First Ride

First ride: 2017 KTM 125 Duke review

KTM 125 and 390 Duke first ride reviews

AS I MENTIONED at the start, the 2017 125 Duke has a distinctly premium feel that’s achieved through a combination of angular 1290 Super Duke R styling, a sick new colour TFT instrument panel, and the allure of performance that is sure to excite any young rider. That’s why KTM calls it ‘Jizz of the beast’, or something similar…

But unlike the 1290 Super Duke R, the 125 Duke’s 124.7cc single-cylinder engine is packing a lot less firepower – 15hp at 10,000rpm and 8.85lb/ft, putting it on a par with the Yamaha MT-125. As you’d hope from a bike that’s mostly going to be ridden by learners getting to grips with a geared bike for the first time, the engine is smooth and predictable with sweet fuelling and a nice throttle connection.

The power isn’t going to blow your balls off but it’s entertaining enough because you can ride the 125 Duke at 100% without too much fear of reprisal from the law. Launching away from the lights quickly becomes an event to savour – hold it at 8k and let the clutch out before quickly snicking the slick gearbox into second gear and laughing. Keep it the motor spinning between 7,000 and 10,000rpm and you’re in the sweet spot for making progress, but don’t forget to tuck in and crouch down to eek out the last few precious mph, or you’ll be in the crosshairs of your mate on his 125.

Braking performance from the ABS-equipped radial four-piston Bybre (By Brembo, see) caliper and 300mm disc felt well up to the job of stopping the 125 Duke, with enough power at the lever whenever I went searching for it and the ABS did its job well.

Most of the test ride took place in urban Turin and making progress through the city could have been tricky on other bikes. Turin’s traffic and tram-packed morning streets are a commuter battle ground, but the light, narrow and nimble 125 Duke is the perfect weapon to cut a path past all those unpredictable, horn-happy Italians on a suicide mission to the office and their seventh espresso of the morning.

It’s certainly light on its feet and the eighth-litre Duke has exactly the kind of welcoming ergonomics and ride-feel you’d expect from a learner – although the ride position has been tweaked to be more sporty, it’s still comfortable and natural, making it easy to boss. It means new riders will be able to immediately get on and enjoy the 125 Duke’s lightness and agility and although it looks like a mean mofo of a 125, it’s anything but when you ride it.

The handling follows suit. The little Duke feels direct and as eager as the young scamps who are likely to enjoy whipping it around a congested city or challenging road. The new WP suspension helps here. The front upside down WP fork and the WP shock in the rear give a comfortable ride. They soak up crappy roads with ease to deliver a stable ride feel, meaning that the little Duke kept its composure on some pretty atrocious roads.

As 125s go, this is the one that’s going to have teenagers drooling, because it’s all there - full colour TFT dash, scaled-down Super Duke looks, USD forks, radial front brake and some cool graphics, all backed up with capable performance. It manages not to feel like an entry-level stop gap 125 and crucially, is what we need to inspire new riders to turn to bikes and stick with them instead of buying a shitty Corsa to smoke weed and go fingering in as soon as they're able.

Model tested: KTM 125 Duke

Price: £4,099

Engine: 124.7cc single-cylinder four-stroke

Power: 15hp at 10,000rpm

Torque: 8.85lb/ft at 7,500rpm

Frame: Steel trellis

Suspension: Front – 43mm WP USD fork / Rear – WP shock

Brakes: Front – Four-piston radially-mounted Bybre caliper, 300mm disc / Rear – Single-piston floating caliper, 23mm disc

Seat height: 830mm

Fuel capacity: 13.4 litres

Weight: 139kg dry

Colours: Orange, white

Availability: Mid-April

Latest Reviews


Latest Videos