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KTM 790 Duke | Bike Tests | Latest Tests

We were served a smorgasbord of new models throughout 2018, and choosing just 8 finalists for Motorcycle of the year was a tough ask. But to choose the best of the best we had to get on and ride them.

KTM’s all-new 790 Duke has been nicknamed the scalpel, and if we’d had a bookie on our 2019 We were served a smorgasbord of new models throughout 2018, and choosing just eight finalists for Motorcycle of the year was a tough ask. But to choose the best of the best we had to get on and ride them. Motorcycle of The Year test ride, the 790 would surely have been one of the favourites going into the event.

The 790 drew glowing praise during our recent middleweight nakedbike test (AMCN Vol 68 No 08), but MoTY attracts the best of the best, so the newest Duke needed to shine.

The secret to the 790 is its agile nature and raw power.  Our scales had the parallel-twin powered machine touching 190kg, but much of that weight seems to disappear as soon as the the thing starts rolling.

Mark was an instant fan: “Whatever firing order they have in that engine, it is making it sound great – it has got heaps of grunt and sounds more like a V-twin than a parallel twin,” he said. “I’d have one in my garage for regular runs through the Royal National Park; it has been built for those sorts of roads.”

By the mid-point of out multi-day ride, there was a long a long list of things the test team loved about the KTM. Matt described the bike as being built to a bloody good price but pointed out a few areas where the bike appears to be a bit underdone.

“The plastics and the swingarm are two,” he said. “And the fact that it has a non-adjustable fork is another. It’s great suspension, but a bit of adjustability would be a nice touch.”

Watto argued the point by listing the quality components including the Brembo brakes, which he described as “awesome”, and the impressive IMU-actuated electronics, but he did single out the mirrors as annoying.

“If you knock one it comes loses, then it’s hard to get it tight and a couple of times I had the mirror stalk spinning back and forth while riding – but I love riding it! It’s raw, it sounds great and it’s a real hoon bike. The fork could do with a bit more damping (he weighs 100 kegs), but other than that it’s the sort of bike that gets you involved with the experience. There are no gimmicks.”

Most riders scored the bike well for comfort with Josh describing the fit “like a glove,” he said. “All the levers are in the right place for that upright seating position. The electronics are easy to work out and manipulate, and there is a back button which makes it much easier to use and understand compared to other systems.”

When it came to voting the list of positives outweighed the negatives. No one scored it down for build quality, with the average sitting in the mid-range sweet spot. It excelled in the areas of technology, riding confidence and performance with a few scoring it eight; and it hit an average of seven on the value for money scale, which was a little lower than many had anticipated. As the team submitted their voting cards it was looking like the KTM was in with a shot.

Second opinion David Watt

The 790 Duke had a lot to live up to. Its big brother – the 1290 Super Duke R – re-wrote the rules for nakedbike fun and it appears the 790 has not baulked at the challenge. It carves a twisty road like a boss, it’s light and the wide handlebar makes it such a pleasure to flick from corner to corner. It comes to life when you grip it by the scruff of the neck and hammer it.

The parallel twin may not be arm-stretching quick, but it has plenty of go, and doesn’t sound like a wet fart when you give it the berries – it has got an enjoyable angry bark, but slip-on pipe from the KTM Powerparts catalogue would be on my shopping list.

The electronics package is the top of its class. Supermoto ABS was a hit for me, backing it into corners was a laugh a minute. One gripe is that you had to select your preferred settings every time you turned the ignition back on. The TFT dash is crisp and clear,

The WP suspension is quality kit and I’m impressed by the way it handled the dodgy back-road bitumen, even with no available adjustment.

While it isn’t the prettiest bike on test, you don’t think about that when you’re banging gears and scraping pegs. A tight little package.

Read the full review that appeared in AMCN magazine Vol 67 No 25

The finalists!

One of these machines has been crowned the 2018 Motorcycle of the Year!

Benelli Leoncino         $7990 (+ORC)

Ducati Panigale V4 S  $37,490 (+ORC)

Harley-Davidson Fat Bob       $27,496 (ride away)

Honda CB1000R        $16,499 (+ORC)

Kawasaki Ninja SX SE            $30,940 (+ORC)

KTM 790 Duke            $15,495 (+ORC)

Triumph Tiger 1200 XCA        $29,300 (+ORC)

Yamaha Tracer GT     $16,990 (+ORC)

As appeared in AMCN Magazine Vol 68 No 12

Vital Stats


$15,495 (+ORC)



Economy 5.44L/100km

Range 257km


Front 97.30kg


Total 189.3kg (wet)


Maxxis Supermaxx




Power77kW (claimed)

Torque 87Nm (claimed)


12-month fully comprehensive


Estimated based on a 50-year old Sydney CBD resident who has held a motorcycle licence for longer than five years, has had zero at-fault claims and has completed an accredited riding course


A Seat height: 825mm

B Peg to seat: 490mm

C Peg to bar: 910mm

D Bar to seat: 640mm