Getting out into the first section of the Chakan test track inside Bajaj Auto’s facility, the KTM 125 Duke is intuitively quick to dip into the first set of quick left and right hand corners. And as the next immediate set of tight left and right handers appear, the bike is taut and planted, and the MRF Revz tyres do a commendable job of gripping the track surface, leaned over or under hard braking, and then I realise how much I had underestimated the baby Duke before setting off from Delhi earlier that morning. Preconceived notions like, “how much performance will a 125 have”, “Oh, it’s a street bike after all,” and “a 125 cc Duke at the end of the day,” made me hurriedly pack my riding kit with full street gear – a pair of riding denims, an armoured mesh jacket, and leather touring boots. “After all, Pune is going to be warm during the day,” I had thought, while packing.
KTM 125 Duke
Even before completing a first full lap, I started missing my full track riding gear, safely tucked away in a cupboard back home. One thing was immediately apparent – the KTM 125 Duke may be the baby in the Duke family, but it sure loves a set of corners and will tempt you, cajole you, and make you take liberties you will never ever dream of on any other 125 cc motorcycle, or even a segment above. Of course, at ₹ 1.18 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), the KTM 125 Duke isn’t exactly any 125 cc commuter motorcycle, or close to commuter motorcycle pricing. But, if you’re thinking only in engine displacement terms, maybe it’s not even fair to judge the the125 Duke by what it offers, for the price it commands. It’s much, much more than just any 125 cc motorcycle.
How does it perform then?
The KTM 125 Duke has a 124.7 cc, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled DOHC engine which puts out 14.3 bhp of maximum power at 9,250 rpm. That power output is comparable to several 150-160 cc sporty, premium commuter motorcycles. Not exactly backslapping performance, and what the baby Duke lacks is also sheer pulling power – with just 12 Nm of torque peaking at over 8,000 rpm, so you need to keep the motor spinning fast to nudge it into urgency. But it loves being revved, and even when the rev limiter kicks in at 10,000 rpm, you will be rewarded with a welcome sense of refinement and smoothness in acceleration and engine feel, if not outright performance like its bigger siblings.
Accelerating through the slick six-speed gearbox after the bowl at the far end of the track and on the long-ish back straight, the digital speedometer quickly climbed up to the high 90s, but took some time to climb upwards of 100 kmph. We saw 116 kmph on just one high speed test run before it was time to slow down. But hey, you wouldn’t want to be doing those speeds on the 125 Duke, and it will take some real estate to reach those speeds. Practically speaking, the KTM 125 Duke will settle in at a stress-free 90-92 kmph, at a nice 7,500 rpm, for a steady cruise on a highway if you ever want to stretch its legs on a longish ride. But for the most part, it’s built to tackle in-city duties; like the daily dash to college and back, and catching up to share some pre-exam notes with your classmates, or the occasional coffee date. Sixty to around 80 kmph is where its sweet spot is, and you will delight in how smooth, and how refined the engine feels.