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Bigger, more powerful parallel twin KTM Duke 990 nudges the litre mark

When KTM introduced it’s 799cc LC8c parallel twin engine in the original 790 Duke it was a useful middleweight stepping stone between the company’s smaller singles and the big V-twin offerings. But with the latest 990 Duke introduced as a 2024 model it’s heading into a new category to rival 1000cc models.

In its initial form, the new 990 LC8c engine – which is a complete redesign, with new cylinders, cases and cylinder head – makes 90.5kW at 9,500rpm, which is in the same ballpark as the most powerful versions of the 889cc ‘890’ version that the original 790 evolved into. However, that’s just a starting point, and KTM is sure to be working on more potent variants for other models in the future, not least the anticipated RC 990 sports bike that’s been spotted on test several times already.

Despite the ‘990’ name the new engine actually measures in at 947cc (again, it’s at the start of its development curve, so bigger-capacity variants are likely in years to come) and is bigger in both bore and stroke than the old 890 version, measuring 92.5mm by 68.8mm. Torque peaks at 103Nm and 6,750rpm.

The 990 Duke gets three riding modes and a full suite of IMU-operated rider aids including cornering ABS (KTM’s switchable ‘Supermoto’ system) and cornering traction control. As with some other recent KTMs there are also other electronics that can be remotely activated at extra cost, including the quickshifter and additional riding modes, with KTM tempting you in with 1500km of free use of those settings under its ‘Demo Mode’ before asking you to pay to unlock them permanently.

The engine sits in a new frame that follows KTM’s usual steel tube design philosophy with a cast aluminium seat subframe. The company says it’s 8% stiffer in lateral flex and 5% more rigid in torsional flex than the old model, but the new alloy swingarm is 35% more flexible than the old one to improve traction. The WP suspension is exactly what we’d expect on a KTM Duke, with 43mm Apex forks and a matching rear shock. Including a full 14.8-litre tank the 990 Duke weighs in at 190kg, and the seat is set at a reasonable 125mm – much the same as the old model – although the passenger sits 20mm higher than before to increase legroom.

On-board tech includes the obligatory 5-inch TFT screen with USB-C charge port and bar controls to access the riding modes. Rain, Street and Sport are standard, with ‘Track’ and ‘Performance’ settings that can be optionally unlocked.

The styling is dominated by KTM’s latest family front end, with small, stacked headlights flanked by boomerang-shaped panels mounting the DRLs. Expect to see a similar look on other KTM models in the months and years to come.

Ben Purvis