First ride: KTM 125 and 390 Duke review

Have new and younger riders ever had it so good?

WHEN I WAS a yoof, I spent a lot of time dreaming about Gail Porter and that lesbian kiss scene with Denise Richards in Wild Things.

I also dreamt about motorcycles quite a bit. As a 17 – 20 year old, I lusted after things like Cagiva Mitos, Aprilia RS250s and Jap 400s. I had posters of these bikes on my walls, but when I looked out the window, all I could see was my tatty Gilera SKP moped.

Had KTM’s 125 Duke (main pic) and 390 Duke (below)  been around when I was a teenager, they would have been the stuff of my dreams – the tickets to some much-needed instant cool and popularity.

Just look at them, thanks to a significant restyle for 2017, they’re little versions of the halo bike of the Duke range – the 1290 Super Duke R and that strong family resemblance is going to draw in the cool kids. Both bikes look spot on – with the 1290’s sharp, poised and aggressive aesthetic thanks to a new LED front light unit, cowling round the new larger tank (13.4 litres, up from 11) and a sharper tail unit with new subframe, which is bolted to a new mainframe.

The premium styling and makes these two feel special. KTM says it wants 125 Duke riders to know that they’re riding a proper ‘grown-up’ bike and not a compromised, forgettable learner. I think any rider who owns one of these will know that and it’s the same with the 390 Duke – it looks like so much more than a A2 bike that could get resigned to being a footnote in a rider’s history.

The 125 and 390 Dukes share a few more changes too – their single-cylinder engines are both Euro4 compliant and have both been tweaked to offer a wider spread of power, with a new exhaust silencer on the left side.

They both also feature new suspension with open cartridge WP forks and a new WP shock with separation piston technology – essentially rebound damping is taken care of by one fork leg, and compression damping is handled by the other.

Both models also boast a colour TFT dash – a first for a 125 and A2 bike. It’s excellent - bright, crisp and clear, and the information it displays can be easily customized to the rider’s preference using the controls on the left switchgear. The TFT display also adjusts to the ambient light level, has a gear position indicator and tells you if the sidestand is down or kill switch off. It’s a big part of what makes these two feel like such premium bikes, and works with KTM MyRide feature – which allows phone connectivity.

And speaking of premium, here are the prices: £4,599 for the 390 and £4,099 for the 125.

We rode both of them on a mostly rain-soaked day in Turin – the 125 Duke in the morning, followed by an afternoon on the 390 Duke.

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