I’M NOT one for popular culture – as both of my colleagues will attest – but one reference I do get is Dukes of Hazzard (not the original of course, but the 2005 remake starring Johnny Knoxville).
And that’s the nickname I gave my new long term KTM 690 Duke, in its bright biohazard orange. I’d hoped its shouty nature would make me more visible on the road, but lo and behold on my first commute into the capital, a woman managed to brush my leg with her car.
Luckily, there was no damage done – apart from to my ever-thinning patience with the morons that litter London’s streets – but it did make me wonder. If this brain-dead cager couldn’t see the glaring Austrian orange, what hope does the rest of London’s two-wheeled population have? (A very pertinent issue at the moment, thank you Sadiq Khan)…
So there was only one thing for it – more orange and a louder exhaust. And they’re just two of the things I’ve spec’d to be fitted on the Duke when it goes back for its first, 621-mile (1000km) service later this week.
The past 600-miles have flown by. So far I’ve ridden to Portsmouth from Silverstone via London, enjoyed a sweltering road test on the hottest April day since 1949 and accompanied my Harley-riding old man on a jaunt around the Sussex countryside (yawn). This morning, the Duke made its debut on an Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) ride.
And not to forget the handful of miles it did on the dyno…
So what have I discovered about the bike in this time? Well, we’re still very much in the honeymoon period, and I’m loath to badmouth it.
It’s ever so nimble, and feels so light beneath me. In cities, country roads and motorways alike, directional changes are as simple as looking where you want to go and the bike will follow. Whack on the gas and the front wheel itches to hop off the tarmac, but the bike doesn’t feel skittish in the slightest.
The riding position is upright and comfortable and I’ve yet to suffer the dreaded numb bum, even after 60 miles on the M3… But the single-cylinder shakes are definitely there, and after long motorway speed stints, my hands keep tingling for a good quarter of an hour. Buffeting is also an issue on motorways, understandably, leaving my arms, chest and neck aching and cold.
Under 3,000 revs, the Duke is a bit gutless. Constant clutch control is required, which soon becomes tiresome when filtering. Even at higher speeds, you need to keep the revs up or else the bike will feel close to cutting out.
So there you have it, a very brief first impressions of my new long termer. Check back in a couple of weeks when the Duke will be back from KTM and wearing some pretty trick bits.