway since it doesn't really look uglyfrom any angle..
The newly sculpted fuel tank is again black in colour and sports the 'RC' sticker below the fuel cap lid. While the instrument cluster is directly carried over from the Duke 200, the RC gets a new clip-on handle-bar unlike the naked that gets a normal handlebar. The rear-view mirrors look sharp and I liked their shape. They get those discreet integrated LED side indicators, which is again a good touch and, in fact, the first in the segment. The steel trellis frame comes painted in KTM's customary orange livery.
Moving towards the other end of the motorcycle, you notice the most beautifully crafted thing on the bike - the rear cowl,…err umm…yes that's what one might think at first, but it’s a seat. Yes, a proper foam seat. Underneath the seat, the rear panel is painted in white unlike all the other panels that come in black. Plus there are rectangular grooves which give this panel a better look and double up as grab rails. Nevertheless, according to government norms KTM India will provide proper grab rails for the pillion which will assist in holding and moving the bike around after getting off it.
Continuing the beautiful craftsmanship with the rear, the sharp all-LED tail lamp gets a neat design. There is a single LED lamp in the centre that lights up in harmony with the pilot lamps and it gets flanked by LED brake lamps. The rod that holds the registration plate holder is not something I really liked and a concealed one would have looked better. Even so, the white LED lamp for the number plate gives it a good feel. Further down, the design of the hugger is simple and doesn’t spoil the look; conversely we expect the traditional hugger with saree guard from the Dukes to be carried over on delivery of the bike. According to many consumers it will spoil the look, but according to government's regulations it will be provided. The design of the alloy wheels is the same as the Duke 200 but is painted completely in orange following the design language of the Duke 390 and RC 390.
Instrument cluster and other features
Sure the DRLs look good, but they are not actually daytime running lamps as they are hardly visible in daylight, although they should do an effective job in low light like the headlamps with the projector set-up. The instrument cluster is directly carried over from the Duke 200 which doesn't require any introduction.
The quality of switches and other equipment is quite decent and don’t feel cheap. The RC200, however, misses out on the bar-end weights for the clip-ons as seen on the RC390. The ORVMs look good with integrated indicators, but it might prove to be a costly affair if and when you break them. The mirrors, anyhow, were not that helpful on the track.
The fairing over the engine overlaps the belly pan fairing and I think providing a separate panel like this will help in not spending money on the entire fairing in case of an accident. The new sculpted fuel tank houses the battery at the front bringing down the fuel tank capacity to 10 litres. This might make it difficult for an RC 200 owner to take the motorcycle out on a long ride without many fuel stops. But we are not complaining as none of the entry-level fully faired bikes in India have a big tank. We expect the RC 200’s tank range to be around 220km, which is actually not that bad.
The brake and clutch levers get a small ridge, which will help the lever break from that point if the bike drops to the ground. The foot pedals feature a prominent heel plate for track use and these are now forged unlike the cast ones on the Duke 200. ABS is not offered with the RC200 which we think, though expensive, would have made it safer. It would also have endowed the rider with more confidence in braking especially on Indian roads.
Engine and Gearbox
Under the fairing is the same tried and tested single-cylinder 200cc engine from the Duke 200 that comes mated to a six-speed transmission. This motor also produces 26bhp of power and 19Nm of torque, same as in the case of its naked sibling. Nonetheless, KTM has surely worked on tuning this mill a bit as it feels and sounds smoother than the one on the Duke 200. The engine also feels equally energetic and the spread of power is smooth and friendly. The vibrations at high revs are not as many that they can make their presence felt, but the mirrors vibrate making it tricky to provide the rider a stable rear view.
The gearshifts are soft and precise in comparison to the Duke 200. The shrouds, which the company says have been designed to throw the hot air down towards the ground and not the rider’s legs, are pretty helpful.
Despite the fact that the engine is not as powerful as the Duke 390 and RC 390, this mill doesn't run out of breath except on the long straights. It still helps in providing the solid bang out of corners and tops out at 137kmph, its electronically limited mark. The additional weight of the fairing is taken care of by the peppy motor as it doesn’t really make you feel that you are riding a heavier bike than the Duke 200.
For the time given, I couldn't do a proper V-Box testing so I can't really comment on the performance figures. But we will do that along with a fuel efficiency test once we get the bike for a proper road test.
Ride and Handling
Though the powertrain on the RC 200 is similar to the Duke 200, the faired motorcycle's chassis gets some critical changes. For instance, the steering head angle is sharper, which means the front wheel is pulled in towards the bike more in comparison to the Duke 200. This also means that the wheelbase is smaller with a bit more ground clearance, while the seat height is raised by 20mm. All of this has resulted in pushing the centre of gravity up, making the motorcycle more agile and nimble. Along with the revised fairing and ergonomics, it gets a front biased weight distribution. While the WP 43mm upside down forks are carried over from the Duke 200, there is 25mm less travel at the front and is stiffer as well. Similarly, the set-up at the rear has been stiffened as well.
All of this seems pretty good on paper but how does it feel on the road? Well to answer that what better place can we get to test other than a race track! I took a few laps of the Bajaj test track that is custom-made with a variety of corners, positive banking and straight patches. The seating position is aggressive, the new clip-on handlebars are low and foot-pegs have been raised up a bit, I was still pretty comfortable on the bike though. I'm sure with the taller seat, people with more than average height will also get accustomed to the position soon. But again, for city traffic commute, we think it's going to be a bit stressful with the aggressive stance. The back and the arms of the rider might hurt with continuous riding.
So for the moment, on the track, the RC200 is definitely sharper in handling than the Duke 200. It responds very quickly to the inputs put at the handlebar. The steeper rake angle and wider clip-ons have tremendously helped in achieving this. I could shift down heavily and exit every corner with a large grunt without having to exert myself physically at all. The RC 200 is quick in short turns and stable in long corners. Me being used to a Duke 200, I feel it is the same as the other Duke siblings which beg you to ride harder and pull the throttle every time.
The rider's seat is well shaped and gives enough space for the rider to move about in the space given. On the track, the visor deflects the air over the rider rather than hitting the rider's torso. This will furthermore definitely help riders reduce the wind pressure on them when they take the bike on highways and long rides. However, the seat positioning is such that one can't really swoop down completely and get a proper view of the road in front. He has to raise his head slightly to be able to get a clear view.
The only thing I can actually grumble about is that unlike the RC390, which gets Metzelers, the RC200 gets MRFs. Not that the MRFs are bad, but they are just not as grippy as the former. So it becomes very important to be in the right gear, in the right line and at the optimum speed in the corners. Nevertheless, they do inspire a lot of confidence once they warm up.
The RC 200 is true to KTM's design language and emulates the aggressive looks and breathtaking performance that the other KTM bikes have to offer. For beginners, this is the perfect machine to learn how to ride on a race track and has a premium aura that is missing in its competitors. But for people who can spend lakhs of rupees to get something more aggressive for the racetrack, this might not be their cup of tea. Options are limited in the Rs 2 lakh segment and one will have to appreciate the aggressive and competent package this motorcycle offers within this price segment.
A motorcycle enthusiast looking for a sharp, aggressive looking, quick and thrillingly remarkable performance bike that is still affordable, the KTM RC 200 should be his. To conclude, my heart goes in favour of the RC 200 in most aspects and I have to agree that KTM has actually made a sporty motorcycle and not just a sportier looking bike.
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