While we’ve seen the fluctuation of “entry-level” displacements swell over the past few years in the U.S., a difference in opinion still remains among riders and manufacturers alike regarding the perfect entry-level machine. Disregarding current trends, the Austrians have decided to bring the KTM 200 Duke – a model that has existed in other markets for some time now – stateside for 2020. When asked why they felt this machine would fit the U.S. market, KTM explained the decision was to give riders a more approachable entry point to the KTM family, specifically, into the Duke product range. Now interested parties have a clear path up through the Duke lineup should they choose.
What we call an entry-level motorcycle, the rest of the world mostly refers to as small displacement, or really, just a motorcycle. Small bikes and scooters are popular the world over, but now, in the face of declining sales year-over-year, the North American motorcycle market as a whole has embraced the importance of smaller, less expensive motorcycles. We now see machines ranging from 125cc to 400cc touted as beginner bikes or inexpensive ways to get into motorcycling. These machines make sense for so many including those who aren’t looking to make a huge commitment to riding, but rather want something easy and reliable in the garage to bounce around the city or ranch when they feel like it.
There’s no hiding our love for the KTM 390 Duke. It is, and continues to be, a stellar option when considering the bang you get for your buck. KTM decided for 2020 that it wanted to further break down as many barriers for riders looking into the Duke product line as it could. The 2020 KTM 200 Duke is lighter, has a lower seat height, less power, and costs $1,500 less than the 390 Duke, all the while keeping the same ultra-aggressive, in-your-face styling and nimble handling we’ve come to expect from the KTM’s nude product range.
For many interested in this class of motorcycle, performance specs are not going to be the deciding factor. Style, comfort, and price make up much bigger percentages of the purchasing pie than what the cam followers are coated with. Style is an objective notion, and it’s one that the KTM Duke line has been polarizing since the 1290 Super Duke’s inception in 2014. The alien/mantis razor sharp styling and loud graphics make recent Dukes look fast even while standing still. You’ll surely have your own opinion right away.
There’s something to be said though, for making a $3,999 motorcycle look damn near as good (especially from a distance) as the $18,699 halo product topping the lineup. Of course, there have been some cost-cutting measures with the 200 compared to the 390. To name a few: the bike sports a halogen headlight versus LED (though you still get an LED daytime running light), an LCD dash (that looks an awful lot like the dashes we’ve seen on other models for the past ten years or so), and a mechanical throttle compared to the 390’s ride-by-wire setup.
There’s more than that which has kept the price down though. The 200 Duke has been available in other markets, like India, since 2011 as a 2012 model. When the 200 hit the scene nine years ago, the bike was developed in coordination with Indian motorcycle manufacturing giant, Bajaj. While this second-generation 200 Duke sports the latest styling bringing it in line with the newer Dukes, many of the specs remain the same from the existing model. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I suppose?
Back to our North American 2020 model though, the seat height comes in an inch lower than the 390 Duke at 31.6 inches. We’re told KTM achieved this by shortening the suspension, which is otherwise unchanged from the 390, with an unadjustable 43mm WP Apex fork and WP Apex shock with preload adjustment only. KTM says this results in 4.6 inches of travel from the fork and 5 inches from the shock. The suspension has a stiff sporty feel, but not overly so, and at low speeds around town, it soaked up bumps just fine and kept the bike feeling planted while cornering. I imagine once the pace picks up and the suspension is tasked with working harder, it would probably begin to show its weaknesses, but as tested riding through San Diego streets, I had no issues.
Ergonomics are pleasantly upright with a slight cant forward that helps with windblast (#nakedbikeproblems). The bars are somewhat narrow, but are placed in a comfortable position not far from the rider. The aforementioned low seat height makes everyone from the n00b to the experienced comfortable moving the bike around, backing out of a parking spot, etc. The seat height had no adverse effect on the amount of bend at the knee for my 30-inch inseam either. The seat is large and flat, and while it feels just as hard as other models from KTM I’ve complained about, it didn’t bother me during our ride. Perhaps that was because I could put both feet on the ground at any time and be standing above the seat. You also get a passenger seat and footpegs should you find someone brave enough.
With a slogan like “Ready to Race,” how can we not talk about the performance? Admittedly, I hopped on the 200 Duke expecting lethargic slow-to-build power wrapped in sharp styling. Not the case. The 200 Duke has the same, albeit considerably less, torquey hit from its low- to mid-range as the 390, and although you’ll be flipping through the gears much more often, the bike runs a very smooth 7,000 rpm at 55 mph in 6th gear and pulled right up through 70 mph in a hurry on the short section of our ride where I had a chance to hold ‘er wide.
During our previous trysts with the 390, we were able to pull a dyno run back in 2018 to get the skinny on performance numbers for ourselves. Back then, the bike put out 39.1 hp at 9,500 and 23.6 lb-ft of torque at 7,100 rpm. KTM tells us the 2020 200 Duke is crankin’ out 26 horses at 10k and 14.4 lb-ft at 8,000. Completely different engines, but there are the numbers for comparison. Around town the 200 Duke has plenty of pep and is agile enough for dicing through traffic (if you live somewhere where that’s an option).
Pull at the clutch lever is light, and although the 200 Duke does not have a slipper clutch, the fact that the engine revs fairly high almost negates the need for one. The transmission felt a bit notchy on my test mule, but shifts were positive and I had no issues during my time with it.
Stopping is handled by the same Bybre components found on the 390. Bosch electronics deliver two-channel ABS with the option between standard “road” ABS and “supermoto,” which allows for rear-wheel skids. A single 300mm disc and two-piston caliper slow the front wheel, while a single-piston caliper and 230mm rear disc works the rear. The 17-inch orange wheels are wrapped with 110mm and 150mm Michelin Road 5 rubber.
Buy the bike, take the ride
KTM has been kind of kicking ass as of late in the majority or segments it contends in. Making an even better entry-level machine for prospective riders in a product line that has a clear trajectory is a win not only for KTM, but also motorcycling as a whole.
The folks at KTM tell us their demographics skew 10 years younger than other brands and that’s not just in the Duke line, but across the company’s entire product range. With the 390’s customer base composed of young riders, KTM hopes to capture even more of those new riders with the 200 Duke.