The KTM 790 Duke R made its debut in 2017, taking over from the popular KTM 690 Duke.
Nicknamed 'The Scalpel' by the Austrian manufacturer, it promises precise cornering and performance everywhere. The most notable revisions included a new engine dubbed the "LC8c," which stands for "Liquid-cooled 8 valve - Compact." Its bigger V-Twin cousins do not sport the small "c" for a significant reason as the 790 Duke (and later 790 Adventure) utilises a parallel-twin with a 72-degree crank to mimic the larger V-Twins' firing order. Another upside to this is smaller engine dimensions compared to a V-Twin's, hence "compact." The smaller engine also allows for a longer swingarm while maintaining a short overall wheelbase for better stability in the straightline as well as when keeled over into corners. It also helps keep the front end down when the throttle is applied in corners, thereby allowing the bike to hold its cornering line.
Anyway, that was a little bit of the background and check out the owner's review of his 2018 KTM 790 Duke below:
I named her ‘CATAW’
- My non-biased owner’s review/verdict of my KTM 790 Duke 2018. This review is intended to deliver some insider’s information to those who are interested in this particular machine.
- The review is based on a continental midsized naked/street motorcycle with substantial advanced technology. It packs with a good amount of power and performance that' in my opinion, making it perfectly adequate for street riding.
Chapter 1 - The Writer, Me
Approximately 260,000 km motorcycle riding experience on road.
- Suzuki Smash (student).
- Modenas Karisma scooter (student).
- 1975 Honda C70 (classic phase).
- 1965 Honda CB166 (classic phase).
- 2002 Honda CB400SS (custom phase).
- 2011 Vespa LX (exposed to riding community and convoy).
- Kawasaki DTracker 250 (pick up skill).
- Yamaha NVX 155 (supporting vehicle).
- KTM 790 Duke (the one).
I am a practicing designer/motorcycle enthusiast, who pays attention to a certain range of motorcycle design and performance, and highly attentive to motorcycle engine character and rideability.
Chapter 2 - The Decision
The Scalpel's design caught my attention when it was launched in EICMA 2017. Production subsequently began in 2018 and Chris Fillmore broke a new record in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPHIC) event in Colorado, USA.
As a designer, I always look into ‘design identity and design originality’ in a product. The Scalpel shows full marks in these aspects. The amount of effort and time spent in design development could not lie in my eyes. I admit i was emotionally attached to its look since then.
Graduating from a supermoto/dual purpose motorcycle, i am proud to wave my ‘THUMPER’ flag high. Braaaapping culture is in my blood ever since. I like things to be mini, light, agile, responsive. The Scalpel somehow ticks all these character boxes top with its LC8c (engine).
Sometimes I feel this ‘Scalpel Project’ could be the triumphal project for Kiska HQ, or maybe the most favourite design project by the people in Kiska.
Hence, and i want a piece of that product.A historical KTM model by Kiska Craftsmanship.
Chapter 3 - The Hyper Rivals
There is always a place for the (Ducati) Hypermotard in my heart. To me, the Hypermotard’s design is very original. Back in those days, the design's intention was very clear. It eventually won the award ‘Best Of Show’ in EICMA 2005. The current 950 model is very tempting, but I prefer to own a ‘Mark 1’ on a particular product range.
Now that I look back, the discontinued Husqvarna Nuda 900 R might be a more competitive candidate. Always felt it was great product with way too futuristic design and engineering in its time, hence the market is just not ready for such a brilliant product. At this point, you can tell I am attracted to motorcycles with sharp lines and edgy designs.
The decision game might be also different if the Triumph Street Triple 765 RS was launched earlier. But let’s be straight - STRS has the complete opposite character to the Scalpel. Pick your side.
Chapter 4 - The Scalpel Itself
KTM 790 Duke CBU Austrian Unit
- 50,000 km mileage.
- 3 years sailing through MCO.
- Honest workshop stalling time 2-3 months.
- Parts failure/faulty 2-3 cases.
- Required owner’s patience 4/10.
- Brand after-sales support 7/10.
- Easy to work on it by your own 8/10.
- Engine heat acceptance level 8/10.
- KTM Community 8/10.
- Riding joy 9/10.
- Obedient handling 9/10.
- Bang for bucks 7/10.
- Available accessories and upgrades 10/10.
- Sustainable specs in coming years 8/10.
- Look back after parking chances 10/10.
- The urge ‘just go riding’ level 9/10.
- Owner’s happiness reward level 10/10.
- Will buy back level 10/10.
- As collection chances 10/10.
- Honest owner/bike suitability level 10/10.
- Owner’s love growing level 10/10.
Some of the higher level contender:
- KTM 890 Duke R.
- Ducati Street Fighter v2.
- Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP.
I always consider myself as one of the luckiest rider to be able to found ‘The One’ in this considerably early riding phase.
Chapter 5 - Usage
- 55% twisties
- 10% track
- 20% commute/errands
- 15% highway
This shows the rider’s riding culture. It portrays my love towards canyon carving. The Scalpel carves corners sharply in an artistic way. This probably contributes a lot of smiles on my face, resulting in the passion to write this article for sharing.
Chapter 6 - The Behavior
Built quality 8/10.
Plastic covers quality 6/10.
Bolts and nuts quality 7/10.
Engine reliability 7/10.
Engine smoothness 8/10.
Safety feature 8/10.
Brakes system 8/10.
Cooling system 8/10.
Top speed 7/10.
Chapter 7 - The Arena
B roads 10/10.
Chapter 8 - Suggestions & Testimonials
I remembered Brad Lian once said, a motorcycle is an extension of yourself. Know yourself, understand who you truly are, a motorcycle is like a tool. A wing to achieve what you seek and eventually moulding a better individual, in a personal level.
Test ride more bikes, sit on it, close your eyes (non literary) and feel the machine inner self. Be clear of what you want the machine to do; how to do.
Buddy @kv tan for being firmed about The Scalpel; and determination to explore the new adventure together.
I can recall the smooth and supportive experience with Welly Sungai Buloh during the purchase, and thanks to Andy from Dee Motorsports Workshop for his Passionate caring for the Scalpel. And @iskandar and friends from KTM Premium KL for their supportive technical assist during this ownership.
Thanks to epic riders @jon @jc @eric @ken @djang and @kv for being there in most of the memorial rides. Too many to mention, see you all on the roads~
This review was supported by these amazing shots from photographers:
Please visit the owner's Facebook page for more detals.