Duke 990

Street Review: The KTM 990 Duke

It’s a chilly highveld morning. The garage door glides open to reveal the Predator-esque face of the new KTM990 Duke. That’s when you just know that it’s going to be a fine day!

By: Glenn Foley

Images: Dave Cox and Deon VDL

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If you follow our pages, or if you use the search bar, you’ll see that Don went and rode Paarl KTM’s 990 Duke down in the Cape, and he returned with huge stories of daring escapades through those mountain passes. We plebs in Gauteng had to patiently wait our turn to ride the bike.

Was the wait worth it?…. Absolutely!

KTM decided to build an almost all-new bike for 2024. The 990 Duke is 96 percent new compared to the outgoing 890 R. It’s physically larger, has a more rigid chassis, an expansive electronics package and a more aggressive look. We aren’t going to bore you with all the detail on the bike, that will fill pages and hey – you can look right here to see how they have packed it. We are, however, going to tell you what the bike is like to ride up in Gauteng.

The initial ride was a flip from the KTM HQ at the Kyalami track around some of the freeways to TRAX KTM for a Koppie Koffie and a chat. From there, we wandered around for a further 100 odd kilometres back to our base on the East Rand. A real world ride, the kind of stuff riders who commute will do every day.

Is it comfortable?

Absolutely, it has a natural upright seating position and your legs are not at all cramped for those longer rides. Booming around town or even out on the breakfast run with a 6 foot odd rider in the saddle was just one big smile. Comfort includes user friendliness, and KTM’s electronics package is currently one of the simplest on the market. And that’s important.

A new switch cube on the left side of the handlebar is one of the simplest around, and it’s easy to push the intended button with your gloves on. Settings are displayed on a very sexy  5-inch TFT display that uses pictures that move with each setting change to show exactly what you can expect from the lower or higher setting you’re choosing. Ain’t technology grand!? 

Damn! Chaps, if you think that a 990 cc’s is not enough, then this is one bike that you need to go and ride. Our freeways were relatively quiet, so it was a case of going pretty quickly… It’s a bike that constantly entertains the rider, carving through, (Yes, she carves beautifully), the traffic, you see an open space and open up… instant response as she hurtles forward. Man it’s fun, a cool feeling, there’s no need to gear down, this is a true, fire snorting 1000cc donk and you are in the speeding fine zone before you blink. This machine kinda grabs your soul with so much feedback that you know exactly what’s going on all the time. Gear Shifts are quick and precise, all helped along by the optional bidirectional quickshifter that was installed on this bike.

If fire snorting scares you, well then you can always use the button that gives a tamer ride, but then…. who really wants to do that? You will get less fines and you’ll probably use less petrol, and it’s still fun, but not quite as much fun as fast mode…

Roll on from 140KPH and the 200 mark approaches really quickly. It’s just like that. But that’s only a small part of what makes this bike so much fun. Look at the wheelbase. The bike feels tiny and turns, literally on a tickey. We’ll also go on to say that this is one of the best turning bikes we’ve ridden to date, and given all the U-Turns we do to get pics, we are pretty expert in that department.

WP Apex suspension is fitted to the 990 Duke. The damping difference between clicks is intended to be easier to feel. Total setup range includes five clicks of compression on the left fork leg, five clicks of rebound on the right fork leg, and five clicks of rebound at the shock. In stock trim, Suspension is firm, but still soaks up some of our interesting roads easily enough and we can’t fault the cornering capabilities, this bike is better than most of the average street riders out there. The bike feels stable and planted banked into a corner, and is not at all heavy, tall or cumbersome at slower speeds.

In GP traffic, you do get to test brakes quite frequently. This machine has stoppers to match the craziness of JHB traffic, no problem. The same goes for out on the open roads. Blitzing along the country roads and slowing for traffic or dabbing for that faster turn, easy it all works together seamlessly.

What was pretty cool, is the fact that we’d only recently returned that 1390 Duke just a week or two before this ride and, dare we say it, that is absolutely one of the greatest bikes we’ve ridden this year, but it does come at a premium. If you consider buck for buck value for money, the 990 absolutely ticks all the boxes, it’s one of the most exciting middleweight, (Can we call it that?), nakeds on the market.

Do you want, (don’t we all?), a 1390 but can’t bring yourself to part with that much cash? Then go and ride the 990, it’s just as much fun and may we hazard a more practical motorcycle for everyday use. 

One of the things that Don mentioned after his sea level rides was, “I wonder how it will pull up on the reef?” Well, we can answer that for you:

It’s got more than enough for sure! If you look at all of KTM’s marketing stuff on this bike, smoking tyres, big wheelies and railing the corners, that’s exactly what this ones about. But you can also use it like a normal person too.

And yes! You really should ride your bike every day. Pop down to your KTM dealer for a spin. We promise that you’ll come away with a big grin!

We feel a multi naked feature coming on… Kawasaki has the Z900, Yamaha has the MT09, Triumph has a 1200 Speed Triple, Suzuki has the 1000S and the Katana…

Lets see…

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